Kay Kay does No Diggity + more dance favorites

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Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, a Seattle-based indie outfit birthed from members of the previously defunct Gatsby’s American Dream have been releasing a live digital album of covers. It’s called “Experimeducation” and features dancy, jazzy, multi-instrumental interpretations of ’80s and ’90s favorites like Hall and Oates, Mary J. Blige and Blackstreet. The band continues to add new tracks every chance they get and promise 12 in total:

– DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES
– MARY J. BLIGE
– JANET JACKSON
– EVELYN “CHAMPAGNE” KING
– BLACKSTREET
– NU SHOOZ
– NEXT
– DAZZ BAND
– KENI BURKE
– TEENA MARIE
– SHEILA E.
– BOBBY BROWN

FAVORITE SO FAR:

“No Diggity featuring Katie Kate”

WHY?

A classic ’90s favorite, the original “No Diggity” was recorded by Blackstreet and featured Dr. Dre. It’s a classic R&B jam and is catchy to begin with. Kay Kay keeps its rendition as smooth jammin’ as ever, complete with snaps, claps, and horns. I can almost feel the freak dancing—er, grinding. (Can you say “Hey oh hey oh hey oh hey ohhh!”)

Katie Kate, an unsigned Seattle badass/wise-ass hip-hopper, has some slick laptop jams and a name fit for a Kay Kay collaboration. She rocks the rap interlude originally done by Dre with more flavor than Flava Flav.

kay kay

There goes the neighborhood: LA Times’ Brand X says goodbye

Yet another news publication has bitten the dust.

Its not quite the headline-breaker like Rupert Murdoch‘s recent folding of the News of the World, the 168-year-old British tabloid that has received allegations for hacking into the cellphone of a murdered schoolgirl.

But, the free, LA Times-owned, weekly arts, entertainment and culture magazine known as Brand X has been a staple in the Los Angeles youth scene for a few years.

And by youth, I mean the twentysomething hipster population that has taken over spots like Silver Lake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock and West Hollywood.

Its strongpoints, at least to me, were extensive reporting on the rising Los Angeles craft beer movement and its coverage of the indie music scene.

There is, however, a silver lining. The Los Angeles Times Media Group also announced in a memo that it will be expanding its roster of community newspapers.

I interned at Brand X (formerly thisisbrandx.com, the site was taken down July 8th) when it was still Metromix Los Angeles (formerly la.metromix.com, folded into the Times, then morphed into Brand X). This was back in 2009 and was my first of three journalism internships after college.

I was really going to miss the weekly tabloid, as I’m moving (back) to the Bay Area in a few days.

But now, everyone will miss this fun and edgy guide to what’s what, who’s who and what’s happening in LA.

I’m sure it was only a matter of time.

Best of luck to Deb Vankin, Alexandra Le Tellier and the rest of the staff with their new roles at the Times.

More information check out LA Observed‘s coverage.

One of my first non school-related publications was on Metromix.com in 2009. The short blog contribution is below:

Published on Metromix.com in 2009.

Give this band some press: Let’s Drive to Alaska

From left to right, Let's Drive to Alaska is Marisa Kirtland, Chris Garcia, Cris Holguin and Patrick Haag.

Orange County indie up and comers Let’s Drive to Alaska are an experiment.

An experiment that explores the art of sound creation and manipulation.

Moody synths meld with glitchy beats and melodic strings to create an introspective and atmospheric arrangement. Throw in a dash of post-rock sensibilities and you’ve got Let’s Drive to Alaska.

Think From Monument to Masses meets The Notwist and the softer side of Explosions In The Sky. Music you can think to, write to, sleep to and even wake up to.

The Whittier-based instrumental outfit Let’s Drive to Alaska has become an OC mainstay throughout the last six months, making an impact on the local scene with well-honed live shows that draw a good crowd even on a Monday night.

The band’s May 23rd performance at Fullerton’s Commonwealth Lounge, where I caught them live, was no exception. This is a tight group — band member Cris Holguin says they practice three times a week, upwards of five hours at a time.

Yet no one is talking about them. You can find LTDA on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Soundcloud, but a quick Google news or blog search leads to links mostly related to, of course, Sarah Palin.

LDTA is a distinct breed of band, where the music stems from one person’s creation.

It’s like Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s industrial rock collective. Reznor writes and records most of the music but brings a full band on tour. Conor Oberst, frontman of Bright Eyes, and Zach Condon of Beirut have similar strategies.

In this case, it’s 23-year-old Chris Garcia…at least for now.

LTDA has seen a few different lineups, and the current four-piece is just Garcia’s latest efforts to realize his musical visions.

Garcia, who started making music on his laptop in 2005, has held many monikers for his eclectic musical projects. He has The Coherent Mammals, an ambient group not too dissimilar from LTDA and the more guitar-driven The Golden Tongues, to name a few.

With the latest incarnation, Garcia has brought on solid talent for a more permanent arrangement: drummer Pat Haag (ex-Mississippi Man), sampling and effects artist Cris Holguin and violinist/celloist Marisa Kirtland.

But the still-fresh group has yet to face it’s biggest challenge — winning over the toughest crowd to date: LA hipsters.

The band knows that pull in Orange County means nothing in Los Angeles and that it’s not unusual to play to an empty audience the first few shows.

They’ll find out soon enough as their first LA show is at The Airliner Monday night.

Right now, the group is putting finishing touches on a new EP, “Floating Mammoths.” This will be the first recording to feature the current lineup.

And while the album is almost in the bag, Holguin says he is working on a groundbreaking visual set to sync up to the music during live performances.

And if you’re curious about seeing Holguin on stage hooking up his effects board to a 20″ white iMac instead of a laptop, you’ll have to ask him about the first Let’s Drive to Alaska show for that story.

Check out a track from Let’s Drive to Alaska:

Pictures from the Commonwealth Lounge show HERE.

You can watch an interview with LTDA frontman Chris Garcia here:

Genre: Electronic/Experimental/Postrock/Electronic

Portugal. The Man surprises, delights sold-out House of Blues crowd

The lights are dim, the anxious crowd screaming and applauding, the curtains closed.

The TVs around the venue lit up with breathtaking imagery of glaciers and snowy mountains.

Portugal. The Man’s latest single “Got It All (This Can’t be Living Now)” begins to blare through the speakers, but it’s not them playing the music.

A 10-minute theatrical HD music video debuts before the band plays a note.

The video featured lead singer and guitarist John Gourley on some sort of “Into The Wild” adventure in Alaska.

Gourley, wrapped in a fur-hooded parka, is pulled through arctic tundra by a pack of sled dogs. And, without giving away the ending, finds himself on the ground, mouthing words to the song.

After the extended introduction, the four-piece started into a re-envisioned version of an old track from debut album “Waiter, You Vultures!”. Lights flashed as Gourley’s frenetic guitar noodling danced to distorted bass lines.

I’ve watched Portugal. The Man ascent to fame over the years, collecting each album and watching them live a handful of times.

Each performance is different than the last and Saturday was no different.

The Portland, Oregon by way of Wasilla, Alaska indie quartet group releases its sixth studio album “In The Mountain, In The Cloud” July 17 and used its sold-out House of Blues Anaheim audience as ears for many of the new tracks.

The group sprinkled a number of the new songs throughout the hour-and-a-half long performance that include a single song, but 10+ minute encore.

It was clear Portugal was on tour to generate steam for the upcoming release of “In The Mountain”.

Fans sang along to favorites from the popular (and more pop-sounding) album “The Satanic Satanist”, which helped but the band on the map and in 2010, secure a deal with Atlantic Records after two, two-record stints with Fearless and Equal Vision Records, respectively.

The band has progressed a lot since the falsetto vocals matched to drum machine beats and introspective guitar riffs. The sound has opened, Gourley’s voice has progressed — along with the backup singing — and the new stuff sounds wide open, soaring and even a bit grandiose. Somewhere between “Censored Colors” and “Satanist”.

You’ll have to listen to hear what I’m talking about:

Below, videos from the performance!

Wild Orchid Children @ Chain Reaction: dirty licks and primal Americana

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I blogged about this radically…different band in January with a full album review (rating score of awesome) and checked them out live Wednesday night at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA.

Featuring current members of Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground and former members of Gatsby’s American Dream and Forgive Durden, this Seattle-based band is comprised of core members Kirk Huffman (vocals and percussion), Thomas Hunter (guitar), Kyle O’Quin (keys), Andy Lum (drums), Aaron Benson (percussion and effects), and Ryan Van Wierengen (baritone guitar and percussion). Wild Orchid Children have collaborated not only for the music they make but also for the lifestyle they lead. – WOC Facebook

Perhaps it was the rain or maybe it was a school night at an all-ages venue in Orange County as opposed to Los Angeles, but Chain was shockingly empty for a group with such indie street cred.

When Wild Orchid Children came on around 10:30 pm, there was no more than 30 people in the audience at the small club.

No complaining here, as I got a front row seat. And lucky for the 30 of us, the Seattle-based seven-piece played like the place was sold out.

Porter and Benson were dressed ready to rock with bandages for their conga-drumming hands and bandanas to boot. They rounded out a three-part percussion section with Lum on the kit — a rare luxury for a band this size.

Lone guitarist Thomas Hunter stole the show, effortlessly laying down psychedelic licks matched to his own demented facial expressions.

There was no bassist to be found, but with O’Quin working two keyboards and Huffman’s bombastic vocal effects, it was hard to notice.

The wild childs have cancelled a few upcoming tour dates, but are heading back to Seattle for a handful of shows. Expect them opening for an act like the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group anytime soon.

In the meantime, check out some raw footage from “Birth Of A Cabin” live at Chain Reaction March 23, 2011:

New Music Friday

 

Amazon MP3, which has been making waves with its music download deals, steals and collaborations is offering 100 albums for free right now!

Check em out RIGHT HERE.

The cool part is that not all 100 mp3 albums suck. In fact, there’s some pretty good stuff to be found. For free!

This is what I “purchased” for $0.00:

The following items were ordered:

Animal [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Miike Snow
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Saddle Creek sampler 2008-2009 [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Sargent House Sampler [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Frenchkiss Records Super Sampler [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Sample This Sh*t [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Digital Bang: The 2010 Sub Pop Sampler For Amazon [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

I haven’t listened to any of it yet, but judging by the buzz I’ve heard of Miike (two “i”s) Snow and the bands I do know on these indie labels, I should have some good findings to report.

(RX Bandits – Sargent House, The Faint, Bright Eyes – Saddle Creek, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes – Sub Pop, and Local Natives – Frenchkiss)

Arcade Fire, Amazon MP3s, Warriors of Rock

By now, the entire world has heard the new Arcade Fire album, “The Suburbs.” OK, not everybody…but it came out August 3, so in the blogosphere it’s been pretty much forever.

And the seven-piece Canadian ensemble sold out Madison Square Garden in New York, two nights in a row. Rolling Stone has an excellent review of the show, which was also streamed live on YouTube last week . Now that’s a win for “indie” — if you can still call it that….and turns out you can. The critically acclaimed group is on Merge Records, an independent label, so the term indie stands.

The third Arcade Fire album is amazing. It hooks you in from the beginning with the title track “The Suburbs”, wrapping you into the story of a youth growing up Mormon in The Woodlands, Texas. The dramatic, over-the-top, and fast-paced  nature make Arcade Fire songs run smoothly, but after 13 tracks not much yearning is left.

Pitchfork gave the album an 8.6. So you know there’s something to what I’m saying. The band’s previous album “Neon Bible” got an 8.4, while the debut “Funeral” received a 9.7. This are impressive simply because anything above a 6 from this music blog pretty much means “does not suck.”

If you haven’t got your hands on this album yet, Amazon MP3s seems to be making progress in the digital download lifestyle by offering mp3 albums cheap for a 24-hour period. You can pick it up (well, down) for $7.99…still not bad at all.

In other rock news, I was shocked to hear one of my favorite artists, RX Bandits, have a track on the upcoming sixth installment of the Guitar Hero franchise. I caught drift via @sargenthouse, the label run by Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Guitar Hero 6, now being called “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock” features “It’s Only Another Parsec…”, a groove-worthy track from RXB’s latest, “Mandala.” I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see RXB play its three albums in their entirety, back-to-back in September at the Troubadour from the 24th to the 26th.

I haven’t played guitar hero in a good long time, but judging by the list of other bands appearing on the game, the Long Beach-based experimental/formerly ska act is a standout amongst the likes of big names like Muse, Nine Inch Nails and The Rolling Stones. There are some indie staples like Silversun Pickups and Anberlin, but RXB don’t have nearly the same namesake. Way to go guys. You can check out the full tracklist for “Warriors of Rock” here if you’re curious.

I’ve uploaded “It’s Only Another Parsec…” to the box.net widget on the right of this blog for your utmost convenience!

As for the Arcade Fire’s new stuff, give it a listen on NPR if you want to try before you buy.

Bay Area band Mata Leon emerges with fresh focus

San Francisco-based Mata León opened a growling late-night indie show at Hollywood club Boardner’s last week.

The band performed on an outdoor stage inside a smoke-filled patio while a crowd of rebellious 18-year-olds and leather-stricken twenty-somethings watched with a hint of awe.

The set was short, but the four-piece put out some serious soul in its bluesy brand of indie-rock.

Comparisons are hard to draw, but both classic and modern influences are clear in the moody, hook-driven songs.

The four Bay Area musicians – vocalist Spencer Dräger, guitarist Brian DaMert, bassist Greg Sellin and drummer Sam Totty –  have been playing together for eight years.

But until about six months ago, they were going under the name Overview.

The group started in high school, playing lunchtime and local shows before growing into a buzzworthy act that AbsolutePunk called “refreshing, refreshing, refreshing” after hearing the 2007 EP “Forty-Four Stone Tigers.”

Overview played its final show in July, and since then, the tigers have stepped back from playing every show they could get their hands on (three national tours across 43 states, according to Sellin).

Instead, they went back into the studio and found a new focus: something more simple and literal that fit the four’s San Francisco style, culture and taste.

“We laid low for four or five-months, spending every day in the studio writing and scrapping songs, deciding a new direction to go in. We got into different tastes in music, [and wanted a] fresh start,” says Sellin.

The band members, all in their mid-20s, quietly reemerged as Mata León, which means the lion killer in Portugese.

“I want to bring the love and culture from SF out,” says Sellin. “It’s like nowhere else in the world. You take it for granted a lot growing up in such a musically cultured and politically-minded place. But it’s unbelievable when you compare it to someone who spent their life growing up in Iowa.”

The new band has only a handful of tracks on Myspace, and plans to release an EP in the spring.

Sellin says Mata León’s sound isn’t the epic orchestra of sounds that Overview was.

“We’re concentrating more on a vibe of a song. Less trying to show off with complex instrumentation and just concentrate on creating a feeling, an emotion throughout a song instead of just great parts,” he told me after the Los Angeles gig.

The group hopes to do things one better this time around. Sellin says they will “pick their shots” and be more selective with performances.

Keep an eye on tour dates, as the band will be up and down the West Coast in the coming months. And if you’re checking out South by Southwest next month, you can catch Mata León on the Pabst Blue Ribbon stage.

How Gong I’m Gonna Be Lawn

Track 9 on Facing New York’FNYs “Get Hot” is like the beginning of a journey in a dark, mystical tunnel.

“How Gong I’m Gonna Be Lawn” is a confusing ass name.

But the forresty sound effects and breathing noises in full stereo effect through my Bose computer speakers is phenomenal. A trumpet starts to melt in as the noises continue to build and speed up parallel to the simple keyboard notes and bass line keeping the rhythm moving.

It’s not until about a minute and half into the song, it really starts going…which is nothing even close to out of the ordinary for any prog-rock band. With Floyd influences abound, The Oakland-based trio give the full experience with a pretty regular-sized collection of regular-length songs.

But whether its 3 minutes or just under 6 – like track number 9 – they pack the punch into songs that take on the form of anything but regular.

Each one is a new journey, a perfect soundtrack to the mysterious adventures of a stoner exploring himself and the world on the Internet on an otherwise quiet Saturday night.

There’s a sweet blend of slow to fast, and quiet to loud in almost all of the 11 tracks with only a few moments to lag that get passed up when the songs build to full-on experimental jazz rock.

I’ve blogged about this band and this CD twice in four blogs, but I promise I’ll get into the other stuff.

As the journey of a man nears its end, he comes to a slow realization of what he needs to do: be more himself.

Eric Frederic leaves you off with a line perfect for the old enough to have hair on his face kind of scruffster: “Self-medicating through anonymous sex with the occasional hungover insight.”