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Friday 4

REX HOBART & THE MISERY BOYS These honky-tonkers from KC, MO, have just released their fourth album, Empty House (Bloodshot), and once again they pin country music to its roots while occasionally letting it squirm out and go elsewhere. Hobart's songwriting has always been good, but it makes a leap here. His stories about the myriad ways hearts twist and break have a literary sense of detail, and just about every line contains a painful truth; songs as lovely and real as "Heartache to Hide" or "Every Night I Leave You in My Mind" ought to be in the jukebox of every depressing dive from here to Chattanooga. This show is a release party for Empty House. Brian Capps & the True Liars open. 9:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10. --Monica Kendrick

LACONA This local quartet integrates a romantic-80s-pop sense of melody into familiar Chicago art-rock; Geoffrey Dolce's vocals on "Watching," from their debut EP Come On (Scuzzball), made me imagine Simon LeBon fronting the Sea and Cake. The ringing guitars sound a little muffled, and some of the arrangement flourishes are just a tad too pinkie-stuck-out. But there's reason for all of it to be there, and Patrick Newbery's keyboards add some lovely depth of field. This show is a release party for Come On. The Changes headline; Head of Femur opens, Manishevitz plays third. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $8. --Monica Kendrick

LOST SOUNDS Now that the Lost Sounds have a handle on what their latest bio coyly calls their "uncontrollable drinking habits," they're doing better at keeping down all the punk and new-wave history they've binged on. This prolific Memphis band's recent self-titled full-length on In the Red is like a bile-stained star map of the early-80s west-coast underground--from the 45 Grave-style goth-metal of "Your Looking Glass" to the Nuns-like a-pop-alyptic grind of "Let's Get Sick," where keyboardist Alicja Trout tosses her impetuous yelp up against the raunchy riffs of guitarist Jay Lindsey, erstwhile microphone abuser of slop rockers the Reatards. Opening are local noise-pop quartet Sybris; Miss Alex White's new band, Trash & Heat; and Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones, a two-drummer garage combo from bustling Algoma, Wisconsin. 10 PM, Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10. --J. Niimi

MENOMENA These Portland goofballs get carried away with their own playfulness--they have the most deliciously eye-abusing and language-mangling Web site I've seen in years. Their atmospheric computer-assembled songs hop around restlessly, reflecting a college-boy Dada aesthetic, but they can also play it straight and wallop you with invitingly delicate moments. They put out their own debut, I Am the Fun Blame Monster!, in 2003; it was reissued by Film Guerrero last fall, and thankfully they've preserved the very clever flip-book packaging. Canasta opens; Pit Er Pat (see the Meter) headlines. The band also plays a free in-store at 4 PM at Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee; call 773-235-3727. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Monica Kendrick

Saturday 5

FASHION FLESH Michigan native John Talaga, aka Fashion Flesh (he's also half of the Super Madrigal Brothers and occasionally works with Momus) is an electronics purist who flat-out refuses to deal with presets, use a laptop as a sound source, or sample anything other than himself. He makes most of his own equipment, and only uses prefab machines after he's reconstructed their guts. When he's in languorous Hawkwind mode, his gear croaks like big ol' shit-stuffed bullfrogs lounging on half-sunk lily pads and buzzes like the nervous dragonflies whizzing overhead. Nothing wrong with that if you like atmosphere, but I like Talaga better when he's stark raving mad--atop cute little bips and bleeps that sound like a Nintendo console having a stuffed-animal tea party, he blasts a head-banging beat made of gooey, high-pitched zips. He opens for Large Number and headliners Salvo Beta. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Liz Armstrong

IMPOSSIBLE SHAPES On its new album, Horus (Secretly Canadian), this Indiana band aims to make light psychedelic folk-pop with an occult-ish feel, though it sometimes winds up in territory vegetated with early-Eno whimsy and fey glam aggression. It's a lovely little record that with repeat listens reveals more charms--like the grace of "I Move by the Moon" and the startlingly accelerated pace of "Survival." During this tour they've made Tum, a new limited-edition record, free for download on the Secretly Canadian site. Jens Lekman headlines; Palliard opens. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. --Monica Kendrick

LOOKING FOR A THRILL DVD RELEASE PARTY A lot of record labels celebrate a milestone by releasing a compilation album that most people play once and shelve; Thrill Jockey Records showed more ambition with its hundredth release. The DVD Looking for a Thrill: An Anthology of Inspiration assembles interviews with 112 musicians, label owners, and fans (including Peter Margasak of the Reader), each discussing a moment that crystallized their passion for music. The filmmakers attempt to ameliorate the potential boredom of watching five-plus hours of talking heads by inserting edits and effects, and though the strategy is more obtrusive than interesting, the best stories make it worthwhile viewing. I can't imagine any music fan failing to connect with Thurston Moore's gleeful reminiscence about the first time he saw Suicide play at Max's Kansas City. This show is a release party for the DVD; the Zincs, Rick Rizzo and Janet Bean, Bobby Conn, All Natural, Califone, Freakwater, the Lonesome Organist, and the Edward Wilkerson Quartet will each play a brief set. 2 PM, Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark, 773-477-5994. Free. All ages. --Bill Meyer

KENNY NEAL Singer-guitarist Kenny Neal is usually associated with the laid-back "swamp blues" sound of his native southern Louisiana, but he infuses even the rootsiest music with funk, rock, and modern R & B. As a singer, he doesn't go for bombast--he expresses emotion through timbral forcefulness and economy of phrasing. His most recent album, Double Take (Alligator), is an acoustic outing recorded with harpist Billy Branch in 1998; Neal's linear leads, muscular rhythm, and deep-soul vocals place venerable Delta blues tropes in a contemporary context. You can get a better idea of what he sounds like these days on One Step Closer (2001), which sets emotionally taut soul-blues covers of Bob Dylan, Nick Lowe, and John Hiatt alongside originals like his hyperfunky "Whiskey Tears." Renee Austin opens. 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash, 312-427-0333, $15. --David Whiteis

Tuesday 8

FLOGGING MOLLY It's not easy for any punk-Irish fusion band to escape the long shadow cast by Stiff Little Fingers, the Undertones, and the Pogues, and frankly Flogging Molly doesn't sound like they're trying that hard. It's not such a bad place to be, after all--especially if, like front man Dave King, you were once in the forgettable Fastway. On its last album, Within a Mile of Home (Side One Dummy), the fierce and talented seven-piece careens ecstatically through familiar territory, careening ecstatically and slurring, "We're seven drunken pirates / We're the seven deadly sins," one moment, then slowing down for "Factory Girls," with guest vocals by Lucinda Williams, the next. Hot Water Music and the Riverboat Gamblers open. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $20 in advance, $22.50 at the door, 18+. See also Wednesday. --Monica Kendrick

HOTHOUSE FLOWERS It always takes me a while to warm up to each release by this band--the first time around I hear a little too much overeager, immature groping in their songs. "Your Love Goes On," a hit in their native Ireland and the first single from their most recent album, Into Your Heart (Eleven Thirty), hit me the same way--there's mock profundity and slick, overwrought gospel-choir abuse. But they put some real feeling into those earnestly inoffensive flourishes, and there's sincerity behind singer Liam O'Maonlai's Celtic-soul-man posturing. I'll always prefer Altan's version of "Si do mhamo i" though. David Singer & the Sweet Science opens. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $20. --Monica Kendrick

ANA MOURA 12:30 PM, Borders, 150 N. State, 312-606-0750. Free. All ages. See Wednesday.

SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR An all-star team drawn from various choirs in Soweto, the black township outside of Johannesburg, this 26-member vocal group pushes beyond pure gospel, but its deep spirituality is always apparent. The album Voices From Heaven (Shanachie) features songs in five languages, from both sides of the ocean: Christian hymns and spirituals (including a lush take on "Amazing Grace"), traditional Zulu songs, examples of the South African pop style called mbaqanga, and a medley incorporating Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross." On some tunes a lead vocalist rips it up backed by joyful choral responses a la African-American gospel, but other pieces suggest the crisscrossing counterpoint of Zulu harmony masters Ladysmith Black Mambazo. According to reviews of a recent performance in New York, the live show features nonstop dancing, a band with a well-deployed percussion section, and even a few excursions into kwaito, South Africa's take on hip-hop. a 7:30 PM, Christ Universal Temple, 11901 S. Ashland, 773-947-0600, ext. 236, $20-$30, $15 for students and seniors. All ages. --Peter Margasak

Wednesday 9

FLOGGING MOLLY See Tuesday. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $20 in advance, $22.50 at the door, 18+.

ANA MOURA Joining Misia, Cristina Branco, and Mariza, Lisbon's Ana Moura is the latest in the wave of new-breed fado singers that's brought the traditional Portuguese style to a broader audience. On her debut, Guarda-me a vida na mao (World Village), she pays homage to fado's past with a cover of "Flor de lua" by the great Amalia Rodrigues, but Moura and producer Jorge Fernando--a former guitarist with Rodrigues who's also worked with Branco and Mariza--have loaded the album with more contemporary material. Moura, who at 20 gave up performing in a rock band to concentrate on fado, declares her allegiance to the form in Fernando's "Sou do fado, sou fadista": "I know my soul has surrendered / Taken my voice in hand / Twisted it in my chest / And shown it to the world." Her singing has the melodramatic quality fado requires, but there's also an appealing airiness that separates her from the pack. This is her Chicago debut. a 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages. See also Tuesday. --Peter Margasak

RIVULETS Local songwriter-guitarist Nathan Amundson often gets compared to Nick Drake, but I always figured people were overstating the case. They're not. His romantic acoustic minimalism has more in common with Richard Youngs or Alastair Galbraith, but his high, dreamy voice, his pealing guitar tones, and his sense of atmosphere all resemble Drake's. He puts those tools to different uses than Drake did, though: instead of staring into darkness, Amundson peers into a point in the middle distance of a gray winter sky. His latest EP under his Rivulets moniker, You've Got Your Own (Acuarela), is completely exquisite. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $5 suggested donation. --Monica Kendrick

Thursday 10

BUCK 65 Halifax native Buck 65 (ne Richard Terfry) is a rapper, but only for lack of a better term: he rhymes in a burly drawl that resembles a folk-song recitation more than anything else. His recently issued U.S. debut, This Right Here Is Buck 65 (V2), compiles tracks from his previous Canadian releases--a new album, recorded partly in Chicago by John Herndon of Tortoise, is due this spring--and the selections emphasize the country twang that runs through much of his work. His smart, funny, and affecting lines are packed with internal rhymes, and he's a great and empathic storyteller. I don't even mind the weird mix of two-step guitar patterns, lazy pedal steel, and walloping breakbeats--but combined with his spoken-word delivery and a rhythmic sensibility that seems to come from the Rawhide theme, it all sounds a bit absurd. Apparently he's singing on the forthcoming record, and I hope it works; right now I can't listen to him without wincing. L'altra opens. 7 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12 in advance, $14 at the door, 18+. --Peter Margasak

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