California Sounds: Five must-hear spring releases from L.A.-area artists
Whether chasing past glories or embracing the thrills of the here-and-now, music fans curious about the sounds of Southern California will find a predictably diverse bunch of melodies and rhythms this season.
Below, five cool Los Angeles releases that will storm spring.
For the record:
11:10 a.m. March 22, 2018Due to an error in an official press release, an earlier version of this story misspelled the surname of a singer in Voices of Gemma. It is Rebecca Engelhardt and not, as originally written, Englehart.
A Perfect Circle, “Eat the Elephant” (BMG). The mesmerizing art rock supergroup hasn’t issued an album in 14 years, and in some (perfect) circles, the long gestating and eagerly awaited fourth album has become the stuff of legend.
Starring guitarist and songwriter Billy Howerdel, Tool singer and founder Maynard James Keennan and Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, the band is in peak power on “Eat the Elephant.
At times tense and minimal, at others ringing with anthemic rock choruses, the record is as sturdy and confident as any recent big-league rock effort. Which is to say, this band could squish U2 like a bug. (April 20)
Eels, “The Deconstruction” (PIAS America). It seems ridiculous to describe the new Eels work as “a headphone record,” because, in the era of earbuds, most are. Yet here we are, lost in the intricate melodies, arrangements and textures swirling through “The Deconstruction,” the kind that jump from back to front and side to side like stereophonic gymnasts.
The artist, who was born Mark Oliver Everett but who performs as “e,” has issued 12 albums, and this is his first since 2014.
Filled with shout-along anthems (“Today Is the Day”), oddly beautiful odes to impending doom (“Rusty Pipes”) and exuberant Motown-suggestive rock ’n’ soul, “The Deconstruction” was created, Everett writes in the album release notes, to contain some of the chaos: “The world is going nuts,” he writes. “But if you look for it, there is still great beauty to be found.” (April 6)
Adrian Younge, “… Presents: Voices of Gemma” (Linear Labs). Multi-instrumentalist Younge is best known to the geek world for his work on the score for Netflix’s “Luke Cage,” but his ambition extends way beyond the scoring circuit.
His imprint Linear Labs is based in Highland Park, where his astounding analog studio is nestled behind his and his wife’s record store and hair salon. It’s there that Younge teamed with vocalists Brooke deRosa and Rebecca Engelhardt to create what he accurately describes as this “cinematic soul” album. (March 30)
Drinks, “Hippo Lite” (Drag City). For their second collaboration, singer and songwriter Cat Le Bon and White Fence guitarist Tim Presley traveled to St. Hippolyte-du-Fort in the south of France and focused on the basics: “A month spent in an old mill in the under belly of France,” Le Bon writes in the release notes: “River swimming thrice a day. Hot nights soundtracked by the rattle of randy frogs. Scorpion fear.”
With no phone service and no wi-fi, they made the 12 delicate, and occasionally rickety, songs that became “Hippo Lite.” As with Le Bon and Presley’s work both solo and as collaborators, the songs suggest the post-punk experimentalism of the Slits and the Fall (Presley is a former member).
“In the Night Kitchen” employs outdoor atmospherics as a backdrop for an instrumental guitar and piano meditation. “Leave the Lights On” revels in its uneven rhythms, scraping violin tones and defiantly off-key delivery.
Expert studio musicians will likely guffaw at their loose approach, but that’s part of the point. As Presley writes in the advance notes: “This is a broken music. A crumble.” (April 20)
Buzzy Lee, “Facepaint EP” (Future Classic). For her musical debut, the artist who performs as Buzzy Lee teamed with innovative beat producer Nicolas Jaar to record five streamlined blue-eyed R&B tracks.
With a voice that can gracefully maneuver across octaves, the singer fills her measures with dramatic flourish that recalls British singer Kate Bush.
That reflex — spoiler alert! — makes sense: She’s the offspring of director Steven Spielberg and actress Kate Capshaw. The good news is that — spoiler alert again! — her talent transcends her lineage. These are five deeply magnetic tracks built to crush the fame game. (April 27)
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