Art, Events June 4, 2010 By Todd Rosenberg

filler79 Eurotrash

Bang Bang, you Shot me down, Conor Harrington. Photography courtesy of LAzarides. (Click Images to Enlarge)

Bang Bang, You Shot Me Down, Conor Harrington. Photography courtesy of LAzarides. (Click Images to Enlarge)

filler79 Eurotrasheurotrash title EurotrashWhen he was just starting out four years ago, Steve Lazarides was the man behind the man. Considering many of his artists work under the cloak of secrecy, you’d think that would’ve left him in relative obscurity. But with a stable of names such as French street art godfather Invader, Radiohead’s long time artist Stanley Donwood, Banksy, and Brooklyn wheatpaste kings Faile, he has become the focus of increased attention across the art world. Next week, his upstart UK gallery, Lazarides, will begin the second phase of its five-month LA stint with the awesomely named Eurotrash — a group show including breakout JR, Antony Micallef, Conor Harrington, and Vhils. Lazarides’ eye for talent and new forms of renegade, sometimes vandal art feels like a renaissance of Tony Shafrazi’s legendary ’80s New York gallery, which launched the careers of Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Futura 2000. Here in LA, he fits in with the city’s most ambitious impresarios with this pop-up spectacle. An 8,000 square-foot space in the heart of posh Beverly Hills, it feels like both an attack on the upper crust and perhaps a provocative statement of art nouveau riche. The visit opened back in April with a daunting solo show from misfit David Choe, which could’ve been four separate shows (oil painting, drawings, huge inflatable “sculptures”, and XXX graffiti) and continues through September.   Like the legendary Banksy show Lazarides staged four years ago, it’s an event that will still have people talking once it’s gone. 

Eurotrash opens June 8 at LAzarides, 320 N Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, 90210

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Music April 29, 2010 By Todd Rosenberg

filler57 Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma

Warp Records

Warp Records

flyinglotustitle Flying Lotus: CosmogrammaFlying Lotus’ commanding second album conjures alternate titles in my mind: “2010: A Space Oddity” or, perhaps more appropriate, “Sketches of Space”. Yet Cosmogramma is quite fitting — a journey into an alternate musical universe, seemingly worlds beyond ours. It’s a giant leap forward for this LA-based producer; not that his debut wasn’t impressive, but as its name Los Angeles connotes, he still had his feet firmly on local ground. Jet-pack strapped, FlyLo has taken along on his fantastic voyage a time capsule of jazz, funk, and psychedelics that leaks out across his electro blueprints. With its spastic, virtuoso bass line courtesy of Thundercat, “Pickled!” is the sound of droids dancing, while “Mmmhmm” is like an Outkast or Foreign Exchange track in orbit. “Computer Face/Pure Being” (stream below) is what Parliament-Funkadelic might be doing today if they were still making new music and using a Galaga machine as an instrument. Most promising is the showcase Flying Lotus creates for top musicians and vocalists including relative Ravi Coltrane on sax, harpist Rebekah Raff, and fellow cosmonaut Thom Yorke on guest vocals — it’s the deft trick Massive Attack and UNKLE employed to great strength when coming up, and it’s potent here. Most likely, the best electronic record you’ll hear all year and yet it’s so densely packed with multiple styles and layers, it could take through next year to fully decode its wonderful complexity.

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Cosmogramma comes out May 4. Buy this at Other Music or iTunes.

Music February 19, 2010 By Todd Rosenberg
gorilla Local Natives: Gorilla Manor
Frenchkiss Records

filler29 Local Natives: Gorilla Manorlocalnatives title Local Natives: Gorilla Manor

Nowadays, underground bands typically do something fancy to get noticed — creating baroque arrangements and baffling song structures or using whacked-out instrumentation to impress. So it’s particularly refreshing when a band like Local Natives comes along and does something brilliant without really doing anything radically different. Gorilla Manor, their debut album (which finally hits U.S. stores this week, after building a buzz in import exile) simply has the catchiest songs you’ve heard in a long time, underpinned by fantastic, creative drumming and three-part vocals veteran bands would kill for. At first blush, it sounds like My Morning Jacket performing songs by The Shins, with soaring crescendos that provide gravity to would-be pop songs. While it’s a reference point for their sound, this critic’s “short cut” fails to peg the immediacy this Silver Lake, California quintet creates, like an old musical friend you’ve heard before but aren’t sure where. The early standout “Sun Hands” trickily vacillates between subdued and exuberant, both delicate and raucous, while “Airplanes” trots along nostalgically, nicely measured out. It’s a safe bet that the first part of their name will become a misnomer, as the world beyond California, and even the US, takes notice of this gem in the months to come.

Check out the “Airplanes” video after the jump.

Buy this at Other Music or iTunes.


Music January 28, 2010 By Todd Rosenberg

filler19 Owen Pallett: Heartland

owen pallett cover1 Owen Pallett: Heartland

pallet Owen Pallett: Heartland

Long ago, classical music ruled. Over centuries, musical iconoclasts found many ways to deviate from this sonic bedrock with jazz, rock and roll, hip-hop, reggae, and other popular flavors, relegating classical to something highfalutin, placed on a pedestal for anyone nerdy or old enough to pay attention. Foreshadowed by Anthony Burgess’ visionary novella A Clockwork Orange, a bastardized version of classical music has again become en vogue, ironically in hipster, cool-kid circles. Artists like Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom, and Eric Matthews hybridized with “chamber pop”, making equal use of folk, rock, and classical instruments and song structures. Owen Pallett (née Final Fantasy) is another luminary of this genre, as evidenced by his latest full-length, Heartland, (not to mention his orchestral arrangements already heard with Arcade Fire). The song cycle is adorned with lush details: string flourishes, woodwinds, brass, and even bells. More than just ornamentation, these meticulous touches are the glue (and attraction) of this jigsawed sound. Heartland shows Pallett’s penchant for mixing bygone instruments with newfangled electronics, sometimes giving his songs a retro-futuristic feel. “Lewis Takes Action” (stream below) sounds like a ’60s girl-group classic interpolated by the hands of a philharmonic; the centerpiece “O Heartland, Up Yours!” surprises with its semi-soulful groove. Another example of the place classical music still holds in pop culture, in measured doses.

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Buy this at Other Music or iTunes.

Music January 20, 2010 By Todd Rosenberg

filler17 Gucci Presents Diplo

gucci cover Gucci Presents Diplo
Mad Decent /Asylum records

filler17 Gucci Presents Diplo
guccidiplo title Gucci Presents Diplo

Typically a mixtape is just enough to whet your appetite for the official release, serving the essential purpose of leaking songs and then becoming a throwaway once the real deal comes out. Not so in the hands of Diplo. In fact, in recent years his mixtapes in advance of debuts for artists such as M.I.A. and Santigold have become as lasting as their studio efforts, return-to listens long after their release, and even companion pieces to those great albums. After a reggae/dancehall sabbatical with Major Lazer in 2009, the venerable DJ returns once again to his first and true love, hip hop, with Free Gucci: Best of the Cold War Mixtapes. Gucci Mane is arguably the hottest voice in hip hop right now, MySpace’s top rap artist of ‘09, with supposedly another two albums on the way this year despite being incarcerated for violating probation. He’s best described as a “playful gangster” with a lazy vocal delivery, cheeky streetwise lyrics that are simultaneously crack-up and G’d up, and hooks that make it no wonder people keep coming back. The genius here is Diplo’s matchmaking between recent electronic music breakouts as remixers (Flying Lotus, Zomby, Memory Tapes) with vocals they’d never think to use; it simultaneously introduces hipster music geeks to the newest crunk and hip hop heads to up and coming electro beatmakers. Oh yeah, and like the best mixtapes, it’s free. Grab it at Mad Decent.

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Music October 21, 2009 By Todd Rosenberg
fbuttons tarot sport coverart hi res1 Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport
ATP Recordings

fuckbuttons title Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport

I’m not sure any record review can do more justice to Fuck Buttons’ music than the description on their MySpace page: “sounds like: the universe.” The Bristol duo’s second album, Tarot Sport, could easily be the evidence and result of “close encounters”: an alien creation that seems beyond human description or control. Even the song titles make it clear we’re beyond the earth’s atmosphere from “Surf Solar” to “Space Mountain”. In this realm, noise and non-musical sounds have as much value as instrumentation, reminiscent of ’90s Aphex Twin, and no doubt owing to the production of stalwart DJ Andrew Weatherall. “Phantom Limb” sounds like what would happen if ecstacy was distributed at the Star Wars cantina. “Surf Solar” (streamed below) deconstructs the vocals with a strobing effect, where something’s being said but it’s not clear what language or life form it’s coming from. But it’s the 9-plus-minute closer “Flight of the Feathered Serpent” that really captures the imagination: a Martian fertility dance of tribal percussion and expansive guitar work that recalls the Edge. There are possibly only two things that underlie Fuck Buttons’ musical intent — the attempt to put you in a trance and, in doing so, transporting you to somewhere otherworldly.

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Buy this at iTunes.

Music October 2, 2009 By Todd Rosenberg
fools gold FOOLS GOLD: fools gold

foolsgold title FOOLS GOLD: fools gold

In the past, fusing African music and Western rock was truly a novelty — the crossover pioneered perhaps by Paul Simon’s enduring classic Graceland and Peter Gabriel’s “Biko”. But nowadays there is a movement of indie bands embracing and resurrecting African influences as the basis of their sound: BLK JKS, Extra Golden, Foreign Born, and Vampire Weekend, to name a few. LA-based Fool’s Gold has released their debut this week, and it’s as worthy as any of the aforementioned. This ten-plus-member collective utilizes tropical guitar work, saxophones, intricate percussion, and call-and-response vocals to take the rock blueprint to a higher level. Singer and co-ringleader Luke Top alternates verses in both English and Hebrew with a confident vocal presence, distinguishing the album from its contemporaries by also including a Middle Eastern element. In description this might sound overtly cross-cultural but it’s no mere gimmick — Fool’s Gold uses these disparate sounds to benefit a strangely cohesive, celebratory, and exotic album.

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Fool’s Gold – Surprise Hotel

Music September 10, 2009 By Todd Rosenberg

mayer title Mayer Hawthorne

For the last few years, artists like Jamie Lidell, Amy Winehouse, and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings hinted at a true throwback to the classic soul sounds of Motown, Atlantic, and Stax. Seemingly coming out of nowhere (Ann Arbor, Michigan to be exact), Mayer Hawthorne is another advancement of this sound and, quite simply, the real deal. You might be taken aback by how un-modern this debut album sounds. Down to the instrumentation and arrangements, Hawthorne does his best to pay homage to this timeless era albeit with new original compositions, both sung and played by him. Replete with backing vocals reminiscent of the Four Tops and the Spinners, songs like “Maybe So, Maybe No” and “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” are immediate classics, even if they are seemingly time warped to a new era. Ballads, almost a lost art in current music, are right at home alongside this mid-tempo soul. Barry Gordy would be proud, if not a little surprised, that there’s still a market for these sounds, and the fact that Stones Throw (venerable indie home to Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf) discovered and released this album is a testament to how things go beyond full circle. A strange arrangement indeed, and a promising one.

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Mayer Hawthorne – Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’

Music June 23, 2009 By Todd Rosenberg
major2 Major Lazer
Downtown Records

major title1 Major Lazer

Baile funk, hip hop, electro breakdance, mash up, pop, and indie rock remixes – is there anything these guys can’t do? Diplo and Switch, two of today’s most innovative producers and the guys that brought you “Paper Planes” and Santigold, have once again proven there’s no genre they can’t conquer. After skating around reggae and dancehall on previous productions, Major Lazer is the duos’ headlong foray into the world of Jamaican music and also their first official full-length collaboration. Recorded at the legendary Tuff Gong Studios, the album not only captures some of the original reggae magic left there, but succeeds in forwarding that sound through deft integration of programmed beats and sampling. At times, electro takes over and relegates Rasta to mere words (like the frenetic lead track “Hold The Line”) while others, like the great “Can’t Stop Now”, take a more traditional approach to classic reggae with occasional “peek-a-boo” hip hop samples and dub effects. And credit is due to the vocalists showcased throughout (including Santi, Turbulence, Mr. Vegas and Amanda Blank), who take these productions even higher. It’s almost unfair how prolific and versatile Diplo and Switch are, and Major Lazer demonstrates they’re not only on point but one step beyond.


Music June 17, 2009 By Todd Rosenberg
budos1 The Budos Band
Daptone Records

budos title The Budos Band

Even though The Budos Band hails from Staten Island, you’d swear their eleven members are a mixture of Detroit and Nigerian tribes. Their sound is a fantastic confluence of Afrobeat and classic American soul that never forgets its ultimate goal of filling the dancefloor. This EP collects seven lost grooves recorded between the band’s two albums, and while standing on its own as a great listen, it also shows the crystallization of the their unique sound (self-described as Afro-Soul). The standout track, “The Proposition”, (stream below) could even be taken as a Budos aesthetic manifesto. Driven by blazing horns, electric organ, and funky guitars, it evokes Booker T. and the MGs, memories of Fela and even Boogaloo. Just another step in the right direction from our friends at Daptone. And for you New Yorkers, catch The Budos Band at Central Park’s Summer Stage next month.

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The Budos Band – The Proposition