The major musical touchstones of Phosphorescent leader Matthew Houck have never been very far from earshot: He likes the outlaw country of Willie Nelson (he made a Willie cover album, after all) and the evocative moan of Bonnie "Prince" Billy (notice the wolves references), the scattered grace and playfulness of the Elephant 6 Collective (he's a Georgia dude) and the cosmic ache of Gram Parsons (just listen to his records). But Houck has folded all of these giants into a catalog that has steadily become peerless. Perhaps our best young advocate of Americana unbound by expectations of what that needs to be, Houck makes music that feels referential yet personal, tied to the past yet decidedly about the present. This year's Muchacho continues an incredible streak of albums that have combined craggy Crazy Horse rock and bleary-eyed orchestral opuses. You can spot the reference, sure, but you can't shake the feeling. With Indians. Monday, Sept. 16, at Cat's Cradle. $15–$17/9 p.m.
Deep Trip, the new album by narcotized Arizona rockers Destruction Unit, is almost aptly named. Indeed, these eight songs are outward bound, with guitar lines that chase their own tails and travel through space like smoke rings. But Destruction Unit's space rock depends as much on rock as it does space, with each trip bound loosely to a dead-ahead ripper that recalls frontman Ryan Rousseau's former life with Jay Reatard. These songs are somehow anxious and at ease, fueled by an unnamed cocktail of extreme uppers and downers that have been swallowed in one sudden gulp. This Trip is more heavy than deep, though, as every time Destruction Unit starts to get too far out, there's another aggressive tantrum to pull them back in. With Ukiah Drag and Joint D≠. Monday, Sept. 16, at Slim's. $5/9 p.m.
The voice of Austra leader Katie Stelmanis is a confident quiver, full of worries and questions but also built on the belief that those concerns matter. Her torchy tone is the centerpiece of Austra's songs, which pair senses of texture and rhythm so busy and vibrant they recall IDM to melody and momentum so strong they suggest Top 40 radio waves. If you've ever wanted Zola Jesus to be a bit less circumspect, or step out of the goth shadows of her own design, try Austra. Meanwhile, Perpetual Surrender—the promising debut from fellow Toronto band Diana—rips pop songs apart by inserting complicated flourishes such as shards of noise or pleasant tangents such as saxophone solos into illogical but yielding spaces. Singer Carmen Elle is less the leader and more the instrument here, slipping into these complex productions as though they'd simply been waiting on her to arrive. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Cat's Cradle. $12–$14/9 p.m.
The Old Ceremony, Shark Quest
This three-part bill offers a snapshot of North Carolina's musical past, present and future. The Old Ceremony, after all, is a microcosm of that continuum, with players who've been working area rooms for decades offering songs that pair youthful verve and aged insight. Shark Quest doesn't play much these days, but their refined instrumental pieces hold up well nearly a decade after they released their last LP. Without words, their guitars, drums, banjos and all manner of assorted instruments offer descriptions of surreal scenes and curious objects, painting colorful portraits with quixotic sounds. Opener Curtis Eller is relatively new to the area, but he's been brandishing his mix of old-time tall tales and circus-performer zeal for years. Every time, though, he delivers these songs like it's the first time. Friday, Sept. 13, at Cat's Cradle. $12–$15/8:30 p.m.
Grails, Wrekmeister Harmonies
Instrumental outfit Grails are an ever-widening gyre of sound: In the last decade, they've gathered icy New Age and arid desert rock, twisted math-rock and viscous stoner metal into albums that treat genre segregation like a curse. Their aggressive hybrids aren't always compelling so much as consistently intriguing, piquing a what-will-happen-next curiosity that occasionally pays off in post-rock so far beyond the typical Explosions in the Sky dynamic that calling it such seems like an insult. One bonus of this show is that drummer Emil Amos, who also plays in Om, opens with his breezy and buoyant electronic project Lilacs & Champagne; you get to hear one piece before it fits later into the puzzle. Arrive early for Wrekmeister Harmonies, the ambient-and-metal blur of Chicago sound artist JR Robinson. His You've Always Meant So Much to Me is a dream state populated by ghosts and angels and one of the year's best releases. Thursday, Sept. 12, at Local 506. $10–$12/9 p.m.
A musical lifer, folk-rock marathon man Paleface has survived a seemingly ceaseless string of brushes with fame (major-label contracts, Beck comradeship, Avett Brothers collaborator) to continue writing and grunting his wizened, peculiar songs in relative obscurity. Backed by girlfriend Mo Samalot on drums, Paleface treats each tune as its own pulpit, from which he pleads for redemption or broadcasts his broadsides in a burl of a voice that turns its scars into charms. With Eric Scott-Guthrie and Rob Nance. Thursday, Sept. 12, at The Pinhook. $7/9 p.m.
Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys
Big Sandy leads a long-running band of historic re-creationists, collectively working the boundaries of dead-eyed country and atavistic rock 'n' roll with an unqualified cool. Sandy sings about salvation and sin, travels and troubles with the aplomb of a guy who's seen the worst and best of times but hasn't let it affect his airy croon, a hand-and-glove fit with the steel guitar that gives his band its tailwind. With the Straight 8s. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Southland Ballroom. $12–$15/8 p.m.
The quick sell for coed indie rock trio DTCV is a biographical pitch: Singer, author and music critic James Greer played bass with Guided by Voices during the Alien Lanes era. But the fetching electric nuggets he offers with sweet-singing foil Guylaine Vivarat tend to be more finessed than the blasts of his old band. Indeed, DTCV finds sophistication in New Pornographers crispness and Superchunk agility. The band's songs are at once familiar and fresh, nodding to that biography but fully intending to add new lines to it. With The Revolutionary Sweethearts and Damn Fine Coffee. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Local 506. $9/9 p.m.
This showcase gathers four singer-songwriters: The Old Ceremony's Django Haskins, former Squirrel Nut Zipper Tom Maxwell, Hammer No More the Fingers singer Duncan Webster and Bob Funck, who leads the group that takes his name. Though each is better known for his role in those bands than sharing songs on a stage, only a guitar in hand, their lyrics are not incidental or casual placeholders. Whether it's Webster's emotionally impressionistic collages or Haskins' detail-anchored charmers, these four writers manage their words differently, meaning the perspectives they present on stage tonight should be varied and revealing. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Casbah. $6–$8/8 p.m.
Brian John Mitchell runs area experimental imprint Silber Records. Under the name Remora, he's worked as a restless and tireless boundary-breaker for nearly two decades, moving from gliding post-rock to dense drone to excoriating noise with purpose. Last year's excellent The Heart That Kills, a demanding and tender ode to his late grandmother, finds him exploring static tones for long periods of time before switching into a cappella hymnody that suggests Michael Gira leading a choir of the hopeful damned. Friday, Sept. 13, at Chapel Hill Underground. 10 p.m.
Stay Reckless, the new LP from Indiana country-punk singer-songwriter Austin Lucas, finds the tattooed dude making the big jump to New West Records with a full rock band in tow. Throughout Stay Reckless, you can hear traces of a great writer (namely, Richard Buckner), but they're mostly overwhelmed by absolutely pedestrian bar-rock bluster. Lucas says the exact things you expect in front of the exact instrumentation you expect. With Campfires and Constellations, and Severed Fingers. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Motorco. $8/8 p.m.
Atlanta band O'Brother elicits much the same response as its name suggests, delivering hard rock that gathers liberally from the sludge of its Southern metal brethren but applies it to blind anger and overeager melodies. As subtle as a slap to the face, their music feels weighed down by ambitions of radio rock ascendance, not enlivened by the strength of the amplifiers they're cranking. With Native, Daylight and The Bronzed Chorus. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Local 506. $10–$12/7:30 p.m.