The Short List: The Week's Recommended Shows

From the Cave Singers to Gordon Lightfoot.

Rakaa / Wednesday, November 3

Though they might not have blown up in the mainstream beyond their 2004 Kanye West collaboration "This Way," Dilated Peoples are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the underground scene. And after much anticipation, one-third of that outfit—Rakaa Iriscience—finally let his 13-track solo debut, Crown of Thorns, fly this July. With a distinct throwback appeal, Rakaa goes heavy on the lyricism in multiple senses: He maintains a penchant for consistent verbiage without shying away from weightier subject matter, ranging from success to conspiracy theories. And in reality, he has to give his all in order to complement the hard-hitting beats—but if bobbing your head gets you to listen to what he has to say, I think Rakaa will be plenty happy. With Lyrics Born, Hi Life Soundsystem, DJ Swervewon. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442. 8 p.m. $15. NICK FELDMAN

Ryan Purcell & The Last Round / Thursday, November 4

Seattle country-rock troubadour Ryan Purcell clearly worships at the altar of cantankerous cowboy Townes Van Zandt and his protégé Steve Earle, but in a Pacific Northwesterner's voice. The intro to "Enough" brings "Ohio" to mind; it's a strong, woody country number that burns like a neat double bourbon. Not all the songs on Purcell's album Kick the Dirt have quite the same, ah, kick, but even in its weakest moments, it sticks in the craw like a hunk of dry biscuit. With Pufferfish, Sunday Evening Whiskey Club. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9 p.m. $6. SARA BRICKNER

Aloe Blacc / Friday, November 5

Though Aloe Blacc's musical debut came as the MC half of indie hip-hop duo Emanon, the music of his recent record Good Things instead channels the timeless soul of Bill Withers and Al Green—comparisons not to be made lightly. Coating gritty lyrics of lost love and everyday tribulations with honeyed vocals strong enough to push back against the instrumentation, songs like lead single "I Need a Dollar" (which debuted as the theme song to the HBO series How to Make It in America) and "Politican" exhibit Blacc's undeniable charisma and introspective confidence. And he gets bonus points for reshaping Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" into a soul hit. It's obvious that Aloe Blacc studied the masters and sounds as though he time-traveled straight from the '60s or '70s without recycling—or ignoring—the modern implications of hip-hop. With The Grand Scheme, Maya Jupiter, DJ 100proof. Nectar, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020. 9 p.m. $10. NICK FELDMAN

The Cave Singers / Friday, November 5

As gorgeous and charming as the Cave Singers' sun-dappled singles like "Summer Light" (from 2009's Welcome Joy) may be, what often makes our adventurous hometown folksters most intriguing is their dark underbelly, as exemplified by the sinister snake-oil salesmanship driving "Dancing on Our Graves" (from their 2007 debut, Invitation Songs). Now that they've jumped ship from Matador Records to Jagjaguwar, they've also made the wise choice to team with Randall Dunn (the man behind the boards on the most recent Black Mountain record and a producer known for his finesse with heavier artists like Sunn O))) and Earth), who's helming their Jagjaguwar debut, due in early 2011. Tonight's show will no doubt be an ideal forum in which to check out Dunn's influence on that new material. With the Moondoggies, Lovesick Empire. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $16 adv./$18 DOS. HANNAH LEVIN

Gram Parsons Tribute Night / Friday, November 5

It's difficult to think of an artist more intrinsically influential on the development of the Americana and alt-country genres than the late Gram Parsons. Without the cosmic groundwork of that grievous angel, we wouldn't have a context for appreciating artists like Uncle Tupelo, Lucinda Williams, or My Morning Jacket. Tonight's cover night, organized by respected local picker Country Dave, will feature an array of Parsons- influenced artists such as John Brodin and Jesse Harmonson, as well as Dave's own band, the New Fallen Angels, which features Rolling Blackouts guitarist Tom Bennett. Conor Byrne, 5140 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-3640. 9 p.m. $10. HANNAH LEVIN

Gordon Lightfoot / Friday, November 5

Now that he's over 70, his frame and voice a good deal frailer than they were in his prime, it's easy to forget that for decades Canadian folk legend Gordon Lightfoot defined what it meant to be a man. He was handsomely hirsute, wore a lot of denim, drank dark-hued booze, chased hot skirt, lived in the wilds of Ontario, chopped his own wood, killed wild boar with his bare hands, fished with a spear, raced a team of sled dogs, arm-wrestled competitively, wore Skin Bracer aftershave, and built his own forested cabin from log and rock, like that old guy on PBS. Even if he didn't do all that (and we have no proof he didn't), he still wrote "Sundown," "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Carefree Highway," and "If You Could Read My Mind." That's more than enough. Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., 877-784-4849. 8 p.m. $28–$58. All ages. MIKE SEELY

Generationals / Saturday, November 6

The New Orleans trio Generationals—songwriters Ted Joyner and Grant Widner, plus drummer Tess Brunet—released their first LP, Con Law, in the summer of 2009. That album's standout track, "When They Fight, They Fight," was a deliciously saccharine, Motown-tinged throwback, backed by swooping horns and girl-group harmonies, sounding like something Phil Spector or Quincy Jones would have created 50 years ago. Live, the band seeks to replicate that buzzing wall of sound with extra brass players and backup singers. Generationals' upcoming second album, Actor-Caster, recorded this summer, is said to be a bit more abstract, but we're hoping the sunshine stays. With Two Door Cinema Club, Funeral Party. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $13. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Marnie Stern / Saturday, November 6

Marnie Stern is already a legendary shredder, the type of guitarist who plays with the fieriest intensity she can find. But on her new self-titled album, released last month on Kill Rock Stars, Stern goes less steel, more softness—the songs still jolt and yelp with her usual ferocity, but their subject matter starkly recounts Stern's grief over lost love and tragedies in ways her previous material didn't. "It's emotional," she told me on a recent phone call. "I'm such a vulnerable person . . . I felt like this was a big growth." The words may be mournful, the lyrics poignantly sad, but the music channels Stern's rampant spirit, flying high as ever. "I'm always hopeful, dammit," she says. "I'm a fucking fighter." With Witch Gardens. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 956-8372. 7:30 p.m. $9. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Laura Veirs & The Hall of Flames / Saturday, November 6

Ten months on, the glow of Laura Veirs' sumptuous July Flame still hasn't sputtered: even though the album is named for the northern hemisphere's nicest summer month, the record's quiet strumming and folk harmonies actually seem more appropriate for winter. Now Veirs is re-releasing The Trials and Travails of Orphan Mae on red vinyl. The album turns 10 this year, and was the inspiration, says Veirs, for July Flame, her most recent and most accomplished release. As a human being, Veirs is pretty inspiring, too: She toured throughout her recent pregnancy, and continues to do so with her six-month-old son in tow. If you need a pick-me-up, check out the photo of baby Tennessee sleeping underneath what appears to be a shrouded mixing board. Aww. With Leslie Stevens & the Badgers, Led to Sea. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $13. SARA BRICKNER

Mayer Hawthorne & The County / Sunday, November 7

For all the commotion that's been made about the physical decline of strong cities like Detroit, that city's friendliest ghosts still manage to linger in the music of today, thumping a strong, vibrant heartbeat that isn't going away anytime soon. A product of Ann Arbor, Mich. (about 40 miles from Detroit), Mayer Hawthorne's soulful songs make him sound like a modern man possessed by these benevolent spirits. Buttery bedroom ballads, moody mope-sterpieces, and hand-clapping/foot-stomping, shimmy-shaking jams are all equally represented in Hawthorne's wheelhouse, and all serve as fantastic backdrops to his warm, throaty falsetto and lovelorn confessionals. Reinvigorating the Stax and Motown catalogs through the progressive lens of Peanut Butter Wolf's Stones Throw label, Hawthorne is simultaneously the past and future wrapped into one harmonious package. With Gordon Voidwell. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $15. All ages. GREGORY FRANKLIN

Johnny Flynn / Monday, November 8

It almost sounds cliché to say, but an artist's sophomore LP is quite often an indication of whether he/she/they will succeed over the long haul. Accepting this as fact, the South African–born, British-raised folk- (in the most adventurous sense in a normally unadventurous genre) singer Johnny Flynn will be around for a good long while. On Been Listening, Flynn serves up hints of David Byrne, World Party, and the Hank Dogs, but mostly seems the heir apparent to the great Richard Thompson. Listening to Anglo-humpers like the Decemberists, you can't help but believe they stew with envy every time they hear Flynn do naturally what they have to resort to affectation to achieve. With Gregory Paul. High Dive, 513 N. 36th St., 632-0212. 8 p.m. $12. MIKE SEELY

Matthew Dear / Tuesday, November 9

Ultra-versatile producer/DJ Matthew Dear's fourth album, the critically adored Black City, conceptualizes a futuristic world that sounds like absolute hell—seedy, filthy, shadowy, dangerous, kind of like Gotham City without Batman's saving grace. Dear has described it as "a city that's always awake," which explains the album's relentless, thudding pulse. The tech-house songs, fronted by Dear's murky vocals, are twitchy, rhythmic, and somber, like a gloomy Talking Heads. But despite their bleakness, Black City songs like "I Can't Feel" and "Gem" are strangely riveting and compelling, just the type of music to keep a city up all night. Nectar, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020. 8 p.m. $10. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Fistful of Mercy / Tuesday, November 9

As much as I'd like to spend the next hundred words styling snarky Ben Harper jokes, the powerfully moving, perfectly crafted music of Fistful of Mercy makes that nearly impossible. Emotionally potent on a level that makes Glen Hansard of the Swell Season seem aloof and unavailable, the music of FOM doesn't just tug at your heartstrings, it performs a full cardiac excavation, hollowing out your chest cavity as if it were produced in the Temple of Doom. This seemingly unlikely trio (with the genetically gifted Dhani Harrison and the dreamy perfection of Joseph Arthur) produces authentically searing songs that will appeal to commercial consumers and music snobs alike. Also see Questions & Answers, page 48. With Alain Johannes. Showbox at the Market. Sold out. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

 
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