Absu, Faith in Ashes
Anchored by the shape-shifting drums of lead singer and croaker Proscriptor, Absu, from Texas, has been at the fore of American black metal since the early '90s, when that field was mostly a barren plain and not an overpopulated borough. They've taken breaks, shifted members and even migrated among mythologies during their long run, but the thread that runs through Absu's oeuvre of pummel is, strangely, fun. No, this isn't sunshiny metal; it's dark, complicated, knotty stuff, with rhythms that slip around riffs as tight as pulled electrical wire. Absu plays it with endless oomph and energy, digging through rituals and symbols of ancient cultures with the eye of a scholar but the excitement of a neophyte. Their latest, 2011's Abzu, is neither their best nor their densest, but it races from start to finish, a reminder of how old bands returning to a place of relative, genre-specific popularity should behave. Sorry, Pixies. A reunited Faith in Ashes and Lesser Life open. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at The Maywood. $13–$17/9:30 p.m.
Cat Power (Solo)
The songs on Cat Power's Sun—her long-delayed and surprisingly inventive ninth album—don't lend themselves to solo shows. Recorded in parts with a lab of electronics and with her longtime rock band, the music relies on icy, modern effects and a sound pool far beyond the elements of classics such as Moon Pix or You Are Free; consider the trunk-filling bass and crisscrossed computer vocals of "Real Life," the snarled guitars and slingshot rhythms of "Silent Machine" or the 11-minute Iggy Pop duet "Nothin' But Time." Questions of whether or not Chan Marshall will erupt on stage notwithstanding, that material is the intriguing prospect of seeing her play alone in 2013: Can she turn the soul rattles of The Greatest and the contemporary sheen of Sun into the up-close, fraught confessionals of her early career, or will she dip back into her decades-old well? Sunday, Nov. 10, at Cat's Cradle. $25/9 p.m.
Sam Bush Band
Chris Thile might've been in one of the lone crossover bluegrass pop acts, and solo or with his Punch Brothers, he might've covered The White Stripes and Mclusky. But the wild-haired, big-grinning, sunglasses-on Sam Bush remains the mandolin's rock star, both in personality and approach. Sure, Bush works well as a bluegrass session player, a competent fundamentalist able to tone down his florid playing and quick picking. But he's at his best when his chosen crew is figuratively electrifying the form, taking bluegrass out of its cedar-lined closet and going a bit crazy. To wit, this show was originally scheduled for three days prior, but Bush and his band needed to reschedule after Taylor Swift asked him to back her at the CMA Awards, broadcast on ABC. Here's to Swift fans worldwide, tweeting about the strange fella flitting about with a mandolin. Saturday, Nov. 9, at The ArtsCenter. $30–$38/8 p.m.
The 26-year-old British singer, songwriter and actress Kate Nash has a problem of perception. On her first few albums, she was a new indie pop crush, her mix of sass and sweet buoyed by doo-wop, soul and vintage rock ease. "Kiss that Grrrl," the antagonistic but amicable single from 2010's My Best Friend Is You, epitomized that balance, painting her as a partner tough enough to dare you to be unfaithful. The new Girl Talk is stormier, with lyrics that brandish feminism like a weapon and arrangements that add riot grrrl inspirations to her general veil of likability. In effect, she sorts through her feelings and their forms in front of a live studio audience. That makes for an uneven but very interesting record, showing Nash is not a mere starlet but instead her own provocateur. And when the songs occasionally balance all those impulses, they're great. La Sera, the band of former Vivian Girl Katy Goodman, continues to best her previous act with chiming, churning rock tunes, big on emotional ambiguity and unambiguous choruses. Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Cat's Cradle. $15–$18/8 p.m.
Between new Superchunk and Polvo albums, wonderful records from relative upstarts such as William Tyler and Mikal Cronin and a new entry from quaint Canadian act The Arcade Fire, it's been an incredibly productive year for the little-local-label-that-could, Merge Records. You'd be forgiven for overlooking Beyond the Drone, the debut LP from accidental New Jersey duo Saint Rich, on Merge. Recorded when two members of intricate instro-funk band Delicate Steve got stranded by Hurricane Sandy and swapped instruments, these dozen songs are tempestuous blends of country-rock ease, power-pop spunk and recondite weirdness. Wistful, romantic and wonderful, Beyond the Drone is open-road music in the same way as Workingman's Dead and a set that deserves a special listen above the din. With Arrows Out. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Duke Coffeehouse. $5/9 p.m.
After a life-disrupting romantic break, John Vanderslice split with his longtime label, Dead Oceans, launched his own imprint and started over. The result is Dagger Beach, something of a return to Vanderslice's indulgence in unexpected sounds (cacophonous samples, oblong keys, wobbly guitars) and deviant structures. It's a harrowing but strangely reassuring record of bruised body but strong man. With Bent Shapes. Friday, Nov. 8, at Local 506. $13–$15/9 p.m.
Don't mind the soporific onomatopoeia that ends the name of young Alabama quartet Nightmare Boyzzz. Too excitable for sleep and too fetching to frighten, they craft concise blasts of sugar-sweet garage rock, suggesting Badfinger binging on caffeine pills and turning up. "Shivers," an acoustic single released midsummer, perfectly captures the addictive soul of their songs, but beware—their preferred mode is frothy bluster, and at that they excel. Monday, Nov. 11, at The Cave. Free/10 p.m.
Kopecky Family Band
Coed Nashville sextet Kopecky Family Band is a smart and agile aggregate of several musical trends of the last decade. Their debut LP, Kids Raising Kids, moves from nouveau blue-eyed soul to stomp-along rock grandeur, from curled and quiet ballads to pensive and sophisticated laments. Kopecky lingers somewhere in the Venn diagram that connects fans of Death Cab for Cutie and The Arcade Fire, Cults and The Decemberists, the binary, nonexclusive fantasy of the Paste magazine faithful. Friday, Nov. 8, at Motorco. $10–$12/9 p.m.
Marco Benevento is an incredible instrumentalist, sure, whether doling out long boogie-woogie runs on the piano or sculpting panoramic sound with synthesizers or organs. His collaborations with members of Phish and his role in Garage A Trois are testaments to that dexterity. But Benevento is at his best when he's using those skills inside of his own great songs, especially the ones that suggest the grandeur of The Flaming Lips transposed for a keyboard jazz band. Last year's TigerStyle is warm and theatrical, stringing expert skills into inescapable anthems. With Jonathan Scales Fourchestra and Octopus Jones. Friday, Nov. 8, at Pour House. $12–$15/9:30 p.m.
The Quiet American
The new LP from The Quiet American, the husband-and-wife duo of Aaron and Nicole Keim, is called Wild Bill Jones. It turns the classic folk song about a bad cad brought to his death into a ponderous and empathetic song cycle, using gospel standards and old ballads and tender originals. The most pleasant surprise, though, comes when they sweetly sing Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End." Like The Handsome Family before them, the pair proclaims that the best keepers of traditional music know it is an extant continuum. Friday, Nov. 8, at The ArtsCenter. $8–$16/8 p.m.
The Head and The Heart
It's difficult to listen to
Between the release of their third LP in 2010 and this year's Antiphon, Texas band Midlake has recorded an album and scrapped it, parted with its frontman, reconfigured its lineup and sound, recorded another new album, linked with Dave Matthews' ATO Records and finally released something. Antiphon's heightened textural sensibilities and livewires of tension make it the most interesting Midlake album yet, but it sounds understandably transitional, too, the work of a band finally moving toward art rock of their own. Maybe give them a bit more time. With Nicole Atkins. MONDAY, NOV. 11, AT CAT'S CRADLE. $12–$14/9 p.m.