The Short List: The Week's Recommended Shows

Tragically Hip ~ Wednesday, June 17That rarest of all North American beasts—the cult band that's also a household name—the Tragically Hip have gotten more than 25 years of mileage from what at first appears to be a fairly pedestrian classic rock–derived approach. Closer inspection, though, reveals that the Hip almost always manages to put a fresh twist on meat-and-potatoes rock, and usually to put a twist on the twist with each successive album. Venerated in its native Canada, the band doesn't quite command the same popularity in the U.S. as other proud Canadian exports like Rush or, say, Labatt Blue, but its perennial underdog status enhances its other attributes. And for better or worse, through frontman Gord Downie's densely cerebral lyrics, the Hip serve as a continuing reminder that though we mostly speak the same language, the U.S. and Canada truly do exist in two different worlds. Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., 443-1744. 8 p.m. $35. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNIEsham ~ Wednesday, June 17"Oprah—lemme deep throat ya," Esham raps on "DSL" from his epic 27-track '08 release, Sacrificial Lambz. Not his finest lyrical moment, true, but it gives you an idea of where this Detroit troublemaker is coming from: an X-rated house of horrors built of bones, not unlike his fellow Motor City denizens Twiztid and ICP. But unlike those groups of painted ghouls—who, love 'em or hate 'em, fill a vital, if creatively bereft, niche—Esham seems to be about more than shock and awe. Since the '90s, for example, the prolific MC has attempted to blend rock and hip-hop in ways only later made popular by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Also, as he showed on '99's Mail Dominance, he isn't afraid to move beyond scare tactics and try something a little more subdued (though the title still has a sadomasochistic refrain). Don't like the legions of kids playing dress-up, or Eminem's songs about murder and mayhem? Blame Esham—he started "acid rap." With Natas, Project Born, Daniel Jordan, KaGaH with Cheap Meat Suits, Neema, Jay Barz, Partners in Crhyme, DJ Butter. El Corazon, 109 Eastlake Ave. E., 381-3094. 7 p.m. $15. All ages. KEVIN CAPPMartin Bisi ~ Thursday, June 18Known for his work as producer/engineer on a staggering list of landmark recordings (by Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, John Zorn, Kramer, Alice Donut, Material, Helmet, Unsane, Cop Shoot Cop, the Dresden Dolls, Herbie Hancock, etc, etc.), Martin Bisi has only recently begun to concentrate on his own material. For this rare live appearance, Bisi (pronounced "BC") works off his 2008 album Sirens of the Apocalypse. A playful sendup of female stereotypes, Sirens sees Bisi addressing his own romantic woes and a wider range of social issues simultaneously. He even takes some lighthearted jabs at some of the musical movements he helped midwife in the studio. Over an illustrious 27-year recording career, Bisi earned his reputation on a willingness to take chances, but in his own music moved away from experimentation toward a more straightforward rock sound. Thankfully, his definition of "straight" still falls pretty far left of center. With the Family Curse, the Purrs, Bill Horist. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $5. SABY REYES-KULKARNIThe Quiet Ones ~ Thursday, June 18YouTubing the Quiet Ones will bring you to several videos of the Totten brothers—John, David, and Chris—and drummer Baine Craft doing some funky dancing in their kitchen, jamming on keyboards, and blithely performing a New Pornographers cover. The videos are buoyant, charming, and sure to make you feel like life is all right—just like their music. A cross-country collective, the Quiet Ones' current lineup now includes the Tottens, Craft, and producer Mason Neely, who resides in Boston and sent and received tracks by mail during the recording of the band's superior 2006 EP, Nite You Surprised Me, and their latest album, Better Walk Than Ride Like That. The record continues in the Quiet Ones' vein of delightfully sunny indie pop, layering rattling percussion, swelling background harmonies, lively guitar lines, and puckish lyrics—all harkening back to the early-'90s lo-fi sound of Pavement and Guided By Voices. With Kinski and MartyMarquis of Blitzen Trapper. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $8 adv. ERIN THOMPSONHelio Sequence ~ Thursday, June 18When you come from the East Coast—an overpopulated clusterfuck—the Pacific Northwest can feel expansive and liberating (y'know, skies, mountains, ocean, etc.). Since moving here seven years ago, I've found myself drawn to the bands whose music embodies thatwide-openness. To my surprise, though, very few out there aim for that feeling. With 2008'sKeep Your Eyes Ahead, however, Portland's Helio Sequence thought big and produced a broad and shimmering Pacific Northwest album. Songs like "Can't Say No" and "The Captive Mind" are driven by skyrocketing synths and rhythms that swell and crash like muscular waves. Drummer Benjamin Weikel pushes the songs not just forward butoutward, while vocalist Brandon Summers sweeps the lyrics up off the ground like a strong coastal wind. Sure, Helio Sequence is an indie-pop band that evokes the Stone Roses and early U2, but they are hardly Anglophilic pansies. You'll know this when you see them live, because they are really fucking loud. With Grand Hallway, Palmer Electric Co. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. Free. BRIAN J. BARRAutopilot is for Lovers ~ Friday, June 19Autopilot Is for Lovers is a Portland duo whose lead singer, Adrienne Hatkin, sounds more like Stevie Nicks than Stevie Nicks. However, it would be inaccurate to say Stevie Nicks sounds like Adrienne Hatkin, because Hatkin wasn't even a fetus when Nicks began her crooning career. But together with her multi-instrumentalist bandmate Paul Seely (Hatkin's a multi-instrumentalist herself), Autopilot Is for Lovers sounds nothing like Fleetwood Mac. In fact, they're quite the opposite, cultivating an Eastern European sound through the use of peculiar instruments like accordion, melodica, and glockenspiel. Their full-length debut, To the Wolves, is quite impressive, although a handful of tracks lurch a little too close to Devendra Banhart territory. But let's face it: The real reason I'm writing about this band is that Seely shares a full name with my father, and spells it the exact same way. That's a first. Café Racer, 5828 Roosevelt Way N.E., 523-JAVA. 9:30 p.m. $12 adv. MIKE SEELYKane Mathis ~ Friday, June 19Listening to Kane Mathis' kora playing brings to mind Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert.Their instruments are similar: The kora is a 21-string West African harp that Mathis learned in Gambia.Take the guts out of Jarrett's piano, stand them up, and pluck them, and you have the same idea.Both performers employ gorgeous improvisation on top of simple rhythms; their songs meander between chord and melody, creating a continuous crystalline drone.Tonight's show, which also features Portland jazz pianist Andrew Oliver, will be enough to bring the comparison full circle. In a recent duet appearance on KEXP's The Best Ambiance, Mathis and Oliver blended together so seamlessly, it sounded as if one giant 109-string harp was being played by a four-armed musician; not being able to see who was doing what almost made it more interesting. Egan's Ballard Jam House, 1707 N.W. Market St., 789-1621. 9 p.m. $7. ERIK NEUMANNIsis, Mammifer ~ Saturday, June 20Hydra Head Records founder and recent Seattle transplant Aaron Turner will do double duty at this show, providing guitars and effects for local atmospherist Mammifer as well as fronting his own band, Isis. On the surface, Isis and Mammifer appear to fall on opposite sides of a huge divide: Isis is heavy, Mammifer is delicate. But both acts rely on ambience to such a degree, and with such command, that they transcend their genre trappings. For all its metallic space-rock crunch, Isis arguably hits hardest through its use of dynamics, often employing long, drawn-out quiet sections to galvanize the listener. Likewise, Mammifer's steady, down-tempo textures overflow with brooding and hit hardest in places where the music is sparsest. If Isis represents a tense, slow buildup to an explosive climax, Mammifer's work sounds like the aftermath as the smoke clears and regret sets in. With Thrones. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $15 adv. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNIThe Dimes ~ Saturday, June 20If 2007's The Silent Generation is any indication, the Dimes just might be clairvoyant. For the uninitiated, this album is a collection of folky indie pop based on anecdotes from Depression-era newspapers found underneath guitarist Pierre Johnson's floor. Perhaps they knew something we didn't. If the band was tapping into some sort of historical continuum when they decided to turn those tales of woe into catchy little ditties, they were certainly thinking ahead when they decided to make them sound so damn happy. Through the liberal application of lush vocal harmony, amusingly inventive instrumentation, hand-clap choruses and a generally sunny demeanor, the Dimes manage to narrate depression without being depressing. In fact, their dreamy folk-pop exudes so much warmth and positivity that it's easy to find yourself singing along giddily to tales of street riots, death sentences, and lost opportunity. Not only is this rampant optimism a boon in these trying times, its uplifting power is actually magnified by its juxtaposition. With the Quit, Carsie Blanton, Cyndi Harvell. Café Venus/Mars Bar, 609 Eastlake Ave. E., 624-4516. NICHOLAS HALLPapercuts ~ Saturday, June 20As band names go, Papercuts isn't my cup of tea—way too precious. But that doesn't really matter, because San Francisco's Jason Robert Quever, who is Papercuts, has just delivered one killer album. The Gnomonsong-released You Can Have What You Want is one of the better indie pop records I've heard in recent years. Now Quever isn't lo-fi and bizarre like Ariel Pink or Kurt Vile, yet he shares with those two oddballs an ability to drown listeners in moody, dreamy sounds dotted with classic hooks nicked from bubblegum, proto-punk, Brill Building, psychedelia...you name it. Quever is also a member of the fantastic Skygreen Leopards, who are dropping a new album of their own this July. So yeah, this dude basically bleeds perfect pop music 24/7. With Port O'Brien. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 374-8372. 7:30 p.m. $10. All ages. JUSTIN F. FARRARCut Off Your Hands ~ Sunday, June 21If the jubilant melodies and debonair singing on You & I seem way too poppy for a band called Cut Off Your Hands, credit former Suede guitarist and in-demand producer Bernard Butler, who glossed over the sinewy New Zealand group's punk roots with a strings-swept wall of sound. That it didn't dampen the high-impact core of frontman Nick Johnston's shuddering anthems is nothing short of a miracle. Live, the band remains a sweaty blur of limbs and instruments, while the album is sort of a prep-school detour that's nonetheless one of the brighter spots on this year's guitar-pop map. And there's something to be said for each side of the band: You & I is the proper, likeable guy you bring home to your parents—there are even a few choice ballads—while their live show is the badass rebel who thrives on street smarts and adrenaline. Whoever said you couldn't have both? With Thee Emergency. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 374-8372. 7:30 p.m. $9–$11. All ages. DOUG WALLENWhite Rabbits ~ Monday, June 22It's not unfair to say that White Rabbits' 2007 debut, Fort Nightly, sounds a bit like their pals and fellow New York transplants the Walkmen. The Missouri-formed band's slashing guitars and sloshing rhythms are blotted with reverb, and there's even an equivalent to the Walkmen's "The Rat" in the punchy "The Plot." But last month's follow-up, It's Frightening, takes more cues from Spoon, and not just because Britt Daniel produced it. The crowded six-piece has slowed its bruising urgency with more focus on pounding keys, stop-start jerkiness, and an overall deconstruction of moody indie rock. These aren't faults, exactly. There are layers upon gauzy layers to tease the ears, and Stephen Patterson's grinding voice still sums up rock-star cool with enough panache to recall Kurt Cobain more than once. Plus, the opening track and lead single "Percussion Gun" sets up a seasick bed of drumming on which the rest of the song can assemble itself bit by bit. It's a collar-yanking moment made all the more so by the subtler, spooky tracks that lie ahead. With the Subjects. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $10. DOUG WALLENCursive ~ Tuesday, June 23Listening to Cursive's newest release, Mama, I'm Swollen, it's hard to remember what the Omaha-based band sounded like a decade ago. Back then, Cursive was a near-emocore band: Singer Tim Kasher would occasionally break into screams over guitar breakdowns while drums slowly pounded in the background. A few years later, the band added a cellist to its lineup, and 2003's The Ugly Organ was a symphonic pop album. It still retained all the self-directed anger of Kasher's lyrics ("Cut it out/Your self-afflicted pain/Is getting too routine/The crowds are catching on/To the self-afflicted song" on "Art Is Hard"), but the music was moving toward a different sound. But at some point in the past few years, Cursive changed directions yet again. Sure, some things about the band never change, like the members' commitment to indie label Saddle Creek. And Kasher is always a consistent presence: On Mama, I'm Swollen he still speaks more than he sings (he sometimes sounds as if he's reading poetry), and his lyrics play on the same theme of artistic confusion ("Every record I've written has left me spinning," he sings on "Mama, I'm Satan"). But the instrumentals are all over the map: In just four minutes, "Mama, I'm Satan" ranges from soft ballad to prog rock. Cursive has redefined itself, choosing to eschew genres for pure inspiration. With Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Box Elders. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $15 adv. All ages. PAIGE RICHMOND

 
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