~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

Vampire Weekend They might dress like a bunch of prep school students, but New York’s Vampire Weekend are among the most interesting and adventurous indie bands working today. Marrying various African pop styles to a jangly, distinctly American college rock sound, the group met and formed at Columbia University just last spring and quickly became the talk of the blogosphere, despite having yet to release an album (coming in January on XL Recordings). Playing off their fashion sensibilities, the band jokingly refers to its odd amalgamation of disparate cultures as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Upper West Side Soweto” and “Oxford Comma Riddim.” Journalists will likely have thought up a whole bunch of fake genre labels to slap on them by the time their debut officially hits the shelves, but for now let’s just enjoy them as they are, which is one of the only genuinely unique units to come around in ages. They play what is sure to be a buzz-heavy show at the Echo on Dec. 3.

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

Jose Gonzalez Born in Sweden to Argentine parents, singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez began his career — as so many 20-something musicians did — playing in punk bands around his native Gothenburg. Actually, perhaps the should be qualified a bit: His music career began in punk, while his other career — before music became his career — began in a lab somewhere, as he studied to become a microbiologist. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn his latest, buzz-generating record, In Our Nature, is inspired by scientific theories involving human behavior. What is surprising, though, is that this former hardcore fan has gone from screaming and spitting to the spare, sublime atmospherics of his mostly acoustic new album. In Our Nature is a hauntingly transcendent piece of art, lifted by Gonzalez’s rhythmic guitar playing and unassuming but emotive voice. No wonder Rolling Stone has named this guy a breaking artist. He sold out the El Rey Theater last time he came through Los Angeles earlier this year — so expect a packed crowd at the Henry Fonda Theater for his return on Nov. 27.

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

Lyrics Born Tom Shimura was born in Tokyo, but he rose to prominence in the underground hip-hop scene as half of Latyrx, the brilliantly obtuse Bay Area duo he formed with Lateef the Truth Speaker. As part of the Solesides collective which also included fellow visionaries Blackalicious and DJ Shadow, Shimura, emcee name Lyrics Born, stood out among his talented peers with his dense vocabulary, complex rhyme technique and sing-song delivery. His first solo album, Later That Day, dropped in 2003 to much acclaim on the independent rap scene. Same Shit, Different Day, a live record and two volumes of his mix tape series, The Lyrics Born Variety Show. He recently signed to legendary punk imprint Epitaph, with his third official solo outing, Everywhere at Once, slated for release early next year. And he has hinted at a second Latryx album sometime in the near future. But for now, the multiethnic rhyme machine hits the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on Nov. 16.

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

M.I.A. On her massively pre-hyped debut, 29-year-old Sri Lankan refugee Maya Arulpragasam transformed herself into M.I.A., a slang-blazing “independent foreigner” from nowhere in particular, reppin’ the world’s diaspora through an otherworldly flow and a densely accented patois. Arular, her first album, is a deliriously addictive digital fever dream, cross-pollinating the polished weirdness of Timbaland with the scorched-earth clamor of the Bomb Squad, dancehall rhythms from Kingston, speaker-exploding bass from Miami, and a bizarre style of toasting from who knows what planet. It can be hard to grasp at first, but by the time she hits the chorus on the record-closing “Galang” — “Purple haze/Galang galang galanga” — it all starts to make impossible sense. This year’s Kala continues the trip, with Arulpragasam interpolating elements of the Clash and Modern Lovers in ways only she can, but makes it possible for everyone else to understand. She plays the Wiltern in Los Angeles on Nov. 9.

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

~ WORTH THE DRIVE ~

Henry Rollins One thing’s for sure about Henry Rollins: He definitely does not mind the sound of his own voice. The guy is a talker. It’s basically his job description these days. But Rollins, 45, doesn’t talk just to exercise his larynx. His propensity for launching into long-winded diatribes at the drop of a hat is an extension of the steel-bolted work ethic that he has come to define himself by. Intensity is his calling card — has been since the early ’80s, when he was drafted into Black Flag as the pioneering hardcore band’s most infamous singer. Back then, Rollins seethed more than he talked. If his tour memoir Get In The Van is to be believed, he spent a lot of time in those days locked in a shed, brooding over his feelings of alienation, despair and hatred for the outside world. Then he’d go onstage and start a war. It has (probably) been a while since he’s had to punch a member of his audience in the face, but Rollins. He just translates that anger into spoken word performances rather than punk rock blitzkriegs. Same Hank, different microphone. Rollins performs at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on Nov. 3.

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