The Short List: The Week’s Recommended Shows

Jack Penate ~ Wednesday, September 30

It's not all that often you get to hear a truly great pop record these days.So many are prefabricated commodities, practically, or literally, written with cross-merchandising in mind. What's so remarkable about Everything Is New, the latest from British pop savant Jack Penate, is that it revels in the tropes of radio-friendly pop without catering to them, managing to be subtly subversive through its very listenability. Penate has a keen ear for melody and an impeccable rhythmic sensibility, and uses those gifts to extract the best fractions of the radio dial and turn them into something worth listening to. Whether in the afropop inflected "Tonight's Today" or the ebullient and danceable blue-eyed soul of "Be the One," Penate injects his chosen material with populist production, highly intelligent phrasing, and thoughtful musical touchstones. It's not the best record to come out this year, but it's certainly one of the best you might actually hear on commercial radio. If Penate can raise the general level of sonic discourse by co-opting what most turn into the lowest common denominator, he's a hero in my book. With Miike Snow. Neumos, 925 Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $12 adv. NICHOLAS HALL

Toubab Krewe ~ Wednesday, September 30

It's one thing to sprinkle ethnic influences into your sound. It's another altogether to spend years studying under master musicians in their home countries, which shows a level of dedication all but unheard of in rock music—but that didn't stop Asheville, N.C.'s Toubab Krewe from spending years developing their sound before even becoming a band. Every Krewe member has studied music in Mali, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast—on repeated visits. Even more exceptional is the group's honesty: Purism, apparently, is not the goal, and while the Krewe's members clearly have respect for the various traditions they've studied, they don't overshoot the mark and fall prey to reverence. There is, after all, another tradition they have equal respect for, and it's called rock. They make no bones about what they are: a hybrid, but a guitar-based rock band nonetheless. And because they took their time blending the Mandinka and rock elements, the two sound perfectly natural together—hardly the work of wide-eyed collegians overeager to fetishize or glorify other cultures. And sure, the band jams, but to call it a "jam band" would be a disservice when it's more a true musical cross-breed. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9 p.m. $10. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

Rain Machine ~ Thursday, October 1

Bearded and bespectacled, Kyp Malone is always a welcome sight as a guitarist and singer in TV on the Radio. With that band on hiatus, Malone has stepped out on his lonesome with a self-titled debut under the name Rain Machine. As a side project should be, it's woolly and unrefined, with producer Ian Brennan (Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Lucinda Williams) knowing better than to gloss over the ramshackle, kitchen-sink vibe. There's reportedly a Beyoncé influence on "Give Blood," while other tracks mingle far-flung sounds over gorgeous guitar parts and lyrics alternately stormy and silly. The six-minute-plus "Smiling Black Faces" tackles genocide, references Nelson Mandela, and reveals gospel in its DNA, spelling an upswing despite such rocky topical terrain. Songs only get longer and more dire in the album's second half, but there's an intimacy guiding things, as if Malone knows he's putting it all on the line without the comfort of his regular band. Free of that dense, surreal atmosphere, he's exposed to the world. With Diane Cluck. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $12 adv. DOUG WALLEN

Asobi Seksu ~ Sunday, October 4

2009 is proving to be a year of new directions for New York's Asobi Seksu. In February, the duo released their third full-length, Hush. While the album uses their usual formula—Yuki Chikudate's glassy vocals paired with James Hanna's swelling guitar arpeggios—and does contain hints of the noisily relentless shoegaze style that made them famous (particularly in the shimmering lead single, "Me and Mary"), as a whole it's noticeably mellower and much more lo-fithan their previous efforts—their music is atmospheric in a way that makes you imagine yourself flying through the clouds to some sky-high Wonderland. And in another unexpected reversal, Rewolf, a collection of acoustic arrangements of selected songs from Asobi Seksu's entire catalog, comes out in November. Rewolf's new arrangements feature piano, glockenspiel, and acoustic guitar, and make the most of Chikudate's smooth, scintillating soprano. The original version of "Familiar Light," on Hush, is an abstruse pop song featuring heavy synthesizers and a driving sense of urgency. Rewolf's stripped-down version could almost be a different song, with its lower, almost chanting harmonies and considerably slower tempo—yet it's still beautifully haunting in its own right. With Loney Dear and Anna Ternheim. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000. 8 p.m. $10 adv./$12 DOS. E. THOMPSON

Deadmau5 ~ Sunday, October 4

Toronto's Joel Zimmerman—better known by his superstar DJ handle Deadmau5, and for the huge, red, grinning mouse head he wears while performing live—raised some hackles in the global electronic-music community last year when he told an Irish newspaper that all DJs are "fucking cunts," adding, "To say you become this massive up-on-a-podium performer by playing other people's productions at the same speed as someone else's productions and fading between the two of them, I don't get it." Whether or not his point is valid, the upstart, prolific 20-something has cranked out a ton of original progressive house, trance, and electro since 2005, including his new LP, For Lack of a Better Name. And if Deadmau5's attitude—or his narrow definition of what a DJ should be—is off-putting, his music is anything but. With DJ Colby B. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $20 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

Middle Eastern Hip-Hop ~ Sunday, October 4

For obvious reasons, conditions in the Middle East are a potentially ideal creative incubator for hip-hop. As here in the States that genre continues to descend into an obscene parody of its once-vital social urgency, issues facing other cultures have become new backdrops for the now-global language of beats, rhymes, and street-smart attitude. This bill features Palestinian three-piece outfit DAM, Iraqi/Canadian rapper the Narcicyst, Ragtop of the Philistines, and Palestinian-American poet/writer Remi Kanazi. Their music, of course, prominently features Arabic melodies, but each act brings a distinct flavor and lyrical focus. And while the shadow of the Israeli occupation looms large in the subject matter, this event presents ample opportunity to think outside the obvious. Israel aside, Middle Eastern rap is already rich with subtext, because by definition it raises questions about the complexities of Arab societies grappling with Western urban influences. As you listen to DAM and The Narcicyst, it's hard not to wonder about the broader implications of America's enduring cultural footprint on the rest of the world. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 374-8372. 7:30 p.m. $10. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

Children of Bodom ~ Monday, October 5

Sometimes a little bit of masturbatory metal revelry is just what the doctor ordered. In the case of Swedish power/melodic/technical metal maestros Children of Bodom, that prescription is filled in the form ofcrunching riffs, chain-gun rhythms, climaxing guitar crescendos, and the occasional lovely keyboard flourish, providing a fix for just about every metal addiction there is. And as with any good addiction, these songs come in fast, embed themselves in your nervous system, and leave you lying naked on the floor of a bus-terminal bathroom, shivering and begging for more. Most CoB tracks are tight and focused, allowing the band to hit again and again, like some wonderful sucker punch to the eardrums. CoB also likes to stretch out in epic metal ballads, playing well with Alexi Laiho's often flowery guitar work.Recently released covers album Skeletons in the Closet finds the band in a playful mood, adding a sinister edge to Kenny Rogers, an epic thrill to cowboy standard "Ghost Riders in the Sky," and just plain fucking around with "Oops! I Did It Again." The collection finds the band reinterpreting a wide variety of styles, adding blast beats, snarling guitars and vocals, and a warped sensibility to pop classics of the past 40 years and more. With Black Dahlia Murder, Skeletonwitch. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 7 p.m. $23 adv./$26 DOS. All ages. NICHOLAS HALL

Polvo ~ Tuesday, October 6

Polvo was always its own worst enemy, seemingly intent on maintaining a lower profile than it deserved.Dauntlessly experimental in a genre defined by experimental sounds, Polvo sometimes seemed to go out of its way to alienate a broad spectrum of listeners, even those whose ears were already attenuated to the off-kilter indie aesthetic of the early '90s. The band took math rock as its jumping-off point, using twisting guitar passages and schizophrenic start/stop rhythms as a framework within which to explore sounds of every variety. One of the band's early hallmarks, and one still felt today, was a fascination with non-Western sounds and structures, incorporating both Eastern instrumentation and elongated passages of trance-inducing drone grooves into their arty guitar rock.Never formulaic, the band has also stretched into space-rock freakouts, folk ballads, ambient soundscapes, scathing blues, and blistering punk across their scant handful of studio releases. Reunited in 2008 after a decade-long hiatus, the band is in as good form as ever, handing down sonic experimentation with the zeal of a mad scientist. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $15 adv. NICHOLAS HALL

Jolie Holland ~ Tuesday, October 6

One of roots music's most distinctive contemporary voices, singer/songwriter Jolie Holland has managed to turn her vocal idiosyncrasies into an exquisite musical language all her own. Her penchant for combining the elegance of folk, country, and jazz has rightfully earned the acclaim of peers and critics alike. On her fourth album, the just-released The Living and the Dead, Holland sets her sights on rock 'n' roll. In a statement released with the album, Holland says she's always liked rock but "didn't trust its motives." Whatever the issues might be with rock motives, there's no need to question hers. In her new material, Holland expands her range with effortless grace, simply enfolding the grittier elements (courtesy of special guests M. Ward and Marc Ribot) into her dream-like delivery. This more contemporary edge only accentuates what's been true about Holland all along: Her work evokes a classic American spirit without any cloying "old-time" pretenses. With Michael Hurley. Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333. 7:30 p.m. $22 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

 
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