John Abbott

Thursday 5/6

The Besnard Lakes, Julie Doiron, Hollerado

(Crocodile) The Besnard Lakes' music harks back to a CCR-soundtracked era of pot-soaked wonderment, like a more forceful version of contemporaries Brightblack Morning Light; the Montreal band made their name with songs that were marginally hauntological and maximally hypnotic. Their sound lies somewhere between the thumb-sucking sweetness of mainstream indie and the fanged grandeur of post-rock and metal (Valley of the Giants would be another apt comparison if those dudes weren't so prosaically—and Prozac- ally—mellow). The Besnard Lakes are bound to rattle more fillings than fellow Canuck Julie Doiron, whose distinctive folk balances blue-blooded delicacy and blue-collar authenticity. She's incredibly sharp, and she knows when to round out her sound with endearing, rustic accompaniment and when to let just her voice and guitar do all the heavy-deavy lifting. JASON BAXTER

Sponsored
LagunitasSeattle is here for ya with beer for ya!
Ballard-brewed beers and tasty bites for all palates under our heated tent. C'mon down!

Telepathic Liberation Army, Ononos, Glitter Bang, DJ Curtis, DJ Dewey Decimal, DJ Mathematix

(Chop Suey) Telepathic Liberation Army are a local quartet that make dubby, disruptive punk riddled with sinuous grooves, spiky guitars, and agitated vocals—like the Slits heard through a particularly thorny and twisting grapevine. Or Erase Errata exploding into (dark) colors. Lisa Orth delivers her vocals with vibrato and bravado, alternately barking and howling and breathless, at times enunciating with a little extra Mark E. Smith–style "-ah" at the end for emphasis (as in "the Fall-ah"). Michelle Nolan (formerly of Chromatics/Shoplifting) lays down rubbery, strutting bass lines and creeps up the fret board for higher-octave antics. Alice Wilder's tensile guitar lines spiral inward at odd angles, like a spider web (which she then promptly shreds). Tonight is the record-release party for Phase One, their debut mini-album (six songs, 23 minutes) on Megan Birdsall's Don't Stop Believin' Records. Here's hoping its title portends more phases to come. ERIC GRANDY

Friday 5/7

Unnatural Helpers, TacocaT, Spurm, Butts

(Funhouse) See preview.

Blunt Mechanic, Police Teeth

(Vera) See Underage.

Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B., Dosage

(Showbox Sodo) As a recording artist, Lupe Fiasco spent most of last year engaged in an intricate game of bait and switch, grandly announcing impending releases—the three-CD LupE.N.D., the one-disc Great American Rap Album—before shelving/postponing each one. Lucky for all, Fiasco's sole 2009 release—the free mixtape Enemy of the State—was a complete delight, gathering sharp-as-his-best lyrics over 22 minutes of wonderful music, from Radiohead's "The National Anthem" to Timbaland and Drake's "Say Something." Tonight, Fiasco brings his endlessly ambitious self to Showbox Sodo, with support from hot-poop newcomer B.o.B. (the man responsible for the ubiquitous KUBE 93 hit "Nothing on You") and Philadelphia rapper Dosage. DAVID SCHMADER

Shearing Pinx, Nü Sensae, Last Slice of Butter

(Comet) There were moments while I was reading Naked Lunch when I couldn't help wondering if, despite its lauded spot in the canon of American literature, it was all just some elaborate hoax. Vancouver's Shearing Pinx could be similarly bewildering for first-time listeners: Is this genius or bullshit? Even by punk standards, the trio makes quite the racket, injecting slabs of effect-pedal-generated noise between bouts of jagged no wave. But folks schooled in the odder realms of art punk will undoubtedly delight in the messy fuzzed-out guitars, jarring song structures, and frenzied basement-show drumming of this Canadian export. BRIAN COOK

Wild Orchid Children, Gabriel Mintz, PWRFL Power

(Chop Suey) I'll go out on a sturdy limb and say that Wild Orchid Children's maximalist, flammable psychedelia will blow up in 2010. Their forthcoming album, ...Are Alexander Supertramp, abounds with sky-strafing, Sturm und Drang–tastic songs that dazzle with both complexity and intensity. Wild Orchid Children's technical flash comes draped in soulfulness and is catalyzed by the sort of indomitable energy that the MC5 harnessed on Kick Out the Jams. Gabriel Mintz is a dulcet-toned singer-songwriter who does this very common thing uncommonly well. With help from Head Like a Kite/Fresh Espresso member and Stranger freelancer Trent Moorman on drums and percussion, and Geoff Stanfield (Sun Kil Moon) on bass and production, Mintz has recorded and self-released Volume One, an alternately morose and joyous collection of finely crafted, accessible rock that's devoid of cheese. DAVE SEGAL

Saturday 5/8

Owen Pallett, Snowblink, Cataldo

(Crocodile) Owen Pallett's Heartland, his first record since dropping the copyright-fraught Final Fantasy alias, is a rare accomplishment: an album as easily enjoyable as it is eccentric and ambitious. Pallett dresses up pop songs in symphonic pomp and derails them with virtuosic experimentalism (the rapid arpeggios on "Midnight Directives" could be sequenced, but they could just be Pallett dexterously plucking a violin). The heartland in question is the fictional realm Spectrum, of which Pallett is sole deity; the album is sung from the perspective of an "ultra-violent farmer" named Lewis who is trying to come to terms with Spectrum's creator—all of which is admittedly just an artful way for Pallett to sing about art, faith, and his own interior world (the land of his heart) anyway. If, like Lewis says, "this place is a narrative mess," you'd be forgiven for not noticing it in Pallett's beautiful, if perhaps not quite godlike, singing. Expect him to rule the Crocodile with an iron fist. ERIC GRANDY

Groundation, Orgone

(Neumos) Big, multiracial L.A. ensemble Orgone have put in long, intense hours studying funk, soul, and Afrobeat in order to distill their essences into jams that make large crowds happy and sweaty. But not only are they master technicians of these styles, they also convey a passion for them that translates into original compositions and covers that convince you that, if they were alive, James Brown, Otis Redding, and Fela Kuti would be Orgone fans. Sonoma, California's Groundation are similarly big and multiracial, but traffic in reggae with utmost reverence for Jamaica's best-known sonic export. Male and female singers emote with smooth soulfulness over bubbling skanks that will be familiar and welcome to anyone who's seen a Bob Marley poster, puffed ganja, or earnestly cultivated dreadlocks. DAVE SEGAL

Coheed and Cambria, Circa Survive, Torche

(Showbox Sodo) New Yorkers Coheed and Cambria are a bit of an anomaly. By weaving pop punk, progressive metal, and post-hardcore together, they have established themselves as heavyweights in a class of their own. Since 2002, they've released five full-lengths, each telling a chapter of vocalist Claudio Sanchez's epic sci-fi story The Amory Wars, which he also publishes as a comic-book series. Talk about ambition. Sanchez went all out on their recently released fifth album, Year of the Black Rainbow, producing a 350-plus-page graphic novel to flesh out its piece of the story. Though not as multimedia ambitious, Circa Survive's prog-emo (c'mon, give it a chance) is worth showing up early for, even if they can't quite match the heaviness level of Southern sludge masters Torche. KEVIN DIERS

Wesafari, Common Loon, Slow Skate, Tarlton

(Sunset) Common Loon do something very difficult: They make nuanced, sugar-spun psych pop sound sumptuous but not overly precious. The Champaign, Illinois, duo's new album, The Long Dream of Birds (Hidden Agenda), sounds enamored of the Beatles, Big Star, post-Syd Pink Floyd, and their countless acolytes, and they never waver from their solemn devotion to strive for the most sublimely layered, velvet-toned vocal arrangement; the sweetest, soaring melody; or the spangliest guitar tone. ("A Moment in Energy Transfers," however, is almost a pitch-perfect paraphrase of My Bloody Valentine's "Sometimes.") Common Loon are consummate craftsmen who know exactly what they want—gorgeous, dreamy rock suffused with a yearning, somewhat narcotized ache—and achieve that aim with irrefutable poise and skill. DAVE SEGAL

Sunday 5/9

Dosh, White Hinterland, Surrealized

(High Dive) See Data Breaker.

Flobots, Trouble Andrew, Champagne Champagne

(Neumos) You gotta give them this: If you walk away from this summer's premiere of MTV web-series $5 Cover: Seattle having learned the name of only one band, it will be that of extroverted local rappers Champagne Champagne. That's because, while the show's intertitles charting each episode's bands can be hard to follow, MCs Pearl Dragon and Sir Thomas Gray hardly spend a minute on the mic without enthusiastically chanting their act's name. Those who follow the blameless self-promotion to the group's self-titled album will find a disc smartly produced by DJ Gajamagic whose tracks range from crossover-eager novelty ("Molly Ringwald") to dubstep-influenced bass wobble ("Soda & Pop Rocks") to credible rap-indie-rock fusions ("Radio Raheem," "Tropical Trina"), all of which Pearl and Gray jump on with charisma, finesse, and good, goofy humor. ERIC GRANDY

Diamond District, Vitamin D, Canary Sing, Def Dee & LA

(Chop Suey) When it comes to what most folks like to call "bringing it back," I'm usually of the opinion that what's been done is done and that the past should be left alone. But every once in a while, a record comes along and captures an era so concisely (and so respectfully) that it smashes my philosophy to thousands of pieces. Diamond District's In the Ruff is one of those records. Producer/MC Oddisee and MCs XO and YU fired up the flux capacitor in the DeLorean and delivered one of the best hiphop releases of '09, smothered with street savvy, subdued swagger, painfully real verses, and production that just screams '90s golden age. They managed to balance the seesaw of throwback rap by paying respect to the originators and innovating at the same time—something similar artists should strive to achieve. KALEB GUBERNICK

Monday 5/10

Starfucker/Pyramiddd, Truckasauras, Copy

(Neumos) See Stranger Suggests.

Monster Planet Part 2

(Can Can) See Data Breaker.

Sonny Rollins

(Paramount) Now 79, this tenor saxophonist who's played with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Don Cherry, and other jazz titans is renowned for his quicksilver tone, inventive harmonies, and ostentatiously memorable melodies. Rollins has gone through many phases in his long career, but he's probably best known for his contributions to bebop and hard bop. For tonight's show, a sampling of material from many eras of his vast canon is probable. He's one of the last legends from his era still touring, so if you care about classic jazz, you should witness the master in action. Rollins's touring band comes highly touted by jazz cognoscenti: Bob Cranshaw (bass), Bobby Broom (guitar), Kobie Watkins (drums), and Victor See Yuen (percussion). DAVE SEGAL

Earth Crisis, First Blood, Thick as Blood, Oblivion, Parasitic Skies

(Studio Seven) Even in the '90s, when straight-edge hardcore was all the rage, Earth Crisis were never completely embraced by most of the kids in the scene. Their lyrics were extreme—they not only evangelized about the drug-free and vegan lifestyle, they called for violence against anyone who didn't share their views. Because the band was so humorlessly militant, some kids would go to Earth Crisis shows just to mock their veganism by throwing cheese at them (presumably, these kids were then purified block by block). Despite the haters, Earth Crisis survived for over a decade, and after a five-year breakup, they reunited in 2007. Their music is still fast, pissed, and unexceptional (they were never that great of a band), and their hard-line message is still intact. It's likely someone might show up just to throw cheese. Ah, the good ol' days. MEGAN SELING

Tuesday 5/11

MONO, the Twilight Sad

(Neumos) MONO don't make music; they plant whole worlds in your ears. Sounds arch and shift, building and peeling off. The instrumental Japanese four-piece are masters of trajectory, stasis, and dynamics. Live, they break the sound barrier, and you see what the pilot sees, which is a curvature of the earth. Then they modulate half a step down, cut the beat in half, and your world morphs from jet engines to the calm scene of a water bug floating on a silent stream, buoyant because of its special hemoglobin. MONO just released a CD/LP/DVD called Holy Ground, in which they play live with a 24-piece orchestra in New York City. It was recorded by Seattle's own Matt Bayles. Look for it to release your hemoglobin. TRENT MOORMAN

Freedy Johnston

(Tractor) For many people, Freedy Johnston's name will forever be synonymous with his best and best-known record, 1992's Can You Fly, a still-breathtaking collection of power-pop melody and high-art lyricism that rightly set up expectations of greatness. Since then, Johnston's kept on trucking, making more of his well-wrought pop while patiently awaiting (or not) the success his talent deserves. In a perfect world, he would find himself at the center of one of those arbitrary Grammy storms that revolutionized the life of Bonnie Raitt. In our world, Johnston's touring in support of his newest release on Bar/None Records, Rain on the City. Tonight he's playing at the Tractor, where he'll rightly be showered with love from perma-fans. DAVID SCHMADER

Support The Stranger

Annuals, Most Serene Republic, What Laura Says

(Crocodile) Well, they certainly sound serene. You could think of Most Serene Republic, a Canadian collective with an ever-changing cast that records calmly sprawling indie pop for Arts & Crafts, as a less Broken (but also considerably less striking) Social Scene. On their most recent album, last year's ...And the Ever Expanding Universe, founding frontman Adrian Jewett and since-departed singer Emma Ditchburn sing soft-spoken male/female harmonies over busy, sputtering drums; layers of loose guitar strum; and occasional touches of strings, brass, keys, and banjo. If it all sounds rather familiar, perhaps it's because the record was produced by David Newfeld, who also worked on BSS's best-known efforts. It's all perfectly pleasant, sometimes sounding like a less conceptually concerned Sufjan Stevens—serene, just not always the most memorable. ERIC GRANDY

Wednesday 5/12

Jóhann Jóhannsson, Rafael Anton Irisarri (the Sight Below)

(Triple Door) Icelandic composer/producer/musician Jóhann Jóhannsson finesses haunting minimalism from strings, keys, and bytes. His compositions' old-world orchestral beauty gently converges with ultramodern electronic touches to unite the hard-to-please classical-music crowd with Resident Advisor–reading netizens. It's a no-brainer that Jóhannsson's lovely, elegiac music will perfectly complement the Triple Door's own elegant surroundings. He's touring behind the sumptuous, incandescent And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees. DAVE SEGAL See also preview.