This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Old Bricks, Sea Legs, Tickley Feather, Americans In France, Impossible Arms, Fin Fang Foom, Free Electric State, Gray Young, The Whiskey Smugglers, Ghost To Falco, Inspector 22, Revolutionary Sweethearts, Static Minds
EH, WHATEVER: The Napalm & Noise Tour
VS.: Emmet Swimming vs. Squirrel Nut Zippers vs. The Mayflies USA
INTRODUCING...: Bobby's Fever
SONG OF THE WEEK: Jeanne Jolly's "Desert of My Mind"
12.17 OLD BRICKS, SEA LEGS @ TIR NA NOG
Since debuting in Raleigh in January, Old Bricks have steadily become one of the Triangle's most promising young acts. With drifting tones set above occasionally big beats to suggest mid-career Animal Collective and a vocal emotional vulnerability that recalls Bright Eyes circa Fevers and Mirrors, the duo sinks into its feelings while clinging to its songs. New quintet Sea Legs, though, came roaring forward during its August debut: Like The Walkmen studying The National's steely reserve just to write around it, Sea Legs charges through five-minute rock tunes with a surprising air of self-assuredness. I expect they've got some anthems in store for 2010. Free/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.17 TICKLEY FEATHER @ NIGHTLIGHT
An interesting pair of payoffs and problems: Virginia's Tickley Feather (by way of Philadelphia) is the project of Annie Sachs, a keyboard-and-beat-machine explorer who creates interesting pieces of songs without ever actually making a great tune. Meanwhile, the instrumentals of Austin, Texas' Jesse Beaman as My Empty Phantom are almost too evolved and controlled, their post-rock mannerism building into predictable crescendos and collapses. Still, it's pretty enough and, if anything, should be a nice aperitif for Veelee, the best band on the bill. The duo writes complex but approachable pop songs that twist, rise, slink and eventually land hooks that won't quit. Mike Dillon of Gross Ghost/ Motor Skills/ doorman notoriety opens with a solo set. $7/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.18 AMERICANS IN FRANCE, IMPOSSIBLE ARMS @ NIGHTLIGHT
Charlottesville openers Drunk Tigers sound like they'd have been momentarily huge a few years ago, finding the same sweet spot between classic-indie grit and guitar-pop élan as Tapes 'N Tapes or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Hardly a complaint, though. Even as their style suggests the out-of-towners won't have the staying power of Impossible Arms' lived-in plod or the white-hot ignition of Americans In France's grapeshot spazz-rock, Drunk Tigers are writing songs that are catchy and fun. Let's just tally this one up as another win for top-shelf locals in a year notable for its glut of quality. $5/ 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
12.18 FIN FANG FOOM, FREE ELECTRIC STATE, GRAY YOUNG @ THE PINHOOK
Three titans of tension team up: Fin Fang Foom shares the strength and dexterity of its namesake comic book villain, shaping post-rock monuments from guitar chimes, drum destruction and double-duty frontman Eddie Sanchez's thick bass and piano rays. Shirlé Hale-Koslowski's role as bassist and vocalist isn't all that makes Free Electric State reminiscent of mid-career Sonic Youth; the feedback-friendly Durham quartet injects swirling shoegaze textures with a shot of anthemic, aggressive indie rock, too. Raleigh trio Gray Young imagines in succinct vignettes, mounting faded, ethereal vocals against highwire drama. $5/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
12.19 THE WHISKEY SMUGGLERS @ LOCAL 506
Over a six-pack strong in members, The Whiskey Smugglers play raucous barroom rock with fiddle and accordion accompaniment. "There's Hell on Wheels and Johnny Cash, and there's recreational bluegrass, and there's cowboy boots in the neon lights," sings Zach Terry on "Neon Religion." He compares himself to falling off the wagon for that country lifestyle, but as the saying goes, in vino veritas. The truth here is in having fun, carousing with friends. Husband-wife harmonic rockers The Pneurotics help round out the lineup for the Holiday Honky Tonk & Burlesque Show, with the ethereal folk of Gambling the Muse and dancing of Miss Mary Wanna waiting in the sleigh outside. $6/ 10 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
- Ghost to Falco
12.19 GHOST TO FALCO, INSPECTOR 22 @ NIGHTLIGHT
Portland's Ghost To Falco—functionally the solo project of songwriter Eric Crespo— is most often described with words evoking brokenness: disjointed, fragmented, elliptical. Crespo's music seems more fragile than anything, though. He hangs tones like threads of linen, loosely weaving together meandering melodies with gently moaned vocals. His Pacific Northwest locale reveals plenty to fans of, say, Phil Elverum or Tara Jane O'Neil, both of whom (like Crespo) render their songs with a demanding intimacy, as if the listener is being invited into a private thought. It's vulnerable and heart-swollen, yes, but—again—anything but broken. This is a release party for Ghost To Falco's third full-length, Exotic Believers. Inspector 22 opens. 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
12.19 REVOLUTIONARY SWEETHEARTS, STATIC MINDS @ SLIM'S
It's a birthday party for Erik Sugg, formerly of Dragstrip Syndicate and, these days, of the punchy, gritty four-piece rock outfit Static Minds. On this tripartite bill, the Minds follow Revolutionary Sweethearts, a trio led by the powerful voice of Brandy Tanner and the baritone guitar of Richard Flickinger. Tanner's songs most often concern confidence—to be an adult, to pursue something, to let something else go—and she fittingly sings to own them. The Julies, comprised of members of The Huguenots and Violet Vector & the Lovely Lovelies, headline with choice R&B and garage covers. $5/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
- The Devil Wears Prada
12.19 THE NAPALM & NOISE TOUR @ LINCOLN THEATRE
When you think about it, seeing metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada is a lot like working at Vogue (the inspiration for the 2003 novel, from which they take their name). You're surrounded by pussies who think they're badass, following a fashionable template that disguises their lack of creativity or individuality. You can almost hear them at the water cooler: "The way that ethereal, melodic wash of synth leads into that screech and bottom-heavy guitar breakdown is just like SOOOO brutal, I could die!" Not to be undone, melody-enhanced shredders All That Remains take their name from a '92 crime novel, defacing the legacies of Iron Maiden and Metallica so grievously that Law & Order's Sam Waterston could arrive at any moment for their perp walk. Haste the Day and Story of the Day open—sucks for them. $20-$22/ 7 p.m. —Chris Parker
FRIDAY, DEC. 18
From: Fairfax, Va.
Claim to fame: Putting the HORDE back in "Oh, do you really still exist?"
Remember leg warmers? Well, Emmet Swimming probably seemed like a good idea at the time, too. At least the heady smoke surrounding the shoulder-shimmying, hip-shaking jams made everyone more amenable. They work the groove like many Hacky-Sacked peers, but the torpor is not as deep, with occasional horns and surprising guitar bite to prevent the eyes from completely glazing. There's a touch of Americana in their soul, and at least the playing's tight. Singer Todd Watts' limber baritone arrives in lolling, HORDE-ready cadences. Hey, the spirit's willing, but this crocheted reggae cap won't make it. At THE BERKELEY CAFE. With Colourslide. $10-$12/ 9 p.m.
SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS
From: Chapel Hill
Claim to fame: Making jump blues and jazz swing hipster-friendly/ hipster-approved
Popular wisdom suggests the Zippers were unlikely pop stars, but one need only witness their onstage charisma and the wild, untamed charm of Jimbo Mathus contra Katherine Whalen's smoky elegance to appreciate the appeal. The timing was certainly right: Their retro fascinations were at once graceful and exotic against a backdrop of aggrieved slackers, heralding a whole new way to be punk in a world of ripped jeans and overripe Teen Spirit. Their sophistication may be unstudied and somewhat cheeky, but it taps a timeless vein with enough energy to displace your ass from its seat. At LINCOLN THEATRE. With Sol Driven Train and The Neverhads. $20-$22/ 9 p.m.
THE MAYFLIES USA
From: Chapel Hill
Claim to fame: Wonderfully smart, occasionally sinewy '60s and '70s-inspired indie pop
Certain aesthetics don't register with everyone. For every Beatles, there's a Can or Dead Boys whose appeal may be more limited, though there's genius aplenty there. The Mayflies won't be anthologized in the annals of underground rock or lamented like the passing of GBV, but I believe they're the most underappreciated Triangle act of the last two decades. Whether crashing Big Star into Television ("Ariel"), imagining the Raspberries strutting like the Hollies ("Can't Stop Watching") or seamlessly mixing garage, psych and baroque pop ("Sodium Pentathol"), they can transform a good hook into a killer tune. They are cool enough to ice the Zippers, no matter how Hot they got. At THE POUR HOUSE. With The Connells. $15-$18/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
12.16 BOBBY'S FEVER @ THE CAVE
Though the band is new, Bull City trio Bobby's Fever shouldn't be a band of strangers: Frontman Lars Endrigat (who calls himself Bobby Lars) is flanked by The Scaries' Ryan McKellar (Bobby Smellar) on drums and Future Kings of Nowhere and Resist Not! bassist Dan Streib (Bobby Streib). Given that pedigree, it should be no surprise that Bobby's Fever considers itself a pop-punk band—or at least a band that plays "loud, and always obnoxious, punk 'n' roll (with hints of angry pop)."
But unlike The Descendents or Samiam, Bobby's Fever is as prone to fury as it is to quirk—less Gilman Street, more Bull City Headquarters. The band plays with a mild surf influence, dipping into mid-tempo pop, too. Only then does it bring out the chugging power chords. There's an indebtedness to NOFX and the highlights of the Fat Wreck Chords catalog in its hooky irreverence. Tonight's openers, Ben Davis & The Jetts and Inspector 22, both arrive with great new albums on the merch table. $5/10 p.m. —Bryan Reed