Ears Wide Open: Draag

by Kevin Bronson on July 25, 2014


There’s never been a shortage of My Bloody Valentine acolytes in these parts, but San Fernando Valley quintet Draag make a heckuva first impression — on their self-titled album and, it turns out, in person. When the band — Adrian Acosta, Adrian De La Cruz, Jessica Huang, Carlos Michel and Danny Rossi — made their live debut Thursday night in the stiflingly hot small room at Lot 1 Cafe, there was crowd-surfing and moshing while the band bled walls-of-sound and engineered its own mix from onstage. (Ah, the DIY life.) Anyway, the young shoegazers’ music begs for such physicality. The album starts with 45 seconds of thrash before undulating between sweet dream-pop (“Tragic” and “Midnight Confessions”), classic shoegaze (“You’re My Boy Blue”) and anthemic excursions (“Big Eyes, Big Lies”). As the DIY production of “Draag” (available on a pay-what-you-want basis on Bandcamp) suggests, they are just getting started. They might have no trouble being heard.

||| Stream: “You’re My Boy Blue” and “Tragic”

||| Live: Draag, along with HOTT MT, Washing Machines and Cigarette Bums, play Aug. 1 at the Smell.



Stream: Archer Black, ‘Pins’

by Kevin Bronson on July 25, 2014


Archer Black’s debut album “Forgiveness Is a Weapon” in early 2012 was a jaw-droppingly ambitious exercise in orchestral (and some might say post-) rock, with singer/composer Dustin Morgan (ex-the Autumns) conjuring up apocalyptic images with sprawling soundscapes. Archer Black’s new EP, out next week, is a no less extravagant production, but the music is more direct. Morgan conceived the songs during a four days in isolation at a cabin in Frazier Park, and recorded them with producer Mike Bennett of the Structure. Violinist Paul Cartwright, guitarist Madison Megna and cellist Matt Cooker return from Archer Black’s first-album orchestra, joined now by Crystal Alforque (violin), Molly Rogers (viola), Greg Zilboorg (trumpet), Tony Rinaldi (trombone) and Jan Ozveren (guitar). The single “Pins” stomps and stomps and then explodes, and “The Smoke” is as close to a rock radio anthem as we reckon Archer Black has come, its chorus cascading across sawed strings to a big finish. These new four songs may be flat-out stickier than anything on “Forgiveness,” but as they did on the debut, Archer Black continues to treat rock as a fine art.

||| Stream: “Pins”

||| Live: Archer Black plays the Satellite on Sunday night.

||| Previously: Onward and Down”


Stream: The Wild Reeds, ‘Blind and Brave’

by Kevin Bronson on July 25, 2014


The vintage folk stylings of the Wild Reeds recall a distant, ostensibly more naive California where one had to be neither blind nor especially brave to see and do all that is right and good. On its debut “Blind and Brave” (due Aug. 9), the L.A. quintet submits that they are oblivious to today’s trenchant cynicism and bold enough to chart their own course. It’s a winning oeuvre — the down-home Americana made by Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva, Mackenzie Howe, Nick Jones and Nick Phakpiseth possesses a time-capsule innocence. There are more polished folk singers than Lee, Silva and Howe (who rotate on lead duties and harmonies), but few more believably honest. Songs such as “Love Letter” sound like they’re rattling off a Victrola; “Of All the Dreams” recalls one of Jenny Lewis’ more country-fied moments; and the aching title track suggests the Wild Reeds may be truly out of their time, but not out of their element. “Blind and Brave” was produced by Raymond Richards (Local Natives) in the vein of his other work with folk artists such as the Parson Red Heads and Honeyhoney. Guitar, banjo, stand-up bass, harmonium and autoharp — all appear judiciously here. Find a shade tree and enjoy.

||| Stream: “Blind and Brave”

||| Live: The Wild Reeds perform Aug. 9 at the Troubadour along with Kera & the Lesbians and Brother Grand.


Download: Wartime Recitals, ‘Bears’

by Seraphina Lotkhamnga on July 25, 2014


Just when it seems like baroque pop had gone out of fashion, L.A.’s Wartime Recitals come out of nowhere with their whimsical keyboard riffs, sweet harmonies, sweeping violin and glockenspiel accents. The sextet’s musical gusto not only serves as a natural pick-me-up but also has the depth that would attract fans of Los Campesinos!, Fanfarlo and the early days of Arcade Fire. Following previously exuberant singles “Hold Your Velocity” and “Lark!,” Wartime Recitals now unveils their track “Bears.” Opening with a warm folk guitar riff and gang vocals, the new single quickly builds up to a cathartic and silvery chorus. It’s a tune for those summer days where you ditch the trendy pool party scenes for a long bike ride so the wind can flow through your hair. Wartime Recitals’ self-titled debut EP is slated for a release on Oct. 7.

||| Download: “Bears”

||| Live: Wartime Recitals play Aug. 16 at the Buzz Bands LA stage in the Champagne Room at Taix as part of Echo Park Rising.

||| Previously: “Bad Dances,” “Hold Your Velocity” and “Lark!” 



Stream: Wildcat! Wildcat!, ‘Holloway (Hey Love)’

by Kevin Bronson on July 25, 2014


The latest tease from Wildcat! Wildcat!’s forthcoming debut album is something that’d work great in a planetarium. “Holloway (Hey Love)” is a constellation of twinkling synths backing a meteor shower of falsetto harmonies, all propelled by a marching beat. The results are lush and almost choral — ever since their early singles, the L.A. outfit of Jesse Taylor, Michael Wilson and Jesse Carmichael has found a way to make twee sound as big as the night sky. It’s generally in the way everything is meticulously layered, and here we imagine the “hey love” chorus raining down on festival crowds of young electro-pop fans. Wildcat! Wildcat’s debut “No Moon at All” is out Aug. 5 via Downtown Records.

||| Stream: Wildcat! Wildcat!, “Holloway (Hey Love)”

||| Live: Wildcat! Wildcat! headlines the El Rey Theatre on Oct. 21, supported by White Hinterland.

||| Previously: “Hero,” “Garden Grays,” “Please and Thank You,” “The Chief,”Mr. Quiche”


Buzz Bands LA Show, today at 11 on Indie FM

by Kevin Bronson on July 25, 2014

IndependentFM-square copyAfter a couple weeks spent recalibrating, the Buzz Bands LA Show returns to The Independent FM today with a fresh basket of local music — including new songs from Dorothy, GRMLN, Castro, Soft Swells, Archer Black, the Bots, Cold War Kids and Maudlin Strangers. I’ll have segments devoted to previewing the Aug. 9 lineup at Chinatown Summer Nights (Moving Units, the Peach Kings and more) to the Buzz Bands LA stage Aug. 16 at Echo Park Rising (Tapioca & the Flea, Banta, Howls and more). Join me at 11 a.m. for a fast-moving 120 minutes surveying a bunch of artists making noise around town.

After the jump, a stream of the show and the playlist:
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Video: DWNTWN, ‘Heroine’

by Kevin Bronson on July 25, 2014

Starting as the collaboration between Jamie Leffler and Robert Cepeda, DWNTWN has released two EPs of buoyant, poignant dream-pop. The song “Heroine,” from April’s self-titled release, is especially heart-rending — Leffler wrote it about her father, Howie Epstein, who died 11 years ago from complications relating to drug use. Says Leffler: “I wrote this song about my dad who died of a heroin overdose when I was 14. He was the bassist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers so I grew up on the road with him. It was really sad and hard for me to watch someone I love be overcome by addiction. I was kind of scared to write about something this personal, but I’m really happy that we made this song. It’s really special to me, and I thank you all for listening.” The video for the song was shot and edited by Cepeda and Leffler themselves.



Your Friday night show options:

► South Bay punk-rockers Joyce Manor celebrate the release of their album “Never Hungover Again” with a show at the El Rey Theatre. That’s the video for “The Jerk,” above.
► The Figat7th Downtown Festival continues with a free show featuring the Internet and BJ The Chicago Kid. It kicks off at 7 p.m.
White Fence does a second night at the Echo in support of the new album “For the Recently Found Innocent.” Tomorrows Tulips and Cold Beat support.
► L.A. rockers Kiven and Queen Caveat provide the tunes at this month’s installment of Roaring Nights at the Los Angeles Zoo.
David Lindley performs as part of the free summer music series at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena.
Kitten rocks the Wayfarer (the Costa Mesa venue formerly known as the Detroit Bar) behind its self-titled debut album, out last month, with Dear Boy and Nilu at the Wayfarer
► And the 17th annual International Pop Overthrow kicks off two weeks of shows celebrating power-pop. Maples Mars, the Piper Downs and Kind Hearts and Coronets are among the bands playing tonight at Fais Do Do.

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Nightmare and the Cat’s album-release celebration on Wednesday night at the Roxy felt a lot like last year’s party for artist Gary Baseman at the Skirball Center.

Baseman was onstage fashioning his whimsical, subversive pop art on a large canvas — when he was wasn’t getting jiggy with the band, that is. A handful of costumed characters roamed the venue. And the band turned the lush and occasionally glammy pop-rock on “Simple” (out this week via Capitol) into outsized anthems.

||| Photos by Michelle Shiers

Brothers Django and Sam Stewart played the sibling dynamic to the hilt, the former crooning and the latter shredding, with Django bare-chested except for a vest by the
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Premiere: Castro, ‘Why Don’t You Find Out?’

by Kevin Bronson on July 24, 2014


The forthcoming debut EP from Castro will send you diving into the back of your closet for that old black jacket, if you were present during the heyday of the post-punk/New Wave movement that the L.A. quartet mines so deliciously. The band came together only a few months ago, with singer-guitarists Vincent Venturella and Jack Guimon having moved to L.A. from New York and Chicago, respectively. Bassist Eric Hehr later followed his high school pal Guimon to L.A., and then Maryland native Brendan McCusker signed on as drummer. With bands like the Cure as their ultimate reference point, Castro convened in the studio with producer/engineer Sean Guerin of L.A. dance-punk newbies De Lux. The resulting recordings capture the dark romanticism of the ’80s, played out as it often was to propulsive rock songs. And, by the way, Castro’s “You Can’t Be the Only One” works pretty well when Playmates dance to it.

||| Stream: “Why Don’t You Find Out?”

||| Live: Castro plays Aug. 1 at El Cid.