Singer-composer Gabriel Kahane becomes the latest in a long list of artists who’ve tried to gauge the emotional temperature of Los Angeles with this era- and genre-hopping song cycle, which explores the psyches of a cross section of characters. Each song is designated with a particular street address, adding perspective to the voices and world-weary insights — call it more songs about buildings and disillusion. Theatrical and structurally complex, Kahane’s allusive vignettes traverse the worlds of folk-pop, noir-y jazz, and classical music, and feel like pieces of a larger work. The LA native’s overly cerebral approach, sometimes steeped in irony, can be distancing, even as his resonant baritone yields intimacy. The best songs are the most visceral: “Slumlord Crocodile (115 E. 3rd St.)” overflows with rage and loathing, while the despairing centerpiece, “Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.),” explores the life of a 15-year-old African-American girl murdered in 1991 to stirring effect. It all adds up to a collection often as rewarding as it is challenging. (Out now)
ESSENTIAL “Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.)”Ken Capobianco can be reached at email@example.com.