Orch-pop is what they like
Isaac Lekach’s ministrations as a melody fiend were on full display in his old band, Poulain, a project that never scored any hits except those that found the sweet spot of a few Los Angeles pop fans. Now his fixation has become Acute -- the name of Lekach’s new four-piece founded with ex-Ozma drummer Patrick Edwards.
“There were a whole slew of songs I wrote after Poulain fizzled out,” Lekach says, “and they came in spurts.... There would be nothing, and then I would be going to bed and start humming a melody.”
Much of that material composes “Arms Around a Stranger,” Acute’s debut album, released this week on Help Records. The songs boast lavish orchestration -- strings, horns, backing vocals (including a cameo by the Like’s Z Berg), pedal steel and Wurlitzer -- that gives the record a cinematic quality.
The arrangements come courtesy of Jason “The Professor” Borger, who will join Kekach, Edwards and bassist Matt Herman when Acute celebrates the release with a show tonight at the Silverlake Lounge. Borger lent his skills to the project after being recommended by producer Dave Trumfio.
“Most of the music we like has those types of flourishes. Dave came up with a name for it, ‘orch-pop.’ But what is a genre, anyway?” Lekach says. “We don’t wear our hair a certain way or wear eyeliner -- not that there’s anything wrong with that -- we just write good pop songs with catchy melodies.”
‘Pasadena’ has energy and heft
And file this under coincidence: Ozma is back.
The underrated, Weezer-endorsed quintet, dormant for most of 2004 and 2005, releases a new album “Pasadena” -- a nod to its hometown -- on May 15. The music is more muscular and mature than the crunchy power-pop that gained Ozma a large Southland following over its first three albums.
Did the band spend its time off in the gym working out? Quite the contrary, singer-bassist Daniel Brummel says. While his mates played in another project, “I got really into folk music, things like Harry Smith, Appalachian music.... It helped me see lyrics a little differently, and see the value in using things like idioms and tropes, powerful archetypes that stand the test of time.”
If the songs have more heft than “our previously hopelessly romantic boy-girl thing,” Brummel says, they also sound infused with new energy. “When we all came back, it was a very fertile period for songwriting,” he says.
After five months in the studio with friends and co-producers Billy Burke and Greg Doyle, Ozma turned “Pasadena” over to Matt Hyde (No Doubt, Sublime, Sum 41), who Brummel says “really brought [fortitude] back to the mix.” The album also features a vocal turn by Rachel Haden (That Dog, the Rentals) and guitar contributions from Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws.
Brummel and bandmates Star Wick, Ryen Slegr, Kenn Shane and Jose Galvez start a West Coast tour this week that ends with dates May 16 at Chain Reaction and May 17 at the Troubadour. Says Brummel: “It feels fantastic.”
* Touts: Speaking of being back -- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, behind its powerful new album “Baby 81,” play the Wiltern on Tuesday, and the Autumns and the Sugarplastic kick off a Friday night residency at Spaceland.... Melissa Ferrick and Erin McKeown perform Saturday at the Troubadour.... Badge holders for the Silver Lake Film Festival get a great show Friday at the Ex-Plex: Sea Wolf, the Bird and the Bee, the Little Ones and Dengue Fever. “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong,” a documentary about Dengue Fever’s 2005 trip to Cambodia, screens Saturday at the Los Feliz 3.... On Sunday at Safari Sam’s, musical madmen Ego Plum and the Ebola Music Orchestra celebrate the release of their new album, “The Rat King.” ... Dios Malos has a Saturday show at the Jensen Rec Center in Echo Park, while Minus the Bear plays around the corner at the Echo.... And May brings some strong Monday night residencies: Gliss at Spaceland; Bodies of Water at the Echo; and the High Society at the Silverlake Lounge.
Stream “The City” by Acute at www.myspace.com/acuteband.
* Stream Ozma’s “Eponine” and “Barriers” at www.myspace.com/ozma.