This Week's Recommended Shows

From Battles and Beach Fossils to Joan of Arc and The Cars.

Zola Jesus

Wednesday, May 4

Twenty-two-year-old Wisconsinite Nika Roza Danilova is an operatically trained singer who, these days, goes by the purposely peculiar stage name Zola Jesus. Danilova—who also performed with the synth-punk outfit Former Ghosts—has a stunning, primitive voice that bespeaks volumes of maturity and realism—she's already released three full-lengths (2009's New Amsterdam and The Spoils, last year's Stridulum II) and a smattering of EPs. Zola Jesus' songs are profound and hugely dramatic (check out the gothic romance of "Poor Animal" or her stentorian cover of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love"), but Danilova has the authority as a performer to carry them off. You might be looking at America's own Björk. With Naked on the Vague, Crypts. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $10. ERIN K. THOMPSON



When Battles plays live, people usually leave the show talking about the drummer. As they should: John Stanier is precise and powerful behind his bright yellow set, seeming not to break a sweat as he lays down complex polyrhythms and strains to reach his ceiling-high crash cymbal. Such technical prowess is a prerequisite for membership in Battles, whose other members—guitarist/keyboardist Ian Williams and bassist/guitarist Dave Konopka—are alumni of Don Caballero and Lynx, respectively, and can more than hold their own with Stanier on stage. The band saw the departure of frontman-of-sorts Tyondai Braxton before recording their forthcoming sophomore album, Gloss Drop, but the output remains largely the same: tightly wound math-rock odysseys that few other bands have the chops—or the audacity—to try to pull off. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $15. ANDREW GOSPE

Coheed and Cambria


Stereotypes surround Coheed and Cambria—from the chain of concept records (which include a, gulp, prequel), their dooming description as a "progressive metal hybrid," or the stories of friction among members that has them quitting and rejoining the band like it's a soap opera. But see them live and all that falls aside. The collective energy harnessed when these guys take the stage, full of speed, aggression, and manic hair-whipping, will make you—as it did me when I stumbled upon them at a festival—stop in your tracks and brace yourself to be blown away. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., 628-3151. 8:30 p.m. $27.50 adv./$30 DOS. All ages. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

Vivian Girls


Brooklyn's beloved all-girl garage band is easy on the eyes (a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead—take your pick!) Even better, their purposely scrappy music is delightful to the ears. The Vivian Girls' style is a throwback to the '60s and '70s; their songs utilize breezy vocals and heavy distortion, much like their influences the Wipers and the Shangri-Las. Admittedly, the trio's newest album Share the Joy is far from groundbreaking, and its debut single "I Heard You Say" sounds exactly like everything else they've done. But why mess with a successful formula? When you come across a group as winsome as these girls, risk-taking just seems reckless and overrated. With No Joy, Unnatural Helpers, Witch Gardens. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 789-3599. 7:30 p.m. $11. All ages. ERIKA HOBART

Beach Fossils


Anyone trying to recover from a stressful, frenzied, negative day is advised to sit back and spin Beach Fossils' 2010 self-titled full-length, or its follow-up, this year's EP What a Pleasure. The Brooklyn quartet's tunes are as warm and shimmering as a mirage—less lo-fi than naturally muted and sweetly serene—kind of like Joy Division's sunny, easygoing younger cousin. The bass propels vague, reverbing guitars and frontman Dustin Payseur's hazy vocals, and the lyrics match the music's carefree sounds—"Times I can't remember/What I'm thinking about/'Cause my head's caught up/And tangled in those dreams," Payseur sings on "Daydream." Instantaneous relaxation is guaranteed. With Craft Spells, Seapony. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000. 8 p.m. $10. ERIN K. THOMPSON



Mogwai has been creating atmospheric, largely instrumental rock since its formation in 1995, but the Scottish band is harder to pin down both musically and geographically than its contemporaries. While Explosions in the Sky's expansive, three-guitar attack evokes the Texas plains and the otherworldly microsymphonies of Sigur Rós seem fitting for a band confined to Iceland, Mogwai's more straightforward approach to post-rock makes it comparatively difficult to place. This universality is on full display on the band's latest album, the brilliantly titled Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, which just might be Mogwai's best since 1997's critically lauded Mogwai Young Team. The songs crest and fall on Stuart Braithwaite and John Cummings' nuanced guitar work and Martin Bulloch's subdued, propulsive drumming, resulting in music that is wordless yet somehow relatable. With Errors. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $22.50 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. ANDREW GOSPE

Thao & Mirah


Chocolate and peanut butter is your go-to analogy for lazy writers looking to describe a great combination (and bring back fond memories of vintage peanut-butter-cup advertisements), but while Thao and Mirah's sensibly named collaboration, Thao & Mirah, is sweet and toothsome, it's also more complex and exciting than that prosaic pairing. (Maybe more like dates and blue cheese?) Thao Nguyen of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn of, well, Mirah, are both impressive singers and songwriters with outstanding solo work to their credit. Together, though, they're something else. Mirah's aerialist singing hits amplitudes that Thao's lower, smokier vocals don't reach; Thao's more electrified guitar playing gives Mirah more exciting scaffolding to play on than she's had in years; and their duets can go from sweet to sharp in the turn of a phrase. (Add tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus to ecstatic opening track "Eleven" and you've got, well, devils on horseback, basically.) With Led to Sea, Marissa Anderson. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $16. ERIC GRANDY



Can enough praise be heaped upon Raekwon's 1995 solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx . . . ? Constantly heralded as a landmark in hip-hop, Linx made a strong case for rap's ability to tell rich stories, laced as it is with cinematic scenes of gritty drug deals and gangsters living in luxury, all brought to life via production by his Wu-Tang mate RZA. Rae's latest, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, sounds immediately like the Wu, with its warm Wu-Tang movie-clip intro and banging title track. That it resists becoming a nostalgia trip is probably due to the absence of any RZA production whatsoever throughout the album. By hiring a slew of lesser-knowns to work within the RZA/Wu-Tang framework of vintage film clips and minor chords, Raekwon does what each Wu-Tang member is supposed to do when flying solo—carry the spirit of the Wu onward. With Fatal Lucciauno, Havi Blaze, DJ Swervewon. Nectar, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020. 8 p.m. $15. BRIAN J. BARR

Joan of Arc


For 16 years and across as many albums, Joan of Arc has been a relentlessly shape-shifting act, adding and sloughing members around prolific and divisive bandleader Tim Kinsella (also of Cap'n Jazz, Owls, Make Believe) and reconfiguring from rock band to Pro Tools collagists to various shades in between. They're also the kind of act music writers love, as every album comes with either an awesome title (In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust; Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain), a conceptual constraint (guitar duets between band members past and present; an album recording via open-door studio time and a sign-up sheet), or both upon which to hang one's reviews. So, the new album? It's Joan of Arc as a simple, four-piece rock band. BUT NOTHING'S EVER SO SIMPLE WITH JOAN OF ARC, says the press sheet, and indeed: Even on a basic rock kit, Life Like is still thorny, unpredictable stuff, led as ever by Kinsella's fractured, voice-cracking Dadaist rambling. With Air Waves, Themes. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 789-3599. 7:30 p.m. $11. All ages. ERIC GRANDY

The Kills


Established fans of the Kills' trademark heavy blues-rock won't be disappointed by last month's long-awaited Blood Pressures. And for those unfamiliar with Jamie Hince's and Alison Mosshart's jams, the record is a good introduction to the snarling, seductive attitude the Kills pull off again and again. Mosshart's vocals are as tantalizing as ever and Hince's guitar sounds robust, as if it were out to take care of some serious business. Blood Pressures' first single and early leak, "Satellite," is destined to become a Kills classic, as is the stately, pathos-laden opener, "Future Starts Slow"; the flashing, disdainful "Nail in My Coffin"; and the wickedly smoldering "DNA." With Cold Cave, The Entrance Band. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 7 p.m. Sold out. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON

The Cars


Unlike Paul Simon, who recently graced the Showbox's Market stage, the Cars probably couldn't pack Central Park. But they're still a helluva score for the 'Box's SoDo sister venue, especially considering Tuesday night's show marks the opening date of the unclassifiable Bostonians' first tour in nearly a quarter-century. With many bands, that would signal a high probability of rustiness, but not with the Cars, who somehow managed to transcend Fine Young Cannibalistic '80s cheese while heavily featuring the cheesiest of instruments (the synthesizer). Every living original band member (Benjamin Orr died in 2000) will be playing, and the band is touring behind a solid new album, Move Like This, rather than just coasting on classics. While it features nothing as memorable as "Drive" or "Just What I Needed," any of Move's 10 tracks would feel right at home on an album alongside those hits. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., 628-3151. 7 p.m. Sold out. MIKE SEELY

Dave Depper's The Ram Project


If you want to hear the living, breathing definition of "labor of love," all you need to do is point your ears toward The Ram Project. After spending years recording and touring with some of the Northwest's finest (the Decemberists, Jolie Holland, Mirah, and Loch Lomond, to name a few), Portland's Dave Depper had run into a creative wall, with little recorded output of his own to show the world. Over 30 days, in his spare bedroom, Depper, partnered with one lonely microphone, dove into a new project—recording a track-for-track recreation of Paul McCartney's 1971 classic LP, Ram. The resulting Ram Project LP stays true to McCartney's original blueprint, while still scattering Depper's personality and quirks among the tracks. Given that Sir Paul is missing the opportunity to do a 40th anniversary tour for Ram, Depper's Ram Project is the closest we'll get to hearing this classic LP performed in its entirety. With "Nelson Sings Nilsson," featuring Sean Nelson. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $8. GREGORY FRANKLIN

Peter Bjorn and John


In a conversation about Swedish indie-pop trio Peter Bjorn and John, the helplessly catchy whistle of their 2006 smash hit "Young Folks" might serve as both entry and exit point. As any successful musicians might be expected to, they tried to skirt pigeonholing with the follow-up Living Thing, chasing a colder sound to fly in the face of twee expectations. But with their recent sixth LP Gimme Some, PB&J reaches back to their sunshine vibe that is far more likely to please fans of the Writer's Block era—even if it doesn't capture the same glimmer of pop perfection. That's not to say they were just a flash in the pan; on the contrary, they're happy to prove that indie bliss is possible even if the whistles are gone. With Bachelorette. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $20. NICK FELDMAN

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