Here’s “part two” of my latest installment of really awesome Eastside L.A. bands (see part one, in case you missed it). Please forgive the brevity, but there’s just so much amazing music going on out there, I want to mention as many as possible. As I become more familiar, I’ll do larger profiles and maybe review new music when it comes out. And certainly, if any of these guys make the cross-country journey to these parts, I’ll be sure to let everyone know! As always, if there’s anything or anyone I missed who deserves mention, please pass it along.
More great L.A. bands…
Nightmare Air features Dave Dupuis (guitar, vocals) and James Smith (drums), both from Film School*, joined by Swaan Miller (bass, vocals). This wonderful trio brings forth surprisingly complex and layered psychedelic rock with a heavier punk vibe in places, distortion, and spacey atmospherics. They started performing together after Film School’s 2007/08 tour ended, and released their debut EP last December, supporting the release with some East Coast dates, including here in Boston at T.T.’s (yes, of course, I missed them. sorry about that. next time).
* P.S. And I realize now that I inadvertently left out Film School back in my last ’round-up’, who unleash a great heavy/spacey psychedelic onslaught which I’m guessing is even better appreciated live. Their latest release on Beggar’s Banquet was Hideout (2007), and they’re currently working on new material for release sometime this year.
One Trick Pony
Wow, what a beautiful sound these guys have… Randolph Williams III on vocals and guitar; Jenny Teixeira, drums and background vocals; and Charlene Huang on violin. Sometimes they’re joined by Josh Solberg, bass and trombone and Todd McLaughlin, banjo and background vocals. Incredibly pretty music and heart-tugging vocals from Randolph, a dreamy wistfulness that just pulls you right in. The simple loveliness of their folky sound provides a perfect counterbalance to some pretty powerful and heart wrenching lyrics:
Absent, absent, absent,
from the phonebook, from the frontline.
Itâ€™s been a long, long day.
One long day, one long day,
full of silent defeats.
Transmissions not received.
Donâ€™t cry, baby, weâ€™re just leaves.
Their latest EP Full Of Life was released late last year. It can also be purchased on iTunes. They have a few other EPs available – Familiar (Live Sessions, 2009), Phantom Pains (2007), and A Walking Contradiction (2003), all available from their store. You can also have a look at their lyrics (thanks, guys!).
Originally from Santa Monica and now based in Eagle Rock, Princeton are purveyors of pretty and soulful pop ballads about love and loss, and – in the case of their 2008 debut EP Bloomsbury, early 20th century London intellectuals. Synthesizers and lush strings abound, with warm vocals and some gentle harmonies – especially nice on a song such as “Martina And Clive”, which is one that jumped right out at me. Princeton is: Jesse Kivel, Matt Kivel, Ben Usen, and David Kitz. Their full-length Cocoon Of Love (Kanine Records, 2009) is available from their online store. In April they’ll be touring through “the heartland” (how else to describe Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Kansas?), Texas, and the West Coast, before heading off to Europe.
I first became somewhat acquainted with Sara Lov when she came through town with Sea Wolf – unfortunately playing the same night as someone else I needed to see. Her style is personal, sad and wistful, but with an uplifting sense of hope in her angelic vocals that float around beautifully with piano and strings. She also performs a wonderful version of Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage”, with cello, ukulele, pump organ, and celesta accompaniment. As a solo artist, she’s released The Young Eyes EP in 2008, and her debut album Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming in 2009. Prior to that, she performed in the pop duo . From recent tweets, it sounds like she’s currently in the studio recording.
Dreamy and psychedelic with sometimes a 60s-flavored garage sound, Highland Park’s Seasons have been performing together… possibly just since late 2008, from what I can tell. They’re releasing, appropriately enough, seasonal EPs – there’s Spring and Summer so far, with Winter due out in… wait for it… June. With their core members (John, Adam, Nik, Eric, and Ray) and as many as 8 people live, their sound is a rich cornucopia of guitars, organ, piano, glockenspiel, percussion, electronics, harmonica, melodica, apparently a toy piano at times, and some laptop magic. But it’s not at all cluttered as that may sound; it’s quite pretty, actually. They’ll be live on KXLU on April 9 at 5pm (8pm EST). They’ve just announced that their EPs are available at Amoeba Music in L.A.; for those not in L.A., it might be best just to contact the band at their MySpace.
The Boxing Lesson
Damn, that’s a lot of music for three people! Paul Waclawsky on vocals and guitar, Jaylinn Davidson, vocals & synths; and Jake Mitchell, drums & samples. Though I think they might be a duo now of Paul and Jaylinn. I’m cheating a bit here, because The Boxing Lesson have actually relocated to Austin, Texas, but they once were an Eastside L.A. band, and in fact as I’m reading a little about them, Paul’s first apartment was across the street from Spaceland, which certainly counts for something, so I’ll let them sneak in. Their expansive space rock has some Pink Floyd and King Crimson influences (“Muerta” is especially awesome), but they also have a modern rock feel on songs such as “Drone to Sleep”. They’ve released The Boxing Lesson EP (2003), Radiation (2004), Songs in the Key of C (2006), Wild Streaks & Windy Days (2008), and are currently working on a new album called Possibilities. Read more about how you can help them release this, on Kickstarter.com.
The French Semester
Ok, surprise, another great Eastside L.A. band. But I’m racing against the ever oppressive passage of time, so I’ll get a little lazy here and quote from The French Semester’s official site: “Raised on the baroque of late 60’s folk acts like the Left Banke, macabre 80’s dreampop of the Rain Parade, and the DIY 90’s esprit de corps of Guided By Voices, the band has been hailed for charting its own path amid a flood of garage, alt-country, and synth-rock repeaters.” There’s Riaz Tejani on lead vocals and guitars; Gil Disloquez on bass and backing vocals; Charles Maxey, drums; Elaine Bagorio, backing vocals and percussion; and Russ Quintana, organ. Sweet, gentle melodies and some 60s/early 70s psychedelia (Syd Barrett, the Byrds, The Zombies) mix in with 80s and 90s indie rock influences such as the Smiths, Neutral Milk Hotel and Built To Spill, to create a fresh and unique sound. They have two albums and two EPs – the most recent of which is their Forces Afield EP and the full-length Good Friends Only I Could See, both available online. Their latest news is that they’ll have a limited edition vinyl release available in “late summer”.
The Health Club
A garagy punk band, Yay! Seriously, they’re quite good. My apologies to all these fantastic bands, but I hear about all these guys, then madly try to find time to listen to everyone and say a few things ’cause they’re all really, really good. In any case, The Health Club (Gerard – guitar, vocals; Gabriel – drums, vocals; and Katya – bass) indeed have a delightful garage and punk rock vibe going on, but there’s also a sophistication I can hear immediately. Meaning it’s infectious and listenable, and not just thrashy noise (no disrespect, mind you, to thrashy noise). Or as they themselves say, “the love child of Dylan’s lyrics and the Beatles’ music molested by the Sex Pistols”. “Life To Life”, by the way, is pretty damned hypnotic. Their Rarities and Outtakes album is available from CD Baby.
The Meeting Places
The Meeting Places came together in 2002, currently consists of Arthur Chan on bass, Chase Harris on vocals and guitar, Scott McDonald on guitar, and Dean Yoshihara on drums, and they deliver a powerful wash of guitars with some dreamy pop vocals. They have two albums out – Find Yourself Along The Way (2003) and Numbered Days (2006) – and they’ve got their lyrics online for you to peruse. Their latest news is that they’ll be opening for Ulrich Schnauss and Chapterhouse at The Troubadour (in Los Angeles) on May 7th. And I now see they’re working on a new record.
The Sweet Hurt
The Sweet Hurt is the project of Wendy Wang, who has such a sweet angelic voice, with very nice acoustic folk/pop musical accompaniment. She plays with various people live – Erik Kertes, Mike “mikey g” Green, John Graney, Jonathan Price, Gabe Noel… including – to my surprise – Ben Jaffee and Suzanne Santo. They’re the really cool original duo of Honey Honey, whom I’ve enjoyed for some time now. Hm, I see now that at the beginning of 2009, she was playing bass and singing with them (in addition to performing at times with Correatown and Let’s Go Sailing). Very cool. Anyway, The Sweet Hurt’s last release was the 5-track In the Shade of Dreams (2008), available from iTunes or Amazon. Everyday Mistakes (2006) can be purchased from iTunes or CD Baby. Most recently, Wendy has been playing and singing with The Bird and The Bee, Priscilla Ahn, Juliette Commagere, and others. She’ll be releasing her debut album in the next few weeks. Exciting stuff, and I hope to have a review of it in the near future.
Wait. Think. Fast.
I’ll finish up with the beautiful sounds of Wait. Think. Fast. Featuring the haunting, sensuous vocals of singer/keyboardist Jacqueline Santillan (singing in both English and Spanish), their music is pretty as well as majestic. The addition of strings and horns in the soaring “Pajaros De Papel” carries one off to a distant land. “Clear Our Name” is more in the indie pop vein, but it carries a certain gravitas with a darker, more serious tinge which sets it apart, as does all of their music. Very, very nice. Lyrically there’s quite a bit going on as well – they have both the Spanish and English lyrics online. You can order their “Look Alive” single and Vuelve al Mar on iTunes. They’re currently working on a new album.