BEN HOWARD, BAHAMAS
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell) While he's signed to Mumford and Sons' label, English singer/songwriter Ben Howard's winsome folk is something less bombastic and altogether frailer than those kings of sing-along. Howard's lovely debut, Every Kingdom, has tinges of Nick Drake- and Elliott Smith-style melancholy in its delicate corners. NED LANNAMANN
XIU XIU, YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN, FATHER MURPHY
(Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside) I'll be honest: I haven't checked in with Xiu Xiu since 2002's Knife Play. Around then, Jamie Stewart's abrasive and traumatic avant pop sounded groundbreaking and exciting. Ten years later, Stewart's dramatic warble belies the absence of theatrics in the band's instrumentation, but he's honed his craft so well at this point that such histrionics are no longer needed. Lastly, "Hives Hives" still hits like a bat to the head. GRANT BRISSEY
C.C. SWIM, ADVENTURES WITH MIGHT, ILIMA CONSIDINE AND THE SEXBOTS
(Valentine's, 232 SW Ankeny) Between the keyboards and the name, you'd be forgiven for assuming that C.C. Swim is just another shiny dance band. Actually, the catchy moniker is short for Cuchulain Can't Swim, a reference to Irish mythology, hinting at the nerdiness that suffuses both the lyrics and the music to make them so much more. C.C. Swim have existed since 2009, but their first album, Shapes Take Size, just came out on April 30. Tinges of NES and Atari undercut driving rhythms and burly, unfiltered vocals singing hyper-literate words. The electric guitar provides just enough depth and darkness to keep things from getting too sunny, though they're at their best when they brighten up, as on "Hot Air Balloon," an infectious, swelling dance anthem. It's a good thing C.C. Swim's live shows are so energetic, because they're following up Adventures! With Might, the sweaty duo behind one of my favorite debuts of 2011. REBECCA WILSON
FUN, NOW NOW
(Roseland, 8 NW 6th) At first glance, Fun—excuse me, fun.—are pappy enough to completely ignore, yet they seem completely impervious to that fact, which makes them intriguing at the same time. This trio from New York City are so into their shtick that you have to wonder if it's even a shtick at all. If their single "We Are Young" sounds like music for a Chevy commercial, that's because it is, but you've gotta love their Queen and ELO influence. But then you have to deride their Disney Channel/Glee cleanliness. Still, if this is what Top 40 looks like in 2012, it could be a lot worse. It could also be so much better. Confused? Good. Me, too. MARK LORE
WILD ASSUMPTIONS, SOCIAL GRACES, PINKSLIME
(Slabtown, 1033 NW 16th) Before they were PinkSlime, they were called Pleassure; either way, Thaddeus Pedisich and Dewin Trainer are an ass-kicking local band and one of the best two-piece groups I've heard in a minute. Their brand-new Slime EP (get it for free on Bandcamp) shows off their noisy, frenetic energy via Trainer's thunderous drums and clanging cymbals and Pedisich's exuberant, unruly guitar riffs and bratty vocals distorted all to shit. With song titles like "Buying Drugs," they do at times capitulate to the ubiquitous tendency to boast of stoner habits, but any trendiness ends there, and the rest is all extremely satisfying rock 'n' roll—the kind that rattles your bones, shatters your ears, and makes you want to fuck shit up. They've got a lot of shows lined up as we coast into summer. Make sure you make it to one. MARANDA BISH
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