Shows of the Week: That Lil' Ol' Band From East L.A. Is Back
Photo by Zoran Orlic/Courtesy of Sub Pop Records
Walters Downtown, February 8
Low’s purposeful, quietly intense music has made them one of indie-rock’s most admired minimalist groups since 1994 debut I Could Live In Hope, which marked the dawn of the Minnesota trio’s oft-copied “slowcore” aesthetic. Such broad strokes also tend to paint Low as overly dour and narcoleptic; there may be some truth to that (co-founder Alan Sparhawk was treated for depression following Low’s 2005 Sub Pop debut, The Great Destroyer), but they are equally capable of great warmth, fragile beauty and even a frigid sort of grandeur. Such qualities have endeared Low to a long list of leading indie musicians, including onetime tourmates Radiohead and Wilco, whose Jeff Tweedy produced 2013’s The Invisible Way. Last fall, Low released Ones and Sixes, their 11th studio album, which, through songs like the relatively agitated ten-minute epic “Landslide,” reveals once again that with Low, things are never quite as dark as they seem.
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
Numbers, February 8
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is the creation of Ruban Neilson, the Portland-based psych-pop auteur and ex-member of quirky New Zealand post-punks the Mint Chicks. When that group split, UMO began as a series of demos that drew enough interest for him to put together a real band after the release of 2011 debut II. After 2013’s acoustic-based Blue Room EP, Neilson turned to Motown luminaries like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson as the foundations of last year’s Multi-Love (Jagjaguar). Chronicling a period of acute turbulence in his personal life, the album nonetheless flows smoothly between the various corners of Neilson’s febrile imagination, balancing the pulsating disco-ball spinner “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” and the trippy sounds of “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty” with slow jams like “Necessary Evil” and “The World Is Crowded,” both of which seriously call out for soft sheets and champagne on ice. With Lower Dens.
CRADLE OF FILTH, BUTCHER BABIES, NE OBLIVISCARIS
House of Blues, February 11
What looked like some serious passport issues with Cradle of Filth have been cleared up and now the tour resumes. The six-piece goth-metal Brits will bring their corpse paint and black-leather influence to House of Blues on schedule — by the beard of Odin, thank the metal gods. And, of course, Butcher Babies will perform their best tracks from Take It Like a Man and other hits. Few women in metal have more stage presence and energy than Heidi Sheppard and Carla Harvey, and absolutely no one sings female metal duets like these two. If you’ve never heard Ne Obliviscaris (or can’t read Latin), don’t worry. The literal translation is "do not forget"; trust us, after you’ve heard a live set from Obliviscaris, you won’t. Start with “Curator” from their Citadel LP, and thank us later. KRISTY LOYE
Satellite Bar, February 11
With titles like “I Prefer Pitbulls to People,” “Anxiety Attack” and “A Rollerskating Jam Named Regret,” it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to pigeonhole Albuquerque punk rockers Russian Girlfriend. They are straight from Power Chord High School and play driving, smart, old-school punk. (If you need a Houston touchstone, think Really Red.) Apparently there’s a lot to be angry about in Albuquerque, judging from the snarling, carpet-bombing-in-progress attack the Girlfriends exhibit on every track of their August 2015 debut album, All Around, which is packed with smarty-pants sonic blasts that would do Lemmy Kilmister proud. Angry, aggressive, adult contemporary: It sounds like the Russian Girlfriends are right up Houston’s alley. With Hear You Me and Cornish Game Hen. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, February 12
After a successful four-album creative partnership with “Wild Thing” writer Chip Taylor, Carrie Rodriguez is now three albums into a solo career with Lola, which was crowdfunded by her fans and will be released on her own label, Luz Records, on February 19. Here, the Austin native — a triple treat as a singer, songwriter and Berklee-schooled fiddle player — revisits the life of Eva Garza, the superstar Tejano singer and actress of the ’40s and ’50s (and Rodriguez’s great-aunt) with the help of guests like jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and Mavericks lead singer Raul Malo. After 2013’s “Give Me All You Got” reached No. 1 on the Americana Music Chart, Rodriguez has the inside track to do it again with songs like the John Prine-inspired “Westside” and “Z,” an amusing account of how often her last name gets misspelled.
RANDY ROGERS BAND
Humble Civic Center, February 12
The big rodeo at NRG Park dominates the early part of the year around Houston so much that people tend to forget others are not that far away. One of them is in Humble this month, an appetizer for the big dance, if you will. In fact, a short drive north Friday will net you an evening with a group that plenty of people will tell you represents what rodeo entertainment is all about in the form of Texas’s own Randy Rogers Band. (The Cody Johnson Band, no slouches themselves, take over on Saturday.) Rogers and his Hill Country crew have been kings of the hill around here for a long time, and show no signs whatsoever of relinquishing the throne on their latest LP, Nothing Shines Like Neon. Released last month, the typically well-rounded album continues to demonstrate how — to borrow the title of their rowdy duet with Jerry Jeff Walker — “Takin’ It As It Comes” can pay off big.
Cullen Performance Hall, February 13
It’s hard not to miss the Jason Isbell of a few years ago, and not just because he played a little less acoustic guitar. Back then he fronted the most literate bar band in the 50 states (and one of the best), the 400 Unit; it was beautiful because, to most tastemaker types, they were still “just” a bar band and thus it was easy to get a good spot up front. Then 2013’s Southeastern really revealed his once-in-a-generation songwriting talents, and Isbell made the jump into the sort of elite Americana circles where Marshall stacks stick out like a sore thumb. His latest album, the Grammy-nominated Something More than Free, isn’t exactly a step backwards in that regard, but Isbell still has enough Drive-By Trucker in him that he might at least be persuaded to pull out “Super 8” somewhere in the set. With Shovels & Rope.
Dosey Doe, February 13
Every few years a new Los Lobos album comes along, further shoring up their reputation as one of the most eclectic and talented American bands to come along in the past 30 years, if not ever. In fact, next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the commercial peak that arrived with the La Bamba sound track and titular hit single; the hermanos from East L.A. have certainly never shied away from success, but they’ve never followed anything but their own wayfaring muses, either. Released last year, their 17th studio album, Gates of Gold (429 Records/Savoy Jazz), is another excellent example of how Los Lobos continue to find great sport in reinventing themselves, and will especially appeal to the kind of Lobos fans who enjoyed the low-down blues-rock workouts of 1990’s The Neighborhood.