The Short List: The Week’s Recommended Shows

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone ~ Thursday, January 7

When Owen Ashworth was just an unknown film-school dropout recording minimalist pop in his bedroom for an audience of dozens, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone seemed an apt band name. But with the collaborations, stage-sharing tours, and split releases Ashworth has enjoyed over the past year or so, Ashworth might want to consider a new handle. It's not that CFTPA's music has changed that much—Ashworth still favors lo-fi production and basic yet affecting melodies, and earnestness still defines the CFTPA songbook. It's that he grows ever less painfully alone. With every new release of cheap-beat bliss and naked lyricism, his already strong cult following comes closer and closer to mainstream indie superstardom. With Baby Panda, Kids & Animals, The Girl With Violent Arms. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 956-8372. 7:30 p.m. $9. All ages. NICHOLAS HALL

Lymbyc Systym ~ Thursday, January 7

What's most immediately arresting about Lymbyc Systym is how warm the band manages to feel, particularly on its most recent effort, Shutter Release. Considering this duo made its name blurring the edges of electronic music with indie-oriented post-rock, that almost certainly wouldn't be the first modifier to spring to most minds. Sweeping sonic vistas and grandiose crescendos abound, but LS manages to make them sound as if they come out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees—from the very earth itself—rather than as cosmic radiation or the midnight revelations of a computer-aided consciousness. The electronic influence is subtle, supporting rather than defining the music; this allows it to breathe and swell under the obvious influence of humans working with something very specific in mind, rather than simply being an agglomeration of neat ideas pasted together to make something then titled a song. The programming is so well-used that at times it's nearly indistinguishable from the acoustic instrumentation, if you aren't listening with an overly critical ear. That's easy to do with this album; it draws you in and makes its world the only one material, at least for its scant 40 minutes. With Helios, Unlearn. High Dive, 513 N. 36th St., 632-0212. 9 p.m. $10. NICHOLAS HALL

Amateur Radio Operator ~ Friday, January 8

Amateur Radio Operator's somber songs do what great country music does: wallop you with emotion so powerful it can't help but leave a mark. Their effect is not unlike a mood-altering drug, and while this one's definitely a downer, sometimes a little hair of the dog is the only remedy for a melancholy mood. ARO's 2007 debut, Sirens of Titan, has proven a powerful cure for such moments. Mark Johnson's tremulous, nasal vocals make ARO sound like a more countrified Ugly Casanova (remember that Modest Mouse side project?). The band says the songs for their imminent sophomore release are a little more rockin'. But since they haven't released any of those songs for online perusal, you'll just have to show up in person for a taste. With Black Whales, Grand Hallway. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. SARA BRICKNER

Richmond Fontaine ~ Friday, January 8

Like his marvelous novels The Motel Life and Northline, author/musician Willy Vlautin's long-running quintet Richmond Fontaine is a memorable and affecting vehicle for the Portland-via-Nevada singer/guitarist's vivid mini-documentaries of fringe-dwellers trying to find their way in the world, the wise and poor choices they make, and the places they're running toward and escaping (if they ever really can). Around since the mid-'90s, Richmond Fontaine's combination of rough-edged twang, bar-band backbone, sun-baked guitars, weepy detours, and Vlautin's gritty, wistful voice owes a bit to Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Gram Parsons; maybe a bit to the ragged roots-punk of Uncle Tupelo and Hootenanny-era Replacements too. But Vlautin's singular, evocative storytelling, painting both heartbreaking and hopeful pictures of the American West and its denizens, helps set the band apart from the pack. That, coupled with the soulful playing of his supporting cast, makes Richmond Fontaine albums—like the new We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River—something to treasure, and their live shows not to be missed. With Red Jacket Mine, Norman Baker. High Dive, 513 N. 36th St., 632-0212. 9:30 p.m. $7. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

SHIM ~ Saturday, January 9

SHIM hasn't released fresh material in almost two years (according to their MySpace page, they're currently recording a new album), but this band has always been about live performances anyway. Fans have come to expect and soak up the billowing smoke machines and arena-style lighting that accentuate SHIM's stages, along with the frizzed-out hairdos that go perfectly with the band's saucy music. While they've previously listed classic rock acts like Boston and the Doors as their influences, SHIM is actually pretty reminiscent of the Black Crowes, what with the squealing electric guitars, heavy bass lines, and particularly lead singer Ragan Crowe's (Crowes? Crowe? Anyone?) bluesy, howling melodies. It's high-octane stuff either way (one song finds the band shouting "Let me feel that thunderbolt!"), and in a city that loves rock-and-roll shows, SHIM's devil-may-care energy is always a real crowd-pleaser. With Virgin Islands. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000. 9 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. E. THOMPSON

Dengue Fever ~ Sunday, January 10

Long before Vampire Weekend began making overtures to Afropop, L.A.'s Dengue Fever were infusing indie rock with '60s Cambodian psych, of all things. Singer Chhom Nimol is the key to the six-piece's mind-bending tunes, although the balmy presence of organ and horns enhances the diverse powers of the guitar, bass, and drums. Following a promising pair of albums, Dengue Fever signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label for 2008's Venus on Earth, its first album including English lyrics as well as Nimol's native Khmer. 2009 then brought Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, a CD/DVD documenting an emotional 2005 Cambodian tour, and Metallica's Kirk Hammett recently named the band's six-minute-plus burner "One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula" the second-best song of the decade. All of which positions the band for a wider breakout with its next proper album. Until then, Dengue Fever will continue to make the most of its unlikely niche. With Lushy, Darek Mazzone. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $15. DOUG WALLEN

Nobunny ~ Sunday, January 10

A number of bands out there are treading the boards trying to rekindle some lost spark of punk-rock purity. A large percentage of them are so studious and sanctimonious in their approach, it's very nearly laughable. And then there's Nobunny, a dude from Arizona named Justin Champlin who puts on a filthy, nasty bunny mask, strips to his underwear, and bludgeons his audience with a fusillade of brisk, brash garage-rock numbers that manage to be as catchy as they are loud. It may not be the sort of thing that yanks the crank of your average Warped Tour connoisseur, but there's a belligerent and beguiling warmth of spirit to what Nobunny does that simultaneously revives and rebukes the notion of what punk rock is supposed to be. It's near-impossible to leave one of his shows without a broad grin on your face—planted there by both the performance's raucous catharsis and the fact that it was all orchestrated by a dude in a bunny mask. With Spurm, Thee Headliners, Butts. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $7. JASON FERGUSON

Suffocation ~ Tuesday, January 12

If it's shocking that straight-ahead, early-'90's-style death metal has had this long a shelf life, the fact that bands are still doing it warrants a kind of grudging admiration. Even the most die-hard aficionados would admit that variety isn't exactly high on the list of the genre's appealing qualities—at least not the traditional brand for which Suffocation has become so iconic. But this veteran act, a key figure in the first wave of American death metal, continues to exert a profound influence over other bands even after 20 years. For a band that's essentially made a career out of repeating itself, Suffocation still sounds vital and hungry; 2009's Close of a Chapter, a live album recorded in 2005, captures modern-day Suffo in all its stick-to-your-guns glory. In a sense, though Suffocation epitomizes death metal and all its self-imposed limits, the band also transcends them with a highly (though often discreetly) technical approach to playing and song structure. And, for whatever intangible reason, vocalist Frank Mullen's horror/gore fixations always seem to rise above mere shock for its own sake. With Devil Driver, Goatwhore, Thy Will Be Done, Dying to Bleed. Studio Seven, 110 S. Horton St., 286-1312. 6 p.m. $18 adv./$20 DOS. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

The Round #56 ~ Tuesday, January 12

While Moondoggies frontman Kevin Murphy, Maldives frontman Jason Dodson, and Zoe Muth have already played a show together (last August at the Tractor Tavern), the Round is a different animal altogether, and it's safe to say that hearing Murphy, Dodson, and Muth sing their songs without as much (if any) accompaniment will be a unique experience. Plus, since all three bands have put out truly impressive country records in the past two years, it stands to reason that at least one of these artists will graduate from the Round to national prominence and festival mainstages—as did at least one notable Round alum, Robin Pecknold—and with a new Moondoggies album set for release this spring, it may happen sooner rather than later. Get your tickets early; this sucker will surely sell out. Fremont Abbey Arts Center, 4272 Fremont Ave. N., 297-6221. 7:30 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. All ages. SARA BRICKNER

 
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