Essential tracks: Shuggie Otis, Bleached, and Devendra
Below are a few choice Spring releases that have been getting high-volume rotation on the stereo of one particular Volvo rolling the streets of Los Angeles.
Bleached, “Ride Your Heart” (Dead Oceans)
The two sisters who co-founded Bleached first earned ears in Mika Miko, the incendiary punk band whose sweaty nights at the downtown L.A. club the Smell in the mid-00s helped solidify a small movement. As Bleached, Jennifer and Jessica Clavin have calmed a bit and have a new appreciation for texture, harmony and restraint. That doesn’t mean they’ve toned it down; the first song is called “Looking for a Fight,” and it’s about bad mood and a life “not right.” On it and other songs, the sisters deliver a well-balanced sound that understands both both surf and punk rock, heavy on singalong harmonies and precise structures.
For fans of: Best Coast, Buzzcocks, Lesley Gore
Shuggie Otis, “Inspiration Information”/”Wings of Love” (Sony Legacy reissue)
Shuggie Otis as a boy was the prodigal son of Los Angeles rhythm & blues, a guitarist whose father, Johnny Otis, helped define a West Coast sound in the ‘40s and ‘50s as both a band leader and talent scout. While still in his teens, the younger Otis played in his father’s band. In 1974 Shuggie released “Inspiration Information,” a delicate, tripped-out bedroom funk record that used early drum machines, keyboards and Otis’ guitar playing to create magic. It was a commercial flop but, gradually, deservedly found an audience.
A comforting record, “Inspiration” is an ideal companion on days when you’re too depressed to make listening decisions or too down on humans to interact with any of them save a man with faraway voice and a heart. This double disc reissue features “Inspiration,” a few surprising out takes and a bonus disc of some of Otis’ work from 1975 to 2000.
For fans of: Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, early ‘70s Stevie Wonder, Frank Ocean
Devendra Banhart, “Mala” (Nonesuch)
Devandra Banhart’s new “Mala,” is a pleasant return to form. The Venezuelan-American (and longtime Californian) bard, who for a few years nearly became a parody of himself as the figurehead of the unfortunately named “freak-folk” movement, has relocated to New York, shaved his beard and cut his hair — prompting some of the best work of his career. Mixing folk, rock, beat-based experiments, Brazilian pop and touches of synthpop with his confident, and often beguiling, lyrics, Banhart on “Mala” has offered an utterly charming, witty, honest record about love’s successes and failures.
For fans of: Caetano Veloso, Beck, Leonard Cohen, Gal Costa
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