This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Cannibal Corpse, 1349, Skeletonwitch, Toro y Moi, Double Negative, Easy Action, Grids, Rocket Cottage, Torpor, The Infamous Sugar, Kasey Anderson, Chip Robinson, Quasi
INTRODUCING: Justin Robinson & The Mary Annettes
VS.: These United States vs. Frightened Rabbit
VS.: Motion City Soundtrack vs. Amon Amarth
04.22 CANNIBAL CORPSE, 1349, SKELETONWITCH @ VOLUME 11 TAVERN
Even if you've never actually heard Cannibal Corpse, you know what they sound like. They're practically the death metal archetype, defining low-end brutality with chugging riffs, titles to make a psychopath blush and the astounding range of George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher's cookie monster roar. They haven't changed much in a decade-plus, but their stasis is like that of the shark: Changing is unnecessary when you're still the most brutal predator out there. Skeletonwitch opens with a mélange of thrash, NWOBHM and black metal as fun as it is furious, before corpse-painted Norwegians 1349 loosen their black plague upon the gathered masses. $17–$20/ 6:30 p.m. —Bryan Reed
- Toro y Moi
04.22 TORO Y MOI @ DUKE COFFEEHOUSE
Often associated with the whole chillwave/glo-fi cluster, Toro y Moi certainly employs the hallmarks of that loose movement—heavily effected, hazily produced tunes with percolating bass grooves, pop hooks and off-balance vocals. But unlike the gobs of '80s nostalgia that line the music of peers like Memory Tapes, Neon Indian and pal Ernest Greene's Washed Out, Toro y Moi—the solo, guitars/ keys/ laptop project of Columbia, S.C.'s Chaz Bundick—puts a contemporary sheen above lush, layered creations, marked both by his ethereal falsetto and dreamy synth. These laid-back head-nodders resonate well with dance-inclined indie kids and hip-hop heads in the know. Kanye even big-upped "Talamak" on his blog last September. $5/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
04.23 DOUBLE NEGATIVE, EASY ACTION, GRIDS @ THE PINHOOK
The sound of guitars is malleable, or to a point. Each of these three bands pushes their guitars to the breaking point, flooding sharp, concise songs with screeching feedback and fuzzy, skuzzy riffs. They do it in their own way: Raleigh hardcore heroes Double Negative tighten songs like thumbscrews, building anticipation for Armageddon with screeching amps. GRIDS, a gang of Charlotte punks evangelizing Jesus Lizard, sputter and lunge their way to ragged glory. Detroit's Easy Action—starring Negative Approach frontman John Brannon—conjure The Stooges gone mental, stewing sweaty garage with agitation and noise. $5/ 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
04.23 ROCKET COTTAGE, TORPOR, THE INFAMOUS SUGAR @ SLIM'S
The odd sonic contortions of Raleigh's Rocket Cottage suggest a double-jointed dwarf squeezing through the eye of a needle. Skronky mid-tempo squeals unload over Russ DeSena's wail, which deeply recalls the Minutemen's D. Boon. Indeed, the writhing aesthetic of early SST records seems embedded in their DNA. Opening duo Torpor stir up a musical maelstrom as thick and obdurate as a tornado of volcanic ash; within minutes of listening, an impulse arises to shake out your clothes. Thanks to his unrelenting sexual come-ons, opener the Infamous Sugar might actually instigate a whole-body scouring, were it not for the infectious insistence of his garage-soul grooves. $3/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
04.24 KASEY ANDERSON, CHIP ROBINSON @ SLIM'S
The liner notes of Kasey Anderson's Nowhere Nights mention burned bridges that the singer-songwriter left behind when he moved from Bellingham, Wash., to another Pacific Northwest town. That's a fitting image: Anderson's muscular rockers flare up and blaze bonfire strong, and his quieter numbers sound captured by the light of a dying flame. Plus, he clearly has no qualms about carrying torches—those of Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Matthew Ryan and other hard-core, hard-working troubadours. Returnees Chip Robinson, whose solo debut Mylow is out on Anderson's Portland-based Red River Records, and Joe Swank are also on the bill. $5/ 10 p.m. —Rick Cornell
04.26 QUASI @ CAT'S CRADLE
There's a bit of an experiential gap between these two bands—Quasi's touring behind their eighth album for their third record label, while Let's Wrestle's debut album was only recently released stateside, courtesy of Merge Records. The former duo (now with a bassist) is old enough to have a driver's license, but Quasi's American Gong shows that Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss haven't forgotten how to turn a sardonic phrase or bait an irresistible hook. Let's Wrestle's plainspoken charms and skittish pop sensibilities make this May-December pairing a mighty fine match. $10–$12/ 9:30 p.m. —David Raposa
04.27 JUSTIN ROBINSON & THE MARY ANNETTES
As one-third of the constantly touring African-American string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, Justin Robinson should hardly have time to catch his breath between shows, much less launch a solo project. But that's exactly what he's done with the Mary Annettes, a spin-off of his band Birds or Monsters. But with the Drops, there's apparently some useful downtime.
"With the exception of one song, almost all the Mary Annettes and Birds or Monsters stuff was written on the road," Robinson explains. "I actually find it really difficult to write and compose at home because when I get home from touring, there's always something that needs to be done."
While Birds or Monsters was largely a studio venture, the Mary Annettes find Robinson and a trio of multi-instrumentalists he connected with through mutual friends and Craigslist swapping guitar, bass, fiddle, banjo, drums and a host of other strings. After being given full-band arrangements, the songs are now more polished, he says.
While Robinson is unsure as to whether he will continue Birds or Monsters, he enjoys having another outlet for his songwriting—his stark autoharp haunt "Kissin' and Cussin'" was the lone original on Genuine Negro Jig, the Drops' latest. "It's a chance to write my own material and basically have everything, within reason, exactly how I want it to be," he admits. "It's just a different thing being in a band and being a bandleader."
For now, it seems, he'll be staying pretty busy with his longtime group but plans to play with the Mary Annettes whenever he's off the road with the Chocolate Drops. "Next year should be calmer, with some bigger breaks where I can grow this other project a little bit," Robinson predicts. "Right now, it's a great outlet, but it'd be great to have some minor success as well." With nearly an album's worth of recordings already in the bag, that success—and, likely, much more—seems imminent. With Bess Rogers and Lelia Broussard. At THE PINHOOK. Free/ 9 p.m. The band also plays ChestFest Saturday, April 24. —Spencer Griffith
Sunday, April 25
THESE UNITED STATES
From: Washington, D.C.
Claim to fame: Frontman/ auteur Jesse Elliott's woozy adenoidal vocal shamble
This face-off features a pair of would-be collegiate rockers who released disappointing third albums after breakthrough second discs. Jesse Elliott's distinctive vocal style is his greatest asset, offering a swerving, impetuous charm reminiscent of Jonathan Richman. Only instead of fey innocence, he trades on artless slacker disorientation. There's a plaintive quality, as if he needs your help but is afraid to ask. Musically, his blend of ragged roots, raucous swing-blues and faltering folk balladry edged precariously close to the ditch prior to his latest, Everything Touches Everything. But now, the ne'er-do-well dilapidation is polished away, and the scruffy appeal is mostly gone. While Elliott is still lyrically adept, the music's loss of personality is a weakness, for sure. At LOCAL 506. $8/ 9:30 p.m.
From: Selkirk, Scotland
Claim to fame: Perpetuating the catchy, canny, misanthropic indie pop legacies of The Vaselines and Orange Juice
Leader Scott Hutchinson channeled all the pain and vitriol of a break-up into The Midnight Organ Fight, showcasing scathing wit and bare-wire emotional vulnerability. The tuneful, hard-edged strum suggested a lower-key Wedding Present, a sentiment amplified by the acerbic lyricism. The breakthrough third release afforded them enough studio time to go wild like a college kid with a credit card. The beauty and wit of a thematic thread focused on the slippery nature of identity, place and home come shrouded in overproduction. That's better than TUS, who, minus the affectations, seem naked, bland and vulnerable. Score one for the Rabbit. With Maps & Atlases and Bad Veins. At CAT'S CRADLE. $12–$14/ 9:15 p.m. —Chris Parker
Tuesday, April 27
- Motion City Soundtrack
MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK
Claim to fame: Associations with Blink 182 and a long climb to the majors
If these unequivocally tuneful and romantically toiling pop-punk Midwesterners were chess pieces, they'd be a fleet of pawns, making the sort of music that's functional enough for steering-wheel sing-alongs but, in the end, doesn't stick around for very long. Indeed, for the last 10 years, the quintet's written increasingly polished and pedestrian lyrics that might as well be ripped from the pages of last year's diary—in 2005, they at least referenced Twin Peaks and chicken cordon bleu; but on last year's major label debut, My Dinosaur Life, they reverted to Veronica Mars, weed and Xbox. At least they could've riffed on the 360, right? It would be disingenuous to say that Motion City Soundtrack doesn't make competent, fun pop better than most of their contemporaries; it'd be hilarious to suggest that in 10 years anybody still cares. With A Rocket to The Moon, I Was Totally Destroying It and Sing It Loud. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $16.50–$19/ 6 p.m.
- Amon Amarth
Claim to fame: Turning Nordic and Tolkien tales into anthems
If these unequivocally tuneful and triumphant death metal Swedes were chess pieces, they'd be a row of rooks, resilient and ready to knock opponents from their blocks by forceful moves to the front and sides. Indeed, for the last 20 years, the quintet's written songs of conquest culled from its native histories—in 2006, they exclaimed, "With Oden on our side/ We are victorious"; in 2008, they proclaimed, "We're the guardians/ Guardians of Asgaard/ We have faced our enemies/ A thousand times or even more." With all the talk of death and dominance, the structural sturdiness of these songs—melodic and meticulous, with parts that interlock like pieces of armor—will have you chanting, quite literally, for enemy blood. With Tyr, Holy Grail and Pandah, this turns into a massacre. At VOLUME 11 TAVERN. $22–$25/ 6 p.m. —Grayson Currin