Hamilton Leithauser - Monday, June 15 - Crescent Ballroom
Hamilton Leithauser once hollered angrily into a microphone about a former love on “The Rat,” the Walkmen’s signature track. Now he’s sporting a shiny grin for the cover of his first solo album, Black Hours.
Could it have something to do with the fact that after a decade and a half of being in other accomplished bands the musician’s true self can come out? Maybe, but he’d been working on the album before the Walkmen’s extended hiatus. Now he’s touring on a record that’s inspired by not only New Jersey’s favorite crooner Frank Sinatra but also distinctive ’70s singer-songwriters with layered arrangements like Randy Newman. He’s donning a fine-tailored suit to go with that big smile, and his goal is to create standards soaked in sadness and booze for a new generation.
He’s enlisted talent from other bands, including Morgan Henderson from Fleet Foxes (who is joining him on tour) and Vampire Weekend’s Rostan Batmanglij, who co-wrote a track on the album. Those pearly whites continue to gleam as Leithauser is so filled with inspiration he has three more albums on the way. Maybe Leithauser is smiling because he realizes how ambitious he truly is. JASON KEIL
King Sunny Ade - Monday. June 15 - Musical Instrument Museum Theater
King Sunny's brand of afropop features jumpy, active bass lines, deep and swinging, that rumble through songs like a mufflerless Caprice. Yet still Ade and his 20-odd-member band remain lighter than exhaust, employing a guitar and congo army to amazing effect. And there is no better man to copy dance moves from than King Sunny Ade. He steps so simply, so deliberately, but with so much grace and class. RANDALL ROBERTS
Other Lives - Tuesday, June 16 - Crescent Ballroom
Oklahoma has songwriters Rogers and Hammerstein to blame for the rest of the country’s perception that it’s only a place full of waving wheat and wind sweeping down the plain. Luckily, the Panhandle State can also claim ownership to the intricate, layered sounds of the alt-rock trio Other Lives, who released its third album, Rituals, last month.
Like a farmer working hard all summer to harvest his crops, the band doesn’t rush into a song quickly. Most of the 14 lush songs on the album took weeks to produce, allowing the listener to become swept up like a tornado in Jesse Tabish's calming falsetto, a sound that conjures beautiful visuals reminiscent of The National.
“There’s a musical desire to retain this earthy quality but still have these really highbrow enlightened moments in the music that float on top,” Tabbish says. “It’s merging together the hi-fi recording with these soulful songs that are human. The idea comes out very fast, but then the thought comes after, putting meaning into that initial spark.” JASON KEIL
E-40 - Wednesday, June 17 – Marquee Theatre
E-40 was on the money when he said that his career defies logic: Since his start with the Click way back in 1990, E-40 independently rose to prominence thanks to his hustler sensibility and wholly distinct style. With a gigantic backlog of underground classics and mainstream successes, he's done the opposite of slow down as he approaches the wrong end of 40 years old. Since 2010's excellent pair of Revenue Retrievin' albums, which dropped simultaneously, he's continued that trend and even upped the ante to a dumbfounding five full-length albums in 2012 — two with long-time co-consiprator and fellow West Coast ambassador Too $hort. JACK SPENCER
Tim McGraw - Thursday, June 18 - Ak-Chin Pavilion
Tim McGraw has swag, as well he should. He's got a great country voice, he's handsome, he's built like a MMA fighter, he's married to one of the other biggest names in country music (Faith Hill) and he has a staggering amount of hit songs. He's also insanely, mind-blowingly popular. Most shows, no matter how popular the artist, you hit that stretch were the crowd simmers down while they wait for the hits to return. Not so with Mr. McGraw. Fans flock to his shows to sing their asses off, and do so to every single one of his hits, like "I Like It, I Love It," "Live Like You Were Dying," “Meanwhile Back at Mama's,” "Don't Take The Girl,” “Highway Don't Care,” or “Please Remember Me.” In fact, the crowds get so loud that there's times when his gigs sound like a crowded club show, the screaming almost painfully loud to experience. Yeah, he's earned the right to have some swag. Fellow country stars Billy Currington and Chase Bryant are scheduled to open the evening. CORY GARCIA
James McMurtry - Friday, June 19 - Crescent Ballroom
Austin’s James McMurtry writes songs with the richness of novels, his characters struggling through life’s trials in vignettes sculpted as vivid as t he world in front of your eyes.
At 53, the celebrated songwriter remarkably is turning better with age, his latest record Complicated Game garnering some of the best reviews of McMurtry’s career. It’s a record that revolves around relationships, a dense and thoughtful batch of songs that finds its characters in an array of familiar moods: hopeful, spiteful, perseverant, patient, thankful and ornery.
“The songs that I managed to get in time to make the record seem to be about relationships. The producer didn’t want to mess with political songs. Everybody loves women; everybody hates politics, so get away from that,” says McMurtry, whose best-known song, 2005’s “We Can’t Make It Here,” chronicled the miseries that George W. Bush’s failures inflicted on the country. ERIC SWEDLUND
The Expendables - Friday, June 19 - Marquee Theatre
Combine a heap of ska, a pinch of punk, a dash of metal, some good humor, and disorder. Shake to a reggae rhythm and you'll get something that sounds like the Expendables. The band has been riding the SoCal ska waves since the early 2000s. Along with Slightly Stoopid and Pepper, it brought a Sublime-like style to places still singing "Santeria." If you're in the surf and skate scenes, you've heard the band for sure. Otherwise, you've overheard your dreadlocked neighbor try to seduce some girl with "Bowl for Two" at 2 a.m. The band is back on tour after releasing its sixth studio album, Sand in the Sky, this January and cruising to Tempe to perform at the Marquee Theatre later this month. DYLLAN FURNESS
Tears for Fears - Friday, June 19 - Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler
It wasn’t too long ago that the western world was wrapped up in pop psychology fads, a time when having a therapist was trendy rather than medically or emotionally necessary. Tears for Fears, the ’80s New Wave wonders who want to rule the world, drew much of their inspiration from psychotherapy trends at the time. Their best-selling album, Songs From The Big Chair references Sybil, a ’70s-era miniseries centered around a girl with dissociative identity disorder who only feels safe in her analyst’s big chair, while their name itself is a line from one of psychologist Arthur Janov’s books. In fact, T4F’s first worldwide hit “Shout” is about Janov’s Primal Therapy, which encourages you to confront your fears by screaming. This gives us a little more insight into the dark, introspective nature of songs like “Mad World” and “Pale Shelter” – which is why if you’re Lorde or Gary Jules, all you have to do is release a slowed-down, melancholy cover for instant pensive magic. TROY FARAH
De Lux - Saturday, June 20 - Valley Bar
Disco can't die. The genre once crucified at a baseball game's Disco Demolition Night has achieved immortality usually reserved for Styrofoam cups and Carpathian sorcerer-kings.
After rock critics gleefully wrote its obituary in the early 1980s, disco went underground, splintering and fusing into new wave, house, techno and funk. By the fin de siècle, it had seeped back into the contemporary bloodstream, thanks to the ascent of Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem and the bands on the latter's DFA imprint.
The resurrection spun full circle in 2013 when Daft Punk debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts with Random Access Memories, which featured guest spots from disco progenitors Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, and an aesthetic that was (polyester) suited for strobe-light reveries at a 1978 law school prom.
But the renaissance hasn't been limited to French automatons and Brooklyn exhumers. Over the last few years, L.A. has unshackled some of the finest disco outfits since those halcyon Donna Summer days. The latest: De Lux, a Glendale-based duo, whose debut LP, Voyage, allows them to slide under the velvet rope alongside L.A. post-disco peers Poolside, Goldroom and their Innovative Leisure labelmates Classixx. JEFF WEISS
Cake - Sunday, June 21 - Marquee Theatre
The band responsible for all those ’90s hits you never think about but can instantly recall every lyric for is coming to the Marquee. 'Nuff said.