Letting the emotions out
It’s one sexy flower, the hybrid that bloomed when the L.A. duo Bitter:Sweet cross-pollinated electronica, jazz, bossa nova, trip-hop and pop on its debut album, “The Mating Game.” It might be real, and it might be plastic, but one thing’s for sure: In the Space Age lounge of Bitter:Sweet’s imagination, human emotions still roil.
“I usually keep things tucked away pretty deep inside,” says singer Shana Halligan, whose vocals are tinged with the detached cool of Portishead yet ache with the vulnerability of the most confessional chanteuse. “Music is the only time they start to flow out. It’s my outlet.”
She found this particular conduit when she answered an online ad and began collaborating with ex-Supreme Beings of Leisure groovemeister Kiran Shahani. “It’s the most natural thing I’ve ever been involved in,” says Halligan, the daughter of Dick Halligan of Blood, Sweat & Tears. “We both clicked very quickly; we shared the same ear.”
Just as quickly, independent label Quango became interested, and the duo’s broad, cinematic stylings picked up steam with help from airplay on KCRW-FM (89.9) and from placements in the film “The Devil Wears Prada” (and elsewhere).
“The Mating Game” is nothing if not versatile. “You’re supposed to have one specific sound,” Halligan says, “but Kiran and I come from such eclectic backgrounds.... We’re fans of too many styles of music.”
The album has sold almost 9,000 copies since its April release, and tonight Bitter:Sweet headlines the House of Blues.
At the center of their universe
The first thing you learn about Simon Dawes is that it is not a person but a band -- a quartet of Malibu kids who on their debut album for Record Collection, “Carnivore,” have taken their Kinks/Big Star/David Bowie influences and bent them into something surprising, and occasionally exhilarating.
You wonder, though: What if Simon Dawes were a person? “He would probably be very neurotic,” singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith says, chuckling. “And probably the center of his universe.”
For the last two years, Simon Dawes certainly has been the axis around which Goldsmith and band mates Blake Mills, Wiley Gelber and Stuart Johnson have spun. Mills and Goldsmith (whose middle names form the band name) have written songs together since they were 12, but the band was in its infancy when it was thrust onto a tour supporting Maroon 5. “It was ridiculous, how lucky we were getting that,” Goldsmith says. Bassist Gelber was even luckier: He had to get permission to miss high school classes to tour.
Just as daunting was recording “Carnivore” with respected producer Tony Berg. “You think, ‘It’s your first record, let’s go in the studio and knock it out in two weeks,’ ” says Goldsmith, 21, whose father, Lenny, was lead singer of Tower of Power. “Five months later, we were done.”
The quartet is ushering in the Sept. 12 release of the album with constant touring, including a date Friday at the Troubadour.
* News & notes: It takes connections to get ahead in the music business -- ahem -- just ask Ross Flournoy of the Brokedown. The L.A. pop quintet has signed to respected indie Merge Records, and here’s how that happened: “Our guitar player’s co-worker’s mom is [label chief] Mac McCaughan’s Realtor,” Flournoy says. “She got a copy of our EP to him.” The highlight of that self-released EP, the winsome back-porch ramble “Down in the Valley,” will appear with 10 or 11 new songs on the Brokedown’s Merge debut, “I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On,” in January, Flournoy says.... Work on new Postal Service music could begin this fall, and the follow-up to 2003’s “Give Up” is likely to emerge from collaborators Benjamin Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello in the spring.... Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 have postponed tonight’s scheduled show at the Silverlake Lounge; Wynn is recovering from a broken ankle.
* Touts: Phoenix pop geniuses the Format head the Dog Days of Summer Tour tonight at the Avalon, with support from Rainer Maria, among others.... Some recognize him as Bob Schneider’s guitarist, but his solo work has a distinct charm of its own: Billy Harvey plays the Mint on Friday, part of a bill that includes two sets by Steve Poltz.... Texans Centro-matic visit the Troubadour on Tuesday behind the new release “Fort Recovery.” ... The record release party for the Distants’ “Broken Gold” is Wednesday at Club Moscow at Boardner’s.... And three free residencies hold plenty of promise this month: Sea Wolf on Mondays at Spaceland, the Sharp Ease on Mondays (Sept. 11, 18 and 25) at the Echo and Something for Rockets on Tuesdays at the Key Club.
Stream Bitter:Sweet’s “Dirty Laundry” at www.myspace.com/thematinggame.
*Stream “The Awful Things” by Simon Dawes at www.myspace.com/simondawes.