This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: The Clientele; Jason Isbell; Mark Olson; Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
EH, WHATEVER: Brett Dennen; Jimmie's Chicken Shack; Dark Star Orchestra
VS.: The National vs. Andrew Bird
INTRODUCING: Sound of Singles
LAST WEEK'S PARTY: The Rosebuds
SONG OF THE WEEK: Tommy Womack's "Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood"
09.11 THE CLIENTELE @ CAT'S CRADLE
When The Clientele headlined at the Cat's Cradle in March, they graced a spare, attentive crowd with perfect takes on their wide catalogue. The London quartet's music is unequivocally lovely, their melodies floating in an erudite, pop-classicist ether. But find the details—the careful text painting from the violin, the whiskey gauze of the electric guitars, the natural surrealism of the words—and truly hear what makes this band so special. Stockholm's Peter Bjorn and John headline, a move that's more a testament to the overwhelming charm of their whistle-and-snap hit "Young Folks" (lifted by Kanye West; torturously mashed with Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" by DJ Topcat) than the remainder of their three, largely ho-hum albums. $23-$26/ 8:45 p.m. —Grayson Currin
09.06 JASON ISBELL @ LOCAL 506
Then of the Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell had his Triangle solo coming-out party when he shared the stage with Caitlin Cary and Kevn Kinney at the Tres Tangled Truckers song swap. Isbell's debut, Sirens of the Ditch, and a recent Raleigh appearance make clear that his songs, so potent in the earlier stripped-down setting, carry their emotional weight with full-band trimmings, too. $5/ 10 p.m. —Rick Cornell
09.07 MARK OLSON @ HIDEAWAY BBQ
Former Jayhawk Mark Olson mined broad, powerful alt.country before turning folk-rock revivalist alongside ex-wife Victoria Williams in the Creekdippers. Olson's newest persona is that of roots confidant , singing his sorrows through uncluttered, earthy country tunes. His latest, Salvation Blues, is a coming-out party of sorts, a pristine collection of world-weary tunes tinged with bittersweet optimism. $12-$15/ 9 p.m. —Kathy Justice
09.08 IVAN NEVILLE'S DUMPSTAPHUNK @ THE POUR HOUSE
The son of Aaron Neville cooks up a hard soul gumbo worthy of his heritage. As capable of jazzy R&B as burnished, butt-booting funk, Ivan and his crew are indebted to the Meters, varnishing the old sound with good polish but not harming the grit beneath the finish. $10-$12/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
09.12 BRETT DENNEN @ CAT'S CRADLE
A California redhead with a perplexing level of white guilt ("There Is So Much More") given the streak of soulless half-swagger shot through his acoustic pop ("Darlin' Do Not Fear"), Brett Dennen writes himself into a mire of generalities punctuated by cheap end-rhymes. He tries to get himself out of lines like "I see you risin' on the horizon" and "Sometimes my trouble gets so thick/ I can't see how I'm going to get through it" by curling his bland pop air into a Mason Jennings-sans-character quiver. Did you hear Josh Ritter is coming to the Cradle in November? Start saving tonight. With Meiko and Joshua James. $10-$12/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
09.07 JIMMIE'S CHICKEN SHACK @ THE POUR HOUSE
You likely remember Jimmie's Chicken Shack for the 1999, two-part-harmony hook of "Do Right" and not much else (except their Downtown Live stop last year?). Since, they've jumped record labels, juggled members, collaborated with Staind's Aaron Lewis and continued to make a mixture of dub-influenced bounce and grunge-echoing abrasion sound awkward. With Sunny Ledfurd. $8-$10/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
09.09 DARK STAR ORCHESTRA @ LINCOLN THEATRE
An unsettling contradiction: Striving to faithfully recreate entire sets of music made by a now-defunct improvisational band? Sure, honor the past, have your influences, cover a tune. But establishing residency like Pirandello's Henry IV in a tie-dye feels, well, conceptually bankrupt. Can you pretend they're being spontaneous for $20-$24 a pop? 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
From: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Claim to fame: Often mistaken for strangers by their own friends.
The National might be the most "boring" band in the world: Having more than one set of identical brothers on the payroll doesn't help the monotony or combat the whole "non-descript, indie rock white dudes with guitars" thing. Several listens to their past few full-lengths (2005's Alligator and this year's Boxer) come with really big rewards, though. Drummer Bryan Devendorf hides his flair within some of the most tasteful rhythms in indie rock, while frontman Matt Berninger manages to make the archetype of a bookish 30-year-old in a city that stays 21 far more compelling than it deserves to be. It's sold-out but worth a try. With Doveman at CAT'S CRADLE. 8:30 p.m.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
From: Chicago, Ill.
Claim to fame: Um, can you whistle like that?
Splitting time between the Windy City and his rural hometown of Elizabeth, Ill., Andrew Bird plies the ol' time niceties of fiddle playing and porch whistling but layers it in Starbucks-friendly gussy. That's not to say Bird's approach is insincere. In fact, he's perhaps too straight-up. At the end of the day, Bird's songs are strong because they aren't scared to be incredibly polite, non-offensive or immediate. Bird, then, is the archetypal 30-year-old in a city that stays 60 and decked out in overalls. The contrast can make for some very adroit Americana. With Augie March at CAROLINA THEATRE. $21/ 8 p.m. —Robbie Mackey
09.07 SOUND OF SINGLES @ NIGHTLIGHT
Friday night, Sound of Singles—the solo project of Mount Moriah guitarist Gerald John Schoenherr—will release its first seven-inch record, and, for most, the song titles—"Turn the Page" and "Beautiful Loser"—will be familiar. They're Bob Seger songs, and for Schoenherr, these versions are the culmination of a five-year fascination with Seger that began when the Michigan native arrived in North Carolina five years ago.
"[Mount Moriah member] Aaron Smithers was from Texas, and he was like, 'We have Waylon Jennings. You're from Michigan. What do you have?'" remembers Schoenherr. "I started thinking, 'What was the music of my childhood?' And the music of my childhood was Bob Seger. My dad took me to see him when I was 13."
Four years ago, Schoenherr began recording a Seger cover each year for Father's Day and his dad's birthday. He began with faithful renditions but soon started applying the Sound of Singles aesthetic—gnarls of loops and sonic debris pulling at the song's widest angles—to the source material: "These may be the songs I grew up with, but I'm not a rock god. So I started trying to do them in my own voice."
Sound of Singles plays Nightlight Friday, Sept. 7, at 10 p.m.
LAST WEEK'S PARTY
09.01 ROSEBUDS @ DOWNTOWN EVENT CENTER
The lights were low, and the people were shoulder-to-shoulder as Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard took to a Raleigh stage for the first time in six months. "Man, it feels good to play in Raleigh!" Howard exclaimed halfway through the set, just after Crisp jumped from the stage to dance in the crowd. A send-off before the band hits the road with The National, the set was a brief history of The Rosebuds, the languid rockers of Birds Make Good Neighbors and the feisty poppers of debut Make Out stacked alongside the dances of their latest, Night of the Furies. Hometown party. —Kathy Justice