Ah, the freedom of the studio
On “Come Into Our House,” the new album by L.A.'s Nick Castro & the Young Elders, exotic sounds are always waiting to run away with the melodic line or shift the vibe over several continents. It’s a neo-folk trip on steroids.
“The concept that I’ve always had is that the record itself is not a live band,” Castro says of the CD, on which 11 musicians play a laundry list of stringed instruments and percussion. “I try and embrace it as its own format and really do the things that sometimes I’m incapable of doing in a live situation.”
Some songs are built around poetic sketches. Others tell their tales without words.
“The instrumentals that are looser were just conceived in the studio,” the singer-songwriter-instrumentalist says, “as simply as picking up a drum and turning on a mike and saying, ‘Oh, that sounds great, let’s add this.’ And then the process would continue until we felt, like, maybe we have enough stuff on the song now, I think it’s done.”
Home after a month on the road with Young Elders collaborator Wendy Watson, Castro plays tonight at the Echo in Echo Park. He won’t say what the band will be like. “We’ve been touring a lot for the last few years,” Castro says from Rapid City, S.D., before a recent gig, “and I think people have kind of come to expect the unexpected.”
Up to their necks in musical styles
Tally Hall’s music reminds you of the joke about the weather in the Rocky Mountains: If you don’t like it, just wait 30 seconds. The Ann Arbor, Mich., five are sound collagists who segue from barbershop harmonies to Queen-like rock opera to chunky power pop to clever hip-hop -- sometimes all in the same song.
Their self-produced debut, “Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum,” is dizzyingly cut-and-paste, reminiscent of They Might Be Giants. And live, each member wearing a white shirt and assigned a colored tie, the quintet exudes the good humor of Barenaked Ladies playing a kegger party.
“At times it can get a little bit daunting to get some of the rhythm transitions to work, but it’s like we say, if the song starts to get a little bit boring, throw in some calypso,” Joe Hawley says wryly. “Of course, we say that, but we try not to be gimmicky. A lot of times, the songs come across as goofy, but we take them very seriously.”
Indeed, the band, which performs tonight at Spaceland, is as conceptual as it is playful. Of the ties, Hawley explains, “We didn’t want to look like an era. So we went for a look that emphasizes singularity and uniformity at the same time.”
Besides, being sharp-dressed can come in handy -- as when Hawley, fellow singer-guitarist Rob Cantor, singer-bassist Zubin Sedghi, singer-keyboardist Andrew Horowitz and drummer Ross Federman set out to make a video for the song “Good Day,” which appeared on the TV show “The O.C.” “We’re doing it guerrilla-style,” Cantor says. “We shot part of it at Michigan Stadium.... I think the grounds crew thought we were important because of our ties.”
* Update: Cold War Kids, the L.A. quartet whose distinct fusion of Delta blues and minimalist indie rock earned them coast-to-coast buzz, have signed with Downtown Records, bassist Matt Maust says. The imprint, which has ties to Atlantic and is home to Gnarls Barkley, Art Brut and Eagles of Death Metal, “is a new label, but with a team of veterans,” Maust says. “They just seemed like a real powerhouse.” Look for a full-length album in October.... Exuberant indie rockers the Little Ones are close to a deal too, but for now they are concentrating on this month’s Monday residency at Spaceland, where they will be test-driving a couple of new tunes.... And popular Sunset Strip dance-rock band Shiny Toy Guns has signed to Universal.
* Touts: Sharp old-school punk -- that’s what Left Alone brings to the table on its album “Dead American Radio,” which features cameos by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong and HorrorPops’ Patricia Day and comes out Tuesday. Left Alone plays an early show Sunday at the Knitting Factory.... Dream-rock trio Gliss celebrates the U.S. release of “Love the Virgins” with a show Monday at the Viper Room.... Go Betty Go is back. New singer Emily Wynne-Hughes now fronts the quartet, playing the next four Tuesdays at the Key Club.... The Bronx (sophomore album just out) and 400 Blows play the Roxy on Wednesday.... And Glacier Hiking, impressive at the Echo last week, plays Wednesday at the Viper Room.
-- Kevin Bronson and Frank Farrar
* Stream Nick Castro & the Young Elders’ “Sleeping in a Dream” at www.myspace.com/strangeattractorsaudiohouse
* Stream “Greener” from Tally Hall at www.myspace.com/tallyhall