Faking the Wisdom is the fourth album by Raleigh rock band Goner, and it is incontrovertibly their best. In the past, Goner's game was that they were a power trio without a guitar, and they treated their albums like expositions of their strength, pounding away to Scott Phillips' studies of the dejected like former nerds flexing at the gym. It worked, and Goner has made three very good records in just over a decade. The new one doesn't forsake that central quality so much as push beyond it; there are still three-piece bruisers, including the impatient "Victory Girl" and the skies-wide-open "River Town." But there's texture now—horns that lace behind the keys, percussion that teases the meter, harmonies that do more than emphasize. Goner has tested the limits of its power and found more, turning in a 10-song set that suggests these three guys (now all past 40) will never get old, no matter how studied, wise and bittersweet Phillips' observations may become. With Jo Gore & the Alternative and Derek Torres. Friday, May 17, at Kings. $5–$7/10 p.m.
It's not exactly novel to call a Ghostface Killah record vicious: From his drug talk to his sex jokes, from his grand self-mythologizing to his complex character constructions, Ghostface Killah's albums have generally arrived fierce and focused, like back-alley shakedowns. But as the title implies, 12 Reasons to Die—Ghostface's new full-length collaboration with composer Adrian Younge—is a musical bloodbath, where ex-lovers die in crimes of passion and enemies meet their ends in simple assaults or gruesome abattoir scenarios. Rather than echo the sentiment with the music, these tunes slither through restless drums and distant guitars, ominous piano and fist-to-chest organ. Live, Ghostface shows can tread toward orgies; perhaps with Younge's Venice Dawn in the support role, he'll get through some of this stunning material before the eruption. With Supastition. Thursday, May 16, at Cat's Cradle. $20–$23/9:30 p.m.
Ghosts Go Blind, the third album from Texas band Ola Podrida, alternately drifts like The Clientele, recoils like The National and jangles like the dB's. Those references mark a hard departure for David Wingo, the band's principal and a songwriter more associated for his score work with the films of David Gordon Green than his updates of then-and-now indie rock. But Ghosts Go Blind is a crisp, romantic effort: Harmonies push Wingo's lucid feelings into fantasies, though subdued, deliberate arrangements pull them back toward Earth, where they glow as though lit by the golden hour of the setting sun. With Old Quarter. Wednesday, May 22, at Local 506. $8–$10/9 p.m.
Despite the presence of a 71-second harmonica ripper titled "Food Fight!" and a handful of refrains that can't be repressed, Local Business, the third LP by grand New Jersey insurgents Titus Andronicus, occasionally feels as stiff as the advice of an overbearing parent. The band's more polished than they've ever been, resurfacing their late Crazy Horse instability with texture and balance. Meanwhile, frontman Patrick Stickles seems dismissive and defensive, placing blame without seeming to take very much himself. But Titus Andronicus live has always been a bit of a religious experience: Stickles delivers the tales and trouble of his life with a zeal that's as much Pentecostal as punk. Out of the studio and off of the record, don't expect that familiar rush to be gone: For years, Titus Andronicus has wrestled its demons onstage nightly, and the battle's long been magnetic, no matter the specific victor. With So So Glos and Pink Flag. Friday, May 17, at Motorco. $10–$12/9 p.m.
The Bee Ball
The Bee Ball isn't only a concert; it's the staple annual fundraiser for The Beehive Collective, a fundraising organization that aggregates a small yearly tithing from its members and funnels it to causes in need. The prom-like party will feature a court of local folks of note for whom you can vote, a late-night dance party amped by DJ Jenilla Ice and a photo booth. It's also a chance to see the irrepressible Countdown Quartet, the uproarious jazz outfit that officially broke up years ago but reunites often enough to serve delight by the song and the solo at events such as this. Their appearance—and the Bee Ball's fifth anniversary, for that matter—seems even more important following the recent news that the Berkeley Cafe, which has fostered area institutions including The Countdown since 1980, will shutter its large music room this summer. Saturday, May 18, at Berkeley Cafe. $10/8 p.m.
Once known as Pure Ecstasy, the Texas trio now called Pure X continue to bait with their rave-promising name but switch with their muted and distant tunes. Like a sun-warped country record played through broken speakers, Pure X uses its songs as only the starting point of emotional expression. They say as much with how these tunes are played—vocals that drown in their own effects, guitars that build only to break, rhythms that would consider a canter a curse—as with the tunes themselves. It's fragile, immersive stuff, better lived in than listened to. Friday, May 17, at Local 506. $8–$10/8:30 p.m.
Solas, Kenny Roby
On the Lawn, the long-running series presented by WUNC 91.5 FM and the American Tobacco Campus, used to be a weekly series that spanned from spring through September. This year, they've moved to the lawn in front of the Durham Performing Arts Center and limited the dates to four larger bills. Celtic traditionalists Solas headline this first night, transitioning from wide-eyed ballads to spry fiddle-heavy numbers. Kenny Roby—the former alt-country bandleader who recently released the very nuanced and crafty Memories & Birds—opens. Friday, May 17, at Diamond View Park. Free/6 p.m.
Barleycorn & Rye
Fitting for a band whose name includes two common components of alcohol production, area string band Barleycorn & Rye thrives on wide-eyed, inhibitions-expunged enthusiasm. Switching between old American standbys and recognizable Irish standards, the four- to sometimes-six-piece bustles through these tunes, shouting out the refrains not as proclamations but as invitations to hop right in. Saturday, May 18, at Saxapahaw Rivermill. Free/6 p.m.
More for the Masses, the sophomore LP from Michigan garage shut-ins People's Temple, finds them scaling back slightly on the psychedelic tendencies of their past. Instead, it delivers 14 cuts that could be modified with prefixes such as "proto" or "ante-"; this is atavistic rock, where the connection to howling blues and darkened folk hangs like a knotty and frayed string, daring someone to cut them loose. That's exactly what the band does on its wildest and best moments, when they suggest a box of Nuggets set free. Thursday, May 16, at The Cave. $5/10 p.m.
Demon Eye, Church of Zann
Raleigh's Demon Eye and Durham's Church of Zann offer a biotic debate about the definition of classic metal. Church of Zann mixes the pirouetting riffs of NWOBHM with the blitzes of its malevolent spawn, thrash, coupling it with vocals that sometimes get as tough as classic death metal. Demon Eye reaches back further, though, grooving over perfectly thick riffs and spiraling solos like Black Sabbath in all their early glory. Saturday, May 18, at The Cave. $5/10 p.m.
!!! or Chk Chk Chk or The Band With the Exclamation Marks certainly deserves credit for helping to broaden indie rock's palette; in 2004, when they released the great Louden Up Now, their lush disco dance rock seemed extravagant and even a little alien. But the borders have shifted, while !!! really hasn't. Their cleverly named THR!!!ER seems like an afterthought in a landscape of college rock kids used to dancing, or at least watching people dance. This funk has gone cold. With Sinkane. Sunday, May 19, at Motorco. $14–$16/9 p.m.
Stanley Jordan, Kevin Eubanks
If it's résumés you're seeking, the double bill of jazz guitarists Stanley Jordan and Kevin Eubanks has you covered, from late-night television musical chairs to luminaries with whom they've collaborated. But if you're looking for much more than a retread of jazz clichés and, more than likely, an ostentatious display of Jordan's famed tapping technique, this might not be your gig. Friday, May 17, at Carolina Theatre. $32–$58/8 p.m.