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This Week in Milwaukee

Alejandro Escovedo, LCD Soundsystem and Sleigh Bells

Oct. 21, 2010
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Thursday, Oct. 21

Alejandro Escovedo @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 9 p.m.

In the late ’90s, the alt-country magazine No Depression named Alejandro Escovedo the artist of the decade, an honor the roots-rocker would surely have been up for again had the print publication lasted until the end of this past decade. After surviving a nearly fatal bout with Hepatitis C at the start of the 2000s, Escovedo went on to record two of his liveliest, most vital records: 2006’s haunting The Boxing Mirror and 2008’s looser, harder-rocking Real Animal. Escovedo’s latest, Street Songs of Love, is his most pop-oriented in years, smoothing out some of the darkness and rough edges that colored the last two discs.

Buffalo w/ Grant Cutler & The Gorgeous Lords and Cyborg Fortress @ The Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.

After years of on-again/off-again recording, the duo Buffalo—the slow-simmering collaboration between Def Harmonic rapper Lunaversol 9 and Decibully/Made of Oak beatmaker Nicholas Sanborn—hopes to issue its inaugural album this winter. Set to Sanborn’s dreamy, experimental pop backdrop, the project highlights the softer side of Lunaversol 9’s voice, letting her sing as much as she raps. Tonight’s bill features two fairly new acts: Grant Cutler & The Gorgeous Lords, the latest project from the co-founder of the former Twin Cities electro-pop group Lookbook, and Cyborg Fortress, an electronic-minded group from John the Savage’s Michael Skorcz.

Friday, Oct. 22

LCD Soundsystem w/ Hot Chip @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

Voicing frustration with the traditional cycle of recording and then touring behind an album, LCD Soundsystem leader James Murphy has suggested that the band’s latest fulllength, This Is Happening, will be its last. He’ll still make music, he told the British music magazine The Quietus this summer, but explains, “I just need to get away from it being a big thing.” If Murphy is daunted by the expectations for each LCD Soundsystem album, though, the dance-rock visionary has only himself to blame. The latest arrived with a title that all but promised a big event, and more than delivered the goods. The British electropop ensemble Hot Chip opens, touring behind their latest album, One Life Stand.

Saturday, Oct. 23

Eric Alexander/Rick Germanson Quartet @ The Jazz Estate, 8 and 10 p.m.

Pianist Rick Germanson is a fixture of the New York City jazz scene, where he’s an in-demand session player and prolific bandleader, but he still makes frequent voyages back to his native Milwaukee. His latest return home finds him playing with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, who has recorded several lovely bop albums for HighNote Records. Bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Neal Smith round out the quartet.

David Sedaris @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

Writing in droll prose befitting National Public Radio, David Sedaris became one of the literary world’s top stars thanks largely to his autobiographical essays about his eccentric family, personal foibles and the many odd jobs he’s held. His latest essay collection, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, is a compilation of sometimes-violent fables about nameless animals, though it isn’t quite the break from form it may seem on the surface—these animals have very human traits, including day jobs and mother issues. Sedaris’ appearance at the Riverside Theater tonight includes a conversation and question-and-answer session.

Stricklin w/ AUTOMatic, The Hollowz and SPEAK Easy and Misen Lync @ The Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.

Stricklin, one of Milwaukee’s funniest, punchiest rappers, signed to the hip-hop institution Tommy Boy shortly before the label collapsed. His luck turned when Juice Crew veteran Masta Ace, impressed by what he’d heard, took the Milwaukee rapper under his wing, featuring him on his early-2000s albums Disposable Arts and A Long Hot Summer. Stricklin currently tours and records with Masta Ace and “Lyricist Lounge” rappers Punchline and Wordsworth in the group eMC, but is still prepping his long—long—awaited solo album. He joins younger local hip-hop acts AUTOMatic, The Hollowz and SPEAK Easy and Misen Lync on tonight’s Hip-Hop Hates Breast Cancer benefit concert. The $5 cover and additional donations go to the local chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Leo Kottke w/ Leon Redbone @ South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m.

As one of the most celebrated acoustic guitar players of his time, Leo Kottke has long been revered in both folk and jazz circles, but last decade, thanks to a pair of collaborative albums with Phish’s Mike Gordon, he became an icon in the jam scene as well. Kottke returns to the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center to share this bill with Tin Pan Alley enthusiast Leon Redbone.

Blonde Redhead and Pantha Du Prince @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

For the most part, each Blonde Redhead album has been dreamier and less turbulent than the last—the New York group has reinvented itself several times over since its noisy 1995 debut—yet the group’s latest album, Penny Sparkle, is a surprise nonetheless, downplaying the guitars in favor of electronic arrangements that touch on shoegaze and trip-hop equally. It’s a deeply pretty album, though it lacks the dramatic spark that made albums like 2000’s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons so gripping.

Sunday, Oct. 24

Bo Burnham @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Internet goofball Bo Burnham was one of the early breakout stars of YouTube, where videos of the then-teenager singing about white supremacists and Helen Keller quickly caught on. Comedy Central, never one to miss a chance to capitalize on adolescent-male humor, took the comic singer-songwriter under its wing, making him the youngest performer ever to headline “Comedy Central Presents” and releasing three of his comedy records in as many years, the latest of which, Words Words Words, is the companion album to Burnham’s latest TV special.

Tuesday, Oct. 26

Stars @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Stars aren’t the first band to depict love as a battlefield, but on albums like 2004’s Set Yourself on Fire and 2007’s In Our Bedroom After the War, they depict the casualties in unusually graphic detail. The group’s latest, The Five Ghosts, is a typically bitter set of duets between singers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell set to bright, synth-laced pop arrangements that climb happily skyward, as if unaware of the anger and tension that saturate the band’s lyrics

Sleigh Bells w/ Pictureplane @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.

The Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells takes the noise-pop genre to literal extremes, allaying the sting of blisteringly loud, distorted guitars with the sweet, girl-group cooing of singer Alexis Krauss and a persistent rhythmic clap on their highly buzzed debut album, Treats. Drawing heavily from the bombast of rap, it’s music that sounds like a riot but plays out like a party. Those who were able to grab tickets to the group’s sold-out show tonight probably also have the foresight to know to bring earplugs.

Wednesday, Oct. 27

Joan of Arc w/ Rollo Tomasi and Absolutely @ The Cactus Club, 9 p.m.

Singer Tim Kinsella has consistently confounded expectations (and often even his biggest fans) with his post-Cap’n Jazz project Joan of Arc, an experimental, sometimes-lo-fi, sometimes-widescreen indie-rock band in a continual state of transition. Some of the dozens of musicians who have recorded with Kinsella under the Joan of Arc umbrella are featured on the new compilation Joan of Arc Presents: Don’t Mind Control, which features new songs from Kinsella and affiliated acts including Cale Parks, Owen, Vacations, Euphone, The Cairo Gang and Ghosts and Vodka. Ever-prolific, this fall Kinsella also released a new Joan of Arc 7-inch single, “Meaningful Work.”

The Black Angels w/ Light Pollution @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Lest there be any question about The Black Angels’ love for The Velvet Underground, the Austin, Texas, sextet not only named itself after the Velvet’s “Black Angel’s Death Song,” but also styled its logo after an iconic image of the Velvet’s onetime singer Nico. The Black Angels were thusly lumped in with other VU revivalists like Brian Jonestown Massacre and Spacemen 3, but albums like 2008’s Directions to See a Ghost and the new Phosphene Dream stand out for their sheer commitment to traditional psychedelic rock. From the reverb-heavy production to the droning organ, those albums often sound like they were recorded in a black-lit basement during the Vietnam War.

Motion City Soundtrack w/ Say Anything, Saves the Day and Valencia @ The Rave, 6:30 p.m.

Some fortunate early tours with Blink-182 led the Minneapolis emo-pop-punk band Motion City Soundtrack to collaborations with Mark Hoppus, who produced their second album, 2005’s Commit This to Memory, as well as their latest record, My Dinosaur Life, an album that suggests a heavier version of blue album/Pinkerton-era Weezer. Motion City Soundtrack co-headlines this bill with the restless pop-punk band Say Anything, whose latest, self-titled album alternates between sentiments tongue-incheek and fiercely serious.

Shawn Mullins w/ Callaghan @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

A throwback to James Taylor, Jackson Browne and other folky, soft-rock singersongwriters of the ’70s, Shawn Mullins scored one of the biggest adult-alternative ballads of the ’90s with his single “Lullaby.” Though he’s never topped that success on the charts, he’s continued to record at a brisk pace. His new Light You Up is his 11th studio album, and features songwriting contributions from Nashville vet Chuck Cannon and Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Glen Phillips.


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