WEDNESDAY 9.8

Billy Bragg

Cedar Cultural Center

Though his Old Left politics, Essex accent, and tenderly scrappy guitar have obscured the fact, Billy Bragg would probably be Daryl Hall if he could be. The romance of his more enduring songs—"A New England," "Between the Wars," "Greetings to the New Brunette," "The Passion," "Sexuality," and the live-acoustic version of "England, Half-English"—has something to do with soul, if only because the tunes require considerable vocal strength (try singing one) and conspicuous feeling, whatever their good humor or folk aspirations. His '00s albums have seemed less vital, but anyone doubting his optimism on the recent "2moro" wasn't paying attention: Bragg has stayed active in every sense, playing for American labor unions across the river from the Republican Convention in St. Paul; founding Jail Guitar Doors, a UK prisoner rehabilitation program based around music (and named for the Clash song); writing a book (The Progressive Patriot); and starring in this year's London play Pressure Drop, for which he wrote and performed songs that he has also made available for free on his website. He's one of the good guys, and in peak form. $25/$28 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. Peter S. Scholtes

THURSDAY 9.9

Muja Messiah Mixtape Release

7th St. Entry

Has the era of no money and free music liberated something in local rap? Muja Messiah has never sounded funnier, looser, or more sandpapery-clear than on M-16's, a kitchen-sink mixtape that's all highlights, hosted by DJ Turtleneck and Peter Parker. True to his conflicted Minneapolis instincts, Mu can shake neither his irresponsible streak nor his motormouth social conscience—and loves rhyming too much either way to care. So we get the local-reference-clogged "Leech Lake," the X-rated LOL "Pussy Galore," a hustler's free association titled "Sara Jane Olson," the best Christmas rap since Snoop, a blazing hook sung by M.anifest ("Live 2 Die Another Day"), and memorable appearances by P.O.S., Real Spit Ric, Maria Isa, and others over beats ranging from MGMT to Nas. Live, his cross-section runs as deep: DJ Turtleneck, I Self Devine, Black Blondie, Dodi Phy, and DJ Benzilla will join his for his mixtape release show. 18+. $6. 8 p.m. 701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Peter S. Scholtes

Cowboy Mouth

Varsity Theater

The New Orleans quartet Cowboy Mouth claims lofty origins, proclaiming that the term adopted for its name was used by Shakespeare (Will presumably, although Robbie is a possibility), Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Sam Shepard. The Mouthqueteers themselves come from more humble roots: Crescent City rock bands such as the Back Beats, Dash Rip Rock, and the Red Rockers (which did have a national hit with "China"). And their music is endearingly proletarian, mostly tapping '70s and '80s mainstream rock elements, while Fred LeBlanc, the drummer/lead singer who writes most of the band's originals, sticks with easy hooks and gut sentiments: "Tell the Girl Ur Sorry," "I love your belly," "Kelly Ripa, if she were a lollipop I'd lick her." Delivered with nary a hint of irony but ample, full-throttle rock 'n' roll spirit, such is the stuff that has earned Cowboy Mouth a cult following even in these frigid climes. The band has also made a habit of singing the national anthem for various teams around the country, allegedly including the Vikings at one point. And there is a sports connection at this gig—when CM finishes its regular set, the Saints-Vikings game, which will be in progress, will be shown on a big screen TV. The band may follow the game with another set "if the crowd is into it," according to CM's manager. 18+. $21/$23 at the door. 7 p.m. 1308 4th St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Rick Mason

FRIDAY 9.10

Marina and the Diamonds

Triple Rock Social Club

It's another one of those pop paradoxes. The Thompson Twins weren't siblings at all, and there was no Marshall Tucker in the Marshall Tucker Band. Similarly, the "Diamonds" in Marina and the Diamonds are not the Welsh singer's backing band. But they do exist. It's the fans, you see, who are the Diamonds. Derived from Marina's last name, Diamandis, which is Greek for "diamonds," it just came together rather naturally. "It wasn't very calculated," she says. "When I made it up about four or five years ago . . . I didn't want to be perceived as a solo artist like a big pop star. I wanted to create something that involved people and didn't make anyone feel excluded." Her debut album, The Family Jewels, was top-five in the U.K. this past spring, and contained the top-20 hit "Hollywood," a catchy but sort of odd song. "It was written two and a half years ago, way before I got signed," she explains. "It's funny because I wouldn't describe my relationship with America as love or hate. Anything that has an element of illusion naturally fascinates people. I absolutely love America. The Diamonds there are the best!" With openers Young the Giant. 18+. $13/$15 at the door. 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. P.F. Wilson

SATURDAY 9.11

Ratatat

First Avenue

Evan Mast (programming/various instruments) and Mike Stroud (guitar) make up Ratatat, a Brooklyn duo that shades the shape in the middle of the Venn diagram of dance, arena rock, hip-hop, and dub with nuanced and witty instrumental pop. With a sound musical footing, good songwriting, and a sly sense of humor, they construct playful, evocative instrumental pieces that are real songs with real catchiness, the perfect soundtrack for a drunken fog, acid trip, or even bill-paying. (Stoners, lushes, and people just high on America rack up hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits on their hilariously disturbing video clips.) Their wondrously eclectic new release, LP4, runs the gamut from the Perrey-and-Kingsley-in-Bombay tinged Bob Gandhi, to the chillout-talkbox funk of Mandy, to the chunky, jubilant Neckbrace, with its thick beats, clip-clopping wordless vocals, and sound bite by the incomparable Linda Manz. Onstage, they're low key but digging the music as much as the audience does, with live keyboards, guitar, and bass punching up the loops and samples. With Dom and Bobby Birdman. 18+. $20/$23 at the door. 6 p.m. 701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Cecile Cloutier

Efterklang

Walker Art Center

The highly regarded Danish chamber pop quartet Efterklang reportedly presents mesmerizing live performances of its sweeping, exquisitely textured pastiches, which ebb and flow among lush orchestrations, pulsing electronica, ethereal vocals, massed choruses, splashes of horns and a classical string ensemble, avant rock, and the odd touch of freak folk. Remarkably, Efterklang's meticulous, complex production yields music that is anything but dense or overblown; it's as wispy as swirling fog and just as enigmatic, unveiling layers of intrigue that are melodically rich yet sublimely ephemeral. Two previous Efterklang albums, 2004's Tripper and 2007's Parades, were widely praised as masterpieces that cultivated a certain majesty via their orchestral-like epic scale. The new album, Magic Chairs, reverts to a more conventional song-oriented approach, essentially building the tracks from the ground up but often achieving a similarly cool, cerebral, organic elegance. Opening will be the Brooklyn-based duo Buke & Gass, which takes its name from the idiosyncratic instruments invented by Aron Sanchez and Minnesota native Arone Dyer: a modified baritone ukulele and guitar-bass hybrid. They also stir up blustery rhythms with a lot of percussive devices, generally played with their feet, and Dyer often sings with a kind of punky keen. Sometimes they sound a little like Sonic Youth with their massed chords, while Dyer suggests Cyndi Lauper on steroids. But, really, B&G sound like combustible alt-everything, and their mutant sound arsenal is entirely fascinating on their forthcoming Riposte. $18. 7 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600. —Rick Mason

Kele

7th St. Entry

Bloc Party isn't all the way dead—they're probably just having a bit of a nap (never mind that trickle of blood). Even so, frontman Kele Okereke refuses to lie down and close his eyes. Too creatively restless to remain idle for long, he's now shrugging off his bandmates for a solo project that owes more to London's bass-heavy dubstep scene than Gang of Four's wiry post-punk. Likewise, Kele's lyrics have gone all introspective, weeding out the opaque political references and focusing on fragile hearts crushed into pulp by loneliness, indifference, and malice. For all the left turns, Okereke's other band is never too far behind; reports from recent shows point out the live reinterpretations of older Bloc Party songs that he's been trotting out on this tour. It's a move that slyly suggests that Kele was the reason that Bloc Party was so successful in the first place—but whether that's truth or hubris will depend on how captivating a showman he can be on his own. With Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Innerpartysystem. 18+. $20. 8 p.m. 701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Ian Traas

SUNDAY 9.12

Ludacris

First Avenue

Atlanta's Chris "Ludacris" Hedges had the eyes of a natural movie star in 2005's Crash, but it was as narrator of the basketball documentary The Heart of the Game the following year that he began to seem like a voice you could listen to read or say anything—move over Morgan Freeman. As a rapper, he's put that theory to the test somewhat, breaking out with two memorably drawled, fabulously dirty hits, "What's Your Fantasy" and "Southern Hospitality," from 2000's enduring Back for the First Time, on Def Jam, and following with a string of agile, comic singles ("Area Codes," "Stand Up") from albums of increasingly tolerable pimp-ho fantasy shtick. His party remains infectiously pop away from the singles charts: "I Know You Got a Man," from this year's X-rated guest-fest Battle of the Sexes (with Lil' Kim, Ciara, Ne-Yo, Gucci Mane, and more), sweetly updates Positive K—if lip-smacking can be called sweet. 18+. $40/$42.50 at the door. 8 p.m. 701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Peter S. Scholtes

MONDAY 9.13

Aimee Mann

Dakota Jazz Club

Songwriter and pop chanteuse Aimee Mann has had two brushes with mainstream success—an MTV Video Music Award for "Voices Carry" with her former new-wave band, 'Til Tuesday, and an Oscar nomination for "Save Me" from the exceptional (and Mann-dominated) soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia—but she's at her best as a record-industry outsider. Her strongest work has come in the third decade of her career, released on her own Super Ego label. Mann's signature is melodic, Bacharach-inspired pop that's more acid-tinged, in both senses of the word, with lyrics that are literate, introspective, and wry. Her three-night run at the Dakota should allow her to delve deeper into her expansive and wonderfully varied catalogue, which includes her latest, Fuckin' Smilers, and also the sublimely druggy Lost in Space, the heartbreaking concept album The Forgotten Arm, and the sharp-edged-but-melancholy Bachelor Number Two. Patches and Gretchen, led by Mann's half-sister, Gretchen Seichrist, will open all three nights. $50. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. Through Wednesday Bryan Miller

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