The Haden Triplets’ concert Thursday at the Echoplex was billed as “a night of heavenly harmonizing,” and it was all that and more. Siblings Rachel, Petra and Tanya displayed the vocal prowess that carried last year’s Ry Cooder-produced album of Americana gems, and actor/musician Jack Black (Mr. Tanya Haden) joined in the fun too, along with Alejandro Pelayo and Janitor.
You didn’t expect Robert Pollard to go quietly into the night after last September’s announcement that Guided By Voices had broken up, did you? Of course not. Today he debuted another song by Ricket Wicky, an outfit he calls a “sophisticated arena rock band.” The album “I Sell the Circus” will be out Feb. 3 via Fire Records. “The band named Ricked Wicky is significant in that it is the very first name I created for a non-existent band in my early teens,” explains Pollard, who is joined by fellow Daytonian Nick Mitchell and multi-instrumentalist/producer Todd Tobias. It seems to have everything you love in every Robert Pollard project ever, including a sense of humor.
Their latest single is titled “The Show Is Over,” but Body/Head played as if it must go on Thursday night at the Echo. The duo of Kim Gordon and Bill Nace released their raw, powerful full-length “Coming Apart” in the fall of 2013; they advertised the new single as evidence of their intentions to make Body/Head an ongoing project. Their intensity was on full display at the Echo. Meanwhile, Gordon, for 30 years a member of Sonic Youth, will release a memoir titled “Girl in a Band” on Feb. 24. Her book tour comes to L.A. in early March.
||| Live: Body/Head play tonight at the Constellation Room and Saturday at the Getty as part of “Saturday Nights at the Getty.”
If the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trade their horses for Cold War-era combustion engines, you’ll know that Viet Cong have arrived. The new self-titled album from the Canadian band howls from the hilltops with reverb-drenched bass and vocals, grindingly sharp guitars and industrial rhythms. Joy Division- and Bauhaus-style goth is given a refreshingly new context, accentuated by Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine guitar treatments. But there’s a sonic complexity and emotional depth to these songs that make Viet Cong reach far beyond its influences. The cold militarism is here, but it is often deftly tempered by softer, sometimes pop elements from the vocals or synths. In the album opener, “Newspaper Spoons,” harsh factory-floor drums and syncopated vocals eventually give way to the chiming optimism of the synthesizers. “Silhouettes” (that’s Brooke Linder’s video, above) churns with relentless anxiety. But this is no compromise to easy listening. “March of Progress” and the grinding closer “Death” explore angular, hypnotic landscapes that evoke Can. Of “March of Progress,” bassist and lead singer Matt Flegel says, “That’s the one where I thought ‘that’s what I want us to be doing. Finally.’”
— Wayne Everett
||| Live: Viet Cong plays the Echo on March 6.
||| Also: Below, watch the video for “Continental Shelf”
Glaswegian band the Vaselines formed in 1986, broke up in ’89 and ever since their reformation in 2008 have kept their fans on their toes with three fuzzy full-lengths, including last fall’s “V for Vaselines.” Principals Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee have a standing as cultish indie-rock icons, even beyond their infamous place in Kurt Cobain’s record collection.
On Tuesday night, the Roxy slowly filled up with devoted fans as the band opened with “The Day I Was A Horse.” The Vaselines make an art of ruthless mockery and melodic garage-rock songs with just the right amount of brevity. Their 24-song set moved briskly, and the amusing between-song banter felt almost like the crowd was watching a biting tête-à-tête between a couple who have been together for too long.
The Suffers are a 10-piece band from Houston, formed in 2011 by bassist Adam Castaneda and keyboardist/vocalist Pat Kelly, and subsequently filled out with local musicians including guitarist Kevin Bernier, trumpet player Jon Durbin, frontwoman Kam Franklin, percussionist Jose “Chapy” Luna, trombonist Michael Razo, jazz saxophonist Cory Wilson, guitarist/vocalist Alex Zamora, and drummer/vocalist Nick Zamora. They tout their sound as “Gulf Coast soul,” combining rock ’n’ roll with neo-soul to create dynamic and feel-good music with their stacked horn and rhythm sections in the vein of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and exemplified on their 4-track “Make Some Room” EP, which came out last week. Franklin’s voice is a force to be reckoned with on the title track, gliding high with a raspy hint as the band cruises along with a full groove, while “Gwan” is a funky, four-alarm number about getting down for some hibbity dibbity, propelled by a conga run and accentuated by the lively brass. The Suffers’ debut album, which is also titled “Make Some Room,” will be out later this year.
||| Stream: “Make Some Room” and “Gwan”
||| Live: The Suffers play the Bootleg on Feb. 26, and Seven Grand on Feb. 27.
Rare is the band in these times of truncated attention spans who dares release a live album. Dr. Dog is one of those rare bands — the Philadelphia sextet have managed to capture the raw vitality of their rousing concerts on the new live album, “Live at a Flamingo Hotel.” It’s their eighth full-length album and first live release. Their previous seven albums have solidified their place as one of the best indie-rock bands of the past 15 years, but their live performances are where they turn fans into true believers. The new album’s 19 live tracks were cut during a 20-show stretch last year and feature a barrage of crowd favorites, including “The Rabbit, The Bat & The Reindeer” from the band’s 2008 album, “Fate.” The song is a bouncy, wild romp with immaculate vocal harmonies, dancy guitars and a rowdy jam session. The accompanying video is a tour diary of sorts, but focuses mostly on the live performance they are famously known for. Their reputation definitely precedes them, but for those who have been kicking themselves for slacking on seeing Dr. Dog live (shame on you), this might just satisfy the onslaught of Dr. Dog cravings … or leave you jonesing for another fix.
— Jessica Shalvoy
||| Live: Dr. Dog plays Feb. 13 at the Wiltern and Feb. 15 at the Glass House in Pomona, with Hanni El Khatib supporting each show.
We’re not even out of January and already I’m out of breath. Today’s Buzz Bands LA Show on The Independent FM will feature new music from Lord Huron, Mini Mansions, Hanni El Khatib, Howls, Virginia Reed, Panthar, Ghost Hours, Ghostel, Cotillon, Only You, Bouquet, Lady Lazarus and Shannon Hurley. That’s just for starters. I’ll also have a once-around-the-residencies segment, with songs from Februarians (is that a word?) Avid Dancer, Banta, Scavenger Hunt and Young Creatures. Plus an old song because I miss Avi Buffalo already. Plus a couple of “Baby” cover songs that I thought worked well together. Tune in at 11 a.m. Pacific time to get it all. Askin’ nicely.
Not to get all hyperbolic or anything, but Courtney Barnett’s “Pedestrian at Best” makes us believe in rock ’n’ roll. First, there’s the no-frills crunch ’n’ swagger, the work of the Australian singer-guitarist with bandmates Dan Luscombe (guitar), Bones Sloane (bass) and Dave Mudie (drums). Timeless. Then there are the 27-year-old’s shout-sung lyrics, funny and biting, an existential crisis on a bender. (Said lyrics are worth a read; they’ve been published here with the video.) The song is the first from Barnett’s forthcoming album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” (due march 24 via Mom + Pop Music). Her 2013 collection of garage-rock nuggets “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas” charmed the socks off just about everybody, and “Pedestrian” makes us think it was no accident.
Join Kevin Bronson every Sunday at 9 p.m. Pacific time for the L.A. Buzz Bands Show on KCSN (88.5 FM).
The long-running Buzz Bands LA Show — streaming weekly on the Internet since 2006 — has a new home on The Independent FM. Tune in at 11 a.m. Pacific time every Friday for two hours of SoCal-bred music.