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December 27, 2009


Jazz drummer.

Even if Scott Amendola's name doesn't immediately ring a bell, chances are pretty good jazz listeners have heard his work in recent years. Coming out of the adventurous San Francisco jazz scene of the mid-'90s, Amendola first gained notice as part of eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter's band and the eclectic three-guitar jazz-funk group T.J. Kirk.

Since then he's earned a reputation as one of the most inventive young drummers in the business, teaming with a diverse range of high-profile acts including Bill Frisell, Kelly Joe Phelps and Madeleine Peyroux. But it's his association with local guitarist Nels Cline that has brought him to new heights. In addition to providing an orchestra of electronics-dusted percussion for the genre-defying (and all-instrumental) Nels Cline Singers, Amendola also released a pair of beautiful, folk-informed albums as a bandleader for the Culver City label Cryptogramophone, "Cry" (2003) and "Believe" (2005).

After 2009 found him effortlessly shifting from the sonic experiments of the Singers and the playfully twisted interpretations of the trio Plays Monk at the Angel City Jazz Festival, Amendola is on the verge of becoming a genre unto himself at only 40 years old.

In November he reunited with Hunter on the warmly melodic project "Go Home," and in 2010 Amendola will release an as-yet-untitled trio recording backed by Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and bassist John Shifflett. Amendola is targeting a spring release, and is putting out the album on his own Sazi Records, which also will digitally reissue some of his older material.

Other upcoming projects include a 2010 release from the Singers, and writing a piece commissioned by the Oakland East Bay Symphony as part of its "New Visions/New Vistas" project that will debut in 2011.

With a tireless, ever-exploring work ethic and a gift for composition that incorporates touches of folk and world music into a unique whole, Amendola is leading West Coast jazz into its next decade.

-- Chris Barton KE$HA


Like many L.A. musicians, the singer Ke$ha survived her lean early years in the city by snacking on the free food offered during happy hour at Echo Park's myriad dive bars. But the singer's situation was rather different than many of her struggling peers. She was scavenging at the same time her voice was all over the radio -- she sang the chorus hook of Flo Rida's "Right Round," one of the biggest pop singles of 2009.

"We were both working with (producer) Dr. Luke and it was an accident I was even on it," said the young San Fernando Valley native, born Kesha Sebert. "I never made any money off it, that's why I put the dollar sign in my name as a joke. But I was happy being in that bar with two dollars in change wearing clothes I found in the garbage surrounded by people who love me."

Ke$ha should soon be able to treat her friends to a few rounds of PBR. Her fast-rising single "TiK ToK," a rapturously dumb electro-pop banger that makes Katy Perry sound like PJ Harvey, catalogs an epic post-party hangover where Jack Daniels is the best mouthwash.

Her debut album, "Animal," which already is a top-5 iTunes album as a pre-order to its Jan. 5 release, tackles the evergreen topics of stalking boys who don't like her and whether rad boots are preferable to male company. It also showcases some surprising pipes under all that Auto-Tune.

It's all part of a master plan, she says -- winning equal rights for women to abuse boys in songs the way dudes have done for decades.

"I'm just talking about men the way they've talked about women for years," she said. "If you listen to LMFAO, it's all about how women are pieces of meat. I find that stuff funny, so I want to do it back to them."

-- August Brown THE SOFT PACK

Garage rockers.

Locals via San Diego, the Soft Pack makes fast, scrappy music full of guitar riffs that ricochet between low-fi recklessness and sunny euphoria. On the band's upcoming self-titled debut album, the musicians tackle plenty of standard topics, with songs about girls, break-ups and the like delivered with punchy, punk-inspired zest.

Then there's the casual track or two about seceding from the union. "Ride the legislation," singer Matt Lamkin briefly shouts on "Pull Out," a frisky, cymbal-heavy number in which California becomes its own country.

Yet the Soft Pack -- the band abandoned its original name, the Muslims, after the musicians grew tired of deflecting questions about the meaning of the moniker -- never really comes across as angry. And who can blame them? Southern California is a swell place to live, and our garage-rockers aren't ashamed of embracing the comforts of khaki shorts or shooting music videos at the beach.

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