Fine Line, Saturday 9.22

In another era, Ariel Pink's rise from one-man home-tape oddball to underground rock favorite would result in some strange flash of fame — think Todd Rundgren or Beck. Even if you keep in mind that 2010 wasn't 1994 or 1972, Before Today wasn't Mellow Gold or Something/Anything?, and "Round and Round" wasn't "Loser" or "Hello, It's Me," Pink smartly repurposed that successful avant-rock archetype without falling short of its better qualities. Mature Themes further advances Ariel Pink's songwriting approach, which posits that anything can be pop and pop can be pretty damn strange. His ear for both Top-40-scholar catchiness and off-putting idiosyncrasy splits the difference between Goffin & King and Tim & Eric, with transcendent vintage-AM throwbacks like "Only in My Dreams" and goth-punk excursions like "Early Birds of Babylon" sharing space with moments of more willful goofiness. Opening will be fellow L.A. retro-futurist synthesizer maestro Dam-Funk. 18+, $15, 8 p.m., 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. — Nate Patrin


Triple Rock Social Club, Saturday 9.22

Things are looking up for Deerhoof
Elias Gwinn
Things are looking up for Deerhoof

Buzzed-over British newcomers Alt-J manage to overcome their truly horrific band name by dint of sheer melodic excellence on their just-released debut, An Awesome Wave. An art-rock album whose slinky rhythms and serrated edges recall fellow countrymen like Wild Beasts and, dare I say it, Radiohead, An Awesome Wave confidently bobs and weaves between woozy machine-manipulated balladry ("Tesselate"), sweetly chiming folk rambles ("Matilda"), and aggressive bottom-heavy rock assaults ("Fitzpleasure"). The album was greeted with instant chart success in Europe, where it was released back in May, but it remains to be seen whether American listeners will embrace the boldly unconventional band as warmly. Frontman Joe Newman's mushily enunciated, keening warble is clearly a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but listeners capable of appreciating all of Alt-J's eccentricities will only fall in love deeper with their distinctive sound upon repeated listening. With JBM. 18+, $12, 8 p.m., 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Rob Van Alstyne

Nanci Griffith

Dakota, Sunday 9.23 + Monday 9.24

"Hell no, I'm not all right," Nanci Griffith growls over a Buddy Holly-like gallop on her surprisingly snappish latest album, Intersection. Although "Hell No" is an angry swipe at a departed lover, it's indicative of a riled, far less wistful, older and wiser Griffith who's newly willing to lay it on the line in personal as well as political terms. On "Bad Seed" she aggressively confronts her estranged father, while on the title cut she soberly faces a collision of hope and fear. A few other tunes, including "Bethlehem Steel," continue the stark political commentary of 2009's The Loving Kind. After a succession of personal hardships and upheaval, Griffith is alternately pissed off, sad, scared, and a bit haunted. Her singing is edgier, more wired, less chirpy, while the band plays a leaner version of her characteristic country-folk hybrid. No, Griffith hasn't been doing that well lately. But she ends Intersection with an upbeat, bluegrass cover of Loretta Lynn's "High on a Mountain Top," suggesting better days ahead. $50-$60, 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

Patterson Hood & the Downtown Rumblers

Fine Line, Monday 9.24

The Rumblers are the latest side project from Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood, prompted by his newly released third solo album, Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. Hood's songs are essentially short stories in the Southern Gothic tradition: ghosts and Spanish moss entangling damaged characters often mired in bad luck and worse decisions. Heat Lightning's tales actually are the bones of an unfinished novel Hood attempted to write about his turbulent late 20s, punctuated by divorce, self-destructive friends, and strained family ties. Essentially it's about a personal renaissance. After all, he says, "You can only carry hell around for so long before it gets to be a drag." The writing is as vivid as Hood's DBT stuff. The music is more reflective and reserved than DBT's flaming Southern rock, but with its underlying roots exposed. The Rumblers consist of DBT's keyboardist Jay Gonzalez and drummer Brad Morgan, plus cellist Jacob Morris. Highly regarded Athens southern roots trio Hope for Agoldensummer (yes, one word) will open. 18+, $20, 8 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Rick Mason

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