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Music

California Sounds: The Tracks open with a bang, Open Mike Eagle offers love advice and Gillian Welch revisits her classic debut

The Tracks
The Tracks, a new band from Boyle Heights.
(Courtesy the Tracks)

The Tracks, “Go Out Tonight” (Echo Park Records). This first release from Boyle Heights rock quartet the Tracks presents itself as a kind of three-minute mission statement. Brash and fearless, “Go Out Tonight” introduces a band that seems emboldened with each passing beat, ripping through riffs as guitarist-vocalist Venancio Bermudez roars with the confidence of Joe Strummer in his prime.

In a fascinating interview with the website L.A. Taco, Bermudez described the band’s birth and backstory, which seems fit for a biopic. Bermudez’s parents first met at Mariachi Plaza — only to lose track of each other for a few months after a plaza immigration raid.

After his abusive, alcoholic father died, Bermudez learned he had a bigger family than he thought: “It turns out my dad had 18 kids,” he told L.A. Taco, “and almost all of them were in jail, or just out of prison or in gangs. It’s crazy to meet a lot of your family for the first time at your dad’s funeral.” The singer made a decision to pursue music, which was a good call. 

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Now in their mid-20s, three of the four Tracks members have been playing together since high school. It shows in the way they build momentum and then mess with it, drummer Jaime Conde and bassist Felipe Contreras pushing and pulling in rhythm while guitarist Jesiel Higuera adds distorted texture.

For the video, the band used footage from “The Exiles,” the 1961 film shot in downtown Los Angeles and Bunker Hill about Native Americans who migrated to the city. As sequences reveal a thriving downtown dense with immigrants, the Tracks connect the black-and-white past with a full-color, and furious, present. 

Open Mike Eagle, “How to Be Super Petty to Your Ex” (30 Days, 30 Songs). Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based rapper and lyricist Open Mike Eagle dropped this a few days before the election as part of voter registration drive, but despite the election being over, there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This track’s a keeper.

One of the city’s most incisive and wittiest rappers, Eagle’s “How to Be Super Petty to Your Ex” is basically a list. Saying that he’s “learned some ways to let them know that they don’t mean a thing to you,” Eagle updates Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” with tips on revenge.

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Among his recommendations: “‘American Idol,’ go win the next one/On TV shout out all your exes except one/Let everyone know you bask in your freedom/Tell your grandmother to point and laugh if she sees ’em.”

“Gillian Welch,” “Dry Town (Demo)” (Acony). In celebration of the 20th anniversary of her album “Revival,” the Los Angeles-raised country and folk singer Gillian Welch has issued “Boots No. 1: The Official ‘Revival’ Bootleg.” It features outtakes, live recordings and demos of songs recorded in  Los Angeles and Nashville in 1995 with Welch’s longtime collaborator, David Rawlings, and producer T-Bone Burnett.

Welch ran with the country-punk crowd during her youth in Los Angeles. The adopted daughter of musician parents who worked on “The Carol Burnett Show,” she attended music school in Boston before relocating to Nashville with musical partner Rawlings and getting the attention of producer Burnett.

“Revival” was one of the best debut albums of 1996 and arrived at a time when the nascent “No Depression” back-to-the-roots movement swept country music. “Dry Town,” for example, is an uptempo number that rolls with the well-tempered twang of something from the 1950s..

“Barroom Girls,” recorded for Santa Monica taste-making station KCRW while Welch, Rawlings and Burnett were working on “Revival,” is a particularly moving take that reveals the depth of Welch’s talent. Like the rest of this collection, the version is a portent. Within a few years she’d be the toast of Nashville.

There’s a lot of terrible music out there. For tips on the stuff that’s not, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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