Pop & Hiss The L.A. Times music blog
Here's Ed Sheeran singing an Iron Maiden lullaby in a raging, blood-red hellstorm

When the world is ending and the devil is coming for your soul, the most important question you have to ask yourself is this: what soft rock song do I want playing me out as I spiral my way down to Hell?

Ed Sheeran is here to help you make that decision. Last night he appeared in a "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" sketch ripped right from Fallon's "Saturday Night Live" playbook in which a turtleneck with hair  stuffed-up dude named Steve Joshua hosts an armchair infomercial for a new compilation called "Ed Sheeran Sings Heavy Metal."

The title is pretty self-explanatory, but in case you needed elaboration: "That's right: pop music's cherub-faced troubadour sings 25 of the darkest, most skull-crushing songs ever written."

Witness the incredible irony of an adorable-voiced Sheeran crooning, "White man came/'cross the sea/He brought us pain/and misery," flanked by what looks like a megastorm consisting only of lightning and the boiling blood of innocents.

And hey, there's a cover of "Break Stuff"...

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Premiere: Dead Rock West salutes Everly Brothers' 'I Used to Love You'

It was a passing remark made to L.A. musicians Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen, but one that set off a five-year-plus musical odyssey that culminates July 17 with the release of Dead Rock West’s album “It’s Everly Time!”

The Times is premiering the video for one track from the album, “I Used to Love You,” a lesser-known song recorded by the Everlys in 1966, when they were signed to Warner Bros. Records and doing much of their work in California.

“Around 2009 we did some sessions in Mark Linett’s recording studio, Your Place or Mine,” Drennen explained. “We’d written a couple of songs with Exene [Cervenka of X], and Dave Alvin was in the studio with us that day. On our way out, Mark said, ‘You might want to consider recording an Everly Brothers song sometime. I think you’d sound good.'”

“A short time later I heard their song ‘Problems’ on the radio while I was driving on Los Feliz,” Drennen said, “ and it hit me that for our artistic growth as a duo, we had to dig into this music...

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Ciara, a fiery performer desperately in need of better material

Ciara appears to be at an impasse.

An R&B siren whose first introduction to listeners came through the stereo-rattling thumpers of 2004's "Goodies," Ciara has pushed out enough sweat-inducing grooves to score the perfect club or gym playlist. But she's never quite managed to become a standout in the pop conversation.

Perhaps she has remained on the edges because she doesn't indulge in provocative behavior that courts the gossip sites, or maybe it’s that her voice isn’t nearly as elastic as her slinky, high octane dancing, which has made her a singular performer in her own right. Although that breathy, sensual voice paired with intense choreography positioned her as the closest thing to the next Janet Jackson as we’ll ever get.

But what has continually held back her success is the material she’s been handed, and her performance at Club Nokia on Saturday was proof.

The tour, her first headlining outing in six years, is in support of her latest offering “Jackie” — an album that despite its...

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Girlpool makes its move from L.A. to the 'Big' world

Sitting with her bandmate Cleo Tucker on the back patio of a coffee shop in Silver Lake, Girlpool's Harmony Tividad remembers the jarring contrast when the acoustic pop duo arrived in Philadelphia after uprooting their lives in their native L.A.

“It was nine degrees,” recalls Tividad, 19, sipping a soy chai latte. What would make them make such a change -- and in January, no less?

“Let’s see,” says Tucker, 18, momentarily lost in thought. “It was just sort of like a natural, ‘I grew up here, I want to see the world’ feeling.”

If that sounds precious, you’ve probably never heard a Girlpool song. Named for a particularly existential chapter in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”, the duo’s first full-length album, “Before the World Was Big,” out June 2 via Wichita Recordings, is a vociferously vulnerable effort that reflects on childhood (“I just miss how it felt standing next to you / Wearing matching dresses before the world was big”) while reckoning with the uncertainty of the future (“I was...

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Low End Theory Fest roster to feature Fly Lo, Earl Sweatshirt, Thundercat, more

In the germinal stages of a musical movement, it's hard to know whether a particular sound will live for a month, a year or a decade. Whether a new scene will influence a neighborhood, a city or the world, whether the ideas morph into something bigger than the founders could have possibly imagined — all that stuff starts with a handful of kindred spirits converging at the right place at the right time and drawing the ears of music lovers in search of new ideas. It's a magical thing. 

The Low End Theory, a weekly beat music club that helped propel the careers of Flying Lotus, the Gaslamp Killer, Daddy Kev, Nosaj Thing and a few dozen others, has announced the lineup for its second annual festival, to take place at Shrine Expo Hall on Aug. 8. The roster, heavily focused on Los Angeles artists, confirms the creative magic at the center of the Low End Theory sound, as well as its evolution.

For its sophomore installment, the festival will include beat producer Flying Lotus, the dexterous rapper...

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TV on the Radio, Dwight Yoakam to play Annenberg summer concert series

Adventurous art rockers TV on the Radio and veteran country singer Dwight Yoakam are among the acts set to perform in the coming months as part of a free summer concert series presented by the Annenberg Space for Photography.

The Sound in Focus series will bring TV on the Radio to Century Park, next to the Annenberg's Century City location, on July 25, followed closely by an Aug. 1 concert featuring rap group De La Soul. Yoakam is to perform Aug. 8 on a rootsy double bill with the long-running L.A. punk band X, and Cold War Kids will round out the program with a show on Aug. 15.

Jason Bentley, music director of Santa Monica-based KCRW-FM (89.9) curated this year's lineup and will perform a DJ set before TV on the Radio's gig.

Tied to the Annenberg's "Emerging" photo exhibition, Sound in Focus "reflects the variety of topics and themes in the show," said Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation. Those topics, Kennard added, run from "the personal to the global" and...

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