The Short List: The Week's Recommended Shows

From Sufjan Stevens to Joan Osborne.

Azure Ray / Wednesday, October 27

In an age where emotional vulnerability is either marketed mercilessly or mocked ironically, it's pretty rare when something pushes through the static as being sincerely confessional. Azure Ray lands in the territory of pristine, heart-on-sleeve-because-that's-where-it's-gotta-be pop without falling into pity-party emo-dreck. After disbanding Azure Ray in 2004, Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink spent a good portion of the late '00s working on other projects, but in September, they released their fourth album, Drawing Down the Moon, on Omaha's Saddle Creek Records. Spanning the gap between simple, swaying acoustic folk and the airtight glide of looping electronica, Azure Ray offers warm, breathy whispers of optimism from a pair of haunted hearts. With Tim Fite, Whispertown. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $12. GREGORY FRANKLIN

Deerhunter / Wednesday, October 27

"Whatever goes up, must come down," Deerhunter's Bradford Cox sings on the dream-drenched single "Desire Lines." But you might want to stay aloft as long as possible at a Deerhunter gig. How you get high is up to you. In 2008, the Atlanta-based band went on a questionably short tour with the Smashing Pumpkins before cranking out another album and a ton of side-project work. Cox's solo recordings as Atlas Sound, and increasingly his work with Deerhunter, have that "Beach Boys underwater" feel of touchstones Animal Collective and Panda Bear. Deerhunter outdid themselves on this year's Halcyon Digest, a warmly hypnotic follow-up to 2007's acclaimed Cryptograms. Call it delightfully dazed-and-confused. With Real Estate, Casino vs. Japan. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $16 adv./$19 DOS. All ages. RACHEL SHIMP

Janelle Monáe & of Montreal / Wednesday, October 27  See the music lead and An Incomplete History.

Women / Wednesday, October 27

Canada's Women are totally hot. I mean, Women, the band from Canada, is totally hot. I mean, every band from Canada is totally hot right now, let's be honest. But Women in particular has been using all the tricks that make indie kids weak in the knees these days. Besides the obvious little token irony (they're all men), they strut with the bright beats and heavily harmonized psycho-warbles of a '70s art-pop band, but mostly wrap and rip it all with a thick shroud of filthy noise. And the unpredictable but oh-so-studied guitar art on their second record, Public Strain, shows once again that no matter how much you listen to them, Women will always keep you guessing. With Elf Power, Manchild. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 956-8372. 7:30 p.m. $9. All ages. MARY PAULINE DIAZ

Joan Osborne / Thursday, October 28

Chances are you haven't thought about Joan Osborne since 1995, back when she released "One of Us." Slow and steady pop with just a hint of bluesy rock, the song famously raised the possibility that God was just like "a stranger on the bus/Trying to make his way home." While the semi-sacrilegious lyrics and catchy tune made Osborne a one-hit wonder and became part of our pop-culture canon (it appeared on Glee just last month), "One of Us" was a one-off. Most of Osborne's songs are one part Motown, one part blues, and just a tinge of pop—a far cry from her radio hit. Now, 15 years later, she's released seven albums and is still touring, making a modest career for herself. And you probably wouldn't recognize her on the bus, either. With LeRoy Bell. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 7 p.m. $25 adv./$28 DOS. PAIGE RICHMOND

Northwest Sneaker Expo / Thursday, October 28

The sneakerhead subculture experienced a boom in the '80s, thanks in large part to the status they were given via the hip-hop movement. From full sets of a single shoe to limited editions and one-off customs, a sneaker expo is a multifaceted phenomenon, combining elements of hip-hop, art, and fashion. And in addition to the collector competitions and freestyle rap battles hosted by local legend Vitamin D, this showcase also includes performances from local fashion-forward MCs like State of the Artist, Logics, Eighty4 Fly, Spaceman, and Wizdom—plus a kick-ass headliner, Palmdale, Calif.'s Pac Div. The trio is chock-full of fiery energy, and with lines like "Clothes copper, flow dropper/Kicks like a dojo, peep the low Pradas," it seems they'll fit into the night's mood just fine. Nectar, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020. 7 p.m. $15. NICK FELDMAN

Mash Hall / Friday, October 29

The goofy sci-fi–spliced rhymes of Mash Hall are one of the best things Seattle hip-hop's got going on right now, but instead of coasting on that momentum, emcees Gatsby and Bruce Illest have decided to put down their mikes for now. Fortunately, like most musical retirements, this one's open-ended: The duo claims that their departure is more along the lines of, say, Jay-Z's, Ted Leo's, or 50 Cent's (read: not a retirement at all). But since nothing's guaranteed in this life, it'll be worth catching this show—and downloading Mash Hall's back catalog—just in case. With Butts, SSP. Columbia City Theater, 4918 Rainier Ave. S. 9 p.m. $7. SARA BRICKNER

Wow & Flutter / Friday, October 29

Portland's Wow & Flutter have been making music for the better part of a decade, yet they remain criminally overlooked by Northwest audiences. On 2008's Golden Touch, they vacillated wildly between artful post-punk rumbles and spaghetti-Western romps, with a dark undercurrent churning beneath all the while that hinted of more menacing moments downstream. Indeed, with follow-up Equilibrio! (released this month on Seattle-based Mt. Fuji Records), they've plunged headfirst into that current, going darker and deeper in tone and timbre, but still with just enough pop savvy to keep things buoyant. With Virgin Islands, the Golden Blondes, the Botherations. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-4880. 9:30 p.m. $8. HANNAH LEVIN

Best Coast / Saturday, October 30

Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast has gotten a lot of flak for her song lyrics, as heard on her band's debut, this year's Crazy for You. The songs are all fuzzy layers of reverbing guitars, evoking a drugged-out California haze (not all that different from the music of Cosentino's boyfriend, Nathan Williams of Wavves), and they're simply and straightforwardly about boys, drugs, and occasionally Cosentino's cat, Snacks, who appears on the album cover. But Crazy for You conveys all the bliss and wistfulness of being a young female; there's something endearing about Best Coast's girlish songs and innocent lines like, "When I'm with you I have fun," and "I wish he was my boyfriend/I'd love him 'til the very end." They're not overly profound, but sometimes life really is that simple. With Sonny & the Sunsets, the Calligraphers. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $13. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Fences / Saturday, October 30  See Q&A.

Sufjan Stevens / Saturday, October 30

Just when it seemed as if Sufjan Stevens might have settled on one musical formula—the sweeping, choral pop of 2005's Illinois, which found critical acclaim and commercial success—the once–indie wunderkind redefined his style all over again. Stevens' first original full-length in five years, Age of Adz, is his most expansive and ambitious album yet. Its title track is the best example: One moment it's a completely bizarre and overwhelming experiment, blending at once a chorus of vocals, cryptic lyrics, and huge, noisy instruments; seconds later it's a bare, emotional song, heightened by moments of silence. Those who loved Illinois' loveliness and hum-along style might feel alienated and uncomfortable in the chaos, but Sufjan devotees will probably see Age of Adz as just more evidence of the man's genius. With DM Stith. Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 877-STG-4TIX. 8 p.m. $22–$32. All ages. PAIGE RICHMOND

K'Naan / Saturday, October 30

If you happened to catch even a glance of this summer's World Cup, odds are you heard Canadian rapper K'Naan's anthemic "Wavin' Flag" during the pregame shows. That level of fame's a long way from the Somalian childhood of Keinan Warsame, a boy who fired his first gun at age 8, demolished half his school with an accidentally detonated hand grenade at 11, and fled from gunmen at 12, narrowly escaping with his life. And while they may be inspired by a history of violence and pain, K'Naan's stunning songs are filled with triumph and uplift. He still maintains that the English language lacks expression compared to his native Somali, but the poetics and storytelling he's capable of in any tongue only speak to his talent. With Paper Tongues, Kid Hops. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $23 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. NICK FELDMAN

Halloween shows / Saturday, October 30–Sunday, October 31  See calendar.

Champagne Champagne / Sunday, October 31 See Through @ 2.

No Joy / Monday, November 1

Earlier this year, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast tweeted, "Dude, NO JOY is the best band ever. two hot blonde girls just shredding away. sooooo amazing." And that pretty much sums it up. No Joy is Laura Lloyd and Jasmine White-Gluz, two chick rockers who split their time between Montreal and L.A. and write torrential shoegaze tunes, heavy with foggy guitars, aerial vocals, and blissed-out feedback. The music's hazy like a hot day at the beach, but with a dark tinge. A promo photo of the band depicts the women standing in front of a sign that breviloquently reads "you will die," and their name is, after all, No Joy. It's shadowy stuff. No Joy will release their first full-length, Ghost Blonde, on November 16. With La Sera, Seapony. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-4880. 9:30 p.m. $7. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Avi Buffalo / Tuesday, November 2

Since their most recent Seattle appearance at July's Capitol Hill Block Party, Avi Buffalo's been on the road, still touring in support of their widely acclaimed self-titled debut. Amazon and NME both named the record one of the best of 2010, and the teenage quartet has been touring with Modest Mouse and My Morning Jacket; they even performed a Neil Young cover with Jeff Tweedy at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival in August. This fall Avi's taking the reins and headlining their own tour; many of the shows are selling out to fans eager to take in the youthful drama of songs like "What's In It For?" and "Where's Your Dirty Mind?" Take in the sugary pop while you can—Avi Zahner-Isenberg recently told NME that their second album is inspired by Dr. Dre's The Chronic 2001. With The Head and the Heart. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $12. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Bear in Heaven / Tuesday, November 2

The music of Brooklyn's Bear in Heaven is part of the new breed of psychedelia that treats its listeners to an earwave of unpredictable sonic changes that are mellow and melodically rooted but meant to fuck with you at the same time. Psychedelic in the truest hippie sense, BIH's Beast Rest Forth Mouth seems ideally conceived and listened to at an RX Chex Mix party where everyone brings a bottle of pills, tosses 'em in a dish, grabs a handful, and waits to see what happens, playing on all that is exciting, cerebral, trepid, and potentially volatile about heavy-duty tripping. With Lower Dens, Sun Airway. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $12. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

Gorillaz / Tuesday, November 2

As a virtually rendered, genre-surfing supergroup fronted by animated cartoon characters, Gorillaz seemed like a novelty act destined for a spot in a pre-millennial-nostalgia Hall of Nice Tries. Impressively, the fantastical collaboration of former Blur frontman Damon Albarn and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett (previously best known as the man behind the Tank Girl comics) has thrived since its 1998 inception. Plastic Beach, their latest release, is exceptionally star-studded, with everyone from Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg to the Fall's Mark E. Smith and former Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon descending on Albarn and Hewlett's boundary-less playground. With N.E.R.D. Key Arena, 305 Harrison St., 682-8225. 7:30 p.m. $48.50–$89. All ages. HANNAH LEVIN

Kate Nash / Tuesday, November 2

22-year-old British pop star Kate Nash kept the Lily Allen sass but also employed some Karen O indie rock on the follow-up to her glitzy 2007 smash debut Made of Bricks. That album, driven by the brutal yet charming "Foundations," was a total guilty pleasure, but this year's My Best Friend Is You added both credibility and depth to Nash's arsenal. It turns out this girl is not to be messed with—whether she's rapping about herself as "an independent woman of the 21st century" or calling out a rival on the irresistible "Do-Wah-Doo," Nash's blunt personality always shines through in all the right ways. With Peggy Sue. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 7 p.m. $20. All ages. BRYDEN MCGRATH

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