Grant Cutler & the Gorgeous Lords, the Bad Plus, and more

Grant Cutler steps out with his new Gorgeous Lords project

Grant Cutler steps out with his new Gorgeous Lords project

Wed. 12.22

The Twilight Hours

Varsity Theater

On "Dreams," the opening track of the Twilight Hours' latest album, Stereo Night (it's hard to call it a "debut" when the members have been Minneapolis mainstays for decades), Matt Wilson sings that his dreams are killing him, his aspirations strangling his satisfaction with everyday life. It's a tune grounded in reality; Wilson and bandmate John Munson were key players in some of Minneapolis's more high-profile exports (Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic among them), and years spent in the clutches of major-label bosses and their sales expectations can make for soul-crushing letdowns. So when the pair formed a new alt-pop project that specialized in deliberate, lush songcraft, they were making music on their own terms, initially declining shows and keeping their new material to themselves. But the secret couldn't be kept for long, and the Twilight Hours have recently been inching back toward the stage lights and the studio amid praise from fans, the low-key beauty that forms the foundation of their best songs now back where it belongs—on full display. Guests TBA. 18+. $15/$18 at the door. 7 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Ian Traas

THU. 12.23

Grant Cutler & the Gorgeous Lords

Triple Rock Social Club

After the shocking dissolution of Lookbook, one of Minneapolis's most beloved local bands, Grant Cutler quickly found an outlet for the self-described "drone pop" sound that he has been toying around with over the last couple of years. The style of Grant Cutler & the Gorgeous Lords' music is a somber shift from the ethereal power-pop of his former outfit, but the intimate, brooding numbers found on the group's debut EP still soar in their own right, just with more shadows attached to the morose melodies. Cutler has assembled a stellar group to help him realize his new direction, with Noah Paster on bass, Matt Scharenbroich on drums, and Scott Johnson on guitar, all helping Grant craft the rich, nuanced sound that he's striving for. The group bring their distinctive brand of melancholia to the Triple Rock Social Club on Thursday night for a great triple bill of all-local music, with the saturnine quintet Satellite Voices and shoegazey duo Party House opening what should be an introspective but wholly engrossing evening filled with mercurial, moody music. 18+. $5. 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Erik Thompson

Christmas with Alexander O'Neal

The Bad Plus return for their annual holiday run

The Bad Plus return for their annual holiday run

Dakota Jazz Club

The lead singer of the Time before Morris Day, Alexander O'Neal was once so integral a part of the Twin Cities scene and key contributor to the Minneapolis Sound that his first album featured a photo of Mickey's Diner. Working with the Flyte Tyme production duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, O'Neal racked up a succession of hits through the 1980s that alternated between sleek, eminently danceable funk and earthy, romantic ballads, his finely textured voice a classic soul instrument favorably compared to Otis Redding's. When his career faltered stateside in the '90s, O'Neal moved to England to take advantage of an enthusiastic fan base there. After more than a decade, he returned to Minnesota earlier this year and released a solid new album, 5 Questions: The New Journey, that both celebrates the trademark Minneapolis Sound and looks ahead. O'Neal's Yuletide Dakota show will include material from the new album and a selection of his indelible hits, along with holiday nuggets, many no doubt from his 1988 Jam & Lewis-produced Christmas album My Gift To You. $32. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

SAT. 12.25

The Bad Plus

Dakota Jazz Club

Wickedly clever iconoclasts the Bad Plus, returning to their Minnesota roots for their annual Christmas week residency at the Dakota, have veered dramatically once again on their new album, Never Stop. Eschewing their infamously deconstructed covers of rock, pop, and country hits, and going all instrumental after enlisting vocalist Wendy Lewis last time out on For All I Care, the trio opted for a collection of all originals. Residual splinters of the group's helixial, irony-laced forays into the realms of Yes, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana infiltrate the new tunes, along with eclectic echoes from the likes of Gershwin, Coltrane, Stravinsky, and probably Groucho Marx, as these impish provocateurs continue to reconcile serious jazz, indie rock, classical, and the avant garde. Never Stop's title track is urgent and nervous, Ethan Iverson's piano initially dancing over almost martial rhythms from drummer Dave King and bassist Reid Anderson before catching a melodic wave and triumphantly surfing its anthemic flow. "My Friend Metatron" is far stormier, Anderson's warm pulse the anchor for King's swirling maelstroms and Iverson's fractured chords. "Bill Hickman at Home" has a bluesy, woozy vibe, as if it were recorded near dawn in a juke joint on Tralfamador, Iverson's piano splashing silver droplets at Anderson's bass before staggering in like a post-modern Fats Waller. And "Super America" is like an alien gospel revival, complete with hand clapping, around ye olde gas pump. Audacious, ambitious, yet accessible as all get out, the Bad Plus's delirious twists and tangents are the work of an impressively cohesive band who know exactly where they're going and are giving exultant audiences the ride of their lives. $30-$40. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. Also Sunday and Monday —Rick Mason

MON. 12.27


7th St. Entry

In what will surely be a great way to snap you out of your Christmas weekend hangover, Laarks take over the 7th St. Entry on Monday night in what is bound to be a celebration of not only the wide-ranging musical styles of Eau Claire, but also the crucial effect that their flourishing scene has had on the music of the Twin Cities. Most notably, Brian Moen of Peter Wolf Crier plays drums in the band, but their roots and their influence, like most bands from the area, extend seamlessly into many of the other groups that have emerged out of that scene, all of which have found a loyal and dedicated audience here in the Cities. And while it's been over a year since the band released anything new (their excellent debut, An Exaltation of Laarks, was partially recorded and mixed at McNally Smith School of Music in St. Paul), their vibrant live shows always produce some memorable surprises, and this performance shouldn't be any different. The smoldering local trio Zoo Animal are also on the bill and should not be missed, and the same goes for Jon Sunde, the frontman of the Daredevil Christopher Wright, who is playing a rare solo set to kick off what should be a high-spirited, communal night of music in the Entry. 18+. $8. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Erik Thompson

TUE. 12.28

Dead Man Winter

Turf Club

Trampled By Turtles fans who have been wanting to see the band perform in a more intimate venue than their rising popularity allows were certainly thrilled when it was announced that Dave Simonett and his TBT offshoot Dead Man Winter were setting up a December residency at the Turf Club. Playing every Tuesday throughout this month, Simonett has been joined by fellow Turtles bassist Tim Saxhaug and fiddler Ryan Young, as well as other special guests, consistently delivering a singular style of rowdy bluegrass for dedicated, supportive fans. This Tuesday is your last chance to catch DMW, in what is sure to be a spirited show following the long holiday weekend. And what better way to burn off the last remnants of your Christmas feast than dancing along to the jubilant sounds of Dead Man Winter with a bunch of other like-minded souls? 21+. $8. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Erik Thompson