JAMES BLAKE, NOSAJ THING
If you still need a blurb to convince you to see James Blake in 2013, I feel bad for you. Where other modern crooners might channel the totality of R&B with nothing new in return, Blake's melodic bass blues can sound otherworldly. His latest album, Overgrown, is the sound of a young artist in love, shying away from his earlier experimental work to focus on more immediately gratifying songs that still feature his self-effacing burbling. On the standout track "Retrograde," all it takes is some Sam Cooke–esque humming, handclaps, and a soft bass drum to build suspense before a shattering synth kicks in. King Krule might be giving him a run for his money, but I think Blake is the most exciting musician in England right now. Tonight he is joined by the regal LA beatmaker Nosaj Thing. Showbox Sodo, 8 pm, $29.99 adv/$35 DOS.
JULIANNA BARWICK, HANNAH EPPERSON
To get ideas for writing about Julianna Barwick, I spent a full day listening to her music while watching episodes of Planet Earth. Barwick's ambient folk tends to receive the kind of praise reserved for wide-angle shots of earthly grandeur, and while it's true that her newest album, Nepenthe, syncs up well with images of undulating schools of fish and the world's tallest waterfalls, I think you'll really enjoy it with your eyes closed. Without any distractions, you're forced to hear Barwick for who she really is: an arresting composer who is capable of creating billowing, blissful, and resonating soundscapes. Rarely do her arrangements have lyrics, let alone words that you can discern. Using vocal loops, Barwick's reverb-soaked chants swell and ache to form dizzyingly intimate ethereal vortices that I hesitate to even call "songs." Barwick's main talent is that she doesn't have to say anything at all to sound deeply personal. Opening tonight is the violinist Hannah Epperson, who also makes good work of a loop pedal. First laying down choppy and percussive strokes with her violin, Epperson then fills in the edges of her songs with gentler pinpricks and tender lyrics. Fremont Abbey, 8 pm, $12.