First Avenue

In his 2006 single, "Chinese Translation," M. Ward asked, "What do you do with the pieces of a broken heart?" And through his collaborative album with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him and his recent Hold Time release, it appears that surrounding yourself with the best friends you can find seems to be the answer to the question. Though the physical presence of Hold Time's contributors—DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman, Lucinda Williams, Grandaddy's Jason Lytle—might not be represented when Ward returns to the Twin Cities, the spirit of the music remains intact through Ward's talented touring band. Generally well-suited for smaller venues, Ward's songs are gentle in nature, with his voice rarely raising above a calculated purr, but in keeping with the theme of the album, the more friends the merrier, and hopefully the crowd at this show's larger venue responds by helping Ward mend that broken heart. With the Watson Twins. 18+. $16/$18 at the door. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Chris DeLine

SUNDAY 4.26

Neko Case

State Theatre

Mercurial Rage take part in the fashionista fun fest at Voltage
Nicholas Marshall Photography
Mercurial Rage take part in the fashionista fun fest at Voltage

Neko Case's animal instincts are all over her new album, Middle Cyclone, much as they were on 2006's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. It's almost as if each track were doused in a bestiary of feral scents, her siren's voice purring and howling with the grace of an Appalachian cougar (on whose automotive equivalent she crouches in the cover photo) while she assumes the identity of a succession of critters. The orca on "People Got a Lotta Nerve" sings a lethally catchy chorus: "I'm a man, man, man eater" (leaving potential lovers quavering in their boots), her phrasing as tart as Paul Rigby's McGuinn-like ringing guitar. Case also channels an elephant and a magpie before simply declaring, "I'm an animal," giving in to her primal tendencies, which subsequently surface in a different form on the noirish nightmare "Prison Girls." On "This Tornado Loves You," meanwhile, she morphs into an amorous whirlwind turned deadly by desire. Natural forces carve Case's songs as surely as they did the Grand Canyon, leaving spectacular erosion behind, Case grappling with urges and sounds both alluring and dangerous. Often sounding like a 21st-century Patsy Cline, she doesn't fall to pieces, but arranges them in unsettling patterns, caressed by her resilient voice, her whip-smart band weaving elegant Americana textures. Crooked Fingers, essentially the alter ego of former Archer of Loaf and frequent Case associate Eric Bachmann, will open. All ages. $29.50. 7:30 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Rick Mason

MONDAY 4.27

Nanci Griffith

Guthrie Theatre

Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, and Larry McMurtry have been as influential on Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith as Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, and Johnny Cash. Straddling the line between country and folk, occasionally straying into pop, her best albums, including the early classics on Philo, tend to be plotted like novels, and her best songs, including the Kathy Mattea hit "Love at the Five and Dime," have the character development and vivid details of short stories. And she's a fine interpreter of others' songs. Her version of Julie Gold's "From a Distance" far outstripped Bette Midler's. On her last album, 2006's string-slathered Ruby's Torch, Griffith played the torch singer to the hilt. Now she arrives at the Guthrie a couple of months before her 19th album, The Loving Kind, hits the streets. The advance word is that the collection is dominated by originals, and many are political and factually based. One, "Not Innocent Enough," deals with the execution of a convicted murderer despite new evidence proving his innocence. The title track, already making its rounds on the internet, is about interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving, whose 1960s marriage ran afoul of Virginia law, leading to a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. All ages. $38.50. 7:30 p.m. 818 South Second St., Minneapolis; 612.377.2224. —Rick Mason

TUESDAY 4.28

Franz Ferdinand

First Avenue

Somewhere between the release of 2004's self-titled debut and Tonight..., Glasgow, Scotland's Franz Ferdinand made the decision—whether consciously or not—to steer away from the bisexual dance-rock pop that defined them early on. Thank god for that; as much fun as "Take Me Out" was at the time, the band's Joseph K./Interpol/Strokes-inspired cad pop came with a short shelf life. On Tonight..., a residual boys-will-be-boys rudeness and Studio 54-ish melodic touches remain in play, but the album is grounded by introspective, Beatles-esque passages, a rueful vibe, and an underlying rhythmic weight that invites you to shake your stuff under hot lights without demanding that you do so. It's the sound of assholes trying their hardest to grow up without growing dull, and it may be Franz Ferdinand at their best. With Born Ruffians. 18+. $30. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Ray Cummings

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