Critics' Picks: The Black Keys, Big Freedia, St. Vincent, and more

St. Vincent/Shearwater

First Avenue, Saturday 5.12

Following her tour-opening performance last fall at the Walker, this is the second coming of St. Vincent locally behind her third album, Strange Mercy, a complex, multi-dimensional musical playground of contrasting textures, helixial rhythms, and emotional ambiguity that has solidified her critical and popular rep. As St. Vincent, Texas singer-songwriter and guitar wiz Annie Clark experiments with yin-yang, fire-and-ice art pop that juxtaposes noisy industrial rock with ethereal folk angst, shredded electric guitar with electronic atmospherics that drift from psychedelia to moody lullabies, the ominous with the surreal. A slippery kind of anxiety lurks throughout, with Clark's almost laconic croon etching unsettling tableaux while the instruments — on "Chloe in the Afternoon," for example — fret, buck, and lash out with suppressed rage. Shearwater build an epic, brooding, portentous sound on their latest, Animal Joy. The group members densely layer grand swaths of echoing guitars and looming keyboards over drummer Thor Harris's thunderous pulse. Jonathan Meiburg's high tenor-to-falsetto, meanwhile, roams majestically amid the grandeur, delivering metaphoric declarations on the nature of humans' animal instincts in a stormy context that suggests a mythological quest, complete with a basilisk. 18+, $20. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Rick Mason

Colin Stetson

St. Vincent and the world's luckiest staircase
Tina Tyrell
St. Vincent and the world's luckiest staircase

Walker Art Center, Thursday 5.10

Colin Stetson plays a multitude of instruments and makes most of them sound like nothing you've heard before. His arsenal includes alto, tenor, and the outsized bass saxophone, along with French horn. Employing a variety of often unorthodox techniques, including circular breathing to maintain a virtually seamless flow of sound, percussive pad tapping, simultaneous vocalizations, and elastic note definitions, Stetson creates a surreal sonic universe that's surprisingly accessible while probing the avant-garde. His music is littered with odd textures and sometimes jarring dissonance, but also passages of sparkling light, and melodic hinges are rarely far away. Stetson has played with Tom Waits, Laurie Anderson, TV on the Radio, and Bon Iver, but the full expression of his work is best captured in his solo outings, including his last album, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. There he manages to sound like a dozen musicians playing electronic loops and overdubs by using an extensive microphone system while dabbling with chamber music, drone, minimalism, wayward jazz, and even gospel, the last surfacing on an extraordinary reading of the standard "Lord I Just Can't Keep from Crying Sometimes" with guest vocals by Shara Worden. Stetson will appear solo in the Walker's Perlman Gallery. Free. 6, 7 & 8 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600. —Rick Mason

Big Freedia

Turf Club, Friday 5.11

Twin Cities music fans are still shaking something after Big Freedia's wild local debut back in December. And she didn't keep us waiting too long for a return engagement. While area fans weren't quite sure what to expect at Big Freedia's last show, this time the word has definitely gotten around regarding her high-energy, bass-heavy shows. The Queen Diva of New Orleans bounce music will certainly set St. Paul off once again, as she brings her one-of-a-kind performance to a wide array of fans who want to get down. With Votel, Jimmy 2 Times, and Slapping Purses. 21+. $12. 8 p.m. 1601 University Avenue, St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —erik Thompson

Father John Misty

7th St. Entry, Friday 5.11

While Josh Tillman managed to maintain a prolific solo career during his years as the drummer for famed Seattle folk-rockers Fleet Foxes, his debut under the new moniker Father John Misty still plays like the enticing introduction to a major new talent. Written and recorded shortly after Tillman parted ways with Fleet Foxes and relocated to California, this album shows him clearly going for broke. The dozen tracks that make up Father John Misty's Fear Fun find Tillman moving beyond the minimalist Americana that defined his namesake recorded efforts in favor of lush and surprisingly melodic material that injects a bit of breezy West Coast pop into his previously bleak balladry. His voice has taken a similarly inviting turn, ditching downtrodden conversational twang in favor of a more expressive style that veers beautifully into the upper end of his register. Given the rapturous responses that similarly toned efforts from the likes of Bon Iver and James Vincent McMorrow have garnered it's easy to envision Father John Misty making Tillman every bit as huge as the band he left behind. With Har Mar Superstar and Fort Wilson Riot, 18+, 8 p.m., $10-$12 door, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis, 612.332.1775. —Rob Van Alstyne

Zacc Harris Group

Artists' Quarter, Friday 5.11 + Saturday 5.12

These AQ shows coincide with the release of the Zacc Harris Group's debut album, The Garden, the latest evidence of the burgeoning local jazz community's artistic depth. The scene's current signature approach: vivid modern expression built on a rock-solid traditional base. The group's members are at the heart of the local scene, all playing in a variety of contexts. Guitarist and bandleader Zacc Harris is also co-leader of the notable Atlantis Quartet, which also shares bassist Chris Bates and guest reed player Brandon Wozniak. Also on board are pianist Bryan Nichols, who leads his own group as well as playing with the likes of Halloween, Alaska; and drummer JT Bates, who's played with almost everyone near and far. The Garden showcases Harris's compositions, which adeptly and compellingly link the past and future of jazz, and guitar work, which is consistently articulate with an enticing fluidity seemingly influenced by the likes of Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny. $10. 9 p.m. 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651.292.1359. —Rick Mason

Dillinger Four

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