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Music

California Sounds: New music from Los Retros; a Chip and Tony Kinman retrospective

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The Oxnard-based artist born Mauri Tapia, who makes music as Los Retros.
(Ross Harris)

Los Retros, “Someone to Spend Time With” (Stone’s Throw). The Oxnard-based artist born Mauri Tapia who makes music as Los Retros created his just-released debut EP, “Retrospect,” in his family’s living room on an old mixer. He lives in there. It’s crammed with drums, keyboards and various other instruments that he used to craft seven lovely songs inspired by oldies, soft rock and Mexican balladeers of the 1960s.

He’s been making songs for a just few years, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s on to something. A romancer unafraid to reveal his innermost desires and vulnerabilities, he seems uninterested in music as a means of channeling aggression (even though he came up in the underground metal scene).

In the two months since it was released, the video for “Someone to Spend Time With” has clocked more than 1 million YouTube views. In it, Tapia is shown partying at a fancy house with friends and cleaning the pool the next morning.

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He sips a soda while bemoaning his fate: waking up “with no one by my side.” He wonders if he’s done something wrong: “Have I waited too long for the lucky one?”

The artist upends the song when a woman croons the second verse. “Back in bed, it’s 3 a.m. with no one on my side,” sings Melisa Selimovic, who performs as Firelordmelisa, staring in close-up at the camera. Laying on a tiger blanket, her flattened expression confirms that she’s just as alone.

For some reason, the song’s not on “Retrospect,” but its seven tracks show equal promise. Los Retros just got off the road opening for Hawthorne heartthrob Cuco, a connection that further confirms the rise of a new generation of Mexican American balladeers coming up from the underground.

Chip Kinman and Tony Kinman, “Sounds Like Music” (Omnivore). In the liner notes to this career-spanning retrospective of unissued recordings by bands founded by the brothers Kinman, Chip describes their Cowboy Nation song “Rebel” as being “a punk song inside of a cowboy song wrapped up in a train song.”

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That’s an apt description of the vistas that the Kinmans explored across the decades with bands the Dils, Rank & File, Blackbird and Cowboy Nation.

The Blackbird song “Old Paint” highlights the late Tony Kinman’s distinctive voice, a menacing baritone that delivered lyrics with the darkened tone of a Wild West funeral director. Tony, who died last year, jumps from these tapes as if born anew.

Culled from the Kinman archives, the 22-track set, issued by the Grammy-winning L.A. label Omnivore, reveals the range of the brothers’ interests. “Dream On” is a demo sketched out on synthesizers, and within it lies a road map for a whole different narrative — had the brothers pursued it.

An alternate take of the Rank & File song “Rank & File” reveals an early 1980s band busy expanding its approach while mastering its instruments. A surf-rock guitar line opens, only to be overtaken by a wave of distorted punk chords.

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.


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