ANGEL OLSEN, VILLAGES
(Bunk Bar, 1028 SE Water) If I heard Angel Olsen coming from the apartment next door, I'd probably think the building was haunted. I wouldn't stop listening, though. The Chicago-based singer has a rich, lost-in-time quality to her voice, a voice so full and ripe that it blots out fears and boredom and frustration even as it sounds unnervingly inhuman. It's the kind of voice (like Edith Piaf's, or Vera Lynn's) that you can imagine soothing war-stricken and starving citizens, despite—or maybe because of—its fragility. Actually, forget what I said about Olsen sounding inhuman. She sounds ultra-human, sounding so honest and unblinking it's almost terrifying. The dusty, funereal bluegrass on her latest album Half Way Home is evidence enough (Jagjaguwar recently plucked her up), but seeing her live should be a full-fledged heart-in-throat experience. NED LANNAMANN
CUSSES, THE EX-GIRLFRIENDS CLUB, HOPELESS JACK AND THE HANDSOME DEVILS
(Tonic Lounge, 3100 NE Sandy) Savannah, Georgia, trio Cusses have been compared to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and they wield a big, brash, brutal sound on their debut self-titled full-length album. Also like Yeah Yeah Yeahs (at least in the early days), Cusses get by merely on drums, guitar, and voice—all of them thundering, particularly lead singer Angel Bond, who's as good as rock vocalists come. She throws her voice to its furthest limits, where it cracks appealingly (with echoes of Joan Jett) but never breaks. Apart from Bond's charisma on the mic, I'm not quite sure what, if anything, makes Cusses unique among the millions of other guitar-driven hard-rock bands out there, but their music sounds terrific at loud volumes, and that's plenty. NL
MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD, 1939 ENSEMBLE
(Roseland, 8 NW 6th) Well known for their renegade jazz oeuvres, MMW have been composing and playing music together for 21 years. Their latest, Free Magic, is made up of live acoustic recordings from a 2007 tour. The sometimes chaotic, sometimes serene tones encapsulate the improvisational, conversational process of the trio's cooperative effort. The result is a glance into the intuitive and mind-melding world that MMW call home. RACHEL MILBAUER
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