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Calico ReviewIf you drive past the 200 block of South La Brea, there is a lamp shop, a pet shop, and a little glass door that says "Casting Agency" above it. Inside you'll find one of LA's most stereotypical rituals, where men & women from all walks of life vie for the attention and popularity of the Hollywood producer. It's a dream factory for some of them. It's also a place where Los Angeles outsiders learn what the city is really like, beyond the sun and surf and celebrities, where every brightly-lit surface eventually faces a cloud.
Indeed, the lessons learned by the Allah-Las - guitarists Miles Michaud and Pedrum Siadatian, bassist Spencer Dunham, drummer Matthew Correia - since their auspicious formation in 2008 have been tempered with experience. Now, with their third album Calico Review (their first for Mexican Summer), their experience transforms once more, this time into wisdom. The band's trajectory, formed around mutual appreciation for the same kinds of music and a host of shared experiences, focuses on both the outer trappings of their home and surroundings, and the through line of darkness that suffuses life in LA county.
Where the Allah-Las display their insight, and what really shines across the 12 songs that comprise Calico Review, is the way that the group has pivoted from specific influences and nods to the music they love, to crafting the feelings of freedom, grit, and melancholy in their music. That feeling - the peerless capture of music long in the tradition and mood of California pop, the sound that's captured the essence of the LA experience - aligns with their stylistic technique and their experience in the studio environment to create their strongest album to date, one which showcases their developments in songwriting and arrangements.
The process began with their self-titled debut, which captured the Allah-Las' live set circa 2012 and continued onward with 2014's Worship the Sun, where they began to experiment with overdubs and writing songs individually instead of as a band. Now, Calico Review showcases a band that's grown confident in its own style to reflect the perspectives of each member, to craft an album that changes up the approach from song-to-song, while retaining their abilities as a cohesive unit.
Audiences familiar with the band will recognize the levels of nuance and steadiness the Allah-Las have grown into throughout Calico Review. It's immediate, the first thing you recognize about the band in the opening moves of "Strange Heat," in the amount of control and character burning off of the band's knack for restraint. Songs like "Famous Phone Figure" cradle character sketches over delicate strains of violin, organ, and Mellotron, Correia's drumming carefully underlining a three-note theme that casts a phantom sadness over the proceedings, the group exerting a touch both light and steady enough to bring your mood to theirs. "
Could Be You" works off a steady percussive gallop, guitarist Miles Michaud waxing reflexively on second chances while the band focuses on forward motion. "Roadside Memorial" applies the Bo Diddley beat to the open road, Pedrum Siadatian stepping up on vocals, and finding new ways to match his talents to propulsive musical ends. Elsewhere, "High & Dry," featuring drummer Matthew Correia on lead vocals, focuses on the Allah-Las most quintessential and peerless quality: writing emotionally resonant pop, at once direct and detached, casual and knowing, and instantly memorable. The dream factory itself gets called out in the fun, surf-stung number "200 South La Brea," its carnival-like atmosphere reflecting the excitement and anxiety of those who await their judgment.
In between releases, the Allah-Las have toured around the world, and will continue that journey in support of Calico Review. The experience of traveling and idle time on tour inspired the group in different ways, and provided the pathways by which the band transports its listeners to a different place, be that wherever they are, and where the band has been.
What the Allah-Las present is not necessarily crossing the L.A. River, coin in mouth, on the Riverboat Styx. It's not Raymond Chandler and it's not Raymond Carver. But the band's four members are aware of the pitfalls that stack against the idyllic notion of southern California life that forms from outside of the city. It's a siren call to the hopeful, and it's a successful town for tempering dreams into wakeful reality. Even with over 8,000 people per square mile, there is room for everyone, and then some, to be completely alone, by choice or otherwise.
Calico Review bears the mark of four students becoming the teachers, sharing the sentiments of the town they call home. Join them. There's a lot to learn.1. Strange Heat
3. Could Be You
4. High & Dry
6. Roadside Memorial
7. Autumn Dawn
8. Famous Phone Figure PLAY
9. 200 South La Brea
10. Warmed Kippers
11. Terra Ignota
12. Place In The Sun$17.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Never TwiceBrisk, self-contained, a little mysterious, and catchy enough to revisit again and again
His style is all his own
The second coming of soul, infusing a distinctly California surf-rock spin to the genre
Many moons ago Primo Pitino, the DJ of San Francisco's legendary Oldies Night, passed me a copy of his friend Nick Waterhouse's "Some Place." Nick was a local vinyl DJ and the kid working at our Shangri-la, Rooky Ricardo's Records. Though he didn't have a band at the time, Waterhouse assembled some local musicians to cut a one-off 45 in the vein of the electrifying mid-century modern rhythm and blues he loved. I threw "Some Place" on the Technics during sound check a few cities down the line and was blown away from the howling falsetto all the way to the end! I gave it a whirl every night from Texas to Tennessee and all the way back home to New York. Not only were the dancers' feet responding, but they were also asking about the track on a nightly basis. The Nashville Scene was so blown away that they printed a piece on Nick after a single listen. DJs and collectors everywhere wanted it so bad that the little record with the big sound started fetching upwards of $300 on Ebay.
The immediate and unprecedented underground dance party success of Nick's DIY record resulted in a full band, gigs, and, after a number of obstacles, the widely acclaimed 2012 LP Time's All Gone. Nick's music, vision, and fully formed aesthetic caught on globally and he was instantly a fixture at nearly every major nightclub and festival on both sides of the Atlantic, Australia, Japan, and Russia - hitting stages everywhere from Primavera to Montreux Jazz Festival and charting on college, public, and commercial radio.
Only a year after self-releasing his first single, Nick Waterhouse was thrust into the chaos of leading a band, touring, and recording in the big leagues! Pummeling high speed down a bumpy hill of lineup changes, economic problems, and general chaos without any breaks, Nick made it through and the challenges made him more focused. 2014's Holly captured a more experienced artist upping the ante in writing, performance, recording, and production, inspiring a new level of critical and commercial success.
In addition to a jam-packed five years on the road, in the studio, and in the practice space, Waterhouse also produced septuagenarian soul legend Ural Thomas, Los Angeles Latin stars the Boogaloo Assassins, and garage rockers the Allah-las. He's currently collaborating with the likes of young Grammy-nominee Leon Bridges and Steven Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste. The Rolling Stones blast Nick's version of "I Can Only Give You Everything" at stadiums before they go onstage. Vogue hired him to pose with Kendall Jenner. He hipped her to Little Willie John while Anna Wintour complimented his shoes. While a lesser artist would get lost in these distractions, Nick Waterhouse's acclaim only seems to energize him and make him work harder and push his music to the next level.
Nick's latest Never Twice is a culmination, intensification, and realization of everything he's been developing throughout this prolific frenzy. Catchier and loaded with more hits than its predecessors, Nick's new LP is at the same time harder hitting, more rhythmic, more harmonic, more diverse, and more adventurous than any of the excellent work that already separated him from the pack. A cool and elegant post-post-modern cocktail of 1950s r&b and club jazz, mixed with 1960s soul and boogaloo, and shaken with a minimal contemporary sensibility, Never Twice finds the artist taking his time, refining his vision, and speaking with new authority. In five short years Nick Waterhouse has come a long way and it looks like he may have just painted his masterpiece.
- Jonathan Toubin1. It's Time
2. I Had Some Money (But I Spent It)
3. Straight Love Affair
4. Stanyan Street
5. The Old Place
6. Katchi (feat. Leon Bridges)
7. Baby, I'm In The Mood For You
9. Lucky Once
10. LA Turnaround$19.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Worship The SunAllah-Las met while working at Amoeba Music, a key destination for music lovers in Los Angeles. While this experience helped shape their sensibility, their sound was forged in an underground basement where they came together as a band. They began gigging in Los Angeles in 2008, refining their live performance, and finally released their first 7" single Catamaran / Long Journey in 2011. In 2012, they began their relationship with Innovative Leisure, releasing their first self-titled album, Allah-Las, anchored by their second single Tell Me (What's On Your Mind) / Sacred Sands. The release was met with critical acclaim and the band toured extensively in the States and abroad before going back into the studio to record their follow-up.
Allah-Las' second album, Worship The Sun, expands on the sound established by their maiden effort, honing their fusion of West Coast garage rock and roll, Latin percussion and electric folk. As richly textured and timeless as a Southern California beach break, the songs are evocative of Los Angeles' storied past. Beatniks, artists, surfers, nomads. Remnants of a bygone Sunset Strip. Golden tans and cosmic sunsets. One can feel the warmth of the sun, but the band deftly avoids the kitsch so often indulged by lovers of these things. Hints of Byrds, Love, Felt, and those who follow are threaded into the tapestry.
LA's seminal Ferus Gallery - the home of Wallace Berman, Ed Kienholz, Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston - is paid homage in an eponymous instrumental, broadening the scope beyond mere sea, surf, and sand. The lyrics reveal a new maturity; reflections of a band that has grown together through experiences on the road and in the studio. Worship The Sun is at once the perfect soundtrack for the greatest surf film never made and for a golden hour drive through Topanga Canyon. Yet, while grounded in the Southern California experience, the appeal of the album is not limited by locale. It is a teenage symphony to the sun, for all those who know its grace.1. De Vida Voz
2. Had It All
4. Ferus Gallery
6. Nothing To Hide
7. Buffalo Nickel
8. Follow You Down
10. Yemeni Jade
11. Worship The Sun
12. Better Than Mine
13. No Werewolf
14. Every Girl$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now