Critics' Picks: Mika and more



First Avenue

If you took a hot air balloon and covered it in spun sugar and candy sprinkles, would it still be able to carry you and your favorite stuffed animal to Oz? Or would it instead transport you to Planet Mika, an even more fantastical place where a wide-eyed Brit with Freddie Mercury's voice invites you to ride down a rainbow slide? The Technicolor aerobics-pop soundtrack for your adventures there will be 2007's Life in Cartoon Motion, a joyous record that the grumpy grownups at Pitchfork rated an extremely hostile 1.5. Well, not everyone can get to Planet Mika with an air-filled balloon—some may need nitrous. All ages. $25. 6:00 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Sarah Askari

Will Hoge & Jason Isbell

Candian special export Basia Bulat
Bobby Bulat
Candian special export Basia Bulat

Varsity Theater

This pair of superlative Southern singer-songwriters revel in whiskey-soaked Americana angst, their music laced with stray elements of Southern rock, country, and the classic soul/R&B/blues hybrid that lurks in places like Memphis and Muscle Shoals. The Nashville-based Hoge played with former Georgia Satellite Dan Baird for a time and had a dead-end contract with Atlantic. But he honed his grit-flecked, soulful drawl and songwriting skills on the bar circuit. Last fall, he issued Draw the Curtains (Ryko), which runs the gamut from fiddle-tinged ballads to full-tilt rocker reminiscent of Skynyrd with the lyrical muscularity of Springsteen or Petty. Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell reprises his local November visit, still touting his fine solo debut, Sirens of the Ditch (New West), full of his own Southern-fried soul and demons. 18+. $15. 7:00 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Rick Mason



7th St. Entry

As we suffer through the miserable February deep freeze, a little aural reminder of the hotter latitudes of the world might help. Brooklyn's ambitious and expansive Yeasayer have places beyond this continent in mind. Unashamedly melodramatic, they have the globe-trotting sense of grandeur of Peter Gabriel or (I swear!) Kate Bush (more responsible critics would mention Byrne & Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts). Their songs are crammed full of a dozen things at once—ringing guitars, synth bombast, close-harmony singing, that a bit of an Amen break peeking out of "Sunrise"? What keeps the whole thing from collapsing—and earns them continued press-hype as "Afro-pop"—is a jones for solid rhythms. The content may be bleak, but music that moves this well can't help but bring a sense of uplift and escape. Fellow Brooklynites MGMT play hazy, sun-dappled psychedelic synth-pop. Winter, schminter! Sold out. 8:00 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Geoff Cannon


Daniel Johnston

First Avenue

Yo La Tengo collaborated with him; the late Kurt Cobain threw him all sorts of authenticity props; members of Sonic Youth rescued him on the streets of New York City during a psychological episode; Jeff Feuerzeig patched together a 2005 indie-film-circuit documentary about him. Bipolar and crushingly naive, 47-year-old Daniel Johnston is the sort of underground pop songwriter who's perpetually doomed to niche underground adoration—no matter how many new albums and best-of comps are issued or how many mainstream admirers (Beck, Kimya Dawson, Wilco, Pearl Jam, etc.) cover his tunes or insert them into films. His child-like flights of fancy and romantic distress signals come equipped with a precociously high-pitched, zig-zag-ouch singing style that brings to mind Half Japanese's Jad Fair—another minor countercultural figure soldiering valiantly on in the impassive face of total commercial indifference. Forget Ron Paul—Johnston needs and deserves your monetary vote; the dude lives with his parents in Texas. Let's all chip in and help save a career headed for footnote status, right below Eugene Kelly. 18+. $15. 8:00 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Ray Cummings

Baby Dee

Bryant Lake Bowl Theater

Ah, the church organ. What sinister power drives its practitioners to such arcane, Byzantine lives? If you were to make case studies of Anton LaVey and Baby Dee, you would find a shared ancestry of church organs, circus sideshows, and marketable stage names. But oh, how that road did fork, leading the former to the demonic theremin and the latter to the heavenly harp. With a taste for the bizarre that could only be rivaled by ol' Grampa Satan himself, Baby Dee has found herself riding a 30-year career of unlikely collaborations, most recently with that dark prince of partying, Andrew W.K., who plays bass on her haunting 2008 release, Safe Inside The Day. For those seeking further comparative data: Baby Dee's instrument has a dizzying 47 strings to master. LaVey's precious theremin? Not a one. Plus, he's been dead for 10 years. Baby Dee 2, Satan 0. With Dreamland Faces. $12. 9:30 p.m. 810 West Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.825.3737. —David Hansen


Luke's Angels CD-release show

Hexagon Bar

In an age where two-pieces strive to sound like three, this Minneapolis trio brings the lush luster of a quintet with the greatest of ease. Is that upping the ante, or just preserving a proportion? Who the hell cares, Poindexter? Luke's Angels' new disc, hot off of local mix-master Jacques Wait's boards, is sleek and shiny enough for anyone looking for more of the head-bobbing listenability that the long-defunct Breeders can no longer supply. Sisters Jennie and Melissa Kalpin weave their frictionless harmonies as if from a satin loom, while Nick Hook lays on enough syncopated hi-hat to make the metronomic, Petty-esque guitar lines excellent dance floor material. Always willing to grind into a good power chord and the occasional screamy hook, they manage a sound that's at once potent and professional. Know thy basics, and keep them holy: Luke's Angels have this 11th commandment well in hand. With Birds of Virginia, Deep Pool, and the Wild Animals. 9 p.m. 2600 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.722.3454. —David Hanson

Basia Bulat

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