What’s six years here and there? Long waits are part and parcel with being a fan of The Radio Dept., Malmö, Sweden’s long running indie-/dream-pop duo. Marking their first return to Los Angeles in nearly six years, supporting Running Out of Love, their first new record in – you guessed it – six years, the duo, comprised of Johan Duncanson and Martin Larsson, played the Fonda Theater Friday night, delivering a thoroughly enjoyable set of their brand of dancey, melancholy pop. The sold out show, upgraded from the El Rey Theater to the larger Fonda due to ticket demand, was their largest in town to date, a testament to the organic growth of their fan base–largely a diverse set of indie kids, with the usual curious bro elements beginning to creep in at the fringes.
A highlight of this year’s Red Bull Sound Select 30 Days in LA November concert series, the ascendant Car Seat Headrest rocked a packed Teragram Ballroom Sunday night, their first area show since April.
Their origin story as a bedroom-recording Bandcamp wunderkind has been well documented, though Car Seat Headrest live is very much a proper four-piece band these days – Ethan Ives, searing lefty lead guitar; Andrew Katz bashing the kit, Seth Dalby holding down the low end – and of course, singer-songwriter Will Toledo, on rhythm guitar and vocals. He has a classic throaty delivery that’s more earnest than ironic, that, along with the big guitar sounds, tap right into nostalgia pleasure centers for older indie rock vets, a few of whom are in the room tonight. While at the same time it’s clearly bringing in youngins brand new to indie, forged all the more by his online presence. Toledo’s fast easing into the role of star band frontperson, sporting a smart blazer and skinny tie, cutting a shape something like a vintage anime hero, all big hair and slim limbs.
It’s unfair, really, to be so talented–a producer, DJ, songwriter, singer, good looking, at all of twenty-six, and if that weren’t enough, he can pick up a saxophone when need be. This is Nicolas Jaar, of course–NYC born Chilean musical artist–and about the best thing going in electronic/experimental music today. This is the second of two sold out nights at the Fonda Theater, the LA stop of a month long national tour in support of his excellent new full-length release, Sirens. That’s “release” in the fuller sense of the word, as in let into the world, not the archaic music business term. His records just seem to appear, little advance hype, just a brief note the man himself, essentially saying “come and get it,” and it’s available digitally at no cost initially. (His Other People label sells high quality digital and a select physical vinyl pressings, including Sirens, the deluxe version of which has a “scratch off” cover, the album art completely covered in lottery ticket film. It helpfully includes a quarter for scratching.)
Nicolas Jaar | nicolas-jaar.net
Photo: Tycho at 2013 Lightning in a Bottle Festival, but he looked very similar at the Fonda last night.
Tycho, the ambient/rock instrumental brainchild of Scott Hansen, played the first of a pair of “pop-up” (e.g., short notice) shows at the Fonda Theatre Thursday evening. The Tycho crowd, sold out here tonight, leans young and diverse, no doubt accruing fans from his EDM association, while not strictly slotting into that genre. Performing as a four-piece – Hansen, synths & guitars; Rory O’Connor, drums; Zac Brown, bass & guitar; Billy Kim, bass & synths—with a sparse stage setup, the show marked the occasion of the surprise drop of Epoch, his fourth full length album a week prior. Pop-up shows and surprise album drops, of course signs of the times in an industry where novelty is not only welcome but increasingly necessary to stand apart in the crowded marketplace.
Photo by Scott Feinbaum for OC Weekly. Full gallery here.
All due respect to Bloc Party/Bob Mould/Ezra Furman who played the actual final show on Sunday, but Sigur Rós brought the Hollywood Bowl’s 2016 season to its crescendo on a warm night this past Saturday, a vindicating sell-out show at the venue they played to a not quite half-full audience a decade prior in 2006.
Performing now as a three-piece – Jonsí Bergisson (vocals/guitar/more), Goggí Holm (bass/more), Orrí Dýrason (drums/keyboards/more) – following the departure of longtime member and primary keyboardist, Kjarri Sveinsson, the Icelandic band carried the whole of the show alone, a marked change from past tours that have included augmentation by several additional backing players on strings and other instrumentation. Clearly there’s a statement of independence and self-reliance about this, with no new album to support, this is a presentation of the band itself, that three of them can and will carry on, even filling a Hollywood Bowl with sound without assistance (admittedly there are samples triggered at times). In fact, their new key photo art is of three of them, face on (if a bit marred with a “melting” effect), in one of the most direct looks we’ve had of the band members in their official imagery, lifting just a bit of the mystery in their aesthetic. That said, once this tour concludes, the three-piece Sigur Rós firmly established, they return to Los Angeles in April 2017 for a series of shows at Walt Disney Hall backed by the LA Phil.
A typically solid, if perhaps not as transcendent as usual and a bit restrained at times, performance by the band divided into two parts with a brief intermission in between, they showcased their signature sound that weaves experimental, “post-rock” (ugh, I know…), ambient and modern classical, going from quiet and intimate sparseness to swelling to the bracingly loud and epic density. Or, rather, should be bracingly loud; on the technical side, the Bowl did not serve their sound as well as might have been hoped. Their dynamics would seem well suited to be amplified the venue (my own fuzzy recollections of that 2005 show are positive – though I may have been too close to the stage to be objective) but the volume Saturday was simply too low; Jonsí’s bowed electric guitar never quite reaching those volcanic sonic peaks, the occasional toy piano plonking lost in the sea of glass clanking and chomping picnickers. All told, it did not necessarily make for the immersive audio/visual experience that Sigur Rós is known for.