This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Wolf Parade; The Loners; Israel Vibrations; Filthybird
EH, WHATEVER: The Ladybug Transistor; They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; '80s Jamz
VS.: Annuals vs. Valient Thorr
INTRODUCING: Opening Flower Happy Bird
LAST WEEK'S PARTY: Countdown Quartet
SONG OF THE WEEK: Dark Meat's "Freedom Ritual"
08.22 WOLF PARADE @ CAT'S CRADLE
With a Canadian address, a "wolf" name and a Sub Pop deal, Wolf Parade were the perfect storm of hipster cachet when their breakout LP, Apologies to the Queen Mary, was released in 2005. The band's anthemic indie rock, with junk-percussion touches and a dude who likes to put a theremin on his head, is a cross between Modest Mouse's spiky mayhem and the Arcade Fire's shambling orchestration. Bandleader Spencer Krug plays in Swan Lake, Sunset Rubdown and Frog Eyes, at least two of which are better than Wolf Parade on wax but none of which can hold a candle to its thrumming energy live. $17/ 9 p.m. —Brian Howe
08.16 THE LONERS @ THE POUR HOUSE
If the death of Kings Barcade did anything for Raleigh, it brought back The Loners. Eddie Taylor and Chris Jones play flabbergastingly tight, rangy and smart rock 'n' roll, roaring through numbers that pump fists and elicit smiles every two weeks. With Clifton Mann and Rock Forbes' The Adult Film Makers and Raleigh rock newcomers The Heavy Pets, this one will sear. $6/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
08.16 ISRAEL VIBRATIONS @ LINCOLN THEATRE
Like Black Uhuru or the Wailing Souls, Israel Vibrations emerged as one of Jamaica's strongest roots-reggae acts of the '70s. The Rastafarian trio sang intensely religious and political second-wave anthems for the red, yellow and lots of green. Now a duo, Cecil "Skelly" Spence and Lacelle "Wiss" Bulgin still vibe hard. $18-$22/ 10 p.m. —Rich Ivey
08.17 FILTHYBIRD @ DOWNTOWN EVENT CENTER
Led by one of the most alluring voices in indie rock, Greensboro's Filthybird landed a winner with their Southern Skies debut earlier this year. At Filthybird's core is the staid, neat songcraft of Renee Mendoza, but the band bends it into fiery, rangy textures: Those edges should shape a righteous path from Noncanon tonight to Dark Meat (see below) tomorrow. —Grayson Currin
08.21 THE LADYBUG TRANSISTOR @ LOCAL 506
The safest band on Merge Records by a landslide, The Ladybug Transistor has evolved only in terms of personnel over six records in 11 years. A stultified cross between Steely Dan's austerity and Sarah Records' ease, The Ladybug Transistor puffs its pop with stock horn fills and trebly guitar leads until it's stiffer than starch-soaked Dockers. What's worse, their melodrama—epitomized by "So Blind" from their sixth and latest LP, Can't Wait Another Day—is half-committal and whole-hesitant, like a bowdlerized Showtime series. Sure, they'll sit well with your Sunday Times, but you have to work tomorrow. With Papercuts and Un Deux Trois. —Grayson Currin
8.17 THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? @ NIGHTLIGHT
Here's hoping Vancouver sextet Horses sees Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan's opening set: With half the staff, CGJ's driving racket—demanding but familiar, like sheet metal splintering—will kill (and school) the rock stars. With emo-cabaret vocals, martial rhythms and Dixieland horn flashes, Horses reach for unorthodoxy but land annoyance mostly. Let this be their lesson, not yours. With Maple Stave and Hi Red Center. $7/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
08.21 '80S JAMZ @ WALNUT CREEK
Instead of frying eggs to demonstrate the dangers of drug use, play this music. Beset by a brain-numbing cocaine hangover, the music industry tossed the keys to stooges like this in the '80s: Styx went from passable hard rock to retching pop bile; Foreigner's decent debut gave way to bland arena rock; Def Leppard demanded a facial and burped up Poison. Just say no. —Chris Parker
Saturday, August 18
From: RALEIGH, N.C./ ELBO.WS
Claim to fame: Lots of cool things, for sure: late-night television, The Flaming Lips' one-spot, nomination for a PLUG award.
Who deserves more blame for the uptick in prog and/or orchestral pop symphonies: The Flaming Lips, Sufjan Stevens or producer Mike Mogis? Raleigh's answer to Manchester Orchestra, Annuals was originally the one-man studio extravagance of Adam Baker. It grew to an outsized ensemble, all pretty, soaring and nicked with the manner of baroque curlicue. Annuals, probably forever epitomized by "Brother," is ambitious and grand, a little like Coldplay without gray skies or a hot girlfriend. Sure, there's a country-tinged warmth to some of the better tracks, but doesn't that mean you're a bargain-bin, blogged Califone? Free show at CAT'S CRADLE with THE NEVER and AUXILIARY HOUSE at 9 p.m.
Sunday, August 19
From: RALEIGH, N.C./ CALIFORNIA/ VENUS
Claim to fame: A live show that's earned them a legion of fans collectively known as Thorriors.
Hirsute, denim-clad Venusian time-travelers stranded on Earth after a space-ship crash, Valient Thorr discovered the power of the Priest (Judas, that is), blasting British power metal leads with the MC5's gritty verve. While lead singer Valient Himself engages in a variety of stage antics and offers a deep critique of our culture and government, his agitprop can't compete with the thunder of his bandmates. Theirs is a visceral force, sweeping you up in furious roar, proving you can force a square peg into a round hole if you hit it hard enough. With a revolutionary fervor and more shredding than Dick Cheney's office, Valient Thorr owns this one. With ASG and RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS at 8 p.m. for $12 at THE BREWERY. —Chris Parker
08:19 OPENING FLOWER HAPPY BIRD @ LOCAL 506
Don't let Endings, the name of the second album from Chapel Hill duo Opening Flower Happy Bird, fool you: Brian Collins and Matthew Park are just getting started. After being a band for two years, Collins and Park finally live in the same state again. They grew up playing in a band together outside of D.C., but Collins moved north for school in Ohio and Park eventually settled south in Richmond. For the last two years, one of them would fill half of a four-track tape and mail it across state lines, where the tape—half palimpsest, half blueprint—would be finished. Collins arrived in Chapel Hill two weeks ago, and he thinks the evolution of the band's sound—right now, bedroom electro-pop recalling the smiling sweetness of The Postal Service and the textural interests of Broadcast—is only going to pick up speed.
"I think our songs are going to become more complex," says Park, who makes Opening Flower's songwriting process sound like multiple layers of improvised pop. They sequence a beat, add some synthesizer and guitar bits, and then quickly shape lyrics to a theme. "We write these songs, and we don't really know what's happening in them. We just let 'em happen. When we get on stage, we even have to figure out how the hell to play them." They'll get their chance opening for Austin's The Octopus Project and Athens' Cinemechanica. Tickets are $8 for a 9 p.m. start. —Grayson Currin
08.11 COUNTDOWN QUARTET @ SADLACK'S
The excitement was as thick as the air, one humid with Countdown's sound and the other with Carolina's summer. The first of two one-hour sets was horn heavy, a few friends joining in with saxes and clarinets, delighting with "Jambalaya." Set 2 emphasized guitar and trumpet. Didn't much matter: Countdown Quartet thrived in its final hours, energetic, effervescent, enjoying it. When the time came to stop, the crowd—swollen past Sadlack's patio perimeter, onlookers hanging onto trees and standing on picnic tables—begged for more. The end of an era. —Kathy Justice
SONG OF THE WEEK
The revelatory free-jazz, loud-rock big band of Georgia, DARK MEAT (Aug. 18, Local 506) wrote a winner with last year's debut-album-opening "FREEDOM RITUAL." Total fucking triumph. Download it and read Margaret Hair's Dark Meat interview.