California Sounds: New music from Grace Potter, the Muffs, Michael Seyer and more
Grace Potter, “Release” (Fantasy)
The newest track from Potter’s first album in four years arrives after a period of personal tumult that found her relocating across the country and settling in Topanga Canyon. Absent her longtime band the Nocturnals, Potter retreated into the canyon, fell in love and had a child. A powerhouse singer and guitarist, she tapped into these changing perspectives to create the songs on “Daylight,” which comes out Oct. 25.
A mournful song that documents the dissolution of a relationship, “Release” finds Potter diving into the raw emotions brought on by a breakup: “Even if I’m in your arms / Even if you touch my skin / I could never change my heart / After being where it’s been.” A devastatingly beautiful song, each line resonates.
The Muffs, “No Holiday” (Omnivore)
The new album by the great L.A. punk band arrives, tragically, a few weeks after its founder Kim Shattuck died after being diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. A singular force, Shattuck, 56, and bandmates Ronnie Barnett (bass) and Roy McDonald (drums) formed in the early 1990s. Across six studio LPs and countless L.A. club gigs, they became one of the most beloved and admired area rock bands of their time, even if they weren’t the most commercially successful.
Long in the making, the bittersweet “No Holiday” was recorded after Shattock learned she had ALS, which runs in her family. It features songs she wrote between 1991 and 2017. Said Shattuck, “We decided to have a long album and use songs that had been in my arsenal but were weeded out for super concise albums. They were all great songs and we didn’t want them to go to waste. No way!”
At 18 songs, “No Holiday” is basically a double album, one that sits somewhere along a continuum of epic works that includes the Clash’s “London Calling” and Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville.” The determination, the vision, the energy — it’s real. Shattuck always expressed her fury in song, but when she rages on “Down Down Down” — a harsh, gutteral wail — she’s not doing so against some darkness in her past, but against the dying of the light itself.
“A Lovely Boo Hoo” could be a lost Kinks work, driven as it is by strummed, distortion-free guitars, bass, drums and washes of background texture. “The Best” waltzes as if under a starlit night, a love song that in a perfect world will soon be a wedding-day standard. The delicate final piece, “Sky,” sounds as if Shattuck, an excellent producer, recorded it in a bedroom on an iPhone. When it ends, the silence is deafening.
Michael Seyer, “I Can’t Dance” (Caroline)
Best known for his work as guitarist for Long Beach outfit Bane’s World, Seyer has since 2016 been issuing memorable solo bedroom pop and dance songs. Along the way, he’s built a devoted fan base that overlaps with similarly soulful auteurs Cuco and Jasper Bones.
“I Can’t Dance” arrives as the first track from Seyer’s forthcoming “Nostalgia” EP. The title is telling, as “I Can’t Dance” seems to time-travel back to a shag-carpeted world of the late 1970s and early ‘80s. That was long before Seyer, who was born in the Philippines and raised in Gardena, came into being, and the distance is what makes the song, and his work, so alluring.
Seyer cites “Japanese city pop, Brazilian boogie and the songs his parents sang karaoke to” as inspiration. The Bee-Gees’ pre-disco ballads and the quieter songs on Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” seem like they were in rotation. Elsewhere on “Nostalgia,” which comes out Nov. 8, Seyer slides in torch songs that Patsy Cline might have taken on.
Rhys Langston, “The T.C. Wash Suite” (P.O.W. Recordings)
In the 10-minute video for the L.A. born-and-raised rapper’s new track, Langston moves across the city while gradually realizing that karma’s on his side. A jogger hands him a cup of coffee, and as she does Langston finds a sidewalk mini-fridge with cream in it.
He lounges in Echo Park until someone taps him on the shoulder and reminds him of the time. Another stranger tosses him some car keys and bingo, he’s driving an Uber and picking up annoying passengers.
As we watch, Langston’s musical suite scores the action. Produced by L.A. beatmaker LXMONGRAB, the track moves through tempos and landscapes as the lyricist reflects on being a “concrete dreamer in this glass house” and meditates on “bereft technicians / Wordsmiths without tradition / Coffee stains and cynicism.”
Various Artists, “Friends of Friends 10th Anniversary” collections (Friends of Friends)
To honor a decade in business, the Eagle Rock-based electronic imprint has compiled two collections of music. The first gathers singles and stand-alone tracks from artists including experimental beat-maker Shlohmo, bedroom pop producer Baths, minimalist saxophonist Anenon and singer-producer Perera Elsewhere. The second features new tracks from its roster as well as distinctive covers of work from across the imprint’s discography.
Taken individually, each of the 37 tracks confirms label founder Leeor Brown’s ear for talent. But heard in a few longer sessions, what jumps out is the sonic range. From harsh, maximal electronic tones to elegant, understated instrumental jazz, the Friends of Friends aesthetic is as inviting as it is innovative.
5:41 a.m. Oct. 17, 2019: Updated to add recommendations on new music from Michael Seyer and the Muffs.
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