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New music from I'm With Her, Bonsai Universe and Starcrawler

The new band, I'm With Her
The new band, I'm With Her
Lindsey Byrnes

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Every week Take Two gets the latest new music that you may not hear anywhere else. Music journalist Steve Hochman came to the studio recently with his list of must-listen new music. 

Here are his picks: 

I’m With Her

Album: “See You Around”

“I’m With Her” is the name for a singing collective of Sara Watkins, Sara Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan - many know that from their appearances — together and separately — on the NPR show “Live From Here,”  hosted by Chris Thile.

These are three supremely talented artists, as writers and musicians as well as singers. All three are accomplished guitarists, while Sara Watkins is a premier fiddler and Sara Jarosz an ace banjoist.

This debut trio album was made in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in a village outside of Bath, England. But it could have been done almost anywhere as it was recorded with the three of them performing together around one mic, voices and instruments all at once. And it’s no mere studio trick — they just did this same thing live at a special showcase performance here in L.A.

“Game to Lose” is a stellar showcase of all of that, alternating between brittle, wistful and determined in stance.  Wistful may be the most common aesthetic, though, “Pangaea” getting almost gothic (in the ancient sense, not the black lipstick sense) in its opening,  and“Overland” echoing past folk songs of intra-continental migrations.

But even in the songs of sadness, of movement, of seeking and growing, there’s always at root the joy they clearly have simply from singing and playing together. Or at least they make it seem simple. However they do it, we’re with them.

Bonsai Universe

Album: “Moonstream” 

Los Angeles guitarist Woody Aplanalp has gotten pretty far out there working with artists ranging from free-jazz fencing with Nels Cline to power-driven jazz-funk-soul with Miles Mosley’s West Coast Get Down, and he’s toured with R&B stars Lauryn Hill and Bobby Womack.  But here, as Bonsai Universe, it seems he’s a lovelorn, introspective gentle spirit with a cosmic gaze.

It’s with that gaze that he opens this album, on title track “Moonstream,” with a tone that almost matches some of Yes’ most ethereal passages. Heck, his reedy voice even evokes that of Yes singer Jon Anderson.

He also has a penchant for wordless “shooby dooby” vocal lines, a device he uses on several songs, and while it might be annoying nonsense if done by someone else, with him it simply adds to both the blissful charm and melancholy musings.


Album: “Starcrawler”

Based in Los Angeles, the band Starcrawler includes members Arrow de Wilde, Henri Cash on guitar, Austin Smith on drums and Tim Franco on bass. 

Arrow De Wilde comes to rock naturally. Her mom is photographer Autumn de Wilde who has shot many album covers and band photos — of Beck, the White Stripes, Willie Nelson, Elliot Smith and Nick Cave, among the many.

Live fronting her band Starcrawler, she’s a lanky wildcat,  all legs and arms and hair spidering around the stage, sometimes spitting fake blood, at once spontaneously chaotic and purposefully, even calculatedly theatrical. Check out the various fan-shot videos on YouTube from shows around Southern California and you’ll get the idea. Sure, sometimes maybe it seems she’s trying too hard to be wild — she’s only 18 after all.  And she’s not even the youngest in the band, as the spit-fire punk-metal guitar licks are coming from a mere 17-year-old, Henri Cash, who co-founded the band with de Wilde at their high school in Echo Park. 

That can be hard to capture on a recording, but the debut, “Starcrawler,” does it well, thanks in good part to one fan, veteran rocker Ryan Adams, who recorded it, giving a professional gloss without losing the grit. Glam, punk, Sunset Strip metal, ‘90s grunge all co-exist as equal influences here. 

Their song, “I Love LA," (nothing to do with Randy Newman) is a rockin’ tour around town, a youthful, side-eye stare, nicely mirrored in a video for the song, shot largely at and around a donut shop on Silver Lake Blvd.

Notably, this is not one of the recent wave of shops trying to hipster up the form with gimmicky or gourmet variations. Sometimes the classic approaches are the best, be it with donuts or Hollywood rock.

Steve Hochman is a music journalist living in Los Angeles.