Arcade Fire / Wednesday, September 29
Indie went mainstream—big time—this year when Merge recording artists Arcade Fire's third album, the sprawling The Suburbs, debuted atop the Billboard charts. No, The Suburbs isn't as good as their 2004 debut, Funeral, but it's warmer and more affecting—it's easy to understand its emotional mass appeal. It remains to be seen whether a major-label deal will follow, but they've definitely outgrown the local venues they previously played (Neumos, UW's Hec Ed). Dealing with the multilevel tiers and crowds at KeyArena can be overwhelming, but there's no containing the Arcade Fire phenomenon (and it's too cold for the Gorge). Opening will be Tucson's Calexico, who probably never dreamed they'd be playing for a Bieber-size audience. KeyArena, 305 Harrison St., 628-0888. 7:30 p.m. $40. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON
Futureheads / Wednesday, September 29
While the early aughts saw a fair share of bands mining post-punk records by the likes of Wire and Gang of Four for precious riffs and inspiration, none of those bands stood out as heirs to the coveted throne as clearly as the Futureheads. The English quartet writes succinct songs that manage to throw the listener some bombastic, noisy curveballs in the space of just over two minutes. Buzzsaw guitars interweave with Beach Boys/barbershop-esque four-part harmonies and frantic, stop-on-a-dime arrangements. Chaotic but still clear, the Futureheads fuse together disparate influences into a sound that doesn't have its head stuck in the past or present. With Young the Giant, The So So Glos. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $13. GREGORY FRANKLIN
James McMurtry / Wednesday, September 29—Thursday, September 30
Every Wednesday, when he's in his hometown of Austin instead of touring, James McMurtry dutifully takes the stage at the stroke of midnight (which technically makes it Thursday) at a dark and dusty Congress Avenue bar called the Continental Club. The weeknight-warrior crowd, a curious mix of college kids and cowpokes, jovially knocks back shots of Herradura and Lone Star longnecks. While performing, McMurtry is stoic, with a faraway look in his eyes and very little between-song banter dripping from his tongue. Rather, he lets his guitar and lyrics do the talking. The son of a famous novelist (Larry), McMurtry is Lucinda Williams with a Y chromosome. Catching him at the Continental Club is like seeing Springsteen play a boardwalk bar in Jersey. Catching McMurtry at the Tractor ain't bad either. With Jonny Burke. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $18 adv./$20 DOS. MIKE SEELY
Dirty Projectors / Thursday, September 30
Is any band in the current indie-rock canon more polarizing than Dirty Projectors? Is it even possible to be simply indifferent to a band who once made a concept album about Don Henley and another that recreated Black Flag's Damaged purely from memory? Those who love Dave Longstreth's ambitious, multi-instrumental, description-defying songs really love them: last year's Bitte Orca was on numerous top 10 lists. But to actively, regularly listen to Dirty Projectors is to enjoy music not because it's lovely, soothing, or even palatable, but because it's "interesting." All that vocal and instrumental layering makes the music more ephemeral and conceptual than tangible and hummable. Are the Dirty Projectors pioneers or noise-making hipsters who take themselves too seriously? Maybe indifference would be the safest stance to take. With Dominique Young Unique. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $23 adv./$26 DOS. All ages. PAIGE RICHMOND
Little Penguins / Thursday, September 30
The Little Penguins are a band born out of inactive Seattle institution the Turn-Ons. Turn-Ons drummer Will Hallauer fronts the band; respected producer and solo artist Erik Blood is the guitarist. Like the band that hatched them, the Little Penguins sing brooding songs crafted in the Britpop tradition, though there's a definite West Coast surf-rock flavor to the whole thing. This is not the earnest indie pop that's been dominating Seattle lately: it's darker than that, and better for it. The band plans to release a third album tonight at what it claims will be its last show of 2010. There's something special about the Little Penguins' songs that translates even in small, dingy rooms with shitty sound. In fact, that's just the kind of place you want to hear Hallauer's melancholy lyrics. With Elder Mason, Tango Alpha Tango, Horde & The Harem. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 322-9272. 9 p.m. $7. SARA BRICKNER
Cataldo / Friday, October 1
Cataldo's sophomore album, Signal Flare, was one of the most underappreciated local releases of 2008. Eric Anderson's totally nerdy, totally lovable songs have a sing-along quality. A track like "Black and Milds" has a catchy, call-and-response rhythm: Anderson sings the first half of a lyric ("Do you think my name . . . ") and a chorus of backup vocalists finish it (" . . . when someone's keeping you warm?"), while the beat is kept by handclaps. Combine this with a bouncing banjo (on most songs), and Cataldo's music is downright infectious. Plus, there's no better voice than Anderson's slightly nasal one to sing "Pull Hard, Drink Deep," a love song about vampires. Bloodletting has never been so twee. With The Red River, Drew Victor. High Dive, 513 N. 36th St., 632-0212. 9:30 p.m. $7. PAIGE RICHMOND
Das Racist / Friday, October 1
It takes a special breed to turn Pizza Hut and Taco Bell into a hip-hop anthem. But don't let the fast-food fascination blind you—Queens-born Himanshu Suri and San Francisco-born Victor Vazquez have intellectually outperformed the likes of The New Yorker's Farley Katz (in a cartoon-off) and Sasha Frere-Jones (in a haiku-off). The former Wesleyan University classmates of MGMT mesh pop culture with intellectual undercurrents, making waves with their deceptively goofy and decidedly unique Dadaist art-rap. Especially considering their talent for creating danceable music out of less-than-danceable subject matter, you're bound to have fun with them no matter on what level you choose to appreciate what you hear—or at least fall down laughing. With Mash Hall, DJ Sabzi. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 322-9272. 9 p.m. $8. NICK FELDMAN
X Japan / Friday, October 1 See the music lead.
Black Keys / Saturday, October 2 See An Incomplete History.
HelloFuture / Saturday, October 2
While the name for this event—a not-to-be-missed night for local hip-hop heads—might have been gleaned from a Twitter hashtag, Hello Future is bigger than an online social-media meme. Including underground veteran Neema, radio-friendly up-and-comer Eighty4 Fly, silky R&B singer Lace Cadence, and talented young emcee Sol, this hip-hop camp packs a whole lot of talent into an impressively cohesive outfit. And they'll all be onsite, repping tracks from their recent releases—which just happen to be some of the town's hottest rap releases of the year. Look out, Seattle: here's a new hip-hop crew to keep your eye on. With Billy Patron. Nectar, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020. 9 p.m. $10. NICK FELDMAN
Jack Johnson / Saturday, October 2 See Q&A.
La Sera / Saturday, October 2
Next spring, the Vivian Girls will release their third album, Share the Joy, but until then, it's all about the side projects. Bassist Katy Goodman's contribution is a brand new project, a trio prettily called La Sera, which includes Seattle's Brady Hall on drums. On November 16, Hardly Art will release a 7-inch single of "Never Come Around" with a B-side called "Behind Your Eyes." (A full-length will follow next year). Both songs are fuzzy and mid-tempo, with Kickball Katy's swooning, featherweight vocals, some heavenly, choral-sounding harmonies, and a couple of sexy guitar solos. There's a lot of buzz going around La Sera's CMJ appearance in Brooklyn later this month, but tonight is the band's first-ever performance. With Paul Collins' Beat, the Tripwires, the Greatest Hits. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $10. ERIN K. THOMPSON
People Eating People / Saturday, October 2 See Through @ 2.
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside / Saturday, October 2
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside could easily be labeled a jazz band. Ford has the voice of a soul singer: throaty and rough around the edges, channeling Billie Holiday and Etta James, and her three-piece backing band's jangly electric guitars turn songs like "Danger" and "Not an Animal" into sultry blues jams. On the other hand, her music also fits with the current folk-music revival. There are elements of old-time country in her twangy, muffled songs, which makes sense, since Ford herself—now a Portland resident—is from Asheville, North Carolina. Then again, she's unafraid to name-drop influential indie bands from the past 20 years; on "Write Me a Letter," she mentions Jets to Brazil and includes the lyric, "Keep on listening to Sunny Day Real Estate/And know that/You don't gotta change." The result is a genre-defying musician whose 2011 debut LP could be a revelation. With the Foghorns, Basemint. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9:30 p.m. $10. PAIGE RICHMOND
Slash / Saturday, October 2 See B-Sides.
Smooth Sailing / Saturday, October 2
Smooth Sailing guitarist/vocalist Chris Elizaga once told me, "With metal, people take things very seriously. But we're all very happy, giggly people. We didn't want anything to be serious about the band except for the music." While there's plenty of whimsy in their shtick (matching suits, silly nicknames, and apocalyptic light shows), the material is progressive metal at its finest. Thanks in part to the jazz background of drummer Brandon Elizaga and a collective love of experimental sonic architects Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Smooth Sailing creates mesmerizing, mathematical metal that singes the senses. With Audiwasska Travelers, Git Some, Countdown to Armageddon. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $6. HANNAH LEVIN
Françoiz Breut / Sunday, October 3
The Cherbourg chanteuse Françoiz Breut began her musical career as a backup singer for her then-boyfriend, the songwriter Dominique A, but has since emerged from his shadow as an influential nouvelle chanson artist in her own right. Since 1997, Breut has released four lovely solo albums, the standout being her most recent, 2008's smoky and sultry À l'aveuglette ("At Random"). There are resonant piano melodies and rattling percussion; Breut's bright vocals inevitably recall Françoise Hardy, but her musing, moody delivery is often compared to Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. With Marianne Dissard. Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333. 7:30 p.m. $12. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON
The Drums / Monday, October 4
There aren't many good spots to catch a wave in New York City, but the Brooklyn trio the Drums is making some of the best so-called surf-rock music of the moment. The Drums' eponymous debut full-length, released in June, is a buoyant combination of sunny melodies and steady, thrumming beats—think the Beach Boys meet Joy Division. The album's first single, "Let's Go Surfing," is skittish and spirited, complete with whistles, handclaps, and a chorus that sounds like it says, "Obama, I wanna go surfing." (It's actually "oh, mama," but more fun the other way). Florida's Surfer Blood, the year's other notable purveyor of exemplary guitar-pop, is co-headlining this current tour. With the Dewars. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $13. ERIN K. THOMPSON
The Sword / Monday, October 4
Austin five-piece The Sword resides at the intersection of stoner rock and metal: People who shy away from anything heavier than Led Zeppelin or Black Mountain get into these guys, but so do diehard metalheads who can't listen to anything lighter than Black Sabbath. It's hard to name a metal band of the past two decades that wouldn't cite Ozzy and company as a major influence. Of those that do, the Sword is one of the best when it comes to sheer technical ability as well as songwriting, which is why the Sword gets gigs opening for Jurassic institutions like Metallica. J.D. Cronise derives his lyrics from H.P. Lovecraft novels and Norse mythology, but this year's Warp Riders is centered around an original science-fiction narrative. This is metal at its essence: heavy, moody rock and roll for fantasy-novel nerds. With Karma to Burn, Mount Carmel. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., 628-3151. 7 p.m. $16 adv./$18 DOS. All ages. SARA BRICKNER
Klaxons / Tuesday, October 5
Though they first burst onto the scene as the latest Brits making drug music you'd actually want to listen to on drugs back in '07, Klaxons flip the aggro switch with their latest, Surfing the Void. The record itself suffers from a few sophomore clichés, but the band's live shows still demand you party just a little harder. Squeezing an act which makes as big a noise as Klaxons do into a cozy space like Chop Suey has the makings of one of those magical rock-club nights where heat, inebriants, and raw energy will have patrons turning themselves over to the warm wash of shared musical adoration. In other words, FUN. With Baby Monster. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000. 8 p.m. $15. All ages. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR