AU, Plankton Wat, Pollens
(Rendezvous) Portland's AU (pronounced "ay you") create freak folk worthy of that noble nomenclature. Their sound rises from the soil into the ether in phantasmagorical flourishes, like a less celebrated, less dub-enamored Animal Collective. Check out "Sum" from their self-titled 2007 CD for proof of their chaotic, demonic-fairy sublimity. Their songs are shimmering chimeras, as enchanting as they are chilling. Also from PDX, Plankton Wat (aka Dewey Mahood) purveys what he calls "zoned drones." The description is on point and, as a zoned-drone connoisseur, I can assure you that Plankton Wat excels at this crucial task. You have to respect a man who—in addition to his Manuel Göttsching–like guitar playing—uses mbira, flute, phase shifter, and ring modulator. Mahood translates natural peace into sound waves. It's love at first hear. DAVE SEGAL
Monsters of Folk
(Paramount) Look, ma, it's a supergroup! My Morning Jacket's Yim Yames, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, She & Him's M. Ward, and Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis are Monsters of Folk. Bow down to their genius—and then prepare to be underwhelmed. The much-lauded quartet's self-titled album is essentially pleasant folk-rock lite. Much of the 15-track disc makes Crosby, Stills & Nash sound tough and gritty. Monsters of Folk (tongue-in-cheek moniker noted) seemingly gathered all this high-voltage star power to cut a mellow record of middling, ambling songs in hopes that fans of the members' other projects will scoop it up so they can smugly discuss it 20 years hence, when it'll be a trivia-game answer. (MOF will augment this gig with songs from the individuals' respective catalogs.) If mediocre is the new awesome in the collective consciousness, as is becoming increasingly apparent, then Monsters of Folk will rock your world. DAVE SEGAL
Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds, the Lights
(Sunset) About 15 years ago, my favorite band was the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Their anything-goes style of rock and roll really appealed to me at the time. I loved Spencer's faux-Elvis delivery and the way a guitar lick could suddenly fly in and wreck you. I loved the raw experimentation of the band, the way it felt like a big joke but also like the most serious thing in the world. And then it was gone: Suddenly, the Blues Explosion lost their wildness, and they never got it back. The elder Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds have that same kind of chunky garage-band energy, and they're only getting better right now. PAUL CONSTANT
Bob Mould, Spiral Stairs
(Neumos) Having co-powered the best American band of the 1980s through a legendary string of releases, Bob Mould could've hung up his guitar in 1987 with laurels enough to rest on for the remainder of his life. Instead, Mould's post–Hüsker Dü existence has been a whirlwind of creativity, ranging from his ongoing musical output (solo, with Sugar, and as part of Hedwig and the Angry Inch's studio band) to scriptwriting for World Championship Wrestling. But writing and performing his own music remains Mould's deepest calling, and new album Life and Times finds him blasting through a fresh set of tracks combining the depth and richness of his 1989 solo LP Workbook with the straightforward blast of Sugar. Also on the bill: Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg, the Pavement/Preston School of Industry founder who'll open the show with a solo set. DAVID SCHMADER
Sunny Day Real Estate, the Jealous Sound
(Paramount) See preview, and Stranger Suggests.
The Flashbulb, Kid606, Kadeejah Streets, M'Chateau, Naha, Fukumup, the Naturebot, the Googly vs. Jake J.
(Chop Suey) Data Breaker.
Chillography 202: Kalpataru Tree, Michael Manahan, Scott Sunn, DJ Eckoe
(Church of Bass) See Data Breaker.
Shift Dubstep Sessions: Borgore, Lukki, Nervous Breakdown
(Contour) See Data Breaker.
Trouble Dicso: Altair Nouveau
(Re-bar) See Data Breaker.
(Moore) It can be easy to miss the power behind Grizzly Bear's choral pop at first listen. Their songs are delicate constructions, origami things made primarily of voices (and acoustic instruments) folded together in cavernous, reverberating space. But they're hardly an a cappella group, and underneath their haunted vocal harmonies—and they were on this kick long before the current wave of CSNY/Beach Boys–cribbing acts—are some subtly aggressive chamber-pop arrangements spiked, especially on 2009's excellent Veckatimest, with shreds of electrified guitar that might tear the whole thing apart if the band weren't always in such careful control. It took seeing Grizzly Bear live—as well as getting punched in the gut by the off-time bass-and-drum hits that sneak under the tense piano line of "Two Weeks"—for me to feel the band's full force; it's well worth feeling. ERIC GRANDY
Digital Leather, the Girls, Virgin Islands
(Comet) I don't know what's more mysterious—the fact that Tucson synth-core freak Shawn Foree, aka Digital Leather, has Jay Reatard for a manager, or that he has three records on Goner—the otherwise mostly punk and garage-rock label from Memphis. See, Reatard, though a born genius, is also notoriously, um, "interesting" to work with (his backing band recently just up and quit on him midtour). As for Goner, well, Digital Leather just sounds way too electronic and spastically synthesized to be on such a garage-y roster. I hear DL live shows are wild and unpredictable—that they warrant the "punk" part of the band's oft-labeled "synth-punk" style. We'll just have to go to the Comet and see if this is the case. KELLY O
Owl City, the Scene Aesthetic, Brooke Waggoner
(Neumos) It would be petty to dismiss Owl City just because it's Christian rock dressed up in indie threads. (From dude's MySpace page, captioning a glossy color photo of some clouds: "I follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. He is my life, my strength, my all.") Luckily, it's perfectly easy (and valid!) to despise Owl City on musical merits alone. Imagine an overglossed, neutered version of the Postal Service, only with Ben Gibbard's winning, just-cutesy-enough lyricism and able singing replaced by cancerously saccharine drivel and an overreliance on Auto-Tune. This guy even has a metaphorically impaired song called "Hello Seattle," and not to belabor this point, but Gibbard could fart a better ode to our city than this in his sleep. The show is sold out—never doubt the alarming socioeconomic infrastructure and dubious tastes of "cool" Christianity. ERIC GRANDY
Baby Copperhead, the Webelos, Biography of Ferns, Kids and Animals
(Josephine) The banjo is an underrated instrument. Don't get me wrong, lots of bands do all kinds of great bluegrass-infused stuff with it, but that's pretty much the only place you'll find a banjo these days. The banjo has a bigger reach than just nostalgia, and its spidery sound hasn't fully been explored. Enter Baby Copperhead, who pairs the banjo with synthesizer and weird vocal tricks to create a haunted atmosphere that is completely unlike, say, Yonder Mountain String Band. In Baby Copperhead's hands, the banjo sounds otherworldly, like an instrument from a science-fiction movie. After a couple tracks, you'll forget all about the riff from Deliverance and wake up to the possibilities that Baby Copperhead has just begun to harness. PAUL CONSTANT
Those Darlins, the Grates
(Sonic Boom Ballard, 6 pm; Sunset) These three twentysomething Tennessee women who all go by the Darlin surname have made a fantastic, filler-free debut album titled Those Darlins. Coming off like endearing hellraisers, Those Darlins play country music with three-part harmonies that flirt with sweetness while remaining pleasingly tart. The songs are instantly catchy without being annoying about it and deftly skirt being overly reverential to the region's musical tradition; these dames sure ain't aspiring Nashville opportunists. Their songwriting suggests that they're people who live life to the hilt, enjoy a drink or five, and would be a blast to lead you on a tour of Graceland. Australian trio the Grates create peppy power pop that's strenuously joyful and exceedingly predictable. DAVE SEGAL
(KeyArena) See preview.
Kurt Vile & the Violators, Eat Skull, the Whines, Charles Leo Gebhardt IV
(High Dive) See Stranger Suggests.
These Arms Are Snakes, DD/MM/YYYY, Constant Lovers
(Vera) The world will always have a need for hectic, youthful groups like DD/MM/YYYY. Smart kids with surplus energy who can create memorable, exhilarating music are rare commodities, and the DDs (you do call them that, right?) harness those skills and life force into compositions that range from tuneful math-rock to no-wave-y freak-outs to wonky, synth-heavy prog fantasias (for the latter style, see the excellent "Birdtown" from the recent Black Square album). Seattle's Constant Lovers roil and crunch with the righteous fury of veteran rockers who should be farther up the music-biz food chain. Recommended if Scratch Acid and Birthday Party get you frothing. Fellow locals These Arms Are Snakes (featuring Stranger freelancer Brian Cook) have a new, momentous album, Tail Swallower and Dove (Suicide Squeeze), that's ready to scald your hapless ears. Their obelisk- shaped rock tunes seethe and fulminate with scrupulously crafted truculence. Tail Swallower is an arty catharsis. DAVE SEGAL
Davilla 666, Aurora Roarers, Sonic Chicken 4, Ape City R&B, Watch It Sparkle
Moby, Kelli Scarr
(Showbox Sodo) Inspired by a David Lynch lecture on separating creativity from concerns of the marketplace and recorded in the man's spare-bedroom studio, Wait for Me is easily Moby's most lovable album since 1999's humungo-hit Play. Downbeat, stately, and deep, Wait for Me's 16 tracks incorporate an array of moody guest vocalists and lithe indie-rock riffs, but once again it's the samples that dominate. Best in show: "Study War," built around what sounds like a fiery Southern pastor rallying for inevitable and eternal peace. Bonus: The Wait for Me tour features Moby backed by a full band. DAVID SCHMADER
Thrones, Nadja, Shining Ones, Pombagira
(Comet) This is a metal show. But there won't be much in the way of guitar acrobatics, leather, or devilry. Rather, you'll find the idiosyncratic bass rumble of Thrones, the tone worship of drone duo Nadja, the creeping cascades of Shining Ones, and the reductionist lurch of Pombagira. Though it's not the ideal show for headbanging and throwing the horns, it's a stellar example of how metal—that oft-maligned genre—has inspired more adventurous and exploratory musicians and mutated into a variety of forms that embrace its volume, viscera, and voracity while abandoning its more campy clichés. If you've written off the entire scope of metal, this show is a prime opportunity to see the breadth of what you've been missing. BRIAN COOK
Golden Triangle, Coconut Coolouts
(Cha Cha) Recent Hardly Art records signees Golden Triangle traffic in swiftly paced, scruffy noise rock that's low on fidelity and high on infectious energy. They slot neatly into the Slumberland label's conscientious resurrection of the C86 aesthetic, an obscure facet of the '80s UK music underground that's worth reviving—although by next year it wouldn't be surprising to see it reach the oversaturation point (this phenomenon isn't large enough to merit the expression "jumping the shark"). Golden Triangle's unison male/female vocals are pretty irresistible and their Fall-like repetition and feisty guitar clangor will lure in dudes who think they're tougher than they actually are. DAVE SEGAL
A Place to Bury Strangers, These Are Powers, All the Saints
(Crocodile) See Stranger Suggests.
Islands, Jemina Pearl, Toro y Moi
(Chop Suey) See preview.
Joey Arias Sings Billie Holiday
(Triple Door) See Stranger Suggests.
(Nectar) In a time when so many American artists (and listeners) are investigating the rich world of African music, it's interesting to find a band like South Africa's Blk Jks, whose closest musical referents might be British prog rock or the American jam band. Which is not to say they don't incorporate elements of their native country's music; it's just that their brand of jazz/funk/rock/worldbeat fusion is so thoroughly slow-cooked that nothing too distinctly identifiable ever bubbles up out of the resulting stew. Additionally, while much of the current crop of African-music appreciation hinges on a certain mellow (even polite) mood, Blk Jks are unapologetically balls-out rockers. If you're the type who thrills to a rigorous workout of musicianship and long bouts of muscular noodling, Blk Jks's live show should leave you in a satisfied sweat. ERIC GRANDY
Kid Sister, Flosstradamus, Four Color Zack
(Neumos) I admit it: My initial attraction to Chicago vocalist Kid Sister stemmed from her looks. Ow. However, the younger sibling of Flosstradamus's J2K struck pay dirt early in her career with a 2007 Kanye collab called "Pro Nails," a glittering, repetitive rap cut that gained clubland ubiquity and of which I tired after a brief infatuation. Now she's got A-Trak, Spank Rock's XXXchange, Sinden, Yuksek, DJ Gant-Man, and other solid beatmakers on production for her debut album, Ultraviolet (formerly titled Dream Date, out November 17), and it's full of expensive-sounding, mechanistic, diva-rap funk—and "Daydreaming," a blatant rip of Yaz's "Don't Go." Throughout the disc, Kid Sister is an engagingly sassy presence, but not an especially distinctive lyricist. Think of her as a slightly classier, more polished Amanda Blank. DAVE SEGAL
Dysrhythmia, Barefoot Barnacle, Lethe
(Studio Seven) There will always be those band nerds in high school taking their craft very seriously. The bass players worship John Patitucci and Les Claypool. The guitarists know all their scales and modes. The drummers, even if they play in the most remedial rock bands, insist that their true calling is jazz. Those folks wind up in bands like Dysrhythmia—a trio who actually know their music theory and can easily outplay 99 percent of their peers. But listening to Dysrhythmia's hypertechnical instrumental prog jams reminds me of the old jazz rule: Only demonstrate 10 percent of your ability in any given song. These dudes have either thrown that rule completely out the window, or the other 90 percent of their capabilities would probably cause people's brains to melt. BRIAN COOK