Wild Mountain Nation
Depending on which part of Wild Mountain Nation you hear, you might think that the third album by the Portland septet is, alternately, a honky-tonk washboard outfit ("Wild Mtn. Jam"), a bunch of '60s acoustic crooners ("Summer Town"), or a schizoid, lo-fi Stereopathetic Soulmanure–era Beck ("Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant's Hem"). And in all cases, you'd be right. Though BT have always crafted rootsy, pop-Americana songs that feel shuffled between this year and 1973—though in both cases, at home on the back porch with a bottle of Jack—their inability to be pinpointed and anchor themselves firmly into a genre can be jarring. Witness the tempo and style changes in "Devil's A-Go-Go," the twangy opening track, and "Murder Babe," an anthem that's part Zeppelin, part Dukes of Hazzard: Blitzen Trapper have more guitar licks and riffs than they know what to do with. But when their gutsy cherry-picking from the dusty, Dazed and Confused–era landscape works in sync with the songwriting, it's pure gold—it's hard to imagine catchier summer anthems than "Futures & Folly" or the righteously titled, swagger-inducing "Miss Spiritual Tramp." Such eclecticism makes Wild Mountain Nation a perfect countrified pop soundtrack for a summertime barbecue for those too lazy from the sun and whiskey to make a mix tape. KARLA STARR
Blitzen Trapper play Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000, www.chopsuey.com. $10. All ages. 8 p.m. Sat., June 23.
Listen to a sample of Blitzen Trapper's "Cool Love Number One."
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Palo Santo: Expanded Edition
Indie-rock records hardly seem like the kind of thing we need expanded editions of. I mean, can you imagine the director's commentary on, say, Sebadoh's Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock? "Um, with this one, we really wanted to, um, capture the sound of an acoustic guitar being, um, played underwater inside a grocery bag." Thrilling! Nonetheless, here's one expanded-edition reissue that makes about as much sense as any indie disc is likely to. When he's not fronting Shearwater, Jonathan Meiburg spends his time as a professional birdwatcher. Thus, when he writes songs, his process is akin to the way a scientist collects data: piling up words and details and incidents with a kind of gauzy half-logic that requires careful analysis to parse. So for fans seduced by the band's art-folk songcraft, the rerecorded versions of these tunes offer the chance to get a little closer to the meaning within Meiburg's mystery; hearing the handful of demos on this set's second disc is like getting a peek at a scientist's lab notes. And Meiburg's bonus cover of Skip James' "Special Rider Blues" is its own spooky treat (especially for those who prefer their art-folk songcraft with more art than folk). Still, as they say in the limited-edition ticket-stub trade: for fans only. MIKAEL WOOD
Shearwater play the Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., 441-5611, www.thecrocodile.com. $12. 9 p.m. Fri., June 22.
Listen to Shearwater's "White Waves."
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Great Lake Swimmers
Softly strummed and sweetly sung folk-rock-country fusion seems to be the preferred listening amongst the yindie crowd these days. These indie rockers in their mid-30s who have replaced the yelping, discordant rock of their youth with more serene musical tones should pay close attention to the new album by Ontario's Great Lake Swimmers. But the lazily loping neo-folk the band creates is engaging enough to find favor beyond Volkswagen-driving latte sippers. Tony Dekker's high-pitched voice recalls a less nasal version of My Morning Jacket's Jim James as he details visions of natural splendor on the excellent opening track, "Your Rocky Spine." The band's midtempo ballads and shanties are often augmented by Erik Arnesen's prominent banjo playing, but perhaps the most moving moments arrive when the music is stripped down to its core. "Put There by the Land" begins with a simple, matching acoustic and vocal line punctuated by bright stabs of electric guitar, before Final Fantasy's Owen Pallett binds it all together with violin reverie. Great Lake Swimmers' honest, unassuming, and melodic take on roots music makes their new album feel like a breath of fresh mountain air in the crowded, yawn-inducing playing field of modern folk. JONAH FLICKER
Great Lake Swimmers play the Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599, www.tractortavern.citysearch.vista.com. $10. 6:30 p.m. Sat., June 23.
Listen to a sample of Great Lake Swimmers' "Your Rocky Spine."
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In the spirit of Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti, righteous sociopolitical awareness continues to play a heavy role in Antibalas' musical mission statement nearly a decade after the Brooklyn-based ensemble formed. But a Fela tribute act, they are not. Three years after issuing 2004's brilliant Who Is This America?, it's strikingly evident that Antibalas (who have since dropped the "Afrobeat Orchestra" from their name) are clearly carving their own unique path, not forging the signatures of their predecessor influences. With Tortoise percussionist extraordinaire John McEntire co-producing, Security, Antibalas' fourth and latest full-length, is a vast and dense mix smothered in hypnotic grooves and breakbeats, heavy frontline horns, chunky Latin rhythms, stammering funk-guitar riffs, fluid bass lines, and call-and-response vocals. Combining the fervent down-home funk of the JB's and the percussive mastery of Kuti's Afrika 70 with keyboard-guided Latin-jazz elements, Security proves to be Antibalas' strongest release to date—one that pulsates with funky, fresh energy. TRAVIS RITTER
Antibalas play Neumo's, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467, www.neumos.com. $15. 8 p.m. Thurs., June 21.
Listen to a sample of Antibalas' "ICE."
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Who does Chris Cornell think he is? Does he even know? When listening to his new solo album, any sense of Cornell's personal identity is lost. He's arguably the best pure vocalist from the grunge-era bands, and this album definitely showcases that, but it's really hard to care. The first time through, it all sounds great. There's a nice surprise with a cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and the inclusion of his Casino Royale number, "You Know My Name," but nothing else stands out. Listening to it again, the questions about Cornell's identity as a solo act return. At times he sounds like Bowie did on Heathen, and at others he sounds like...Michael Bolton. As a result, every track is akin to a cover song. (Speaking of covers, doesn't this one look familiar?) The rest of the liner notes crib designs from various periods of music history, only furthering the confusion. We may remember your name, but the rest of your album is very forgettable. T.J. TRANCHELL
Listen to a sample of Chris Cornell's "No Such Thing."
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