The Short List: This Week's Recommended Shows

From Sleigh Bells to Craig Finn.

Cate Le Bon/Wdnesday, February 22

The Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon got her first big start in 2008 performing with Gruff Rhys' electro-hip-hop group Neon Neon. She subsequently did a 180 and released a twee folk album called Me Oh My that received high praise for its blissful instrumentation and honey-sweet vocals paired with Le Bon's shadowy, death-obsessed lyrics ("Why oh why does the dark knock on me/I fought the night and the night broke me"). Me Oh My's follow-up is this year's CYRK, which finds Le Bon further exploring her quirks and kaleidoscopic tastes. The record runs the gamut from jangly piano rock ("Falcon Eyed") to breezy, high-pitched pop ("Fold the Cloth") to the fuzzy, whimsical title track, on which Le Bon declares, "People do change and often come and go/But I'm waving flags for the long haul." With Charles Leo Gebhardt IV. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-4618. 8 p.m. $10. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Kendl Winter/Thursday, February 23

Banjo-wielding multi-instrumentalist Kendl Winter is a rare entry on the K Records roster. Her acoustic singer/songwriter bent is not as experimental as her labelmates', nor is her earthbound, string-based, five-album catalog any more cosmic than that of the likes of Kimya Dawson, Calvin Johnson, or LAKE. And unlike those bands' often wildly expressive ways, Winter's voice is pretty and delicately tempered. But within those wavering pipes is a devotional love of the Pacific Northwest; her latest release, The Mechanics of Hovering Flight (a meditation on the hummingbird), exalts our region's natural beauty. Chanterelle mushrooms, Doug firs, and all kinds of birds mingle with measures of fluttering banjo and a few bars of yodeling, inviting the listener further into a world—both natural and musical—stripped of pretense and genuinely stunning. With Breathe Owl Breathe, Cataldo. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9 p.m. $10 adv./$12 DOS. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

Nacho Picasso & Blue Sky Black Death/Friday, February 24

His name might be absurd, but Nacho Picasso can flat-out rap. Whether he's making sly dick jokes, naming his favorite comic books, boasting about the copious amounts of ganja he smokes like a Kevin Smith character, or channeling William S. Burroughs and reflecting on a dark history of drug abuse, his languid, warbled delivery and clever rhymes spat from behind a thick gold grill put him in a league of his own on the Seattle hip-hop scene. His latest release, Lord of the Fly, is his second collaboration with producers Blue Sky Black Death, and their sputtering hi-hats and ghostly synthesizers suit his style perfectly. This show marks the first time Nacho and his beat crafters will share the stage. With Bruce Leroy, Kung Foo Grip, Jarv Dee, DJ Swervewon. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9647. 8 p.m. $10. All ages. KEEGAN HAMILTON

Craig Finn/Friday, February 24

There's one groaner of a song on Craig Finn's otherwise fair-to-middling solo debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes. It's called "New Friend Jesus." The problem isn't that it's about Jesus—Finn's best songs with The Hold Steady are loaded with religious references and symbolism—it's that it's a youth-group campfire sing-along about how awesome it is to have "Jesus in your band." It's a cartoonish, baldly evangelical Buddy-Jesus. It's Veggie Tales. It's Willie Aames as Bibleman. It's a Mars Hill pastor with a cool tattoo. And it's a shame, because Finn's use of religion with The Hold Steady has always been so clever and poignant and literary, even for us hopeless nonbelievers. This would be fine if the rest of Clear Heart was up to snuff, but while its dirgey acoustics are an intriguing departure from The Hold Steady's classic rock, its songs lack Finn's usual narrative heft. Here's hoping his giddy live charisma carries them. With Mount Moriah. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-4618. 8 p.m. $15. ERIC GRANDY


Sleigh Bells/Friday, February 24

Sleigh Bells made one of 2010's most flamboyant debuts with Treats, a mind-boggling clash of hardcore and electro; the sound earned the duo high-profile endorsements from M.I.A., Beyoncé, and a slew of critics. How to follow such a big splash? For Sleigh Bells, the answer was to use the same successful formula, only in an even bigger, heavier way. This second album, Reign of Terror, includes a couple of delicate, sugary pop tracks ("Comeback Kid," "End of the Line"), but for the most part showcases guitarist Derek Miller's assaultive riffs and Alexis Krauss' unearthly vocal melodies in a darker light. Severe, squalling songs like "Leader of the Pack" and "Born to Lose" reference Miller's anguish over losing his father in a motorcycle accident. The slick beats and thrilling rhythms are still there, but they're deeply enhanced with a palpable emotional drama. With Black Bananas. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. Sold out. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON

The Darkness/Saturday, February 25

Like most people, I had assumed that British glam-rock novelties The Darkness were dead until they popped up in a Super Bowl commercial. (It was about how iPhones are overrated, you're all hipster sheeple for owning one, and what you've really wanted in your smartphone all this time is a detachable stylus!) Now, they can do some amazing stuff with computers these days, but it was pretty clearly the actual Darkness in this commercial. There was lead singer what's-his-face, laminated in a magenta-and-white candy-striped bodysuit open at his hairy chest and flared into bell-bottoms at his ankles, busking with an electric guitar, dutifully playing the band's signature (and singular) 2003 hit "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." It's a cute song and all, but I need a Darkness reunion like my phone needs a stylus. With Foxy Shazam, Crown Jewel Defense. Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 877-784-4849. 9 p.m. $25. All ages. ERIC GRANDY

Reignwolf/Saturday, February 25

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more technically proficient guitarist in any corner of the world than Reignwolf, aka young Jordan Cook, who's recently relocated from Canada to Seattle. Known to dominate any number of stringed instruments (sometimes while keeping time on the drums), his chops as a live performer are similarly eye-popping. Though his songwriting is still catching up to his absurd set of raw talents—which also include a gnarly post-grunge/blues howl—his energy and command of the stage are more than enough to hold an audience tight. If my calculations are correct, his set should transition perfectly from local blues-distorting openers Hobosexual to Portland's crunchy White Orange. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-4880. 10 p.m. $7. TODD HAMM

Richard Marx/Saturday, February 25

If the world were flat, Marxism would not be a socialist movement, but rather shorthand for Richard Marx's most devoted fans—the Deadheads of soft rock. Marxists would wear white trousers with the cuffs rolled up and Sperry Top-Siders with no socks. Feathered mullets would top their heads, and their hands would be affixed to the wheels of convertible Chrysler LeBarons. They would buy their women no less than a dozen roses for Valentine's Day, and agree to his-and-hers body- sugaring sessions. And they'd pay to see King Richard play an acoustic gig in a hardscrabble Navy town, even as he's shifted out of the limelight and into a lucrative behind-the-scenes role as Keith Urban's ghostwriter. Admiral Theatre, 515 Pacific Ave., Bremerton, 360-373-6743. 8 p.m. $22–$35. All ages. MIKE SEELY

Atlas Sound/Tuesday, February 28

Since releasing his first record as Atlas Sound in 2008, the difference between Bradford Cox's work with Deerhunter and with his solo project has become increasingly negligible. Consider last year's Parallax, Cox's most recent Atlas Sound release. Its songs are skewed '50s pop numbers that sound like full-band arrangements, fleshed out by Cox's penchant for noise and ambience. It's not all that different from Deerhunter's most recent album, 2010's Halcyon Digest, which largely followed the same formula. At this point, the projects differ most in a live setting, where, despite how full and rich his Atlas Sound material is, Cox still performs solo. It's a setup that lends weight to his uncomfortably personal lyrics while emphasizing his place as one of indie rock's most prolific and creative songwriters. With Carnivores, Frankie Broyles. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9647. 7 p.m. $15. All ages. ANDREW GOSPE

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