Music In Our Mind: music picks from staff


The Lemon Twigs debut album Do Hollywood is already a year old, but the nostalgic mood Brian D’addario and Michael D’Addario create make in our millennial present covers you like a daydream. Taking cue from 60s baroque pop and 70s electric guitars, each song brings a familiar yet distant sound in our mind. As we ponder of lost love or where we stand in life at that moment, the melodies drift in and out, like a wind lazing on a summer afternoon.  the_lemon_twigs_do_hollywood_album

Many of his greatest songs are remembered as that -songs or singles- but can we really forget about his first solo hit album, Off The Wall? The confluence of catchy grooves and falsetto disco oohs and ahss came from the collaboration of two greats, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, sitting in a Los Angeles studio. I have been listening to this album over and over, like a mantra much needed after the hassle of work and responsibility. With lyrics like “When the world is on your shoulder/ Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down” because after the routine work of your desk, “living crazy is the only way.”


Usually, I hate walking to places over the summer -especially work. Gasping for breath, I have to slow down my pace to avoid the sweat. However, this summer, listening to Drugdealer’s The End of Comedy (2016), added a welcomed strut to my steps. The bouncy melodies of the opening track “Theme of Rockaway” meshed so well with my vision of open wide streets as I walked toward downtown Los Angeles. Soft and playful -some have called it whimsical- Michael Collins writes carefree lyrics that make you feel good. And it’s not only the lyrics. This pop folksy album truly throws back to late 60s folk pop of “Mellow Yellow” (just take a look at the art cover). Then, there is the more dramatic side of the album; the one with the piano ballads in minor keys. I hear these songs as I walk along the bright city lights, fast cars passing by but a quiet empty street. More noir. More Los Angeles. Still makes you feel good.


Band name after band name, A.B. Quintanilla has gone through music groups as he does through socks. Gaining renown as a Grammy winner for songwriting the Latin hit “Amor Prohibido” for his sister Selena, A.B. Quintanilla has stayed in the music business taking various roles in the music industry. In the years following his sister’s tragic death, Quintanilla has had his share of hits in the Latin Billboard. Today, he resurfaces with his new group, Elektro Kumbia, debuting Kumbia Shots. Though the not the crossover hit of the summer (think “Despacito”), the group’s single “Pina Colada Shot” is a remarkable array of traditional Latino cumbia dance music with a modern twist. It’s modern in its blend of familiar rhythms, more fast paced, with subtle electronic sounds. It’s the song you want to hear at the beach this summer. It’s the song that you should play at the party, if “Despacito” has gotten you annoyed, or if Cumbia has been your secret music love. Alfonso and Zuriel Ramirez and Ramon Vargas take lead vocals, with Quintanilla doing his thing in the background. Their vocals add on to the exuberant youth and energy as the congos and drums play on and on. What else could you want this summer?



Radiowaves: Pop Psychedelic


“I tried and I tried on my life on my life

To get you to be with me”  

Do Hollywood by The Lemon Twigs
Similar Acts (Old and Contemporary):
The Kinks
Harry Nilsson
Of Montreal
Paul McCartney
David Bowie

Perhaps you’ve stepped into a Wes Anderson movie, or perhaps you just stumbled upon one of Los Angeles newest band’s breaking into the indie scene laden with nostalgia and renewal. Dressed in 70s garb and exuding glam power as they stand in front of the 101 freeway, The Lemon Twigs pose for their debut album, Do Hollywood. These two brothers manage to translate their creativity with their own musicianship, not wholly reliant on synths and ready-made machine sounds. Both are known to be multi-instrumentalists (playing most of the instruments you hear on the tracks) and to have written their own material. Though their lyrics tread as dim or simply pleasant, The Lemon Twigs embody strong potential for making it big while innovating a new marriage of lyrics and music as those 70s rock icons did.  

The Lemon Twigs have cited more modern bands as their source for inspiration (such as Tame Impala), but written in the DNA of these songs are the coding for many pop-rock acts of the 70s, such as The Kinks, Paul McCartney, and Harry Nilsson. They have the quirk of the Kinks, the melodrama of Nilson, and the sweetness of McCartney, as well as the knack for melody building.

Though The Lemon Twigs’ pop psychedelia may be pushed as quirkiness, don’t let that fool you. They are as dynamic as the next big act, despite this being their first album.

Concert Series: Kinky


Hailing from Monterrey, Mexico, Kinky’s funky beat thumped the stage and brought most of the crowd to its feet. A mix of rock and electronic music, Kinky brings together a new, yet deep-rooted sound to American and Latin American audiences. The electro beats jumped along the hip hop rhythm, reminiscent of the Gorillaz. Meanwhile, lead singer Gilberto Cerezo, pulled the audience with the same energy the Red Hot Chili Peppers commanded on stage.

A wide screen centered on the stage, the neon lights pierced through the night sky as the dance beats hit hard. Kinky contradicts the idea of a Mexican band. They contradict what Mexican rock means. Some may call them “alternative,” but their power lies in their transformation of the mainstream and traditional. They use catchy hooks, but they don’t merely rely on computer sampled beats. With an electronic accordion, Kinky blasts some of its most incessant staccato beats. Traditionally an instrument of regional Mexican music, Kinky manages to bring something new with this unusual form in the rock-electro scene.

Kinky played the second weekend at the Levitt Pavilion for the summer concert series on June 24, 2017.

First Concert at Levitt Pavilion – Review

Entertainment, music
By Calisho

June 17th marked the first performance of total fifty concerts at the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park. With three acts kicking off the event, we got a range of synth pop to salsa to western Hispanic-tinged music rebounding all the way across to the Park Plaza Hotel. However, there was more than enough space to take a front row seat, whether on the grass or on a makeshift chair, you could experience the music VIP style.

Opening act, Sin Color (Without Color), warmly but shyly greeted the audience, with the first song lasting about a minute. A synthpop mix of Spanish and English songs followed, which included “Pregunto” and “Frutas.” Crisia Regalado, the lead singer, rode over the synthpop landscape with her vocals that, at times, mirrored Shakira. Along Crisia, was David Aquino playing the synthesizer and guitar. Though the music is subtle and mellow, with slow backbeats, you can sway from side to side as it picks up speed. Crisia’s vocals wade through the electro sound, giving you awesome wails. Trained in opera at a young age, you can easily hear the depth of her voice as it goes quite high, and never whispery. They are definitely not your typical Latino band, because Sin Color has managed to bring Spanish music into another level for those indie lovers out there. A mix of dream and electro pop, Sin Color cooks up something else you didn’t know was flavorful.

Dressed in a fitted red flame charro outfit (minus the hat), stepped in Nancy Sanchez along with her band. What we heard was not mariachi music however, but a string of jazz, big band and salsa influenced songs. Nancy has won awards in jazz, and she continues to bring her knowledge into the music she writes. She fuses jazz trumpets and saxophone sounds with a Spanish acoustic guitar to achieve an uptempo song about the quirks of having an American boyfriend. She highlights the Latina bicultural experience, but sometimes her lyrics remain stunted, and can leave you wanting more underneath the surface. She paints you a direct narrative, which makes the viewpoint she wants to get across accessibly superficial, but where’s the message? At one point of “Espinoza Paz”, she adds a verse about Trump to comment on the political climate, but in her depiction of Trump, it ends up more like a joke than a message.

A three member band, Mexican Standoff, entered the stage ready to take us back to a nostalgic Americana sound. With a slide guitar player, a trumpet player, and saxophone one, the group gave us western sounds in both Spanish and English. As soon as the slide guitar cried its first notes, the sound changed the stage from Sanchez’s celebratory one to one of remembering. The lead singer, Fernanda, carries swagger reminiscent of Johnny Cash, growling out words like pistols, then bringing them to a high pitch. The best part came when the two brass players engage in a duel, with the saxophone blowing great improvised notes. It was engaging and cool. Then, came the weeping slide guitar, to close the night off. With sparse drawn out notes, a quiet settled over the audience before the end. Fernanda and the Mexican Standoff, influenced by Mexican and American folk music, offer a forgotten part of history and our music consciousness. It was great to see a band build off this tradition.

Radiowaves: An Escape


When I can’t speak my mind,
I can only sing my heart

Stevie Wonder’s “A Place In The Sun” 1966
The Beatles “There Is A Place” 1963
The Kinks “Holiday” 1971
Beach Boys “Sloop John B” 1966

Too often we face the weariness of the everyday life, surviving rather than living it. The pressure of our circumstances pushes us to dream and long for that “place” outside of our average life. You may call it escapism; you can do it through TV, books, or songs. These selected songs long for that familiar, comforting place outside the singer’s world. It is a dream, a projection, a fantasy that gives them hope and strength to soldier on. For many, they may call this state of mind or physical place “home,” as they make their way back to that familiar, singular space. This month’s playlist starts with Stevie Wonder’s “A Place in the Sun” a song written by Motown songwriters, Ronald Miller and Bryan Wells. Wonder’s vocals deliver each note with an upbeat resoluteness, “moving on” accompanied by a soft string arrangement. You hear the longing and determination in the first bar of each verse as his long “Os” punch through the mellow song to find that “place in the sun.” And as he sings of how the people might feel despondent, he assures them that this place will give them hope, unlike the real world that takes it away. Written in 1966, you can consider this song as a social commentary of the turbulent times, when the civil rights movement had just started a few years back.

The Beatles’ “There A Place” sets up the singer’s escape away from the melancholy he experience in his own mind, which sounds a bit more zen because it sends the singer into an introspective trip. With “no sorrow” or “sad tomorrow” this place allows the singer to remember only the good memories, such as words of love. This song strikes me quite deeply; the paradoxical idea that I can go into my mind and find “no time when I am alone” empowers me.

With a dainty piano, “Holiday” begins, as the Kinks’ sing of a either a “holiday” as vacation time or a respite from “the city because it brought [him] down.” Now, the Kinks had several songs that send the singer into another state because the pressures of the city have him upset, but this song’s music is not frenetic or nostalgic like “20th Century Man” or “Waterloo Sunset.” The singer takes in the good and bad of the scenery in front of him as an almost sarcastic “Thank you” as he notes the bad air and cloudy sky, noting “I’m so glad they sent me away.” Despite the sewer stink and the burning blisters, the singer appreciates the bit of time off from his presumed busy city days. Plus, note the leisurely accordion!

In the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B,” a traditional folk song and the only song not written by them in Pet Sounds, the crew member longs to return home. In this case, we envision a physical space away from the ship’s nautical chaos. The singer not only does he want to go home, but requests to go back. “Let me go home” repeats throughout the song, a line exacerbated by the lone image of the sea. It seems there is no way to get home, though the singer keeps longing for it. The fantasy of escaping runs through these songs, whether as a collective, introspective, or physical action. As the singers dream of another better world, we are reminded that escaping is not hiding, but fighting for that better place full of hope.

Just Like Bob Dylan


In celebration of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize win, let’s shift our gaze back to the 60’s. A change has been brewing for years – where song and lyrics give a new meaning to emotion, reflection, and poetry. 

by Misha | October 16, 2016

Don’t Look Back and No Direction Home

Both documentaries, Don’t Look Back and No Direction Home, present Bob Dylan as a musician distant from the outside perceptions concocted by his audience, the press, musicologists, academics and critics. Before watching either documentary, I had an idea of Dylan as a reluctant, reclusive, and serious man, playing an act before any kind of person that approached him, but every time unreachable; however, even this was untrue. Watching Don’t Look Back, with the camera following him backstage with friends, I observed a certain liveliness with which he engaged his life on the road and onstage; yet, he never truly mixed himself with what others expected of him. On screen he appeared open, ready to move and create music in a room full of friends. And, although he avoided participating with the Time magazine interviewer, he was willing to answer other interviewers.  Even when Dylan dodged and threw back questions, he had this playful manner about him, which I would have thought before to be an annoyed dismissiveness instead. I thought Dylan hated interviews or that he didn’t talk, but even in his banter he engaged with the press. Sometimes, Dylan’s relationship with these “insiders,” as he calls them in No Direction Home, made me think that even his music was an act; however, he says writing those lines are necessary because he needs to sing/say something. Those simple and personal statements from No Direction Home provided another different way of accepting and understanding Dylan. Although he may appear closed in front of cameras and interviewers still, he gives us his music, which leaves him quite open, if not vulnerable. And, though he never gave a direct answer, the reasons he gave in No Direction Home were enough for the songs to pick up where he left off.

When I think of Bob Dylan, I think of “artist” : not only does he play the guitar and harmonica, but he also writes in such an eloquent manner; therefore, I was surprised to see a very young Dylan performing backup to some other important musician. Not only was he behind the limelight, but also, he became known performing material not his own. It’s easy to forget, with a legendary icon as Dylan, that songwriting didn’t immediately lead to fame or recognition. In No Direction Home, the folk musicians, who make an appearance, remind the viewer that “Bobby” appear to be just a kid, but he had something to say and in a unique way voiced it out. In a way, it makes Dylan’s story interesting when I know that he first had to channel Guthrie’s self into his own performance to demonstrate his own musicianship. He attained success because he had the ability and talent to “pass through” Guthrie (imitation) and create Bob Dylan.

Because it is Bob Dylan both films present, I don’t think either can reach the truth of Bob Dylan. The Pennebaker documentary displays a reality-like performance, abruptly changing settings and situation with no apparent narrative; while, the Scorcese film frames a storyline with Dylan’s reflective and retrospective view of his early years. In No Direction Home, Dylan explains that during Don’t Look Back, he forgot the cameras were there, so it could have been an authentic “day in the life” type of film. I think the banter in the interviews skewed the “reality” agenda, since it enshrouded Dylan, rather than displayed his innermost thoughts. I think the Scorcese documentary provided a more rounded account of Dylan’s early years because it provides many perspectives from different mediums. There are folk singers, session musicians, poets, and others offering their experiences with Dylan. The wide range of perspectives and information during Dylan’s New York months appealed greatly to me, as well as his time with Pete Seeger. It was interesting to find out what the other and older folk singers thought of Dylan’s relationship to the folk movement. For instance, a couple of them remember that Dylan was not interested in writing political songs or being a political symbol, though others expected this.

Of Don’t Look Back I liked most the repeated references of Donovan that led up to an actual meeting with him. Donovan has a similar voice has a similar timbre to Dylan and watching them together with a guitar provided a moment for real comparison. Also, it was interesting to see Dylan’s opinion of Donovan’s song. I didn’t like, however, the rapid movement of setting in the film because it was hard to distinguish where or when the filming was taking place.

Whether playing an acoustic or electric guitar, Dylan’s songwriting doesn’t have to give you a message, though it teases the listener with the anticipation of receiving a definite one. The great thing about Bob Dylan’s songs is that they are malleable throughout time, which offer something (however small) to the place or time you find yourself in. For instance, his protest songs gave people who were looking for change in the early sixties a voice to say it out loud; and, still they are relevant after forty years.

      The lyrics become poetic because the language heard in the song pairs up so perfectly with the instruments accompanying it. The images are jagged, surreal and paradoxical; therefore, by nature, they let the listener imagine a meaning within it. The words are strange yet concrete enough to suggest interpretation, which makes them poetic. Dylan’s songs lure the listener to form meaning, in other words, to feel something is true. However, it’s not only the words that matter- otherwise, Dylan wouldn’t be a musician. It’s the strange voice that accents certain lyrics at different syllables which express something new. In music history, Dylan gains the title of lyric poet because he can contain so many sets of words together within a song, that neither song nor word gets completely lost. Personally, as an English major, music lover, and hopeful writer, Dylan ranks as the other music artist that truly gives his audience room to think and create meaning out of his own work. In writing songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” Dylan demonstrated that such a popular instrument like the guitar could shape lyrics into poetic sounds, and transform popular songs into a thing like art.