by Tosten Burks
Tonight, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down support their strong March album We the Common at SPACE and Nebraska power-pop veteran Matthew Sweet plays at City Winery (he returns on Tuesday too). Also Tuesday, Mayer Hawthorne opens a Ravinia concert; his new album, Where Does This Door Go, is far more infectious than anyone wants to admit, but it should be noted that OneRepublic is the headliner. Hawthorne also plays a DJ set at the Empty Bottle on Wednesday, the same night Twin Peaks come to Schubas to celebrate the vinyl reissue of Sunken.
More Soundboard picks below.
On their most recent album, Wilderness, husband-and-wife Americana duo the Handsome Family name all 12 songs after animals or insects, establishing a metaphor about the permanence of nature relative to the transience of humanity and providing Rennie Sparks an opportunity to wax poetic about the human condition. "I don't know of anyone so good at making powerful commentary by blending bits of obscure history (whether about notorious Wisconsin window-smashing basket case Mary Sweeney or the ignominious end of composer Stephen Foster) with fanciful myths about nature (the notion that an octopus waves its tentacles to hypnotize schools of fish)," writes Peter Margasak. Azita opens.
Justin Timberlake and Jay Z's two massive event albums, The 20/20 Experience and Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail, have done as much to cement both men into pop Olympus as they have to obscure their critical staying power. The former record may not take many risks, but it coasts on charm; the latter shows how much Hov's flow are aging, but remains precisely crafted opulence. At the end of the day, both are making a lot of money. Tickets are still available if you want to give them more.
"Abraham Levitan's musical imagination seems to draw on faculties that ordinary humans do not possess," writes Kevin Warwick. The Shame That Tune cohost and former Baby Teeth front man has a Tuesday residency at the Hideout throughout July, performing whatever he damn well pleases (two weeks back he improvised operettas). Tonight, he covers the entirety of Hardly Working, a confusingly sincere album of motivational business rock by former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason. Yes, really.
Though free-jazz reedist Peter Brötzmann recently disbanded his long-standing Chicago Tentet, he still has lots of collaborators here who can compel into interesting territory. He recorded the fantastic Going All Fancy with vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, and has partnered with drummer Hamid Drake for more than two decades. "It's safe to say that the trio will kick some ass tonight, but I wouldn't care to predict exactly how they'll do it," writes Bill Meyer. "And the surprise will be part of the fun."