The Short List: The Week's Recommmended Shows

Shonen Knife / Wednesday, September 8

Japan's long-running all-girl trio Shonen Knife is down to one original member, singer/guitarist Naoko Yamano. So no, they're not exactly the same band Kurt Cobain fell in love with over Naoko's bizarre lyrics about bugs, banana fish, jellybeans, ice cream, and chocolate bars, and brought on tour with Nirvana in 1991. Or the one that inspired Sonic Youth, so taken by the band's sweetly punky, spunky power-pop, to headline the 1989 tribute album, Every Band Has a Shonen Knife Who Loves Them. But Shonen's new Free Time sounds almost exactly like their previous output (they are the Ramones of Japan, after all), so everyone but pissy purists will still have a great time tonight. With The Pharmacy, the Purrs. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8:30 p.m. $15. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

The Walkmen / Wednesday, September 8

For their sixth studio album, this month's Lisbon, the characteristically cacophonous Walkmen made a conscious effort to scale things back a bit. "We tried for a very bare instrumentation on this," the band's frontman Hamilton Leithauser told me in a recent phone call. "We really turned the reverb down a lot, which for us is a big step." The result is a stripped-down and at times stunningly elegant collection of music—but that's not to say the band's lost any of its raw energy for its upcoming tour, which kicks off tonight. While the tour's focus is Lisbon, Leithauser also promises to keep the band's longtime fans in mind. "We always play 'The Rat,'" he says. "People always want to hear it." With The Helio Sequence. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $18 adv./$20 DOS. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Magic Kids / Thursday, September 9

Magic Kids' debut album, Memphis, came out just a few weeks ago with not a hint of the country music the title suggests, but rather every possible sunshiny salute to Beach Boys–style swoon-pop. From the hyperactive sugar-high of "Superball" to the diner dance of "Hey Boy," their shameless, childlike energy will close the night on Pop Rocks and soda after chill, somewhat esoteric sets from local boys Beat Connection and ambient electro-orchestra Candy Claws. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 956-8372. 7:30 p.m. $9. All ages. MARY PAULINE DIAZ

The Tallest Man on Earth / Thursday, September 9

The Tallest Man on Earth, Swedish troubadour Kristian Matsson, is actually less blessed in stature (only 5'7") than the moniker suggests, but very much so in the gift of songwriting. Two albums deep, nobody's disputing all the Dylan comparisons Matsson's gotten, and that's because he's able to channel Dylan's legacy into his own folksy narrative style instead of just shamelessly imitating it. Matsson's croaking vocals and deft finger-picking lend his songs a sense of melancholy and reminiscence; on his latest record, The Wild Hunt, he uses these tools to paint worlds of glaciers and canyons, wildcats and ghosts in trees, cold skies, and lonely cities. With S. Carey. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $15. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Thee Oh Sees / Thursday, September 9

If there's anything plaguing contemporary art-punk bands who invoke the fuzzy garage-psych sound of the '60s, it's that they tend to sound the same. Blame it on the distortion and static if you want, but the formula's been attempted so often over the past half-century or so that we've pretty much reached the point of redundancy. And yet, San Francisco man-about-town John Dwyer's project Thee Oh Sees manages to churn out crunchy, catchy, retro rock-and-roll songs, the best (read: most accessible) of which avoid the bizarre experimental departures that tend to drag down some of Dwyer's earlier stuff. So what if it's been done before, more or less? It's still great music. If you're new to the band, Help and Master's Bedroom are good places to start. With Tyvek, Love Tan. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $10. SARA BRICKNER

Crooked Fingers / Friday, September 10

After a 10-year run fronting Chapel Hill indie luminaries Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann and the rest of the band stepped away from the limelight at the height of their popularity. Now, having spent just as much time creating music as Crooked Fingers, it would seem Bachmann is pretty comfortable in his own skin. Steadily pushing away from the noisy caterwaul of his previous band, Crooked Fingers has become an increasingly interesting experiment; Bachmann has gone from sparse, tortured troubadour to a worldlier, gypsy-esque feel. Unlike the obscure lyricism that marked a good chunk of the Archers catalog, Bachmann has now fully embraced the storytelling/songwriter role, unapologetically guiding listeners through both bright, golden-tinged days and sinister, india-ink nights. With the Mynabirds, Barton Carroll. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-4880. 9 p.m. $10 adv./$12 DOS. GREGORY FRANKLIN

Hounds of the Wild Hunt / Friday, September 10  See Through @ 2.

Menomena / Friday, September 10  See the music lead.

The Smashing Pumpkins / Friday, September 10

On one hand, Billy Corgan is as lame as Courtney Love and Axl Rose for continuing to record and tour under his iconic old band's name when he's the only original member left, surrounded by a gang of hired guns. On the other hand, it's a rough economy right now—ol' baldy can still probably sell tickets to the handful of folks who don't realize Pumpkins 2010 isn't nearly the band they remember and love. If you're not turned off by Billy's recent courting of Jessica Simpson or yet another pretentious album title (Teargarden by Kaleidyscope), or just wanna sing along to the old hits like it's karaoke night, this gig's for you. With Bad City. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $40 adv./$45 DOS. All ages. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

Drew Grow & the Pastors' Wives / Saturday, September 11  See the music lead.

Federale / Saturday, September 11

The phrase "of The Brian Jonestown Massacre" is thrown about by so many Portland musicians you'd think it's earned by dating a Magic Garden stripper, but multi-instrumentalist Collin Hegna actually plays bass for the band. Hegna's also a producer at his own Revolver studios, rocks with Cocaine Unicorn, and takes on the art of film scoring with Federale (not to be confused with the Brooklyn rockers of that name), who take their cues from Goblin, Ennio Morricone, and Angelo Badalamenti for a sweeping nod to soundtracks of the past. Also on the bill, and cinematically inspired as well, are local boys Geist, whose take is of the Americana Gothic variety, and creepily unsettling. With The Sacred Ensemble, Cabin #9. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 323-9853. 9 p.m. $7. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

The Courage / Saturday, September 11  See An Incomplete History.

The National / Saturday, September 11  See Q&A.

Modern English / Sunday, September 12

Modern English are best known for the 1982 single "I Melt With You," which kids these days often mistakenly think is by The Cure or Taco Bell's marketing department. It turns out they've made a few other songs in their 30-year career, including an entire album's worth released this past May. No head-bopping jangle ditties are to be found on Soundtrack (and no cheesy beefy melts at the Triple Door), but instead a deep, dramatic selection much more mature than any of us were in the '80s. The Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333. 7:30 p.m. $20 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. MARY PAULINE DIAZ

People Under the Stairs / Sunday, September 12

In the liner notes for their 2002 record O.S.T., producer and MC Thes One wrote that "somewhere along the way it seems most critics decided that just making hip-hop was not good enough." But after 13 years and seven records, this L.A. duo is as dedicated to the idea of golden-era hip-hop as they were when they began. With Double K as the other half, all duties are handled in-house—no guest producers or MCs are involved with this project. The crate-dug breaks and samples all have a deliciously upbeat and funky vibe, and while Los Angeles might not be all fun and games, the way these two live (and rap) might just convince you otherwise. With Helladope, Gran Rapids, Dev From Above. Neumos. 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442. 8 p.m. $15. NICK FELDMAN

Titus Andronicus / Sunday, September 12

New Jersey's Titus Andronicus likes to show off their book smarts—they named themselves after a Shakespeare play, and now their second record, The Monitor, is probably the first and only Civil War–themed rock album of this year. The songs are gloriously galvanizing, high-octane, and crunchy; the quartet uses battle stories of the War Between the States ("A More Perfect Union," "Four Score and Seven")—starring Abe Lincoln, Jeff Davis, John Brown, and all—to whip themselves into a frenzy and vent their suburban anxiety. Frontman Patrick Stickles' vocals are scrapingly raw, the guitars are raucous, and the lyrics are angsty to the max ("I wasn't born to die like a dog/I was born to die just like a man!") Who knew military history could be so punk-rock? With Free Energy, Shakes. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9 p.m. $12. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Marina and the Diamonds / Monday, September 13

Marina and the Diamonds is not a band, but a Welsh-bred singer/songwriter (real name: Marina Diamandis). Admittedly, it's easy to be cynical about the industry's ever-increasing crop of alt-pop princesses. But Diamandis' debut album The Family Jewels is crammed with cleverly crafted, piano-driven compositions that are well worth a listen. Her style isn't necessarily original—the peculiar lyrics and vocal gymnastics used in songs like "I Am Not a Robot" and "Obsession" sound strikingly similar to those of Kate Nash and Regina Spektor. But at least the girl selects her muses wisely. With Young the Giant. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $13. ERIKA HOBART

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone / Tuesday, September 14

Earlier this summer, Owen Ashworth announced that he would retire his longtime stage project, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Since 1997, CFTPA has produced witty, minimalist songs, hybrids of electronic beats, plinking keyboards, and wry, low-key vocals. For reasons only the gods of indie cool can ascertain, it's all stayed pretty much under the radar; with this final tour, Ashworth is celebrating what his website (somewhat painfully) calls "13 years of obscurity." He's just abandoning this project, though, not music altogether—nice to hear, especially since his latest composition, the beat-heavy "Goodbye Parthenon," is one of his craftiest, catchiest songs to date. With Otouto, Polka Dot Dot Dot. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-4880. 9 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Ratatat / Tuesday, September 14

Though most of their new album LP4 came from the same recording sessions that spawned 2008's LP3, electronica duo Ratatat didn't release it until this June (opting instead to craft two songs for Kid Cudi). Despite this, the spastically seamless compositions on LP4 are as good as or better than those on LP3. Whether the band meant to save the best for later is debatable, but if so, it was a smart move. LP4 gives the appearance that Ratatat is progressing, not backsliding or stagnating. With Dom, Bobby Birdman. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $27.50 adv./$30 DOS. All ages. SARA BRICKNER

 
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