ISLANDS It’s hard to say too much about a band that just played its first official gig (opening for Beck) less than two months ago, but there’s plenty that can be said about Nick Diamonds and J’aime Tambeur’s old band, the Unicorns. Their lone album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone, might’ve done more to restore credibility for indie pop as an exciting life-form than any other record in the last half decade. It’s a pity they couldn’t sustain it, but that hasn’t weakened anticipation for the new project among Unicorns fans–the Islands have already had to resort to playing “secret” gigs in their hometown of Montreal. There are currently two tracks available online (through simplemission.typepad.com), and while they’re glimmery and tantalizing, I’m not as excited about them as I wanted to be. Their debut full-length is due out in January, so judgment will be withheld for now. Make Believe and the Locks open. 8 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, $10. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
LOVEMAKERS On their second album, Times of Romance (Cherrytree/Interscope), the Lovemakers are committed to delivering a complete 80s-retro package, and their pulsing, twirling dance pop works because they take that mission so seriously. In hindsight, the most interesting thing about explosion-in-the-cosmetic-factory bands like Berlin, the Human League, and the Thompson Twins was their belief that their lyrical soap operas mattered, and like those acts the Lovemakers interlace male and female vocals to create archetypal romances for the dance floor. They have the hooks, too, and I particularly like the way “Shake That Ass” seems eager to emulate some irresistibly slutty throwaway hit from a member of Prince’s entourage, not the work of the man himself. She Wants Revenge and Rock Kills Kid open. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8 in advance, $10 day of show. –Monica Kendrick
SYBRIS The songs on Sybris’s self-titled debut for Flameshovel get some mileage out of shoegazery guitar atmospherics, but other antecedents peek through: there’s some of the new-wave romanticism of Romeo Void and later Siouxsie & the Banshees, as well as a pouty 90s Britpop sensibility. Those elements set the table for some unexpected details–the cavernous sonic intrusions on “Breathe Like You’re Dancing,” the death-metal kick drum on “You’re Only Confident in Your Insecurities”–while Angela Mullenhour’s quavering vocals register the songs’ energy shifts like a seismometer. Lying in States and the Cathedrals open. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. –J. Niimi
MATTHEW VON DORAN It might be easy to write off Matthew Von Doran as another run-of-the-mill postfusion guitarist, considering the slick artwork on his 2004 debut album, In This Present Moment (B Cat), not to mention the presence of Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip as producer. Big mistake: though he’s been influenced by 70s fusion guitar heroes, the strong originals on the disc feature both straight-ahead rhythms and terrific contemporary grooves rooted in sophisticated harmonic patterns. Von Doran is a smart, understated player who’s had ideas bubbling up since the mid-80s, when he began to move from rock to jazz. Born in Germany but raised in the U.S. and Canada, he’s spent much of his career playing low-profile gigs around Los Angeles, which explains why hardly anybody had heard of him until last year. He makes his Chicago debut this weekend, backed by a trio of locals: drummer Ernie Adams, bassist Dave Hiltebrand, and onetime Mighty Blue Kings saxophonist Scott Burns. See also Saturday. 9 PM, Pete Miller’s Seafood & Prime Steak, 1557 Sherman, Evanston, 847-328-0399. Free. All ages. –Neil Tesser
LATTITIA SONAMI, RICHARD CURTIS Laetitia Sonami is a French-born, California-based sound artist with a deep vita and a grounding in abstract principles that she renders hauntingly concrete. She’s probably best known for her “lady’s glove,” the first version of which she designed in the early 90s: rigged with switches, sensors, and transducers, the glove’s sort of the aural equivalent of motion-capture suits filmmakers use, generating a pulsating flow of sound from even the tiniest of her dancerlike movements. She’ll perform her piece The Appearance of Silence (The Invention of Perspective).
Richard Curtis, a Chicago-based vocal performance artist, will present Hemisphere, a piece that purports to explore “cultural appropriation, intellectual property, and cross-cultural exchange” using ideas he developed while studying Masai singers in Kenya earlier this year. This show is part of the Outer Ear Festival of Sound, curated by Lou Mallozzi under the auspices of his Experimental Sound Studio. 8 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 773-227-3617, $10, $8 students and seniors. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
MATTHEW VON DORAN See Friday. 9 PM, Pete Miller’s Seafood & Prime Steak, 1557 Sherman, Evanston, 847-328-0399. Free. All ages.
CHARLEMAGNE Carl Johns lays the sugar on with a shovel on Charlemagne’s second album, Detour Allure (SideCho). Some claim there’s a Byrdsy quality to the chiming pop rock that Johns and his Madison cohorts play, but frankly all I hear is the Mamas & the Papas teaming up with the Partridge Family–the music’s that sticky. The High Dials headline and Le Concorde opens. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. –Monica Kendrick
LIVING COLOUR The press attention this New York band got in the first phase of its career, back in the late 80s and early 90s, fixated so consistently on the novelty of black guys playing hard rock that it started to seem almost like an insult. (I feel a similar antipathy toward “celebrations” of women in rock to this day.) Of course, if rock ‘n’ roll had a better institutional memory there wouldn’t have been such a fuss–back in the 50s, after all, it had one foot on each side of the color line, and that was exactly what was so exciting (and threatening) about it. The reunion bug doesn’t discriminate, of course, and Living Colour caught it back in 2000. To their credit, their second-phase output–the 2003 album Collideoscope and this year’s Instant Live release, recorded in Boston in October 2004–more than justifies the comeback. Danielia Cotton opens. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $20 in advance, $22.50 at the door, 18+. –Monica Kendrick
VOXTROT The Austin-based group Voxtrot is one of the year’s better pop newbies. Their five-song Raised by Wolves EP (Cult Hero) is a confident fusion of 60s out-pop a la Love and the Left Banke and scrappy proto-indie pop a la the Television Personalities and the Housemartins. Ramesh Srivastava’s blatant Morrissey impersonation on “The Start of Something” might make some eyes roll, but I for one have a much greater appreciation for the new crop of Mozz-coppers than for the rampant Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain imitators of years past. New Sense and Record Low open. 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $7. –J. Niimi
DANDY WARHOLS What with all their skill dancing in and out of the hype machine, I really had it in my head that the Dandy Warhols had made far more than five records. One could insert some snarky question here about just how many of their albums you really need, but if you’re only going to have one, the new Odditorium or Warlords of Mars (Capitol) is probably as good a choice as any. There’s nothing mind-blowing about it–just more of the same old quasi-retro dream rock–but it’s as reliably good as anything else they’ve done, and for that I’m willing to cut them some slack. That said, for me the most memorable song on the album is “The New Country,” because it lifts the bass line from “Know Your Rights.” The Out Crowd opens. 8:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, sold out, 18+. –Monica Kendrick
JORRIT DIJKSTRA’S FLATLANDS COLLECTIVE, KNEEBODY Dutch saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra is just one of many impressive figures in Amsterdam’s bustling jazz scene, where he’s played with esteemed folks like pianist Guus Janssen and trombonist Joost Buis. But he’s refused to let himself get too comfortable there, and he’s made a point of getting out of town to launch transcontinental projects. On Humming (Songlines), a 2000 collaboration with a crew of Vancouver players, the tangles of contrapuntal lines in his arrangements spurred the improvisations forward, and his electronic processing added energy to the group’s soundscapes. He brings that sort of flexibility to every one of his projects, from tackling the cool jazz of Lee Konitz to stretching his solo saxophone approach with extended acoustic technique or electronic enhancements. He’ll perform here with his Flatlands Collective, a relatively new Chicago-based group featuring drummer Tim Mulvenna, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, clarinetist James Falzone, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and bassist Jason Roebke. They’ll record here later this month, after a brief midwest tour.
Kneebody is a hard-hitting bicoastal quintet that stokes open-ended postbop themes with rock firepower and stuttering hip-hop grooves. On their self-titled debut album, released last summer on Dave Douglas’s Greenleaf label, they make liberal use of electronics (synths, effects pedals) and hammering beats–an approach that tends to dumb down jazz-inflected acts. But Kneebody shifts easily from knotty abstractions to catchy melodies, uncorking bristling solos and constructing intense passages of multilinear improvisation. They occasionally lay it on too thick and rumble like a stone-age fusion behemoth, but the rest of the time their attack is sleek. 8:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $12. –Peter Margasak
KLAPA SINJ Since 1982 this dazzling group has been performing klapa, a Croatian form of vocal music that balances classical rigor and folk lyricism to create dense, haunting webs of polyphony. (The dozen men in the group hail from Sinj, hence the name.) The melodies on their most recent album, Lipo Ime (Nenad Bach Music), have a distinctively Italian cast–Italy’s just across the Adriatic Sea–but the gentle sweetness of their elaborate harmonies is all their own. And on a traditional piece like “Oh Beautiful Marija” they’re capable of leaping from a tender, soft-edged murmur to a sharp, blaring wail in an instant. Klapa Sinj recorded Lipo Ime in a church in their hometown, and their voices are bathed in simpatico echo; the boomy acoustics of the domed Preston Bradley Hall should make them feel right at home at this show, their Chicago debut. Croatian-American musician Nenad Bach, who produced the album, will join the group on guitar and piano for some pieces. 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages. –Peter Margasak
BIRTHDAY SUITS Guitarist Hideo Takahashi and drummer Yuichiro Matthew Kazama are veterans of Minneapolis’s late, lamented Sweet J.A.P., and Cherry Blue (Nice & Neat) is their debut as a duo. The album’s missing their old band’s unhinged wildness, but the squared-off, downstroke-upstroke riffing has a tight, springy energy, and the grim tunefulness of the songs recalls early punk. The Tyrades headline. 8 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, $6 in advance, $8 at the door, 18+. –Monica Kendrick
PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS This LA hip-hop duo has spent the better part of a decade clinging to the bedrock principles of B-boy culture. They build tracks using just a pair of turntables and an MPC sampler–no keyboards or other conventional instruments–and MC-producer Thes One routinely ridicules bedroom producers who don’t get their knees dirty crate digging. “We’ll keep making that ’93-style hip-hop with that ’73-style funk til 2033,” he writes in the liner notes to one of their albums, but sometimes that seems less like a statement of principle and more like plain old myopia. Their tracks owe a debt to Native Tongues aesthetics but aren’t very innovative, and lyrically they stick to tired subjects like getting wasted, their mike superiority, and the greatness of hip-hop. But on their most recent disc, 2003’s . . . Or Stay Tuned (Om), they deliver within those narrow confines, even finding a way to quote from Wesley Willis on the chorus of the closer, “Outrun” (“Rock over London, rock on Chicago / GE, we bring good things to life”). A new album is slated to come out in the spring. Pugslee Atomz, MTM King of Breaks with DJ Pickle, and Bad News Jones open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12. –Peter Margasak