Amos Lee, the Bangles, Apples in Stereo: Critics' Picks

WEDNESDAY 4.28

Amos Lee

Varsity Theater

Mixing together R&B and folk influences, former elementary school teacher Amos Lee has a soulful voice and plaintive songwriting style that conjure the likes of Bill Withers and James Taylor. The Philadelphia native's thoughtful, easy-listening brand of music has seen him collaborate with kindred spirit and Blue Note stable-mate Norah Jones and tour with legends Bob Dylan and John Prine. In fact, while Lee's smooth, husky vocals and simple, jazzy arrangements place him comfortably in the world of coffeehouse soul, he also displays a knack for exploring evocative, socially conscious realms with a true author's touch; songs like "Careless" and "Night Train" find him in the same tradition as his folk heroes. Such a balance has allowed the singer to make a lasting impression and earn a devoted following that remains strong five years after his debut: Even though Lee hasn't released an album since 2008's Last Days at the Lodge, his show at the Varsity sold out weeks ago. With Tift Merritt. 18+. $28. 7 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. Jeff Gage

THURSDAY 4.29

The Bangles

Fine Line Music Café

Although the Bangles are mostly associated with the 1980s, when their irresistible songs leapt out of the radio, their sound was largely derived from the '60s. Jangly guitars, heady vocal harmonies inspired by the likes of the Mamas and the Papas, quasi-psychedelic garage arrangements, a serious infatuation with all Brit invasion things, and incredible hooks the size of T-Rex (dinosaur and band alike) all helped the quartet lead the power-pop parade. Band members wrote their share of nuggets, but many of the Bangles' signature tunes were written by others: Kimberly Rew's Beatles-obsessed "Going Down to Liverpool," Prince's "Manic Monday," Liam Sternberg's "Walk Like an Egyptian," plus sharp covers of Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter," Alex Chilton's "September Gurl," and Jules Shear's "If She Knew What She Wants." The Bangles' prime was relatively short-lived, the band messily disintegrating before the end of the decade. But the group reconvened late in the '90s with all hands on deck: Susanna Hoffs, Debbie and Vicki Peterson, and Michael Steele, although Steele eventually retired, bass currently being covered Abby Travis. The group issued a live hit-laden DVD, and a new album, Doll Revolution, came out to middling reviews in 2003, but not much else amid talk of new projects. The Bangles were very much a band of the moment, and they recreate that moment with joy and exuberance. With Sick of Sarah. 21+. $25/$27 at the door. 7 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Rick Mason

FRIDAY 4.30

The Business

Triple Rock

The guys in the Business don't care about your haircut. They don't care about posing, the scene, or being hip—that stuff just takes time away from the important things like soccer and rock 'n' roll. When punk in England started veering too close to "art," the Business (and other working-class kids with guitars) set out to drag it back down to reality, proudly wearing blue collars soaked in the blood and beer of football riots. Their approach remains simple: take bits of punk, pub rock, and stadium chants and turn them into anthems about the everyday struggle at the docks, in the bars, and on the streets. Punk rock has gone through countless changes since the Business formed, but they've never stopped making the kind of no-nonsense, no-frills fight music that they started with over 30 years ago (they've even released a new EP). True to form for such a band, the Business are still lacing up their Doc Martens, still rowdy, and still doing their job. With the Hollowpoints. 18+. $12/$14 at the door. 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. Ian Traas

SATURDAY 5.1

The Apples in Stereo

Turf Club

Sunny psych-pop indie stalwarts the Apples in Stereo started off as one of the leading lights in the famed Elephant 6 recording collective, which in its mid-'90s heyday also boasted the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel and the Olivia Tremor Control and later gave rise to Of Montreal. Having gone to high school with Jeff Mangum and William Cullen Hart, the Apples' prolific, endearingly nerdy leader, Robert Schneider, has long shared a love for the jangling rock of the Beatles and the Zombies with his old cohorts, splicing it with dancy electronic bleeps and bloops, which makes for a fun, often whimsical listening experience. On the band's last album, 2007's catchy New Magnetic Wonder, Schneider concocted an elaborate tuning system that he referred to as the "Non-Pythagorean Music Scale," but on the Apples' new release, he keeps things simple: The funky beats on Travellers in Space and Time are straight-up four on the floor. With Generationals and Laminated Cat. 21+. $15. 8 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Jeff Gage

Los Campesinos!

First Avenue

Wales seven-piece Los Campesinos! jam-pack about as much youthful exuberance as you can imagine into their shambling indie rock. Shouting more than singing over the rest of his band, frontman Gareth Campesinos helped characterize the brash, playful demeanor of their debut, Hold on Now, Youngster, with his clever, snarling vocals, which were transformed into jubilant sing-alongs at virtually every opportunity. Barely six months later came We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, which followed the now-familiar path of the "dark" sophomore album; while the rest of his Campesinos! remained as frantic as ever, Gareth slipped into a self-absorbed, world-weary funk, the combination making for a desperate-sounding state of affairs. Three years on from their initial, sunny blast into stardom, the band cut down on shouting and wordplay on Romance Is Boring while smoothing out the edges of their signature sound. Rest assured, though: These Brits haven't grown up so much as they've learned to pace themselves. 18+. $12. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8388. —Jeff Gage

Shelby Lynne

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