Critics' Picks: Deerhoof, Built to Spill, GZA, and more

Things are looking up for Deerhoof
Elias Gwinn


Mill City Nights, Sunday 9.23

The idiosyncratic San Franciscan noise-pop quartet Deerhoof have been expanding the musical palettes of their fans for nearly 20 years now. The always unpredictable band have continued to experiment over the years, transitioning from the raw, unbridled adventurousness of their early work to a bit more conventional, but still strange, sonic arrangements on the just-released Breakup Song. But no matter what distinctive sound the band is searching for, they always inject their ebullient songs with plenty of fun, a collective feeling that they easily transfer to every audience they play for. Drummer Greg Saunier describes the new album as "Cuban-flavored party-noise-energy music," and it's indeed a collection that keeps you on your toes. With Buke and Gase. 18+, $15, 7 p.m. 111 Fifth St. N., Minneapolis, 612.333.3422. —Erik thompson

Built to Spill

First Avenue, Wednesday 9.19

The guys in Built to Spill don't need to write any more albums. They've already earned their place in indie-rock heaven. After records like Keep It Like a Secret and Perfect From Now On, you could make the argument that Built to Spill distilled jangling guitar anthems into a perfect equation: layers of virtuoso strumming plus wistful melodies plus knowing winks to music history equals bliss. Frontman Doug Martsch might as well be the patron saint of bearded rock nerds, and seeing him jam with his band in a live setting might leave you thinking that you really did see that halo. That kind of religious experience is well worth the price of admission. With Helvetia and Sister Crayon. 18+, $20, 7:30 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Ian Traas

The Heavy

Fine Line, Wednesday 9.19

The English neo-soul quartet the Heavy take their name seriously, often favoring thunderous rhythm section assaults that shake the plaster and revive the anachronistic concept of heavy rock. But the band members also embrace a far broader array of vintage and contemporary elements in forging their familiar yet distinctive sound, ranging from garage rock to swampy blues and gospel. The Heavy, incidentally, are responsible for the 2009 song "How You Like Me Now?" which seemed to be appropriated by dozens of movies, commercials, TV shows, and even Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign. Anyway, the Heavy's new album, The Glorious Dead, is an adrenaline-laced hoot, highlighted by "What Makes a Good Man?," a dazzling mash of frontman Kelvin Swaby's over-the-top testifying, a blazing Georgia gospel choir, psychedelic strings, searing electric guitar, and crashing drums. Which is definitely what's to like about 'em now. With the Silent Comedy. 18+, $15-$17, 8:30 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Rick Mason


First Avenue, Thursday 9.20

Though he's purportedly at work on a metaphysics-inspired, Neil deGrasse Tyson-aided new album, original Wu-Tang Clansman GZA is also currently touring 1995's Liquid Swords, often considered the first classic Wu solo outing and one of rap's all-time greats. A mostly RZA-produced set of bass-heavy, minimal slices of grimy NYC boom-bap, it's an album replete with some of the densest cautionary tales to ever emerge from the Big Apple: "Killah Hills 10304" details the hard-knock life of a drug dealer (the first line tells you as much), while "I Gotcha Back" is a five-minute meditation on the nature of crime. Also performing are Killer Mike, whose R.A.P. Music is one of the few 2012 records anywhere near Liquid Swords' level; Sweet Valley, the instrumental-rap project of Wavves' Nathan Williams and brother Joel; and Brooklyn post-punks Bear Hands. 18+, $20, 7 p.m., 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Mike Madden

Silversun Pickups

State Theatre, Thursday 9.20

At this point, Silversun Pickups don't seem to care about killer hooks. They're focused on creating a particular atmosphere, relying on pregnant prog-rock swells and '90s guitar crunch to provide the pressure. It all serves to conjure images of an alternate reality where grunge grew wings, soaring and moping and roaring like the king of some flannel jungle. The L.A. quartet has been working hard for 10 years to keep the "alternative" tag alive, and if you wish that there was less irony and more good ol' Clinton-era angst in your modern rock, you should be in attendance. Bonus: You'll probably get to hear the massively awesome "Lazy Eye," too. With School of Seven Bells and Atlas Genius. $30, 7 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 800.982.2787. —Ian Traas


The 400 Bar, Friday 9.21

While ranking among Canada's biggest rock bands throughout the latter half of the '90s, Sloan never took off in the States, likely because their classicist power-pop, with its shiny and airy sound, was woefully out-of-step with the aggressive alt-rock dominating American airwaves at the time. The passing of time, however, has led to a fervent cult following for the Halifax-birthed quartet, the rare band whose members equally share the songwriting and singing spotlight. Having released 10 studio albums in their 20 years together, the typically forward-looking foursome are taking a stroll down memory lane on their current tour, where they're performing their much-loved 1994 sophomore album, Twice Removed, in its entirety in addition to other north-of-the-border hits. 18+, $15, 8 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. —Rob Van Alstyne



Fine Line Music Café, Friday 9.21

The Seer, Swans' 12th studio album overall and second following their 1997-2010 hiatus, is very possibly the lead candidate for this year's boldest full-length musical statement. At two hours and just 11 songs in length, it's an almost impossibly ambitious record, with one track ("The Seer") extending beyond a half-hour and two others ("A Piece of the Sky" and "Apostate") that aren't much shorter. On the strength of walloping chunks of industrial clang and propulsive freak-outs (plus a Karen O-featuring ballad, "Song for the Warror"), frontman Michael Gira and his feral flock have created the most transcendent record of their collective career. With Xiu Xiu. 18+, $20, 8 p.m., 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Mike Madden

Ariel Pink

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

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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