MATT COSTA, CARLY RITTER, SAM OUTLAW
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell) California songwriter Matt Costa embarked to Glasgow to record his latest self-titled record; with contributions from members of Belle and Sebastian, Matt Costa wholeheartedly embraces both impulses of the best pop music—sunny optimism (California) and fragile melancholy (Glasgow). Tonight he performs his fine new folk-pop songs live and in person. NED LANNAMANN
MIRACLES OF MODERN SCIENCE, SAMA DAMS, CATHERINE FEENY
(Bunk Bar, 1028 SE Water) What a tangled web Sama Dams weaves, and what an enjoyable one to get caught in. The Portland group—named after their clarion-voiced frontman, with the space moved one letter over to avoid confusion with our former mayor—release their new full-length, No Vengeance, at tonight's show. It's a challenging, mathy step forward for the local trio, embracing the technical intricacies of bands like Dirty Projectors and Slint and shrugging off the band's cozier, folkier sound of the past. It's also a phenomenally impressive piece of work, demonstrating a fearless exploratory spirit as opposed to trying to be willfully obscure. While I haven't yet found anything on No Vengeance that hits me on a gut level like their splendid 2011 EP Draw This Bitter Blood, I'm gonna keep listening—no matter what level of accessibility they're working on, Sama Dams is one of Portland's most interesting, and best, bands. NL
K. FLAY, SISTAFIST, SCORPION WARRIOR, DRALA
(Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison) There's something I immediately like about Kristine Flaherty, AKA K. Flay, and it's not just because she's a female rapper. Her songs are electronic and hiphoppy, but have more substance than most hiphop, and more structure than most electronica. I'd imagine having a conversation with her at a bar would be much like her lyrics: slightly offbeat, but very dark and sexy. Her flow hits the notes of Die Antwoord if they were produced by Kid Cudi. The sound of an electro/indie/hiphop act would normally make me dubious, but K. Flay manages to intertwine these genres into something undeniably unique. ROSE FINN
DAVID DONDERO, LEWI LONGMIRE
(Al's Den, 303 SW 12th) Traveling songsmith David Dondero is apparently just going by his surname for this batch of gigs, a weeklong residency in the basement of McMenamins' Crystal Hotel featuring a special guest each night. Still, Dondero is the reason to go—as evidenced by brilliant albums like South of the South, Simple Love, and #Zero with a Bullet, Dondero is a heartbreaker of the most expert and devastating sort. Each of Dondero's songs are like open wounds, raw and pulsing with life but extraordinarily painful to stare into for long periods of time. Still, tunes like "Pornographic Love Song" and "Rothko Chapel" are masterpieces, the work of one of America's best living songwriters. He's playing for free all week long. You owe it to yourself to catch a show. Or seven. NL
THE SPECIALS, LITTLE HURRICANE
(Roseland, 8 NW 6th) This is probably a facile and at least partially idiotic comparison, but something just occurred to me: Ska and emo both started out as unwaveringly authentic punk subgenres and then went to hell in sorta similar ways. Each aesthetic was appropriated by mall-rat posers and both genres are now unanimously associated with the Vans Warped Tour. Pioneers of either genre are by and large buried under the mountain of ersatz manure that ensued. Still, if ska suffers from this sort of generalized dismissal by hacks disguised as tastemakers, anybody who isn't a complete dork surely knows how great and relevant the first Specials record was and still is. It was produced by Elvis Costello, for god's sake. MORGAN TROPER
FOL CHEN, ROYAL CANOE, BILLYGOAT
(Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi) Fol Chen's third LP, The False Alarms, is a sinewy and sparkly affair, thanks in part to Sinosa Loa, the new full-time vocalist. Loa's voice seduces as much as it keeps you at arm's length, the aural equivalent of a striptease. The new streamlined sound is cool, but it misses the amateur zaniness that was such a source of Fol Chen's charm on the first two albums. Still, unlike most trendy LA bands, they never sound the least bit out of the box. Indeed, their not-always-successful experiments suggest that Samuel Bing and Julian Wass, the producers at Fol Chen's core, are more interested in twiddling and tweaking than catering to fashion. Billmates Royal Canoe are a maximalist dance band whose total lack of inhibitions are reflected as much in their stage presence as by their propensity to embrace eight different genres, sometimes in the same song. REBECCA WILSON
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