This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Lonnie Walker/ Nuclear Power Pants/ b'b'salmon, Malpass Brothers, The XYZ Affair, Unknown Hinson
EH, WHATEVER: L.A. Guns/ Faster Pussycat
VS.: The Codetalkers vs. Grupo Fantasma
VS.: Bear Colony vs. Future Islands
SONG OF THE WEEK: Nomo's "My Dear"
07.17 LONNIE WALKER/ NUCLEAR POWER PANTS/ B'B'SALMON @ SLIM'S
Diverse bill: Nuclear Power Pants is an electrospazz spectacle with a revolving cast of players, though its primary incarnation ties brothers Benjamin and Robert O'Brien together in a two-headed monster outfit as they sing. The rest of the band performs dressed as creatures of the single-headed, day-glo shark variety. Tourmates b'b'salmon fabricate earthen folk from fingerpicked guitars and intertwining dual female leads. Expect the occasional Celtic undercurrent. Greenville's Lonnie Walker rounds out the eclectic bill with energetic, Americana-infused indie rock. $3/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
07.20 MALPASS BROTHERS @ DUKE GARDENS
Following in the classic-country footsteps of the Brothers Louvin, Stanley, Wilburn, Davies (you've heard Muswell Hillbillies, right?) and others are young Christopher and Taylor Malpass from Goldsboro. And in the holy spirit of the Louvins' Satan Is Real and the Stanleys' "Angel Band," there's a gospel component to the Malpass' music. So you get harmonies that ring to high heaven and songs that honor high heaven, in addition to more earthbound topics like going steady and feeling like, just maybe, you were born in the wrong times. $5-$10/ 7 p.m. —Rick Cornell
07.20 THE XYZ AFFAIR @ LOCAL 506
XYZ's slinky allure rides relentless waves of melody in big baroque ripples, bearing just enough starch to suggest the Decemberists. Much of it is frontman Alex Feder's arch high-pitched delivery and the bright backing harmonies. The airy elements come balanced by punchy rhythms and rubbery bass, sporting a skinny tie and pushing the languid hooks toward the exit. Though not as catchy as the New Pornographers, last year's A Few More Published Studies is nonetheless a fine debut. With Adam Arcuragi. $8/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
07.18 UNKNOWN HINSON @ BERKELEY CAFE
Unknown Hinson is like your crazy uncle in the attic that nobody ever talks about—except Unknown Hinson is in the attic during the day because he's allegedly a vampire, and you should be talking about him because his blend of rockabilly and biting satire is really catchy. But don't worry: He can sound just as misogynistic as your crazy uncle. "I want your love on command/ It's communism if you don't obey," he croons on one of his ballads, "Love on Command." The self-proclaimed King of Country Western Troubadours, Unknown Hinson dresses like an early traveling country singer with over-the-top clothes, hair and attitude. Lyrics about women, guns and "party liquor" drip out of his fanged mouth with a Southern drawl. And, when not distracted by his demonic guitar playing or hellacious sideburns, you may recognize that voice as that of Early Cuyler from the Adult Swim cartoon, Squidbillies. To balance his testosterone, Syrens of The South Burlesque opens. $12-$15/ 9 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
07.17 L.A. GUNS/ FASTER PUSSYCAT @ VOLUME 11 TAVERN
The New York Dolls got lost in translation to Los Angeles, and all we got was whimpering power ballads about absent daddies that make Conor Oberst seem tough, or paeans to crazy bitches who know how to screw. Aside from lending his name to Axl Rose's outfit, Tracii Guns career hasn't been very memorable, though he has gone through drummers like Spinal Tap. Sadly, Rogaine won't cover for half-written proto-boogie with less sophistication than a rerun of Married with Children. It's the music of arrested adolescence, an id-based fantasy for those whose musical taste died in the strip club. 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
THURSDAY, JULY 17
From: Savannah, Ga.
Claim to fame: Berklee grad/ frontman Bobby Lee Rodgers became one of their youngest faculty at 23
There's more than one way to skin a groove. The Codetalkers' original allegiances to rootsy jams gave way to expansive jazz-funk workouts after the departure of singer/ guitarist Col. Bruce Hampton in 2006. While raised on bluegrass, Bobby Lee Rodgers has indulged his jazz predilections since reforming as a trio with fellow music school grads, Mark Raudabaugh and Andrew Altman, whose supple, rubbery rhythms fuel Rodgers' fusion fretwork. While just a subtle shuffle down the continuum, it's demonstrably different, like a postcard from deep headspace. The lithe scampering licks pose a hard target for their bottom-heavy Latin competitors. At THE POUR HOUSE. $6-$8/ 10 p.m.
From: Austin, Texas
Claim to fame: Backing Prince at Super Bowl pre-party and Golden Globe aftershow, while headlining a weekly gig at his Vegas club, 3121
Eleven-piece Cumbia-funkster band Grupo Fantasma is hard to beat if only because the deep posse serves to stir the pot, turning up the temperature with horn-driven soul, slinky jazz guitar and hot-blooded Latin rhythms. The beat is so massive it actually exerts force on your ass, shaking it like hands on lucky dice. Pure Tabasco, Grupo's live set is designed to sweat your toxins until they crack in thrall to a rib-rattling samba. Try not to swoon when the fever strikes; it's contagious and likely to leave you pale, drained and out of breath. You just can't stop a bum rush this kinetic. At the BERKELEY CAFE. $12-$15/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
MONDAY, JULY 21
From: North Little Rock, Ark.
Claim to fame: Formed after to-be-frontman Vince Griffin was misdiagnosed with Crohn's disease
Despite a name that mentions zoological solidarity and the band's reliance on electronics, agile melodies and jangling guitars, this Little Rock collective tapping resources of Lovedrug and Unwed Sailor has more to do with The Postal Service than Animal Collective. Bear Colony largely keeps the cobwebs away from its clean hooks, letting beats skitter beneath graceful vocals, incisive guitar lines and light textural manipulation. In spite of the grim origins and title of its 2007 debut, We Came Here to Die, the big band (up to 13 members) is remarkably redemptive, as though frontman Vince Griffin's gaze at his own mortality brightened his own life outlook. Stories about making out in hospital beds greet introspective attempts to be a better person. The songs stray a bit into aimlessness by the four-minute mark, which could leave them open to the quick beats down on Rosemary Street. At LOCAL 506. $8/ 9:30 p.m.
From: Baltimore, Md., via Greenville, N.C.
Claim to fame: Forthcoming split with Dan Deacon could be quickest seller on Durham's 307 Knox
Despite this Greenville quartet's chromatic blips, electronic beats and recent move to Baltimore, where it was quickly absorbed by the Wham City/ Upset the Rhythm cartel that gave Dan Deacon and Video Hippos platforms for national prominence, Future Islands thankfully offers more than instrumental parties and collagist exercises. Though there'll be plenty of reasons to dance—chiefly, Casio-toned beats and the exclamation-pointed hooks of frontman Sam Herring—Future Islands presents sincere reflections though strong songs. "Beach Foam," for instance, is a mid-temp reflection on the indecision and fragility of youth, all remarks upon a friend's death, while the bass agitation of "Flicker and Flutter" stirs the dust beneath Herring's belted, see-you-I'm-gone outsider lament. These quick, weighty punches take this one, especially with Asheville playful electro-chirpers EAR PWR and Chapel Hill garage menaces Rongorongo in the corner. At Nightlight. 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
07.19 ELFOWL @ LOCAL 506
"You know when you wanna tell somebody something and you can't—sort of a taboo thing?" asks 21-year-old Mika Huvard, a Clayton-based songwriter who performs under the name ElfOwl. "With a song, you can say exactly what you want to ... You can be really selfish, and you don't have to worry about the other person's feelings."
Those misgivings—romantic, pragmatic and otherwise—shape the bulk of Huvard's acoustic songs, which string situational imagery—showers, shadows and sensory sensations—through stark epigrams reflecting alternate apathy and hurt. Huvard multi-tracks her songs on her home computer, adding shadows of piano, microphone hiss and spectral harmonies to her relatively simple progressions. As on the chiming "I Am Sorry Sorry Sorry," where she sings, "My head full of bees/ and they buzz all the way down your street," her tumbles of confessions glide into charming melodies.
Huvard spends most of her year in Boone, now studying creative writing after spending several years pursuing a major in graphic design. She treats the quest for a degree much like the other inspirations of indecision in her songs: "I'm at that age where everyone's trying to figure out, 'Well, where do I want to live? What kind of job do I want to have? Am I doing the correct thing?'" she says, laughing slightly beneath her series of questions. "You get scared because you start to feel like you're really old ... even though 21's not very old." With the Busy World and Timbre. $5/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin