GHOSTFACE On "Be Easy," the first single from his upcoming Fish Scale, Wu-Tang MC Ghostface spits none of the surreal word clusters that inspired blogger Jay Smooth to set up a "Ghostface Killah vs. Random Spam Text" quiz. (Readers had to identify lines like "nice DNA, scroll genetics" as either Ghost quotes or excerpts from those weirdly poetic junk e-mails.) Still, over a suitably celebratory yet choppy track courtesy of production whiz Pete Rock, Ghostface displays his currently unequaled balance of near-spastic energy and rhyme mastery. 10 PM, Joe's, 940 W. Weed, 312-337-3486 or 312-559-1212, $20. --Keith Harris
BRIAN HAAS Pianist Brian Haas has made a point of confounding expectations. His whimsically named trio, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (nobody named Jacob or Fred has ever played in the band), gets lumped into the jam-band bag, but its two albums this year--including The Sameness of Difference (Hyena), out this week--feature enough short tracks and tightly contained compositions to interest even traditionalists. In April the kinetic keyboardist released his solo debut, The Truth About Hollywood (Hyena), which includes performances of four Thelonious Monk tunes that are true to Monk's spirit but far removed from his improvisational methodology. The 19-minute title track is an impressive showcase for Haas's prickly touch, fidgety lines, and wide and imaginative tonal palette. At this show Haas will perform solo, duet with JFJO drummer Jason Smart, and finally play in a quartet including bassist Jason Fraticelli and Fareed Haque, a Chicago guitar whiz with some jam-band cred of his own. 11 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $12 in advance, $15 at the door. --Neil Tesser
IKE REILLY ASSASSINATION "No one's ever going to pay to hear what goes on in your mind," sings Ike Reilly on "22 Hours of Darkness," the opening cut on Junkie Faithful (Rock Ridge), but his second-person point of view isn't fooling anyone. Much as he may question it, people are listening to Reilly, but whether they keep listening is contingent on him continuing to do what he does: that is, lay out his despair in no-nonsense clever rhymes and wicked revelations, sung with a soulfully cracking (but unforced) voice. He's got more than a bit of midwestified Lou Reed in him. If more singer-songwriter mainstream rock was this good, I wouldn't have the tendency to tune out automatically at the mere mention of it. Reilly, for one, is worth hearing. The Reputation and Corsaire open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $15. --Monica Kendrick
PARTS & LABOR Though it's only three years old this Brooklyn trio already has a reputation for being willing to walk out on any limb that'll support it--collaborations with former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki and bagpiper Matt Welch only deepen that impression--but however jagged and random Parts & Labor's growth seems to be, there is a pattern. The title of their 2004 album, Confuse Yr Idols (Narnack), sums up their intentions pretty well: subvert avant-rock so far it almost comes around to pop again. They're currently touring behind a limited-edition vinyl split with Aa on Cardboard Records. Voltage headlines, Parts & Labor play third, the Narrator plays second, and DJ Hunter Husar spins to kick things off. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --Monica Kendrick
BILLY JOE SHAVER, KEITH GATTIS While he's never achieved the same kind of fame or impact as fellow Outlaws Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings, BILLY JOE SHAVER is no less a legend. Earlier this year Compadre Records released Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver: Live, featuring peers like Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Robert Earl Keen, and Joe Ely; now Shaver follows with The Real Deal (Compadre), which almost feels like a tribute to himself. There are several remakes, including the audacious "Live Forever," with garish Nashville hitmakers Big & Rich turning Shaver into a glittery, anthemic rocker. But the singer's stirring yet restrained vocals keep the tune from escaping his grip entirely; it's that same laid-back but heartfelt ease that makes the whole album click.
Fellow Texan KEITH GATTIS gave the Nashville machine a whirl and was shown the door for being guilty of the most unforgivable Music City crime: sounding too country. So in 2001 he moved to LA, scruffed up his sound with a stronger roots rock feel, and landed a two-year touring gig with Dwight Yoakam (he also plays on Yoakam's recent Blame the Vain). Gattis recently moved back to Austin and this past spring released the fine Big City Blues (Smith Entertainment), his first album since his eponymous 1996 RCA debut; gone is the high gloss of Nashville, replaced with gritty soul and twang. Shaver headlines and Gattis opens. 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $16-20. A --Peter Margasak
CHRISTINE & SHARIF SEHNAOUI Guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui is part of a small but fascinating group of Lebanese musicians who, after living through years of civil war, have managed to foster a dynamic free-improvisation scene in Beirut. This year he and his main partner, trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, hosted the fifth annual Irtijal festival, which has drawn the likes of Fred Van Hove, Peter Brotzmann, and Le Quan Ninh. Now that Kerbaj has also launched a label, the world is finally getting to hear more of their work. The band Rouba3i consists of Kerbaj, Sehnaoui, and alto saxophonist Christine Sehnaoui--a Parisian of Lebanese descent who's married to Sharif--and a revolving cast of drummers, which has included local Michael Zerang. Their Rouba3i5 (Al Maslakh) is so titled because Norwegian drummer Ingar Zach, who's on the record, is the fifth percussionist to play with the group. Though Kerbaj has said he's been influenced by the sound of exploding bombs, the music is gorgeously minimal, and it also reflects a strong European sensibility. Over Zach's clattering and rustling and Kerbaj's pitched breath streams, Sharif plays tightly controlled scrapes and mutters, using a tabletop approach a la Keith Rowe, while Christine favors delicate layers of spittle-flecked air, duck calls, and pure sibilance. Just the Sehnaouis are on this bill, their Chicago debut; they'll be joined by bass clarinetist Gene Coleman and dancer-choreographer Asimina Chremos. See also Monday. 7 PM, Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, 773-281-0824, $10. All ages. --Peter Margasak
SARA VALENZUELA I had high expectations for Lado este (Nacional), the recently released solo debut by Sara Valenzuela, former front woman of the Mexican alternapop band La Dosis. She recorded the album in New York with a band anchored by guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Melvin Gibbs, and keyboardist Dougie Bowne (who also produced)--three musicians who've been involved in some great multicultural musical cut-ups by the likes of Los Cubanos Postizos, Arto Lindsay, and Arnaldo Antunes. But though Lado este is liberally sprinkled with electronic tweaks and club rhythms, nobody's pushing the envelope; Valenzuela's flexible studio band merely helps her craft solid arrangements to support her breathy, pretty singing. I can't speak to the depth of her Spanish-language lyrics, but by using fewer Latin elements than fellow Mexican singers Ely Guerra and Julieta Venegas, she comes perilously close to sounding like a run-of-the-mill coffeehouse warbler. The Spanish group Fangoria headlines. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $41, 18+. --Peter Margasak
FOG, FRACTION Minneapolis DJ Andrew Broder has slid out from behind the turntables more and more in the last few years to fuss around in band formation as FOG. While on earlier releases like Ether Teeth Broder wore his DJ-ism on his sleeve, favoring recontextualized samples (e.g., a vocal sample made into a beat) and found sounds (singing birdies!), on his latest, 10th Avenue Freakout (Lex), he eschews hip-hop pastiche for sunny bursts of guitar and amps turned up to tweethousand. Broder's multitracked key-straining vocals recall others who built their careers on peculiarity--Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse and the Dismemberment Plan's Travis Morrison, for instance. He's got an endearingly midwestern boyish warble and an earnestness that helps sell quirky lyrics like "You know what they say about / Doing laundry on your birthday" or "Ramadan / Flap flap flap." Yet the album is surprisingly ornate and big-sounding for being so nerdy and cute--you can nestle comfortably between the wub-wub of the sub-bass and the plink-plink of the toy xylophone.
After moving from France to Boston last year Eric Reynaud ditched his guitar for a laptop and began kicking out the jams under the name FRACTION. On his six-song demo his excitement with his new tools is obvious, as he programs disparate elements together, hungry to do it all: skittering, chopped samples alongside the gentle, unfiltered clicks of newer German microhouse and wet, bouncy synthetic bass lines the likes of which were last heard on a Cameo record. While there are some standard My First Laptop elements--discernible Aphex Twin and Squarepusher influences, specifically--a queer mix of hip-hop and house percussiveness keeps Fraction out of the IDM nursery. Fog headlines, Thee More Shallows play second, and Fraction opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401. Free. --Jessica Hopper
CHRISTINE & SHARIF SEHNAOUI See Sunday. With Ensemble Noamnesia and percussionist Michael Zerang. 8 PM, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 5811 S. Ellis, 773-702-8670. Free. All ages.
CABAS On his new album, Puro Cabas (EMI Latin), Colombian singer Andres Cabas continues to tweak the traditions of his homeland, creating frothy pop that ignores geographic boundaries. He's toned down the biting electric guitar that distinguished his first two records in favor of a tropical mishmash that makes room for salsa instrumentation, reggaeton's stuttering rhythms, and straight-up pop melodies--sometimes within the same song. Cabas's fusions sound natural, but the sophisticated pop structures all serve his charismatic, guileless singing. Yerba Buena headlines. 8:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $20 in advance, $22.50 at the door. --Peter Margasak
CASS MCCOMBS McCombs's Prefection is one of my favorite indie-rock albums of the year--everything is saturated with reverb, reverb, and more reverb, making the organ drones extra spooky and McCombs's cool, self-possessed vocals that much more enchanting. It sounds like a modish garage band trapped in an underwater cave, frantically trying to signal for help by sending their big-strum fuzz and syncopated, sugary stomp out on the waves. While comparisons to the Smiths and Orange Juice are on the money, they wouldn't be quite so obvious if McCombs, who's from Baltimore, didn't sing with a British accent most of the time. Decemberists headline and McCombs opens. See also Wednesday. 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18.50. All ages. --Jessica Hopper
GANGBE BRASS BAND The Gangbe Brass Band seems intent on proving that Benin is the New Orleans of West Africa. Their third album, Whendo (World Village), certainly recalls the joyful noise of veteran Crescent City acts like the Rebirth and Dirty Dozen brass bands, but there's also a fleet harmonic sophistication that mirrors the elegant arrangements of Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy. "Remember Fela" pays homage to the Afrobeat pioneer, with euphonium player James Vodounnon providing the circling bass lines, but the real Nigerian influence is in the rolling, rhythmic quality of juju, where beats float more than they thwack. The songs also incorporate local voodoo chants and rhythms, infectious call-and-response, velvety harmonies, and soulful lead vocals sung in Fon, Ngou, Mina, Yoruba, Eve, and French. When they played the World Music Festival back in 2002 the Gangbes had a hard time standing still; I imagine a good chunk of this set will find them dancing in the spaces between tables and chairs. 8:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15. --Peter Margasak
CASS MCCOMBS See Tuesday. McCombs also plays at 11 PM at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; call 773-227-4433. The Decemberists headline the Metro show. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18.50, 18+.
THEE SHAMS Already well regarded as a straight-ahead garage unit, this Cincinnati band stretches out a bit on its third full-length, Sign the Line (Shake It!). The album has an Electric Prunes-ish trippiness, with cheesy fuzz guitar and wah-wah and hypnotic Velvets-inspired jams like "Everflowing Tune." While Zachary Gabbard's grunty yowl is well suited to the band's basic white-boy R & B thing he sounds charmingly out of place when they turn on the lava lamps, like Eric Burdon trying to sing "Tales of Brave Ulysses" or Jagger on Satanic Majesties. Immortal Lee County Killers headline, Thee Shams play second, and Black Diamond Heavies open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick
JAGUAR WRIGHT Nothing fuels Philly soul shouter Jaguar Wright like outrage: the best moments on her second album, Divorcing Neo 2 Marry Soul (Artemis), come when she's delivering a harsh message. But Wright uses her powerful range to give her anger some added dimension. On "Told Ya" she passionately implores a friend to dump an abusive boyfriend, and though she's essentially saying "I told you so," her voice sounds empathetic. She also shows a sense of humor on her cover of Shirley Brown's "Woman 2 Woman," delivering a verbal beatdown to the woman her boyfriend cheated with: "You don't understand how much I love my man / You better just back on up before I smack ya with a frying pan." With folks like Raphael Saadiq, Scott Storch, and James Poyser handling production, Wright hasn't quite left the neosoul fold. But her epic 12-minute plea "Do Your Worst," featuring string arrangements by Philly soul maven Larry Gold, is packed with the kind of pure gospel testifying that defies microclassification. Kindred the Family Soul and Latoya London open. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $20 in advance, $22.50 at the door, 18+. --Peter Margasak
AMERICAN ANALOG SET Reading the American Analog Set's bio on its Web site, you might get the impression that the existence of this band was always hanging by a thread--it's a story of regular personnel changes and quarter-life crises, with occasional interludes for recording. They claim that this is their last worldwide tour, which makes the title of their new album, Set Free (Arts & Crafts), sound a little fatalistic. Music like this really shouldn't cause so much stress--it's certainly relieved more than a little stress over the years, at least the kind that can be soothed by their dreamy, half-naked, slightly shoegazery sweetness. But then again, the last song on the album's called "Fuck This...I'm Leaving." Chin Up Chin Up opens. The band also plays on Friday, October 21, with openers the Elanors and Justin Sconza. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
JENS LEKMAN If you aren't familiar with the work of 23-year-old Goteborg native Jens Lekman (or even if you are) his recent EP collection Oh You're So Silent Jens (Secretly Canadian) is a must-own. Lekman's mournful baritone and moody, lushly orchestrated songs have invited comparisons to Stephin Merritt, though he's really more like the Scott Walker of indie pop. If anyone else recorded something like Rocky Dennis--a concept EP about the deformed kid from Mask--you'd probably want to give them a reassuring pat on the back and a jar of Effexor. But Lekman enlivens potential Kleenex fodder like "Rocky Dennis's Farewell Song" with seductive flute and xylophone arrangements, a slinky drum loop, and completely over-the-top lyrics ("Someday I'll be stuffed in some museum, scaring little kids / With the inscripture 'carpe diem' / Something I never did"). Nedelle and Mike Downey open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --J. Niimi