Critics' Picks: Van Halen, Rick Ross, the Cranberries, and more

Rick Ross

Epic, Friday 5.18

How does one explain a former correctional officer's rise to the top of the rap charts, considering the largely fabricated subject matter of obscene riches and large-scale cocaine peddling? Anyone who has heard Rick Ross's larger-than-life grunt at the club can answer this easily. Few rappers can claim the same gigantic vocal impact or stomping beats. Hits like "Hustlin'" and "B.M.F." show off Ross's strength with simplicity, using his booming voice to full effect over club-ready bangers that are essentially undeniable. Sure to bring a tsunami through a live crowd, Ross's brand of hustle-hard anthems boil down money, drugs, women, and violence into a pitch-perfect sonic punch. Anticipation for his upcoming fifth album, God Forgives, I Don't, continues to grow as his label, Maybach Music, gains traction. 18+, $40-$70, 10 p.m., 110 Fifth St. N., Minneapolis; 612.968.6636.Jack Spencer

The Cranberries

The Brick, Thursday 5.17

Roses, released in March, is the first studio album from Irish pop-folk band the Cranberries in more than a decade. The original quartet reunited for a 2010 tour after spending most of the '00s working on other projects, then returned to the studio with Stephen Street (who produced the group's signature albums), and re-emerged with the classic Cranberries sound largely intact. Dolores O'Riordan's linchpin vocals still prove to be a wonder of keening intoxication and whispery intensity while Noel and Mike Hogan and Fergal Lawler surround her with a finely wrought ring of Celtic textures and lilting, infectious melodies. The band gets most aggressive on "Schizophrenic Playboy," O'Riordan's voice as penetrating as a laser as she dissects a predatory relationship. Her musings on romance aren't particularly profound, but she sings the lyrics with such conviction that, when combined with the band's subtle power, the songs echo with unbridled spirit. 18+, $45-$48, 8 p.m., 111 Fifth St. N., Minneapolis; 612.333.3422. —Rick Mason

Joe Pug

7th St. Entry, Thursday 5.17

With a lyrical world defined by a wry and restless romanticism, and a knack for homespun melodies on a par with the greats, Chicago's Joe Pug has quickly become a favorite son in the No Depression crowd. Unlike alt-country talents who mistake authenticity for writing songs about John Henry — here's looking at Justin Townes Earle — Pug crafts tunes that resonate without resorting to heartland cliché. His just-released sophomore album, The Great Despiser, rightly places the emphasis on his winning wordplay and gritty twang. An aspiring playwright before he became a critically acclaimed songwriter, Pug has a way with big-hearted and vivid vignettes that continues to serve him well, whether he's chronicling the critical communion between small-town outcasts ("Ours") or hard-luck low-income lovers' declarations of faithfulness ("Stronger Than the Whole Damn World"). With Bailiff. 18+, 8 p.m., $12, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Rob Van Alstyne

We Are Serenades

Triple Rock Social Club, Thursday 5.17

Already firmly established as one of Sweden's most formidable indie-rock ambassadors thanks to his work in Shout Out Louds, Adam Olenius has now turned top-notch synth-pop purveyor in new outfit We Are Sernades. A joint project with fellow countryman Markus Krunegard of Laakso, the duo's debut album, Criminal Heaven, takes a sharp turn away from the guitar-driven textures of their primary bands and toward sunny, string-drenched pop. The unabashedly joyous record feels indebted both to modern indie-pop drama queens like Stars and old-school smooth-disco royalty like ABBA. The opportunity to witness the duo transferring their opulent sound from European recording studios to tiny American stages on their inaugural stateside tour makes tonight's Triple Rock gig a can't-miss one. 18+, 8 p.m., $10-$12 door, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, 612.333.7399. —Rob Van Alstyne

Mark Lanegan Band

Cedar Cultural Center, Friday 5.18

Mark Lanegan has one of the most instantly recognizable voices in all of modern music. As soon as you hear his smoky, whiskey-soaked vocals, you know he's going to take you on a dark musical journey. After winding down the Screaming Trees in 2000, Lanegan has been rather prolific, working with Greg Dulli in both the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, completing a successful stint with Queens of the Stone Age, and collaborating recently with Isobel Campbell and Soulsavers, among others. Lanegan just released the inventive, soulful Blues Funeral, his seventh solo record. Lanegan has a magnetic stage presence, and hearing him sing is always a special occurrence, so this intimate show at the Cedar should be a real treat. With Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss. All Ages. $15. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Avenue S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674.Erik Thompson

Amy Ray/The Shadowboxers

Turf Club, Friday 5.18

Long established as the edgier, rock half of the Indigo Girls (vividly complementing Emily Saliers's folk lyricism), Amy Ray has further indulged her fiercer inclinations on a series of solo albums, including the recent, roots-oriented Lung of Love. So it's no surprise — but still gratifying — when Ray allows, "There's a little Joe Strummer/In my DNA" midway through the ringing, infectious pop-rocker "Little Revolution." But LOL focuses mainly on the vagaries — often gnarly and regretful — of love. And there's plenty of solace in the music, an alluring array of pop, rock, and Americana, including country ("When You're Gone, You're Gone"), power pop ("Glow"), alt-country ("Crying in the Wilderness," with Eagles harmonies), new wave ("Give It a Go"), and even a stomping Appalachian revival tune ("The Rock Is My Foundation"). It's a wining combo of sinewy, catchy melodies, punkish attitude, human insight, and smart songwriting. Ray will be backed by her longtime pals the Butchies. With the Shadowboxers. 21+, $15, 8 p.m., 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Rick Mason

Redd Kross

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