cBAT FOR LASHES Given her omnipresent headband and penchant for song titles like "The Wizard" and "Seal Jubilee," it'd be easy to mistake British singer-songwriter Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes, for a vat-grown female counterpart to Devendra Banhart. But last year's Fur and Gold, which gets its stateside release on Caroline this month, is actually good. The album blends expansive, expressive soundscapes a la Kate Bush with the naked intimacy of old Cat Power or even vintage Tori Amos, from before she nicked Liz Phair's sex-mom style. Khan makes detours outside that comfort zone too: the grinding, minimal funk of "Trophy" is almost Nick Cave creepy, while "What's a Girl to Do?" alternates between tense, paranoid IDM and what sounds like a ghostly 60s girl-group anthem. And anyone who's already snagged an import copy is advised to hit iTunes for the bonus track from the U.S. version: my new favorite cover of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." Gaberdine opens. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12, $10 in advance. --Miles Raymer
cTIMES NEW VIKING Though the plunder of old indie subgenres continues apace, the rise of powerful home recording software (and the scarcity of the cheap analog gear ubiquitous in the 80s and 90s) has stalled the revival of one major aesthetic: lo-fi. But Times New Viking, from Columbus, Ohio, embrace the romanticized entropy of tape distortion, and its advocates have embraced them. Tom Lax resurrected Siltbreeze Records--onetime home to Guided by Voices and Sebadoh--just so he could release their 2005 debut, Dig Yourself. He claims he pieced it together from cassettes he found in homemade street shrines dedicated to the band, and that's easy to believe once you get an earload of the shrill, blown-out "production." This year's follow-up, Present the Paisley Reich, is on Siltbreeze too, but the next Times New Viking album will be on Matador, which is equally appropriate: their joyful, nihilistic racket, made with just guitar, keyboards, and drums, recalls the destroyed pop of early Pavement, and the vocal hooks could give you tetanus. The Mannequin Men, Javelins, Andrew Dost, and Dear Dead City open. a 8 PM, Ronny's, 2101 N. California, 773-235-6591, $7. --J. Niimi
You Am I You Am I have long outlived their buzz-band years, when they were hyped to the gills by the likes of Soundgarden and Sonic Youth. Lee Ranaldo even produced the first two records, which somehow made sense despite the quartet's seedy British Invasion vibe (except they're Australian, so think louder and drunker). Convicts, which dropped last year and was released on Yep Roc in January, is a hooting, decadent mess, like a cheerful rounds-buying lush who'll take a swing at you when you least expect it. Plus it's got an edge that recalls Tim Rogers's work with Radio Birdman. The Smoking Popes headline, You Am I plays second, and Four Star Alarm opens. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $18, $15 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
cBLITZEN TRAPPER Most of the key elements in this Portland sextet's spazzy approach--Grateful Dead-style Americana, Elephant 6 pep pop, sharp harmonies--were present on their last album, 2004's Field Rexx. But on the irresistible new Wild Mountain Nation (LidKerCow) they turn what was merely an ambitious hodgepodge of sound into something coherent yet explosive, delivered with schizoid glee. The album opens at full strength with "Devil's A-Go-Go": splintered beats lurch in and out of sync and screaming guitar licks accelerate and brake without warning, but a hooky melody stitches the chaos into one of the wiggiest tunes I've heard this year. From there it loses only a little steam: the rambling twang of the title track gets pushed around by outsize drums and more jacked-up riffs, and even if the straighter material isn't quite as arresting, it's hard to deny the Shins-esque craft behind the pretty "Futures & Folly." The indie-rock scene's never felt so stale to me as it has lately, but this record proves there's life in it yet. Big Buildings headline. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Peter Margasak.
cHIGH ON FIRE In the seven or so years since singer-guitarist Matt Pike decided to apply the monumental chthonic heaviness of his previous trio, Sleep, to music with a more human metabolic rate, High on Fire has matured into possibly the greatest unhyphenated metal band in America. It's been more than two years since Blessed Black Wings, and they're touring now to soften us up for Death Is This Communion, due in September on Relapse. Not that you'll need your brain tenderized by their live show to be able to appreciate it: it's a fucking monster, and new bassist Jeff Matz only rattles around a little in the huge boots Joe Preston left for him to fill. There are some almost pretty bits, like the Jimmy Page orientalism of "Khanrad's Wall," but by and large the album just refines the band's usual medieval war-gaming sound--wickedly nimble and rhythmically ferocious, it's like a bloodthirsty armored horseman riding at full gallop past the sluggish behemoths of doom and stoner rock. Don Caballero and Indian open. High on Fire also headlines Wicker Park Fest on Sunday; see separate Treatment item for details. a 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
Gerardo NuNez flamenco ensemble See Sunday. Here Nunez's ensemble performs with the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of conductor Joana Carneiro. a 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-742-1168. F A
cRED PONY CLOCK San Diego has been identified for years with postgoth hardcore bands, but now comes their dopey, sunshiny, ultra-twee opposite, the Gallant to offset a scene full of Goofuses: Red Pony Clock. Eleven members strong, they come on like a bunch of virginal 14-year-old band geeks whose idea of a great rock song is "Windy" by the Association. (Who needs Jenny Piccolo when you can just have piccolo?) Their latest, God Made Dirt (Happy Happy Birthday to Me), is goofy without being jokey, more Camper Van Beethoven than Ween, and while the songs can be a little clunky and off-key--especially when the singers try to hit the high notes--the flaws only make them more charming. As far as orchestral indie rock goes, this stuff's a welcome break from all those Arcade Fires and Sufjans with their self-serious melodrama. Red Pony Clock opens for Ghost to Falco and the Scalpels. a 8 PM, South Union Arts, 1352 S. Union, southunionarts.com, $10 suggested donation. A --Jessica Hopper
FIONN REGAN Nowadays practically anyone specializing in gentle acoustic music attracts comparisons to Nick Drake, and Ireland's Fionn Regan doesn't discourage them with his carefully articulated guitar work and hushed, almost conversational singing. But his debut, The End of History (Lost Highway), also reveals some clear limitations: he consistently plays like an infant is sleeping nearby, and he's powerfully satisfied with his own lyrics. On the talking blues "Put a Penny in the Slot," the detail is charming at first (the items he's pilfered from his ex's house include "cutlery, a table cloth, some Hennessy, and a book on presidents deceased") but soon starts to feel precious ("For the loneliness you foster / I suggest Paul Auster / A book called Timbuktu"). On focused tunes like the chilling "Snowy Atlas Mountains," though, Regan does more than hint at his promise. John Kimler opens. a 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. --Peter Margasak
cHIGH ON FIRE See Saturday. Part of Wicker Park Fest; for a complete schedule see page TK. a 9 PM, North Stage, Damen between North and Schiller, 773-384-2672, $5 suggested donation.
Gerardo NuNez flamenco ensemble with Simon Shaheen and Nishat Khan Spaniard Gerardo Nunez has reigned for nearly three decades as one of flamenco's most virtuosic and innovative guitarists--he's not only accompanied great singers and dancers but also infused nuevo flamenco with a strong jazz sensibility, both in his own work and in his collaborations with jazzers like Danilo Perez and Michael Brecker. Tonight he and his ensemble perform on their own and then are joined by Palestinian oudist Simon Shaheen and Indian sitar master Nishat Khan, both of whom enhance their work with cross-cultural experimentation. Although all three players say they prefer musical dialogue over fusion, it won't be easy for them to reconcile their distinct traditions. Nunez's ensemble also performs Saturday; see separate Treatment item. a 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-742-1168. FA --Peter Margasak
cDANDI WIND This busily bizarre Montreal-based synth-pop duo (or trio, if they're playing with a live drummer) suffers from a glamorous affliction: excess imagination. Tossing out ideas in an anxious frenzy to clear their heads, they create all sorts of improbable new genres--bubblegum ragtime humpcore, Ren Faire industrial cabaret, avant-unitard noise. They say they "want to boogie" with the urgency and malice of a street hood trying to goad you into a knife fight. Front woman Dandilion Wind Opaine uses her voice as percussion, growling, spitting, and hiccuping when she's not hammering in an aggressively flat monotone. She and keyboardist Szam Findlay have the best stage outfits this side of the electroclash outbreak--ballet jester mime, majorette hooker cowgirl, black-metal art monk--and Opaine is all about modern-dance gymnastics, hoochie moves, and horror-movie faces. If there's anything for her to climb, she will--even if it's just a tall guy in the crowd. Next time this band comes around, tickets will cost twice as much if you can get them at all. Aleks & the Drummer open; Curtis Vodka and Flufftronix spin. a 10 PM, Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand, 312-666-1695, $8, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for reduced admission before 11 PM. --Liz Armstrong
GIFT OF GAB As far as scene presence and output are concerned, the Quannum Projects crew isn't the force it once was, but Blackalicous MC Gift of Gab is soldiering on. Last summer he released Supreme Lyricism Vol. 1, a solid, limited-edition collection of new and rare tracks sold only through his Web site. His dense flow is often imitated, but no one's been able to best him yet. Z-Trip headlines; Aceyalone, DJ Phoreyz, Pugslee Atomz, and Diatribe & DJ Intel open. a 8:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $20. A --Jessica Hopper
c Joan as Police Woman If you were a fan of Boston-pop/grunge-splosion major-label casualties the Dambuilders, Joan Wasser's solo work may surprise you. Or make you wonder why they didn't let her sing more: not that her violin wasn't as mighty and rocking as a bow on catgut can be, but Wasser's real weapon is her voice. Her 2006 debut under the name Joan as Police Woman, Real Life (Reveal), is searing and deeply melancholic--even when Wasser's singing about the joy and promise of true love, she sounds spent from a life traveling rough roads. The songs are mature and a little torchy--surprisingly soulful for someone who's spent more than a decade in the punk scene. Judson Claiborne opens. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10.-- Jessica Hopper
cChicago Symphony Orchestra Mahler's Sixth Symphony is widely regarded as his bleakest. Yet until the end, when the human spirit is shattered by hammer blows of fate, it's a work of conflict and ambiguity. Mahler's restless writing shifts between hope and despair--even the reassuring andante questions itself. The uncertainty at its core extends to the composer's revisions: there are historical and musical arguments for performing the middle movements in either order. (Here conductor James Conlon has chosen the original sequence of scherzo followed by andante.) The Sixth is one of Mahler's most elusive symphonies--understandably overanalyzed and underperformed--and while the wrenching music may not be best suited to Ravinia's outdoor setting or the CSO in its summer mode, credit Conlon for forging ahead on the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies, to be completed in 2011 for the 100th anniversary of the composer's death. a 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$25. A --Steve Langendorf-
ANA LAAN On her forthcoming second album, Chocolate and Roses, this Madrid-based singer-songwriter slinks into and out of various styles, moods, and languages whenever the fancy strikes her. Aided by producer Leo Sidran, she manipulates samples of her own voice to craft elegant yet playful arrangements that give her catchy tunes a lighter-than-air grace, putting a blissful, slightly careless gloss on tales of leaving a marriage in midlife and finding new romance. Her shy charm and use of electronics remind me of Juana Molina, but at heart Laan is relatively traditional, both in her slightly loungey melodies and in her more direct subject matter. Whatever language she sings in--Spanish, English, French, Swedish--she conveys a genuine sense of tasting long-denied pleasure. W.W. Lowman and Algernon open. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --Peter Margasak