Back on Monday night, I checked out The Raveonettes’ show at The El Rey Theatre. Although I like their latest album, Observator, more than some critics did, I admit I mostly went to check out opener Melody’s Echo Chamber, my favorite new band of the moment. The young band came out quietly, two girls and two guys dressed in paisley apparel befitting their swirling psych sound, akin to Broadcast plugging in with Tame Impala, whose Kevin Parker produced their excellent self-titled record (as well as his own new album, the amazing Lonerism, seriously check out both of these albums now if you haven’t yet). They played most of their sole record, starting with standout “Endless Shore,” which reminds me of Lush as much as any other artist, putting them firmly in line with classic shoegazers. Even without a drummer, piping in those titanic drums found on the record, the quartet played through most of the record pretty flawlessly, once stopping a song when a loop didn’t come in right or something like that. While witnessing the music press try to make sense of this hot new band, I’ve realized that a lot of times describing a new female-fronted band becomes an exercise in naming other well-known female-fronted bands from the last 20 years — there are only so many, given the tendency for female artists to be presented as solo artists society’s favoring of male-fronted bands — and that tends to be limiting. Melody’s Echo Chamber are a very good band; they do sound a bit like Broadcast and Stereolab, and if you have a problem with that, you’re nuts.
Meanwhile, The Raveonettes put on a great show that pulled from all ends of their catalog, the effect of which showed an increasing (and often ignored) variation in their albums. They started the set with “Hallucinations,” one of the best songs from their best album, Lust Lust Lust, before returning to the new album to play “She Owns the Street,” the great, jangly first single from Observator. They moved back and forth between Lust and Observator a number of times, playing “Blush” and “Dead Sound” from Lust, then “Observations” and “The Enemy” from Observator, perhaps trying to put their latest album in the company of their most acclaimed. Mostly it worked, as the new songs held up better live than one might have anticipated. Some of the songs in the middle section of the set sounded thuddy and saggy, save for a typically zippy “Love in a Trash Can,” from Pretty in Black, but they brought it back for an excellent closing set of songs from their first powder keg EP, Whip it On, playing “Attack of the Ghost Riders,” getting hushed right before that huge, Sonic Youth blast at the end, as well as the dirgey “My Tornado” and “Bowels of the Beast.” Seriously, I had forgotten how much that EP ruled. They closed the set with “Aly Walk With Me,” their most wonderfully excruciating noise blast to date. Thought they mostly ignored their previous two albums, Raven in the Grave and In and Out of Control, as those were weaker albums, they were wise to stick to the strong stuff. All in all it was a reminder of how much great music The Raveonettes have made over the past decade.
An unbeatable lineup took place at The Echo Tuesday night for an IHEARTCOMIX night featuring Diiv, Violens, Cold Showers and Death Day. I caught a bit of Death Day but was intrigued, especially by their Ian Curtis-esque frontman’s performance. Cold Showers played on the release day of their excellent new album, Love and Regret, thought they were already debuting new songs as well. The songs from Love and Regret sounded great and fully formed, with a nice layer of distortion from new guitarist Chris King overlaying singer Jonathan Weinberg’s deep, gothic vocals on songs like “I Don’t Mind.” Particularly strong was “Violent Cries,” in which drummer Renee Adams picks up mallets to drive a rumbling beat while keyboardist Brian Davila’s ghostly synth sets the stage for one of Weinberg’s catchier vocal lines. They did their goth forbears proud, and it seems the band will only get more formidable, judging by their newer material. Violens was up next, whose album True was a pleasure, released this year on the always-solid Slumberland Records. It seemed they could use a touring bassist to round out the sound, which was a bit stripped down from the album, which moves from delicate to crushing in an instant. I did like that some of their indie-rock influence, likely from bands like Pavement and The Lilys, came through more, but it seemed the crowd wasn’t into it as much, which is a shame because their music is quite good. They sounded especially strong on “Sariza Spring,” a highlight from True, which already is stripped down in its faded tropical glory. Diiv absolutely crushed it, one of the few bands of the shoegaze genre who sounded better live than on record. Diiv’s Oshin is a good record, but restrained almost to a fault. Live, there was none of that restraint. Zachary Cole Smith (also of the awesome Beach Fossils) led his newer band through Oshin one track at a time, announcing each song as the next song on the album. That proved useful; a song like “Past Lives” or “Human” sounds perfectly self-contained and immaculately produced on Oshin, while live it was a venue for Smith and his cohorts unhinged guitar interplay. Smith didn’t sing too on-key, but Diiv isn’t exactly a band that’s all about the vocals, and it sounded appropriate given the punkier feel of the material live.
Once Grimes took the stage Wednesday night at the El Rey, it was a pretty ecstatic experience start to finish. Her opener Elite Gymnastics sounded pretty unfortunate, with Gymanstics man James Brooks starting with a weird cover of The Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” and stopping frequently to chat. The performance art feel of the show wasn’t bad in and of itself, but mostly it didn’t do any favors to the music, which can be quite strong — check out Brooks’ album RUIN for a better representation of his work. Grimes also treated the stage as more than a space to re-create the sounds of her record, with openers Myths draping themselves with veils as they backed up Grimes’ Claire Boucher and the dreadlocked, ravey dancer from Grimes’ “Genesis” video joined her to dance on that song. But the sound itself was stellar, as well, as Grimes ably moved from poppier material like Darkbloom’s “Vanessa,” to more cerebral, spacier sounds. Boucher herself was animated and bouncing around but paying careful attention to her synthesizer, delivering the best reason to not give an encore — they come off as fake and disrupt the flow of the performance. She didn’t need one, closing the set with the K-pop vibing “Phone Sex” (a song by LA’s Blood Diamonds, featuring Grimes).
Legendary artist Patti Smith played to a packed house at Amoeba Hollywood Oct. 11, with fans braving the rain and flash flood (!) warnings to see her and get copies of her newest album, Banga, signed. Read more about that and watch a video of the performance (today only) here.