cBILL CALLAHAN, SIR RICHARD BISHOP I'm not sure why BILL CALLAHAN decided to retire the Smog moniker and put out Woke on a Whaleheart (Drag City) under his own name. There's no sudden shift on the new album: Callahan just takes another step down the path he's been on since his obscurantist lo-fi days, moving steadily toward clarity. His melodies have grown more direct and satisfying, and his lyrics have developed a clearer focus on the unstable ephemera that arise from human relationships--each time out Callahan renders his subjects with a bit more empathy and philosophical maturity. In "Diamond Dancer" he sees in a woman's hard dancing the evidence that she's finally decided to fight her fear of the world, and in "Sycamore," over a lattice of graceful, meandering guitar and violin, the narrator remembers how a friend's father taught him to box and finds in those lessons a larger wisdom. The record was coproduced by Neil Hagerty, who helped shape the rather nonchalant arrangements--they don't do any favors for shticky tunes like the country dud "The Wheel," but fortunately that sort of material is in short supply. I still have to get used to Callahan's clipped baritone all over again on every new record, but his continuing evolution as a songwriter makes the effort worth it. --Peter Margasak
The Sun City Girls did a lot of things in their quarter century together--faux-ethnic pop, free-improv clatter, conspiracy-theory radio plays, a spot-on version of Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones"--but they rarely toured. Now that their drummer, Charles Gocher, has died of cancer, they never will again. But SCG guitarist SIR RICHARD BISHOP had embarked on a career of his own even before Gocher fell ill, touring relentlessly and amassing a solo discography almost as catholic as his old band's. The forthcoming Polytheistic Fragments, his sixth solo disc and first for Drag City, deftly shuffles quasi-Indian reveries, Django-esque melodic flights, and terse Chet Atkins-style picking, then wraps up with a languid desert-walking finale. Bishop is best experienced live, though: his piratical demeanor and enormous energy make it easy to forget it's just one guy with an acoustic guitar up there. --Bill Meyer
Callahan headlines and Bishop opens. See also Saturday. Advance tickets to the Friday show are sold out. a 9 PM, Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $14, $12 in advance. A
GREAT LAKES MYTH SOCIETY This Michigan quintet--essentially the underrated Ann Arbor band Original Brothers and Sisters of Love minus the lone sister---made an icy splash with their self-titled 2005 debut, a wintry, dusk-dark collection of boreal folk rock. The new Compass Rose Bouquet (Quack! Media) turns up the volume a little and conjures some warmer weather besides: now the band's postauthentic traditional sound includes some refreshing summertime swigs of beery Britlike bar rock (sometimes I want to call these guys the Spring Green Preservation Society) to go with the bleak balladry imported from Ireland via Chicago or from Norway via Minneapolis. Scattered Maize headlines, David Singer plays second, and the GLMS opens. a 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
c Jorma Kaukonen As he's gotten older, former Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen has returned to the traditional blues and gospel that first inspired him, but he still takes risks. His latest, Stars in My Crown (Red House), includes plenty of the stuff you'd expect from him these days--original takes on time-honored blues and gospel themes, plus rootsy covers of little-known gems, old and new--but he also delves into world music, poppy neo-gospel, and meandering instrumentals, with varying degrees of success. Like his idol, the fabled Piedmont-style guitarist Reverend Gary Davis, Kaukonen deftly juxtaposes contrapuntal rhythmic and melodic patterns in his fingerpicking, but his vocals are a bit less sure. He conveys a persuasive sense of dread on Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around" but sounds subdued elsewhere, as if he's worried he can't quite live up to the intensity of the songs' melodic and lyric themes. Nonetheless, a session with Kaukonen is a veritable workshop in nearly a century of fretboard tradition, and when he's firing on all cylinders there are few who can top him. He's joined tonight by mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff from Hot Tuna. a 7:30 and 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $25. --David Whiteis
JON LANGFORD Though he's spent much of his life acting like a drunk honky-tonker from Tennessee, Jon Langford is actually a drunk honky-tonker from Newport, Wales, and this weekend he indulges in an orgy of Cymruphilia. Tonight he'll lead a band playing material from his Wales-themed 1998 solo record, Skull Orchard, accompanied by a 30-voice Welsh-style men's chorus from Burlington, Ontario. The set is billed as a tune-up for Saturday's gig at Celtic Fest, where the already enormous group will reportedly be joined by Sally Timms and Kelly Hogan; very traditional and ancient Tom Jones songs are threatened. On Sunday Langford will sit in with the chorus for an afternoon show at Martyrs' and on Wednesday he'll play at Delilah's. Tonight's headliners, straight from the motherland, are Here Be Dragons, a Welsh entry in the traditionally Irish-dominated new-Celtic-punk derby. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Monica Kendrick
cOFFICE In a Critic's Choice in late 2005, I called Office's self-released Q & A the best local album of the year, so naturally I'm pretty excited that word's gotten out about this excellent pop band since then. Office signed to Scratchie/New Line for A Night at the Ritz (due September 25), which they're treating as their debut outside Chicago, but because many of its songs are also on Q & A, singer-guitarist Scott Masson says the band felt a bit sheepish about doing a hometown release show--this free Metro appearance is as close as they're getting. (It's an afterparty hosted by Threadless.com to celebrate the opening of its Chicago store--the party is headlined by the reunited Hey Mercedes.) Of course, the old material helps make the new album a powerhouse too--and because the fresh tunes, firmly in their predecessors' upbeat, hook-laden guitar-and-keyboard mode, are hardly duds either, there's something to like in every track. When I listen to songs like "The Big Bang Jump!" and "Wound Up," I feel like I'm grading diamonds: the words that come to mind are brilliant, radiant, and flawless. White Hot Knife and the Assembly open; the Life During Wartime DJs spin. a 11 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, 18+. F --J. Niimi
cOM, CIRCLE While Matt Pike rampages across the earth with the swift-moving predatory dinosaur that is High on Fire, his former Sleep bandmates, bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius, slowly nurture their own formidable beast, the graceful, majestically heavy OM. On their last full-length, Conference of the Birds, and the two splits that followed--an EP with Current 93 and a single with Six Organs of Admittance--they made a religious discipline of droning, singsongy doom riffs, reimagining the Geezer Butler/Bill Ward holy dyadic communion as a bone-shaking shamanic ritual. The forthcoming Pilgrimage, due October 2 on Southern Lord, consists of four long cyclical tracks (recorded by Steve Albini) that are pleasurably punishing to brains and bowels alike. --Monica Kendrick
Since forming in Finland in 1991, CIRCLE have become one of the most forceful bands on the planet, not to mention one of the hardest to pin down. Stylistic leaps are their forte: heavy metal, Krautrock, drone, and space rock are almost always in the mix, but if you slap on any two consecutive records from their fat discography, there's a good chance the music will take a U-turn between them. In the past two years Circle have released seven albums and EPs--Katapult (No Quarter) is the latest--that reference everything from Judas Priest to Satie. Metallic guitar licks and postminimalist piano riffs mesh and split in ever-changing combinations as singer Mika Ratto shifts between satanic howling and gothic crooning. What makes it all work is the group's consistent emphasis on rhythm and repetition and their willingness to hold back at key moments, allowing the music to simply hover and breathe. --Peter Margasak
Om headlines; Circle, Endless Boogie, and Ecstatic Sunshine open. Om also plays Saturday with different openers; see separate Treatment item for details. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12.
JEAN-MICHEL PILC Swing's the thing for this explosive French pianist, but that doesn't mean it's sacred. Pilc has a reputation for ripping apart standards, and on his new trio recording, New Dreams (Dreyfus), he uses reharmonization, dynamic chord substitutions, and rhythmic displacement to reimagine classics like "But Not for Me" and "Straight No Chaser." And on the originals, Pilc and his backing band--bassist Thomas Bramerie and drummers Ari Hoenig and Mark Mondesir--toss pretty melodies and jagged rhythms around like popcorn. The pace goes up and down, but it always feels natural, like the breathing of an athlete working his way through a decathlon. Pilc will be joined by Bramerie and drummer Billy Drummond for this two-night stand, and tomorrow he'll play a solo set at Pianoforte Chicago. See also Saturday. a 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. --Peter Margasak
cBILL CALLAHAN, SIR RICHARD BISHOP See Friday. Callahan headlines and Bishop opens. a 9 PM, Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $14, $12 in advance. A
MIRANDA LAMBERT Unlike the soccer moms dominating the country charts, Miranda Lambert isn't afraid to play the out-of-control bad girl--on her second album, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Sony/BMG Nashville), she often sings about taking guns and fists to no-good men. But there's more to her than just a vengeful streak: her voice is powerful, if erratic, and it shines on both a raucous cover of Gillian Welch's "Dry Town" and the amped-up old-timey original "Down." Not bad for someone discovered on Nashville Star. Toby Keith headlines and Flynnville Train opens. a 7:30 PM, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, I-80 & Harlem, Tinley Park, 708-614-1616 or 312-559-1212, $30.27-$69.50. A --Peter Margasak
JON LANGFORD See Friday. Langford performs backed by a band and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus at Celtic Fest Chicago (complete schedule, page TK). The chorus, with Langford sitting in, also appears tomorrow at 1 PM at Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln. a 6:45 PM, Celtic Fest Chicago, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus & Jackson. F A
cOM See Friday. Daniel A.I.U. Belteshazzar-Higgs, Lichens, and Bruce Lamont open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12.
JEAN-MICHEL PILC See Friday. Pilc directs a master class with pianist Anthony Molinaro at 11 AM and plays an all-ages solo show at 3 PM, both at Pianoforte Chicago (Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan). Tickets to the performance are $25, $15 for students; the class is $10 or free with purchase of a concert ticket. Call 312-291-0291 for more. a 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.
MATTEAH BAIM With help from many notable friends, including our own Rob Lowe, the Metallic Falcons guitarist takes a solo flight: Death of the Sun (DiCristina) is a short collection of chilly, misty atmospherics for those who find Spires That in the Sunset Rise too strident and aggro. Baim leads with her will-o'-the-wisp voice, and the sparse, barely-there arrangements largely prove to be cunning musical misdirections--except when all the elements fall into place and stay there for long, shining moments, as on "Wounded Whale" and "Up Is North." One may be tempted at such times to wonder what took her so damned long--but this is the New Bohemia, and the wandering is the point. Her backing band, Death's Groove, includes Lowe and Butchy Fuego of Pit Er Pat; Josh Abrams & Chad Taylor open. See also Tuesday. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $7. --Monica Kendrick
MATTEAH BAIM See Monday. Baim and her band, Death's Groove, open for Devendra Banhart. a 8 PM, Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $25. A
cOKKERVIL RIVER, DAMIEN JURADO Buzzed and beloved, OKKERVIL RIVER has just put out The Stage Names (Jagjaguwar), its first new release since 2005's Black Sheep Boy--the others were a 2006 outtakes EP and a subsequent deluxe omnibus edition compiling both. On the new disc it sounds like these Austinites have turned to concision: their usual rambling sensibility is confined to the prosey, free-associative lyrics. The music is grand, dark-toned indie pop with a grounding in country and Britpop and very old-school R & B, and refreshingly, the band manages to keep it simple, a feat that should help stick these long-awaited songs where they belong--in heads.
And Now That I'm in Your Shadow (Secretly Canadian), DAMIEN JURADO's eighth full-length, is a pure, beautiful, and perfectly coherent specimen of the singer-songwriter's craft. Be forewarned, though, that the cohesion takes the form of unrelenting tragedy, pain, and bitterness. In song after song lovers (like love itself) are lost forever, shot dead in houses or found dead in ditches--Jurado makes Richard Thompson sound like a motivational speaker. But listening to him becomes an unkickable habit, like picking at a very lovely scab to the mournful tune of a violin. He now leads a full-time trio with multi-instrumentalist Eric Fisher and cellist Jenna Conrad.
Okkervil River headlines and Jurado opens. a 9:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. A --Monica Kendrick
cSIMIAN MOBILE DISCO Back when they were touring as the rhythm section of Simian, a decent but now largely forgotten British electro-pop band, dance-music wunderkinder James Ford and James Shaw used to book postshow DJ gigs as Simian Mobile Disco. These days that name is the one they release all their music under, which so far adds up to a bunch of remixes and singles and one full-length, Attack Decay Sustain Release (Interscope). Some of rock's messiest elements still pop up in the music--fuzzed-out guitar, for instance, along with liberal amounts of distortion and noise everywhere else--but there's also a level of restraint. These guys never go for the jugular, and that keeps the songs tense and unpredictable. Simian Mobile Disco have some strong affiliations with new rave, a scene that's never lived up to its hype or even its name, but don't let that fool you--they know exactly what they've gotta do to fill a dance floor. JDH & Dave P, Telefon Tel Aviv, and the Prairie Cartel DJs open. This show is Flavorpill's third-anniversary party; admission is free, but you must RSVP to email@example.com. Later tonight Simian Mobile Disco headlines the Estrojam kickoff party at Funky Buddha Lounge; complete festival schedule on page TK. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600. F --Jessica Hopper
cchicago symphony orchestra See Thursday. This program will omit the Scriabin. a 6:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $16-$119.
JON LANGFORD See Friday. Langford plays a party to promote the Future of Music Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to helping artists make the most of the evolving music marketplace. a 8 PM, Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln. 773-472-2771. F
REDMAN It's been six years since Redman put out a record--too busy making comedies with Method Man and shooting deodorant commercials, I guess--but listening to his latest, Red Gone Wild: Thee Album (Def Jam), you'd swear no time had passed at all. He's been using the same formula for 15 years now, extolling the pleasures of weed and women over post-Funkadelic jams, and lucky for him it still works. He switches up the sound on a few songs, like the fierce Timbaland-produced single "Put It Down," but the message remains the same: in Redman's world, blunts beat bling every time. Kidz in the Hall, Akir, Verbal Kent, and the Aristacats open. a 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $25, 18+. --Peter Margasak
cTURBONEGRO Turbonegro are the scariest-looking bunch of faux homos this side of the Baltic Sea. Plenty of people consider these Norwegian glam-punk deviants nothing but a novelty act, and I'm sure the Clockwork Orange makeup doesn't help--neither do singer Hank Von Helvete's "assrockets," the Roman candles he stuffs in his can and lights onstage. (In a 2005 interview in the OC Weekly, bassist Happy-Tom said, "Our image isn't really gay--we're just really, really good-looking.") But the truth, once you get past the Tom of Finland shtick and biker drag, is that they're one of the most formidable hard-rock bands of the past 15 years. Though Turbonegro dissolved shortly after the release of 1998's masterful Apocalypse Dudes--Von Helvete was fighting a heroin addiction and went back to his hometown, taking a job in a whaling museum--the band's denim-clad worldwide fan club, the Turbojugend, soon tempted them back into the saddle. The new Retox (Cooking Vinyl) is Turbonegro's third album since re-forming in 2002 and their eighth to date--they've nearly perfected their Alice Cooper-Venom-Dictators brand of breathtakingly absurd perv rock. Mondo Generator opens. a 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $20. A --J. Niimi
c Chicago Symphony Orchestra The last time Riccardo Muti conducted the CSO, the Bears had just drafted Walter Payton. His return--a two-week stay at Symphony Center, followed by a seven-city European tour with the orchestra--could be an audition for music director. Muti opens with Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony (Pathetique). The composer declared that he'd put his whole soul into this work, and nine days after conducting its premiere he died (possibly by his own hand). In the most progressive of his symphonies, Tchaikovsky voices his sorrow and disillusionment, culminating in an ending that fades into gloom. Next is Hindemith's Nobilissima Visione, a three-movement suite condensed from his ballet depicting the transformation of Saint Francis of Assisi. This is wonderfully mystical music, with a transporting second-movement pastorale. The concert closes with Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, in which the composer throws his exotic late romanticism into a microwave. Also Wednesday (see separate Treatment item; this program will omit the Scriabin) and Friday, September 21. a 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $19-$199. --Steve Langendorf
c common At one point on his new album, Finding Forever (Geffen), Common tries to smooth-talk a potential paramour who doesn't date rappers: "I've got my SAG card, baby," he tells her. "I'm an actor." It's true he's been turning up on the silver screen, but he also switches roles like a chameleon on disc, covering the range from straight-up bangers to sappy, fuzzily spiritual ballads. At his best he's one of hip-hop's most talented and dynamic figures, and here he mixes tough beats with 70s soul like he did on his comeback, Be. But for a guy who's known for being smarter than the average MC, he sure can sound full of it. "The People" is a self-tribute that follows lines like "White folks focus on dogs and yoga / While people on the low end tryin' to ball and get over" with a real kicker: "When I see them struggling / I think how I'm touchin' them." Although his persistent big-upping of Chicago seems disingenuous for a guy who split town a decade ago, his hard-driving "Southside" with Kanye West is hard to resist, and it's nice to hear D'Angelo again--he sings the hook on "So Far to Go." Joss Stone and Ryan Shaw open. a 7 PM, Charter One Pavilion, 1300 S. Linn White Dr., Northerly Island at Burnham Harbor, 312-540-2000 or 312-559-1212, $41. A --Peter Margasak
Shapes and Sizes The guys and girl of Shapes and Sizes, from Vancouver via Montreal, make dense and disjointed look-at-me art-pop--there's an awful lot to absorb on Split Lips, Winning Hips, a Shiner (Asthmatic Kitty), their sophomore full-length. Combining the vertiginous shifting of sausage-fest math rock with the theatrics of a cabaret play, the album's both cerebral and heady. At its giddiest, storms of guitar slurry swell up beneath the viscous keyboard burbles and carny siren narratives of front woman Caila Thompson-Hannant. Her vocal foil, guitarist Rory Seydel, plays it straighter, anchoring her to recognizable indie rock, but even the familiar parts leave you feeling there's more of the story to unravel. Yeasayer, Le Loup, and Eyesearsnose open. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, 18+.-- Monica Kendrick