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California Sounds: New songs from Jenny Lewis, Ozomatli featuring Chali 2na and Cut Chemist, and Tim Heidecker

California Sounds: New songs from Jenny Lewis, Ozomatli featuring Chali 2na and Cut Chemist, and Tim Heidecker
Tim Heidecker (Cara Robbins)

Jenny Lewis, “Red Bull & Hennessy” (Warner Bros.)

The first song from the Los Angeles chronicler’s forthcoming album, “On the Line,” moves with the mid-tempo determination of a Bruce Springsteen song — undeniably in the pocket, thumping along like a locomotive at a highway crossing, with jangled, distorted rhythm guitar strums and a vocal melody to tie it all together.

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The song’s set in some intimate location, Lewis singing from the perspective of a lover ready for action, “wired on Red Bull and Hennessy.” The feeling, though, might not be mutual, and across the song Lewis deftly traces this moment of realization and the ways in which she internalizes it: “What's the matter with me? / I can see it in your eyes,” she sings. “After all we've been through / Oh, don't you wanna kiss me?”

In the song’s bridge, Lewis’ shaken confidence drives her toward despair. Love is gone: “Never going back in with your heart,” she sings, but it’s all fallen apart. “Never gettin' back again without that spark,” Lewis concludes as the song moves to the final chorus — and the inevitable coda.

Tim Heidecker, “The Ballad of ICE Agent Ray” (Jagjaguwar)

The comedic actor and soft-rock singer-songwriter Heidecker has been issuing topical protest songs about the Trump presidency for a few years now, and his newest EP tackles some of the issues currently occupying the artist’s, and the world’s, attention. The new lyric video, which was directed by video provocateur Vic Berger, presents Heidecker’s lyrics as a series of Trump tweets, misspellings and all.

A ballad about the titular immigration enforcer, the song and video begin along the Rio Grande. As Heidecker sings, lyrics arrive as if from Trump’s account, each post carrying the song forward. Agent Ray has been “working for ICE for 10 years / He hasn’t missed a day,” Heidecker sings. As he does so, acoustic guitar mixes with a simple country and western beat and a pedal steel guitar to offer easy support.

The song progresses with the arrival of “a family of four with women and children starting to get near.” Agent Ray springs into action, arrests them, loads them into a paddy wagon and takes them to a detention center.

In the song, backing vocalists join in to sing, “Just another Monday afternoon / What you gonna do?” Near the end, the song reaches a climax via a key lyric: “The kids go this way, the mamas go that,” Heidecker sings, repeating the line three times for effect. The lyrics pull back near the end, with Agent Ray headed home after a long day’s work separating families, then sitting on his couch with a beer and turning on the TV. “All he wants to do is sit back and watch cartoons,” Heidecker sings, adding “Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you?”

Other songs on the new EP, called “Another Year in Hell: Collected Songs from 2018,” include “Ballad of the Incel Man,” “Q,” “Rake The Floor” and “Ballad of The Incel Man (Nebraska Version).”

Ozomatli featuring Chali 2na and Cut Chemist, “Libertad” (Ozomatli Records)

For their new single, the Los Angeles institution Ozomatli reunited at EastWest Studios on Sunset with founding members Chali 2na and DJ Cut Chemist for the first time in over two decades. What developed from the session is a sound that effortlessly blends Peruvian chucha, Mexican folk, bursts of West African-suggestive horns and that uniquely transcendent Ozomatlian feel.

The band, which formed in the mid-’90s, helped pioneer a sound that mixed hip-hop and a mess of styles and influences, and channeled that energy into politically charged protest music. “Libertad” is all of that and sees the sextet joining with Jurassic 5 co-founder 2na (who released an EP called “Instrumentality” in the fall) and the influential turntablist Cut Chemist to recapture that spark. “Canta, no llores,” bellow Ozo vocalists Asdru Sierra and Raul Pacheco, reminding listeners en español to sing instead of crying.

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