The mostly instrumental musings of Delicate Steve—the quixotic concern of guitar ripper Steve Marion—have forever been united by extreme senses of curiosity and possibility. Where most people might hear a simple slide guitar line, Marion might hear the basis for lithe, light funk squiggle. Where any guitarist less wide-eyed might hear an unresolved neon guitar fragment, Marion might hear the anchor of strangely cuddly noise, with piano chords and wordless vocals shaping a mattress for his thin electric leads.
So when a weekend of New Jersey floods separated Marion and Delicate Steve's other guitarist, Christian Peslak, from the rest of the band for what was meant to be a long rehearsal, they used it as an excuse to start a new band rather than a reason to waste away on the couch. Beyond the Drone, which finds Marion mostly on drums and Peslak taking the lead, is a compulsively eclectic pop-country-rock record, where bracing jangles such as "Crying From the Road" sidle up to Sloan-like power-pop bursts like "Young Vultures." There's wistful drift and serrated stomp, collage-like curios and heel-kicking country. Most of all, there's the wondrous sense that, so long as these two are making music, anything could happen in the service of sound. With Wool. Sunday, Oct. 6, at The Pinhook. $8/8 p.m.
Before the release of his third album, Obsidian, in May, Will Wiesenfeld could have been called the producer behind Baths, a project of glowing, glitch-driven hymns meant in part for dance-floor revelry and a headphone perch. But Obsidian reveals a great synthesis of Wiesenfeld's roles as singer, songwriter, producer and arranger. Gorgeous and thoughtful beats are laced by serpentine piano and prismatic strings but topped by confessional tunes about a fear of aging, an aversion to commitment and the general paralysis of seeing adulthood not on the horizon but on the pillow next to you each morning. Baths used to fit close to the rank-and-file masses of laptop beatmakers; Obsidian, however, finds him pairing risk with reward in tunes that don't dance past his worries but instead examine and endure them, however depressive and dark the prospect may be. Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Kings. $12–$14/8:30 p.m.
The Dirty Projectors, Future Islands
Though they both fall within the ever-so-lumpy realm of indie rock, the most direct thread between the intricate math-soul-rock of The Dirty Projects and electronic pleaders Future Islands is intensity. With the Projectors, look for it in the arrangements, where the complicated vocals slip in and out of the cracks in Dave Longstreth's guitar calculus, lines leaping around each other in great bursts and bolts. With Future Islands, look no further than the brow of Sam Herring, which becomes a terrain map of engorged blood vessels and sweaty streams. He's the cartographer of his own melodrama, then, a frontman who documents his own misery so that you and he can have company in it. This is a presentation of the Carolina Union Activities Board, but everyone's invited. Saturday, Oct. 5, at Memorial Hall. $15–$35/8 p.m.
Charmer, the most recent album from singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, continues her unwavering streak of poignant character studies in song. Above warm analog synthesizers and along slivering electric leads, she analyzes winkers and leaders and the folks who follow. Her weaponized monotone puts each subject at a cool distance, giving each tune the feeling of a chapter that's been thoroughly researched and fairly reported. Mann remains one of music's sharpest pair of eyes. Speaking of charmers, bounding, pointed pop-punk dude Ted Leo opens with a solo set. Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Haw River Ballroom. $25/7:30 p.m.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
For all the tales of bands that stumbled prematurely into overwhelming onslaughts of publicity and promotion thanks to the turbocharged buzz cycle of the Internet, the story of Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a fortunate foil. Indeed, in the last three years, UMO has gone from a mysterious band with one uncredited song online to a fully formed act that released its second album of eccentric soul on one of the best indie labels of the land. Issued by Jagjaguwar in February, II delivers less of the instantaneous hooks than its self-titled predecessor. But its restraint and mood supplant the need for immediacy. The music feels like the glow of a springtime Saturday spent lost with a stack of records and a few friends, all caught in a haze too pleasant to leave. Even at its bass-thump busiest, II feels unplugged and preternaturally at ease, bleary eyes directed forever to the distance. With Jackson Scott. Sunday, Oct. 6, at Cat's Cradle. $12–$14/9 p.m.
Skipping between walloping pop and psychedelic strangeness, boogie-woogie blasts and garage-bound bruisers, the new 24-song Mole City proves that, even after two decades, Quasi is still giddy about the rock music they make. Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes have long taken second seat to their more famous projects or friends, but Quasi keeps on, bound and determined to plunder every reach of rock 'n' roll in a quarter-century. With Jeffrey Lewis and Stems. Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Local 506. $12–$15/8:30 p.m.
Airstrip, Lonnie Walker
A few years ago, local music fans, myself included, would've sworn that people across the country would by now be singing the songs of Brian Corum and Matthew Park, respectively the leaders of Lonnie Walker and Veelee. But Lonnie Walker stalled on its second album, hit the skids and has returned reborn, playing shows with an emphasis that recalls the moment just after they first arrived in Raleigh. Park's Veelee broke up, but he's applied its hook-based drive to Airstrip, a pop act not afraid to let you feel the frustration written into Park's words. The band has a new lineup, too. Sunday, Oct. 6, at The Cave. $7/9 p.m.
OXYxMORON, Kooley High
Eked out under the quiet cover of Bandcamp late last year, The Woods—the debut LP from South Carolina crew OXYxMORON—is an 80-minute hip-hop rejuvenation. Guileless and kind, these guys rap about their grandmothers and their gods, ecstatically addressing the woes and wonder of their real lives rather than the ecstasy they take in some imagined alternative universe. These are the soul-sampling, sweet-faced Carolina acolytes to the Little Brother lineage, even if surprisingly few have noticed. They open the bill with kindred realism traffickers Kooley High and hard-edged Durham emcee Kourvioisier. Friday, Oct. 4, at Kings. $12/10 p.m.
Gap Dream, Together Pangea
A traveling showcase for addled-and-scattered California label Burger Records, this three-band bill surveys the imprint's aims well. Headliners Gap Dream tweak their rhythms and riffs until their rock songs suggest proper burners refracted through a pool of malt liquor, drifting at the threshold of torpor. Los Angeles' Together Pangea charge through charming little tantrums, which offset sour worldviews with simply sweet songs. Cosmonauts, who open, put taut, postpunk drums beneath a mounting gray cloud of electric guitars, like Spacemen 3 cruising for a street fight. Monday, Oct. 7, at Duke Coffeehouse. $5/9 p.m.
During the last two decades, Elf Power—the forever-fluctuating project of Athens, Ga., songwriter Andrew Rieger—has settled into its sound, gradually limiting the number of accessories, tangents and flourishes seemingly required by the laws of its Elephant 6 pals. The new Sunlight on the Moon, for instance, is a direct and deliberate rock album, where plaintive, straightforward songs seem to rupture the space in which they're recorded. The tunes become the instrument, then, not an unnecessarily ornate bird's nest of them. With Organos and The Wigg Report. Saturday, Oct. 5, at The Pinhook. $8/10 p.m.
Dent May arrived in 2009 with a record of bright pop songs, built around the twee trend-piece of the ukulele but spotlighting strong senses of both melody and mischief. Since, though, he's upped both the garage-rock and electronic elements of his music, kowtowing to the times and making his already stiff delivery that much more impractical and unflattering. Last year's Warm Blanket felt rather like a wet blanket, built with the kind of white dude would-be hits meant to start parties but bound to stop them. With Dead Gaze. Sunday, Oct. 6, at Duke Coffeehouse. $5/9 p.m.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Here's a band that still exists: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club charges on after falling out of major-label graces and, more crucially, after younger and better bands have taken the various pieces of their sound—shoegaze and psych rock, hard country and Britpop balladry—and reinvigorated them. This year's Specter at the Feast actually has some decent songs, especially when it slows down, but like most of BRMC's catalog, it's so impregnably and self-conciously cool that it's unapproachable. With Restavrant. Saturday, Oct. 5, at Cat's Cradle. $22–$25/9 p.m.