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Juana Molina
STAGE PRESENCE

Just can't get enough

A live performer who really earns the trite adjective "mesmerizing," this Argentine singer-songwriter, a former TV actor, tends to produce music that's notable for its cleverness, when in concert it's her presence that makes such a big impression. On record she tends to keep her distance, but the combination of witty compositional ideas and electronic sound collage are surprisingly direct on stage. Like Merrill Garbus, Molina works best in brevity, even if she doesn't have the benefit of Garbus's unique vocal mannerisms. Singing in Spanish without a lot of color or dynamic changes, she often fades into the background, but there's more texture to her songs, more melodic points of purchase. The contrapuntal details of her songs tickle your senses, like a friendly cat that won't leave you alone. You just want to grab the music and smother your face in it.

Nov. 6 at 7:00 & 9:30, Billboard Live Tokyo, Roppongi. ¥5,900 & ¥7,400. Box office, 03-3405-1133.

 

Feist
INDESTRUCTIBLE

Just give in

Leslie Feist's unexpected commercial popularity indicates to many that the public demands more complexity than what they get from Lady Gaga, but who's to say Lady Gaga isn't complex? For all of her albums' storied emotional nakedness, Feist's tunes are bullet-proof. And her themes, which range from boundless nature to claustrophobic self-examination, always fit the melodies' immediate, indestructible appeal, even when the mood is subdued. The voice remains vulnerable and delicate, but the singer can rely on the song to watch her back. Even when she gets into blues-rocking mode, a decidedly male domain, Feist makes do with low decibels. Joni Mitchell accomplished the same thing on her classic trilogy of early 70s albums, but she did it solely on the strength of her lyrics. With Feist, the whole studio and, by extension, the concert hall has emotional potential.

Nov. 20 at 7:00, Akasaka Blitz. Smash, 03-3444-6751.

 

The Master Musicians of Joujouka
NEVERENDING STORY

Please don't ever change

This Moroccan group first came to the world attention when Brian Wilsons produced an album by them and helped get it released in 1969, only a month before he died. Though musically integrated, what's always been most intriguing to Western ears is the non-musical effect of the group's sound, which is droning and insistent—in a word, hypnotic. Related to Sufism, a religion obsessed with the ecstatic, the music of Joujouka has naturally compelled many artists whose own relation to drugs has been primal—William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Brion Gysin—as well as musicians who habitually worked on the edge—Randy Weston, Jimmy Page, Lee Ranaldo, Bill Laswell, Talvin Singh. Despite almost fifty years in the public eye, including tours of the world, the group, now made up of the sons and grandsons of the musicians whom Jones produced, still lives at the foot of the Rif mountains. Prepare to be converted.

Nov. 6 at 7:30, WWW X, Shibuya. ¥9,500. Box office, 03-5458-7688.

 

Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge
GROWN UP ACOUSTIC

Chops and roots

Julian Lage has been a jazz musicians his whole life—literally. Discovered at the age of five, he was playing guitar professionally within a year's time and was even the subject of a well-regarded documentary by the age of eight. He subsequently recorded with Carlos Santana, Pat Metheny, Toots Thielemans, Martin Taylor, and David Grisman. His musical approach shifted somewhat when he teamed with fellow guitarist Chris Eldridge, famous for his work with the Infamous Stringdusters and the Punch Brothers, in 2014 for an album that moved beyond jazz to bluegrass and folk, genres he felt were more amenable to improvising on acoustic instruments. This year, the duo made a second album that stuck more closely to the folk format but whose purview was eclectic in terms of what the pair brought to their instruments. But since Eldridge also sings with the Punch Brothers, don't think that their show will all be about guitars.

Nov. 11 & 12 at 5:00 & 8:00 and Nov. 13 at 6:30 & 9:00, Cotton Club, Yurakucho. ¥6,800-¥9,000. Box office, 03-3215-1555.

 

Tyler, the Creator
NOT KID STUFF

Inventing himself

Odd Future's most visible rapper is a crash course in cognitive dissonance. You expect the casual misanthropy and sexual profanities, but the variety of voices is always disarming. If the moniker seems cheekily pretentious, it does describe Tyler's m.o. He acts and writes and pulls together personae from everything he's experienced, and manages to make it all coherent, even the misanthropy and the profanity. And his albums have demonstrated musical progress. By confronting his public image he's able to gain perspective about the things that confuse him, like drugs, women, fame, and sets his imagination to catchier beats. He's already demonstrated a knack for pop viability with his comedy show and his TV commercials, and some of his new music breaks free of the adolescent-with-Pro-Tools paradigm.

Oct. 20 at 12 midnight, Ebisu Liquid Room. ¥5,500. Smash, 03-3444-6751.

 

Art Garfunkel
SOFT IN THE HEAD

You know the name

One of those performers whose slight skills were focused by a more talented partner, Art Garfunkel's solo career since his initial split with Paul Simon would have hardly been self-sustaining without his lucky back story. Even as a well-used actor in the 70s he was more desirable as a type, and an unflattering one. Suited to the nascent soft rock movement better than any other refugee from the 60s, he was as potent an artist as you'd find in the genre, and became one of the best interpreters of one of the best songwriters of that era, Jimmy Webb. Since the dawn of the 80s he's floundered artistically, mostly getting by on pre-rock classics and even older pop standards. Given the fortitude of the S&G discography he really doesn't need to work (he's apparently fond of taking months at a time to walk great distances), but the reported reason he's touring now is to sell his memoir. You decide if that makes him worth seeing, but ask for Webb, not his old partner's stuff.

Dec. 10 & 11 at 7:00, Shibuya Kokaido. ¥9,000 & ¥10,000. Udo, 0570-09-3333.

 

Pond
CARVED IN ROCK

Everything you like

Kevin Parker, who once drummed for this psychedelic band from Down Under, went on to greater fame with Tame Impala, but the two projects still have some overlap and share a love of classic rock gestures. If Pond has yet to receive the same level of attention, it's probably because their reach has always been longer than their grasp. Melodically, they scan 80s chart pop with skill and vigor but these days you run the risk of being seen as parodists when you sound too much like Rush (that falsetto!). The band alternates sweetness and solemnity with amazing alacrity, which makes you wonder what they could accomplish if they actually had a central guiding spirit like Parker holding everything down thematically. As they proved in August at Summer Sonic, these guys can really play, and they know how to shape a song for maximum dramatic effect. Once they get a bead on an idea, they hit it out of the park.

Nov. 15 at 7:00, Space Odd, Ebisu. ¥6,500. Creativeman, 03-3499-6669.

 

 

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