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Our Music Critics’ Picks for This Week

Written by on December 7, 2019

Pacific Northwest rock institution Sleater-Kinney will bring their anthemic panache to the Paramount this weekend.

Nikko LaMere

This week, our music critics have picked everything from Sleater-Kinney to A$AP Ferg to the Black Keys. Follow the links below for ticket links and music clips for all of their picks, and find even more shows on our complete music calendar. Plus, check out our arts and culture critics’ picks for the 52 best things to do this week.


Jump to: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday


MONDAY

JAZZ

The Cinematic Orchestra

J. Swinscoe’s the Cinematic Orchestra have been among the fabled Ninja Tune label’s foremost purveyors of ornate jazz funk since 1998. Thankfully, their name is not misleading in the least. I recall seeing them perform at South by Southwest in the late ’90s or early ’00s, and was shocked by how much they evoked something of the Sun Ra Arkestra—not something you expect from a mostly white British ensemble. They were that telepathically in sync, that uproariously uplifting, that in love with density and elegant chaos. The Cinematic Orchestra’s 2019 album, To Believe, is loaded with guest vocalists and flirts with Hollywood sentimentality and a Sigur Rós–like spaciousness, but you can’t fault the exquisite skill and care with which it’s constructed. DAVE SEGAL

A Tuba to Cuba: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Yusa and Special Guests

Since its founding in 1961, storied New Orleans institution the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has bred well over 50 members in their lineup, culminating with the current cast that electrifies classic jazz with the vibes, sounds, and swing of the Big Easy.

SOUL/R&B

Allen Stone’s Karaoke Extravaganza

Deeply divisive white boy soul singer Allen Stone has graced these pages often by fans and foes alike, and will now take over Seattle for two nights of what he’s known for: neo-soul classics and probably a few grandpa sweaters.

Brittany Howard

Alabama Shakes powerhouse Brittany Howard will bring her celebrated soul music to Seattle on her solo tour.

TUESDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

Cat Clyde

Deemed “a bluesy bright hope” by Fader, up-and-coming Ontario folk singer Cat Clyde will bring her smokey sound to Seattle. 

A Night with The Milk Carton Kids in Very Small Venues for Very Low Ticket Prices

Talented folk duo the Milk Carton Kids will serenade you with their David Rawlings-esque finger-picking and Cohen Brothers-esque vocal harmonies.

METAL/PUNK

Cave In, Helms Alee, the Primals

Massachusetts metalcore vets Cave In balance brawn and beauty about as artfully as anyone in the scene. They often come across as a heavier-than-usual shoegaze-rock group, complete with those appealing, distant-sounding vocals from Stephen Brodsky. But they can also get fairly proggy with their baroque guitar riffing and florid atmospheres. Unfortunately, Cave In are rebounding from the tragic 2018 death of bassist/vocalist Caleb Scofield, but they’re soldiering on, touring in support of this year’s Final Transmission LP. It’s a majestic slab of melancholy, mountain-top rock that sounds like an elegy for their fallen bandmate. DAVE SEGAL

WEDNESDAY

EXPERIMENTAL/NOISE

That 1 Guy

Experimental weirdo Mike Silverman takes the stage as That 1 Guy with a myriad of musical magic and bizarre hand-wrought techniques sure to surprise many.

METAL/PUNK

Liturgy, Kihalas, the Convictions

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is a great name for a rock guitarist. It’s also a name of a musician you’d totally expect to describe his music as “transcendental black metal,” as HHH dubbed Liturgy in the New York quartet’s early days. Their brand of metal comes adorned with ostentatious guitar ululations, the requisite blast beats, and HHH’s tormented wails, which you can hear on LPs such as Renihilation and Aesthethica. My fave song by them might be “Generation,” which approaches Lightning Bolt levels of maniacal repetition and majestic power. The Ark Work (2015) starts a tendency toward prog-rock melodiousness, while Liturgy’s newest track, “God of Love,” finds them moving in a neoclassical direction, without losing their power and pomp. DAVE SEGAL

ROCK/POP

Chelsea Wolfe, Ionna Gika

Ah, how glorious. Sylvia Plath–winged seraph Chelsea Wolfe will descend upon us, parting our gray clouds like a sacrilegious Moses, and rain down metallic, doom-rock manna to feed us. The Californian’s 2017 album Hiss Spun has enough dark magic to keep us mystified for another couple of her descents back to Seattle. ZACH FRIMMEL

Melanie Martinez, Lauren Ruth Ward

The Voice success story Melanie Martinez will bring her creepy doll charm to Seattle for a night of skewed pop music with Lauren Ruth Ward.

VARIOUS

(Hed) P.E., Blacklist Regulars, Homegrown Psychotherapy, The Pain Mob, The Head Choppa

Longstanding G-punk pioneers (Hed) P.E. will bring their gangsta rap and punk-rock fusion to Seattle with support from an appropriately eclectic lineup of openers: Chicago’s Blacklist Regulars (who describe themselves as an “in-your-face rock band with an international twist”), Northwest rap groups Homegrown Psychotherapy and the Pain Mob, and the Head Choppa.

WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY

JAZZ

Joshua Redman Quartet with Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers & Gregory Hutchinson

Famous jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman is a charismatic intellectual, having taken in genre influences across the board and translated them into sounds equally complex and accessible.

THURSDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

An Evening with Tim O’Brien Band

Tim O’Brien (not to be confused with the author of The Things They Carried… we think) goes heavy on the fiddle in his latest stylings. He and his band will play original acoustic songs and traditional folk standards.

HIP-HOP/RAP

G Perico, Azjah

West Coast G-funk revivalist and Wiz Khalifa collaborator G Perico will bring his “progressive gangster music” to Seattle on his Ten Eight Tour. He’ll be joined by Compton rapper Azjah. 

JAZZ

Kandace Springs, James Carter Organ Trio, James Francies

The prestigious, long-lived jazz label Blue Note Records presents two young, rising talents and a woodwind-blowing vet on its 80th anniversary tour. Nashville’s Kandace Springs leans to gospel-flecked, R&B, and soul-soaked jazz, her vocal quality is silky and pitch-perfect and lightly smoldering. Her latest Blue Note record, Indigo, was produced by Karriem Riggins (Common, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, Earl Sweatshirt). NYC-based jazz pianist and composer James Francies, who’s been tapped by artists ranging from Pat Metheny to the Roots, released his first album, Flight, on Blue Note last year; the New York Times has called him “a pianist with liquid dynamism in his touch.” Finally, Detroit’s James Carter is a saxophone virtuoso (tenor, soprano, bass) who works in soul-jazz domains with his trio, which features Hammond B3 player Gerard Gibbs and drummer Alex White; they’re on the road behind James Carter Organ Trio: Live from Newport Jazz. LEILANI POLK

Pete Leinonen Solo + Quartet

Enjoy an evening of improvised solo double bass with jazz composer Pete Leinonen.

METAL/PUNK

Nile

Who would’ve thought that a small group of longhairs from North Carolina would become so obsessed with Egyptian history that they would create a devastatingly brutal death-metal band solely dedicated to the folklore and culture of the area? Furthermore, who would have guessed that millions would eat it up? Since the release of Nile’s first demo, die-hards have successfully pushed that very band to the top tier of American death-metal bands, cementing them as much more than just a gimmick that happened to work. Only in the strange alternate world of death metal, my friends. KEVIN DIERS

ROCK/POP

Danny Denial’s BDAY BSH with DoNormaal & Guayaba

“Alt-gloom” indie rocker Danny Denial will head up a special birthday show with tried-and-true support from DoNormaal and Guayaba. 

Julia Jacklin, Christian Lee Hutson

Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin will come to town with lyrically focused tracks about unrequited love from her latest album, Crushing. She’ll be joined by LA folk-pop trio Christian Lee Hutson.

Nahko & Medicine for the People, Ayla Nereo

The Nahko Bear-fronted group Nahko & Medicine for the People will bring their worldly music to Seattle on their Take Your Power Back Tour with support from West Coast folk artist Ayla Nereo. 

Nudity, Bad Blood, Advertisement, Azzy

Olympia’s Nudity, once a strict Krautrock group, have evolved into something sweatier and more rockin’ and a rollin’. They still nod to the prog, but now they’re more liable to wear hot pants than kaftans! Seattle’s Bad Blood, aka Mr. Conor Kiley and company, has cool, um, “loner” stylings. Advertisement—also from Seattle—play sweet, fun, and catchy songwriter rock. Should be a grand ol’ Thursday evening in Tukwila. MIKE NIPPER

WORLD/LATIN

Jenny & the Mexicats, Guests

With their mix of flamenco, jazz, and cumbia, Mexico-based band Jenny & the Mexicats are known for their high-energy live shows. They’ll take a break from the festival circuit and come to Seattle with support from Bay Area Latin hip-hop group Bang Data. 

FRIDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

Jesse Cook

“World music” is a nebulous and arguably heinous genre designation that’s too broad to truly carry any meaning whatsoever. That being said, the work of Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook would perhaps be best filed under this label. Most known for his proficiency and excellence playing the flamenco guitar, Cook has also expanded his knowledge into genres and musical traditions from cultures all over the world. After studying with musicians in seven countries on three continents, Cook’s 2017 album Beyond Borders is a blend of jazz, flamenco, R&B, and electronica that attempts to create a fluid sound between the disparate genres. Borders are just in our head! JASMYNE KEIMIG

ELECTRONIC

Mark Farina with Uniting Souls

House music great Mark Farina will head up this dance party with local support from Tokita, Pappa T. (who will celebrate his birthday on this night), DJ Mercedes, and Ramiro.

ROCK/POP

Blitzen Trapper

Blitzen Trapper’s 2010 album, Destroyer of the Void, sounds like one of the best albums of the year—that year being 1971. But seriously… Destroyer of the Void is a fine collection of tuneful country and art rock that seems like it will grow on you over time (not that it doesn’t transmit fairly immediate pleasures, but one senses that its proliferation of subtle details will become richer the more you play it). Blitzen Trapper have leveraged their sumptuous vocal arrangements and brazen song dynamics into elaborate tapestries of sound, like some unlikely Crosby Stills & Nash/Queen collaboration. (Note: “Evening Star” is, unfortunately, not a Fripp/Eno cover.)   DAVE SEGAL

JAZZ

Evan Flory-Barnes, Afrocop, Shaina Shepherd

Local bassist and composer (and Stranger Genius) Evan Flory-Barnes will be joined by cosmic, spectral jazz trio Afrocop and BEARAXE’s Shaina Shepherd. 

WORLD/LATIN

Los Ángeles Azules

Iztapalapa-bred Cumbia band Los Ángeles Azules (who, as you might guess from their name, now reside in LA), will come to town on their Esto Si Es Cumbia Tour.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

ELECTRONIC

Big Wild, EVAN GIIA, Ark Patrol

Jackson Stell, the twentysomething who makes large-font-on-the-festival-poster EDM as Big Wild, is a member of the Odesza-founded Foreign Family Collective. It’s no surprise, then, that Stell’s music shares many typical headliners’ hallmarks: “organic”-sounding timbres via softsynths; features for anonymous, mononymic vocalists; beats that induce head-bobbing more than dancing. Fans of Cashmere Cat, Pretty Lights, and Zedd will be equally sated. ANDREW GOSPE

JAZZ

TAUK + Jazz Is Phsh: Feed The Beast Tour

Four-piece band TAUK are a blend of funk, hiphop, prog rock, and jazz. They’ll be joined by Jazz Is Phsh, who, as you might guess, play jazz renditions of Phish songs.

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

JAZZ

Taj Mahal Quintet

Taj Mahal has a voice that makes me feel instantly warm, comforted, and content. Sometimes it’s low, gritty, easy, set against breezy, ambling grooves with vague island vibes (“Satisfied N’ Tickled Too”), other times it’s husky and booming over bright rootsy melodies (“Queen Bee”) or low-down, harmonica-piped R&B (“Leaving Trunk”), and often, it’s plain smoky and soulful and rambling (“Corinna”). Taj has been singing, finger-picking, and instrument-slinging (guitar, dobro, steel, kora, etc.) for more than five decades, heavily infusing his loose brand of blues with elements of rock, R&B, jazz, Americana, and world music (as for that last, go listen to Mumtaz Mahal and Kulanjan for some truly transcendent beauty). He’s also just a cool dude with an impressive collection of wide-brimmed hats, and he is a pleasure to see live. You’ll have many chances on this Seattle run: He’s playing 13 shows over eight days with his quintet, which includes bassist Bill Rich, Bobby Ingano (guitar, Hawaiian lap steel), and drummer Kester Smith, plus special guest Roger Glenn on vibes. LEILANI POLK

SATURDAY

ELECTRONIC

Audien

EDM party starter Audien will take a break from the neon festival circuit for a night downtown in support of his Escapism tour.

Vertex ft. IVVY & DJ Having Sex

This installment of Vertex promises another “euphoric, hypnotic techno trip,” this time with DJs IVVY, Having Sex, and Later. 

ROCK/POP

The Black Keys, Modest Mouse, Shannon & the Clams

Back in 2002, when I lived in Cleveland, I’d catch the Black Keys in small venues like the Beachland Tavern. Nothing about the scrappy Akron, Ohio, blues-rock duo screamed out “potential rock megastars”—not even their decent cover of the Beatles’ “She Said, She Said.” To be honest, nothing still screams out “rock megastars,” but there’s no denying these rust-belt muthas worked hard to reach their rarefied heights. They may seem ultra-meat-and-potatoes-y to me, but Dan Auerbach can sing with barrel-chested, Paul Rodgers–esque soul and grind out catchy guitar riffs all damn night, and drummer Patrick Carney’s perfectly functional and unflashy. DAVE SEGAL

The Helio Sequence, Hibou

The Helio Sequence have always been masters of texture. Guitarist/singer Brandon Summers and drummer Benjamin Weikel began their career in the deep end of the sugary-sweet pop pool, amid sparkling synths, heavily effected vocals, and whizzing bleeps and bloops. Over time, however, the Portland band’s dreaminess has darkened and become more thoughtful, its layering more restrained, its effects more minimal. On its sixth self-titled album, the band feels like it’s settling into the apex of its career, balancing just the right amount of dark to light, quiet to loud. It sounds gorgeous. KATHLEEN RICHARDS

SOUL/R&B

MistaDC, Alex Cade, U Moore

After dropping his fantastic debut album, Sorry We Lost You, last year, Seattle-based rapper MistaDC followed it up this year with the short and sweet HAPPYer NOW EP. His music can best be described as “wavy.” A blend of neo-soul, R&B, and rap, MistaDC’s tracks induce a body-high-like effect, pulling you into the beat and lyrics: Turn on the tropical “Brap” to move and the disco-infused “Pretty Pink” to groove. He’ll be joined by rapper and Sound Off! 2019 finalist Alex Cade and rapper-producer U Moore. JASMYNE KEIMIG

SATURDAY-SUNDAY

ROCK/POP

Sleater-Kinney

Twenty-five years into their career, Sleater-Kinney have built a devoted fan base who would run through burning forests in gasoline suits in order to see them perform. Thanks to their strong, catchy, feminist music, Sleater-Kinney have become a Pacific Northwest rock institution. On albums such as 2005’s The Woods and 2015’s No Cities to Love, S-K blow out their songs to stadium-sized dimensions, but without sacrificing passion. However, drummer Janet Weiss left the band a month before they released this year’s St. Vincent–produced The Center Won’t Hold. Thankfully, S-K haven’t mellowed lyrically, addressing the toxic fallout following the 2016 presidential election. Musically, the new album bears surprising electronic elements, but still rocks with an anthemic panache. DAVE SEGAL

SUNDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

Dan Bern, Rebecca Rego

Steeped in the contemporary American folk traditions of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Phil Ochs, LA’s Dan Bern will come to Seattle in support of his latest album, Regent Street. He’ll be joined by singer-songwriter Rebecca Rego. 

HIP-HOP/RAP

A$AP Ferg, Murda Beatz, MadeinTYO

An affiliate of the sprawling Harlem-based A$AP Mob, Darold Durard Brown Ferguson Jr. (aka A$AP Ferg) is perhaps one of the best known solo rappers of the collective (save for Rocky, of course). And for good reason. Bursting into the mainstream with his infectious ode to the Jamaican dancehall musician in “Shabba,” Ferg has consistently put out an impressive roster of trap tracks to drink and turn up to. His 2019 release Floor Seats only furthers the rapper’s slick and boastful raps over frenetic, heavy, and club-forward sounds. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Mark Battles, Guests

Up-and-coming Indianapolis hip-hop artist Mark Battles names Eminem, Jay-Z, Big Pun, and LL Cool J among his influences. Catch him in Seattle with as-yet-unannounced special guests. 

ROCK/POP

Black Midi, Ami Dang

On their 2019 album Schlagenheim, London quartet Black Midi display an exceptional affinity for loud/quiet/loud dynamics and smart, aggressive rock. However, the melodramatic, male-witchy vocals detract from the sonic excitement, although you may have a different reaction. I would encourage everyone to arrive at the Crocodile early for Ami Dang, a Baltimore-based sitarist/vocalist who also manipulates electronics in her artful East-West fusions. Check out her 2019 album Parted Plains on the great Leaving Records for an example of Dang’s eventful, ambient compositions; every track reveals an unconventional facet of sonic transcendence. DAVE SEGAL

A SMASH Benefit Celebrating the Music of Neil Young

A pantheon of Seattle musicians will join together to honor the music of Neil Young and to raise money for Seattle nonprofit SMASH (Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare). Performers for the evening include Dave Matthews Band, Dave Bazan (Pedro the Lion), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Chris Ballew (Caspar Babypants, Presidents of the United States), Ron Nine and Kevin Whitworth (Love Battery), Carrie Akre (Hammerbox, Goodness), John Roderick (The Long Winters), Dave Alvin, Shelby Earl, The Naked Giants, Ian Moore, LeRoy Bell and Terry Morgan (LeRoy Bell and His Only Friends), Christy McWilson, Shaina Shepherd (Bearaxe), and additional surprise guests.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2019 Presented By Hallmark Channel

Yes, I know, they’re cheesy in the extreme and not even actually from Siberia, but Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s jolly blend of electric-guitar shredding and Christmas music is like the flu: It comes around every year and it’s extremely catchy. That being said, if I’m going to be afflicted with pinch-harmonic-inflected cheer, then I’m at least going to focus on the upside. Which is, TSO formed from the remains of the excellent and under-appreciated power-metal outfit Savatage, whose interpretation of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” probably sparked the whole classical-music-meets-metal fad. Now if only they still had Alex Skolnick from Testament in the band. JOSEPH SCHAFER

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