ATTIC RECORDINGS, NOTES AND SCRATCHES The Notes and Scratches, a quintet of members of the local Tense Forms art collective, has just released its own first CD, Uh-Oh. The credits list more esoteric instruments than a Gypsy pawn shop, but the nicely understated production lets them all bleed together into a hazy shimmer that gives "The Hours" and "The Cass Song" a palpable sense of ennui. Joshua Dumas's unfiltered-cigarette voice fits the mood well, as do his Raymond Carver-esque lyrics ("I'm tossing matchsticks into a teacup / They hiss and pop and go out," from "In the City of Eggtimers"). The CD comes in a plain cardboard sleeve with hand-printed cover art, a nifty minimalist touch. --J. Niimi
Until recently the Attic Recordings were known as the Black Giraffe, and the quartet's new EP, Village Down Below (Mission Label), compiles some of the material they played under the old name. Slow-moving, slow-building, with swirling interlaced guitars, their dreamy and stretched-out songs reproduce the effect of staring into the middle distance without focusing on anything in particular . . . for hours. They're intricate and pretty, but they never give you a reason to care about them. --Monica Kendrick
This show is a release party for both bands. The first 50 people through the door will receive a copy of Demons and Rare Meat, a Mission Label compilation featuring tracks by the Dirty Projectors, the Octopus Project, Okkervil River, and Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio. Pontius headlines, the Attic Recordings play second, and the Notes and Scratches open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.
MIXEL PIXEL Mixel Pixel's Web site requests, "if you are of the 'critical rock press' or here to 'analyze us' or make us 'fit in' to your pile of rock and roll lies please save us the trouble." Note to band: if you do not want your work judged or analyzed, stop making it publicly available--or at least don't hire a publicist. Contact Kid (Kanine), the third album by the coed Brooklyn trio, sounds like the Unicorns covering lesser Guided by Voices songs: the music's lo-fi and quick with the hooks, with bedroom-vibe noodling and goofy-ironic singsong vocals. They spend a good amount of time making cute with the Casio, liberally dispensing what Brooklyn art-school kids understand to be dance beats. But I like them best when they ape Sonic Youth--the dronier bits, the spookier platitudes, the whispery boy-girl back-and-forths. Midstates headline, Mixel Pixel plays third, Single Frame plays second, and Broken Stone opens. 10 PM, Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood, 773-274-5463, $5. --Jessica Hopper
PSYCHEDELIC FURS, HOT HOT HEAT As J. Niimi recently noted in these pages, Echo & the Bunnymen have yet to get their commercial due despite their pervasive influence on modern rock acts like Interpol and the Killers. But at least they get critical props--unlike the Psychedelic Furs, whose equally ubiquitous influence on the same set of bands seems lost on audiences and scribes alike. I blame John Hughes: a shockingly small percentage of the world's population has heard anything but that version of "Pretty in Pink," let alone the two classic--not to mention punk fucking rock--albums they hit the scene with in the early 80s. More tours like this one may change that, but I'm not holding my breath; these guys have always seemed a little snakebit, which is part of their charm. --Brian Nemtusak
I doubt "Running Out of Time," a herky-jerk commentary on propped-up minor successes, was meant to be self-prophesying, but Canadian foursome Hot Hot Heat has had a diminishing-buzz problem ever since Elevator (Sire) came out this spring. The album's a hyperactive blast of frothy neo-new-wave pop, but the band's spazzy attack obscures quite a few strong hooks, and squeaky singer Steve Bays seems unable to resist overselling the lyrics. --Peter Margasak
The Psychedelic Furs headline, Death Cab for Cutie plays second, and Hot Hot Heat opens. 6:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.
ARRIVE On his first trip back to Chicago since moving to the Bay Area in August, saxophonist and composer Aram Shelton reconvenes this excellent quartet, with vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Tim Daisy, for a one-off performance. A few months ago the group's eponymous debut came out on the 482 Music imprint: a set of performances from way back in 2001, it reveals a shared knack for reconciling chamber-jazz restraint with easygoing swing rhythms and impressively elastic improvisation--particularly in the harmonies sketched out by Shelton and Adasiewicz. Even when the leader experiments with extended technique, as in the unpitched reed flickers on the ballad "Because of You," the music remains lyrical and accessible throughout. And as good as the playing on the album is, the band's intuition and rapport have grown significantly since it was recorded. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. --Peter Margasak
JIM BAKER | STEVE HUNT | BRIAN SANDSTROM | MARS WILLIAMS QUARTET It was a big year for keyboardist Jim Baker--he not only released his first solo album, More Questions Than Answers (Delmark), but also convened this quartet, one of the most exciting working jazz bands in town. Every Tuesday since May the group--or a subset of its members--has played a couple sets of unfettered improvisation featuring woolly blowouts, atonal electronic soundscapes, rhapsodic ballads, and more. Baker's confederates--reedist Mars Williams, bassist-guitarist Brian Sandstrom, and drummer Steve Hunt--were all members of Hal Russell's NRG Ensemble, which held the free-jazz flame aloft during the music's decadelong winter in the 80s, and though the quartet doesn't sound like NRG, it channels that anarchic spirit. Baker's regular e-mail updates about the group often detail last-minute lineup changes, but at press time he gave assurances that the full quartet would be present tonight. 8:30 PM, Hotti Biscotti, 3545 W. Fullerton, 773-772-9970, donation requested. --Bill Meyer
ELFVIS I feel obligated to pimp at least one holiday show every year, and this time I'm going with the annual XXX-Mas Fiestivisimo, a beer-scented, noisy assault on all that good taste holds dear. For the 2005 version the anchor positions are held down by twin-lead fetishists Bible of the Devil and metal pisstakers Imperial Battle Snake (the geniuses behind "Pastor of Muppets"); returning as headliner is Elfvis, who claims to have escaped from that "fat, white slave driver" to bring us all the rock 'n' roll in his soul. Members of the evening's bands (IBS being particularly well represented) will back Elfvis up as he gives some holiday "favorites" a well-deserved desecrating, and the word is that the Reason for the Season himself may make a guest appearance. (No, not Mithras--Jesus.) Elfvis headlines; Bible of the Devil, Imperial Battle Snake, Knife of Simpson, Antioch Secret Society, and Unfortunaut open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $7. --Monica Kendrick
HAMID DRAKE & MICHAEL ZERANG The winter solstice is the final beat in the year's seasonal rhythm, and since 1990 local percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang have responded with a few beats of their own. The two begin playing an hour before dawn in a room lit only by candles, working with an assortment of frame drums, bells, gongs, and trap sets. As the sun's first rays brighten the room, their drumming rises to a crescendo, then abruptly falls silent. In past years the two usually held a series of concerts the weekend before the solstice; this year they'll perform only three shows, with the first on the day of the solstice itself. See also Thursday. The third concert is Friday, December 23. 6 AM, Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, second floor, 773-281-0824, $15. Advance tickets are available at Bookworks, 3444 N. Clark, 773-871-5318. All ages. --Bill Meyer
BRIAN VANDER ARK I was never much of a fan of the Verve Pipe, a band earnest enough to make Eddie Vedder blush. Wearing your heart on your sleeve can arguably be a good thing in rock 'n' roll, but yeesh--there's only so far you can push it before you start to sound like the drunk at the end of the bar. And amplification makes it worse. Front man Brian Vander Ark isn't any less confessional as a solo artist, but his songs go down easier: on Within Reach, his new self-released live acoustic album, he strips his sentiments down to a manageable scale and lets the melodies and occasionally clever lyric come out and shine. Still, I could've done without the cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." Seven Harkey opens. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12. --Monica Kendrick
HAMID DRAKE & MICHAEL ZERANG See Wednesday. 6 AM, Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, second floor, 773-281-0824, $15. Advance tickets are available at Bookworks, 3444 N. Clark, 773-871-5318. All ages.
QWEL & JACKSON JONES On his most recent album, the aptly titled Dark Day (Galapagos4), local MC Qwel is in a somber and contemplative mood, riffing on corporate greed, political corruption--selfishness everywhere, really. The apocalypse is nigh, he warns, unless some compassion and accountability take hold; on the title track he foresees a global reckoning, and on "The Glass House Effect" he rips on those who play the blame game and construct "monopolies of properly being." Jackson Jones's production is appropriately dense and ominous, with melancholy layers of sampled strings, guitar, and organ floating over midtempo beats that hint at the funk more often than they actually deliver it. Those warm but woozy settings, together with Qwel's syllable-crammed flow, create a persistent air of anxiety and claustrophobia. The Opus, Outerlimitz, Royce, and DJ White Lightning & Skech 185 open; DJs Meaty Ogre, Maker, and Dr. Jones spin between sets. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door, 18+. --Peter Margasak
SUFFRAJETT It's not that these New York transplants don't have potential. One of these days, I suspect, I'm going to hear something great out of them--something that's a bit like the Runaways using Guns N' Roses technology. (Fortunately, front woman Simi comes off as more of a truly tough Joan Jett-ish survivor than a future Axl-style Hollywood train wreck.) But their recent self-titled EP is if anything a step back from the self-titled LP that preceded it: oomph is there, sex is there, style is there--and songwriting just isn't. And they're going to have to come up with an album title sooner or later. The Sleepers, Cisco Pike, Kevin Tihista, and DJ Scott Lucas open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $8. --Monica Kendrick