The Short List: The Week's Recommended Shows

Wilco ~ Wednesday, February 10

In less than 10 years (1995 to 2002), Wilco evolved from a scrappy bar band at the cutting edge of alt-country to a critically exalted American rock institution. Thankfully, the band's recorded output has reflected—and in many ways even exceeded—that progression. Taken as a whole, the creative sweep of Wilco's albums tells the story of a highly ambitious band not only unafraid to transform itself, but that actually fuels itself on the need to do so. The good news is that the Wilco concert experience spans the full range of its recorded work and then some. The bad news is that the band plays with an almost contrarian sense of set-list pacing. Expect some jagged turns and sudden drops in energy. Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 683-1414. 8 p.m., $32 adv./$35 DOS. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

Cumulus Festival ~ Thursday, February 11 through Saturday, February 13

Though the "post-rock" genre is decidedly a niche market, the folks who put together Cumulus Festival (one of whom, Levi Fuller, also plays in The Luna Moth) have done a great job making the stormy, distorted stylings of bands in this niche more accessible to the general public—for one thing, by enlisting excellent, relatively well-known headliners (in the Pacific Northwest, at least) to offset some of the more bizarre, experimental artists on the docket. The highlight of last year's lineup was unquestionably Earth, a psychedelic local band once signed to Sub Pop Records. For its second go-round, Cumulus Festival has kept the bar high by recruiting Talkdemonic, a Portland-based act whose strings-and-percussion instrumentals defy easy categorization; they use the descriptor "folktronica," as apt an adjective as any. Thurs. & Sat.: Café Venus/Mars Bar, 609 Eastlake Ave. E., 624-4516. Fri.: The Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. See cumulusmusicfestival.org for details. SARA BRICKNER

Lights ~ Thursday, February 11

Lights is a post-everything band from Brooklyn; it tosses all that is hip and cool into a bowl and stirs until yummy goodness ensues. At the group's core lies a love for vintage FM rock. Vocalists Linnea Vedder and Sophia Knapp often sound like the teenage offspring of Heart's Wilson sisters (or maybe even the unknown mamas in Anonymous/J. Rider). But on Rites, Lights' debut full-length for Drag City, the band tricks out the rock with touches of post-punk, dub, and funk. At times, Lights even dives mind-first into an arty free-bop that's vaguely reminiscent of fellow New Yorkers Telepathe and Rings. However, the band is always mindful to return to what it knows best: riffs, jams, and soaring harmonies. With White Buffalo Black Madonna, the Entrance Band. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000. 8 p.m. $10 adv./$12 DOS. JUSTIN F. FARRAR

Post Harbor ~ Thursday, February 11

The shoegazing quintet Post Harbor is like Sunny Day Real Estate's doting younger cousin—and in this city, that's not a bad thing. A lot of us have been craving some good, moody post-rock since Sunny Day's triumphant reunion show at the Paramount last year, and the songs on Post Harbor's They Can't Hurt You if You Don't Believe in Them fit the description perfectly. It's intensely visceral stuff: Melting vocals drift in and out among bleak, empathic guitar lines. At times, the songs drop to nothing but a fluid cello melody or some thin keyboard notes. The effect is almost gaspingly beautiful. It's music that creeps up before crashing into you like cold waves on a seashore—just as the best parts of SDRE's self-titled "pink album" does. With Daniel G. Harmann and the Trouble Starts, the Soft Hills, the Oregon Donor. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442. 7 p.m. $7. E. THOMPSON

Grandmaster Flash ~ Friday, February 12

Grandmaster Flash is hip-hop. The double-back, back-door, back-spin, phasing, cuttin', scratching—back in the early '70s, Flash penned the hip-hop DJ's dictionary, transforming the role from that of mere musical docent into an art form all its own. Flash wasn't content with merely playing records; he wanted to make music. He began marking his records with grease pencils, giving himself the visual cues necessary for implementing his signature manipulations, doing things with records that no one had ever even considered. Half mad scientist/tinkerer and half musical evangelist, Flash's creativity knew no boundaries, finding inspiration in sources across the entire musical spectrum, and offering that everything-goes attitude as the foundation for the early days of hip-hop. Everything that has come since finds its origins in Flash, and none of it can top that original creative spirit and those first heady adventures on the wheels of steel. With the Dowlz, Mixed Up Mike, Darrius, Sasse, ADHDJ. Heaven Nightclub, 172 S. Washington St., 622-1863. 9 p.m. $10. NICHOLAS HALL

Dessa and P.O.S. ~ Friday, February 12

There's no such thing as a casual Doomtree fan, so it's safe to say that there's a significant subset of music nerds who have spent years not-so-patiently waiting for the Twin Cities hip-hop collective's only lady MC, Dessa, to finally release her full-length debut, A Badly Broken Code. Those unfamiliar with Doomtree might find the album something of an acquired taste. Like most Doomtree records, Code is cerebral and moody—in other words, not the sort of thing you'd play at a party unless you wanted to keep everyone quietly mooning over their beers. Dessa's rhymes, too, are raw and intimately personal, exposing vulnerabilities with unabashed candor. She tours with P.O.S., a longtime Doomtree crew member who's recently begun putting his records out on Rhymesayers; his adventurous, punk-rock-influenced production will provide a welcome contrast to Dessa's introspective, soulful stylings. With Grieves. Nectar Lounge, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020. 9 p.m. $12 adv. SARA BRICKNER

EMP Sound Off! Semi-Finals ~ Saturday, February 13

See feature. EMP Sky Church.

Ahamefule J. Oluo ~ Saturday, February 13

See feature. Lucid Lounge.

The Round 57 ~ Saturday, February 13

In the fall of 2007, Benjamin Verdoes of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band composed a five-minute classical waltz. "A Waltz for Furnace," arranged for string quartet, is led by a rich and robust cello melody, with viola and violin brightly reeling and undulating along with it. It's a courtly and elegant piece of chamber music, an overtly joyful expression of love. Tonight, following Verdoes' performance of a selection of brand-new MSHVB songs from the band's forthcoming record, as well as acoustic performances from buzz band the Globes and Anna Arvan (of I Love You Avalanche), "A Waltz," in its second-only performance, will close the Valentine's Day Round—fitting, since the piece was originally written as a first-anniversary gift for Verdoes' wife and bandmate, Traci Eggleston. If that doesn't make your heart dissolve into mush, I don't know what will. Fremont Abbey Arts Center, 4272 Fremont Ave. N., 701-9270. 7:30 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. All ages. E. THOMPSON

Vivian Girls ~ Saturday, February 13

If Vivian Girls' most recent single is any indication, the all-female, Brooklyn-based trio are giving over to their girl-group inclinations. It's a cover of "She's Gone" by the Chantels, a 1960s singing group known for their doo-wop harmonies. But Vivian Girls haven't fully abandoned their garage-rock sensibilities for Grizzly Bear–style harmonies and melodic pop. The band's cover of "She's Gone" is more jangly than the original—heavy on the tambourine, with the backing harmonies fuzzed out and turned down—and Cassie Ramone's delivery of the lyrics feel intentionally monotone, as though she's only ironically mourning a lost lover. There's only a sprinkling of sugar in this single; Vivian Girls haven't lost their spice yet. With Best Coast, TacocaT. High Dive, 513 N. 36th St., 632-0212. 9:30 p.m. $10. PAIGE RICHMOND

Dave Rawlings Machine ~ Sunday, February 14

Over the years, Gillian Welch's longtime guitarist and collaborator, Dave Rawlings, has played for and with some of Americana's most heralded performers (Ryan Adams, Old Crow Medicine Show) and produced some of their best records. But after releasing his first album, A Friend of a Friend, last November, Rawlings is discovering what it's like to be a frontman for the first time. "If I'm producing a record or doing some engineering or playing guitar, all these things come more naturally to me than being a frontperson," he explained in a recent phone interview (read the entire transcript on our music blog at seattleweekly.com/reverb). No surprise, then, that he's touring with a band of all-stars: Gillian Welch and OCMS members Ketch Secor, Morgan Jahnig, and Willie Watson will all join him onstage for this special Valentine's Day performance. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $25 adv./$28 DOS. All ages. SARA BRICKNER

The Richard Thompson Band ~ Monday, February 15

Who else could tour with a show called "1000 Years of Popular Music" and have the versatility (and chops) to pull it off? Richard Thompson is the thinking man's guitar god, a musician's musician, and a remarkably prolific songwriter—and at 60, he's not slowing down. His legacy dates back more than 40 years as a founding member of seminal English folk-rockers Fairport Convention, and includes a decade of work with ex-wife Linda—capped in 1982 by the masterful Shoot Out the Lights—and a wildly eclectic solo career. After playing here every year from 2000 to 2005, he hasn't set foot on a Seattle stage since 2007, also the year of his most recent studio release. One set tonight will consist of new songs and be recorded for a live album; the other will draw from a seemingly endless catalog. Both will showcase his wit, warmth, and uncanny rapport with an audience. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 7 p.m. $31 adv./$36 DOS. MICHAEL MAHONEY

Brendan Benson ~ Monday, February 15

Brendan Benson earned a name for himself with the public as Jack White's co-conspirator in the Raconteurs. As a solo artist, he's produced an even more impressive catalog of full-spectrum power pop. Benson has a fantastic ear for melody and composition; while he may not be trying to deconstruct and reinvent music entirely, hehas an obvious admiration and insatiable appetite for the purest and sweetest '70s and '80s pop mannerisms. Heemulates all his favorite masters (ELO, Costello, the Kinks, Wings), and slides effortlessly among twee bedroom-folk numbers about the frustration of not being John Lennon, syrupy orchestral numbers about digging through the garbage to salvage a lover's heart, or hyperactive rave-ups about his favorite guitar amplifier. Simultaneously playful and poignant, Benson is a throwback to when being called a "pop musician" wasn't derogatory. With Frank Fairfield. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442. 7 p.m. $13 adv. GREG FRANKLIN

Alec Ounsworth ~ Tuesday, February 16

Besides the tinkly keys and bubbling guitars, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's most distinctive feature is probably Alec Ounsworth's warbly, disaffected voice. So it's easy to fear that any of his solo albums or side projects will sound markedly like another CYHSY album, simply because those shaky vocal cords are involved. Fortunately, Ounsworth's songwriting is as unique as his voice. Last year's Mo Beauty sounds more like Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel than CYHSY; it's full of steel guitars, melody, and relaxed, almost lilting vocals. True, Ounsworth's voice is clear and identifiable, but it's less of a focal point here than on CYHSY's self-titled debut. With Lissie. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442. 8 p.m. $13 adv. PAIGE RICHMOND

 
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