ALBUM LEAF Jimmy LaValle, who’s played in Tristeza, the Locust, and the Black Heart Procession, ostensibly created the Album Leaf as a solo project. But last year’s In a Safe Place (Sub Pop), recorded in Iceland, is a lushly orchestrated affair that involved members of Sigur Ros, Mum, and Amina. Though it never changes its glacial pace or breaks its glistening crust, the disc still creates ten distinct moods on its ten tracks, with LaValle’s piano navigating a path through shimmering strings and softly stumbling glitch beats. This tour, with a full band, comes on the heels of a pair of new releases; the Album Leaf’s 2003 Spain-only EP, Seal Beach, has just been issued in the States by Better Looking Records, and the band will be selling a tour-only five-song EP. Roots of Orchis and Morning Recordings open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. –Monica Kendrick
DEKE DICKERSON & THE ECCO-FONICS This veteran roots master wowed a lot of listeners in 2003 with Deke Dickerson in 3-Dimensions! (Major Label), an ambitious album that was divided into “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Rockabilly,” and “Hillbilly” sections. He has a knack for building a healthy variety of tunes from a handful of simple elements, which may explain why he has so many side projects. (The strangest would be the Go-Nuts, whose live shows are built around spraying sugary cereals and snacks at audience members with various devices–including the “Snack Storm,” which works a lot like a wood chipper.) He’s currently in the midst of a short reunion tour with his Dave & Deke Combo–featuring second guitarist Dave Stuckey, who drummed in Dickerson’s first group, Untamed Youth–but he’s popping into Martyrs’ to rock the house tonight with his regular backup band. Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys headline; Two Timin’ Three open. 9 PM, Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $15. –Monica Kendrick
YO-YO MA & THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE Cellist Yo-Yo Ma hasn’t been shy about using his star power to introduce listeners to sounds from around the globe; on individual albums he’s made excursions into music from Brazil, Appalachia, Argentina, and elsewhere. But he’s invested the most energy into his Silk Road Ensemble, which pulls in a revolving cast of master musicians from countries along the legendary Silk Road trading route, which spanned the Middle East and Asia. The new Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon (Sony Classical), the second album by the project, includes Persian, Armenian, Chinese, Indian, and Turkish traditional music, and the all-star lineup provides plenty of reasons to overlook the rather effete Western classical gloss that Ma brings to the proceedings. Among the players are Alim Qasimov, an astonishing vocal master of mugham, Azerbaijan’s classical music; Gevorg Dabaghyan, the Armenian duduk virtuoso who leads the Shoghaken Ensemble; and Wu Man, an artistically daring player of the Chinese pipa. The program features new and traditional music from India, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Romania. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, sold out. All ages. –Peter Margasak
LEE ANN WOMACK Country singer Lee Ann Womack began her career as a songwriter–she’s one of the few chart toppers who seems to care about the quality of her material–but until recently she’s polished her records with an increasingly unappealing gloss, aiming her bodice-ripper ballads directly at country’s soccer-mom demographic. So her new album, There’s More Where That Came From (MCA Nashville), is a delightful surprise. Though it’s not nearly as retro as the packaging suggests–the soft-focus cover photo is part of a booklet that mimicks the design of a 70s LP–it’s still wonderfully out of step with much of Music City’s recent output. The multitracked vocals and compressed drums sound contemporary, but the woozy pedal steel and demure grooves make no concessions to pop-rock. The real twist, however, is that Womack’s gorgeous singing and the record’s lovely melodies serve lyrics that focus almost exclusively on moral weakness and breakups–no-no’s in a genre that these days often sounds like the musical wing of the family-values movement. a 8 PM, Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago, Joliet, 815-726-6600 or 312-902-1500, $33-$53. All ages. –Peter Margasak
ZAP MAMA On first listen, Zap Mama’s terrific Ancestry in Progress (Luaka Bop/V2) seems to suggest that Marie Daulne has forsaken her roots in pan-African pop. Coproduced by Philadelphia jazz and funk bassist Anthony Tidd and littered with cameos from performers in the Roots’ orbit–including Common, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Scratch, Bahamadia, and ?uestlove–the disc is rich with elements of hip-hop and neosoul. But those influences only really affect the surface of the music: Daulne still draws heavily from a variety of African dance-pop styles, and she does it with panache and ingenuity. Her multitracked vocals sparkle with the jagged polyphony of Congolese Pygmy singing; the silky guitar lines by Dizzy Mandjeku, a former sideman with soukous legend Franco, share a bloodline with Congolese rumba; scattered elsewhere are traces of punchy Afrobeat and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Because she sings in English and French as well as various African languages, Daulne could easily play the role of poster child for globalization, with a tall stack of different Western approaches overwhelming all the other traditions in her music. But her touring band, which includes Mandjeku, a DJ, an electric rhythm section, and backing vocalists, is free of the Philly mob, which should make for a more Afrocentric set. Keziah Jones and Krystle Warren open. 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $20. All ages. –Peter Margasak
ALTAN A slightly wispy but technically dazzling neotrad Irish band, Altan stuffs the liner notes of its new Local Ground (Narada) with helpful notes about the history of the songs on the album; turns out my favorite murder ballad, “The Wind and Rain,” made it from Scotland to Ireland to America almost completely intact. The main attraction remains Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh’s supernaturally lucid, expressive voice, which floats above the frenzy like a fine mist. But the band adapts neatly to the pace of ripping dance numbers as well as slower ballads like “Adieu, My Lovely Nancy,” which has a languorous grandeur reminiscent of classic Fairport Convention. Liz Carroll & John Doyle open. 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $28, $24 seniors and kids. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
DEAD TO FALL The title of the second album by Dead to Fall, Villainy & Virtue (Victory), might lead you to expect some sort of Manichaean thesis about the divided self or the duality of man. But as it turns out this Chicago band isn’t very interested in virtue. Instead, they plow through villainous music of various stripes–mostly hardcore, death metal, and gothic metal–with head-spinning proficiency. HeWho-Corrupts, Sweet Cobra, Not Enough Gold, Russian Circles, and DJ Mother Hubbard open. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $9. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
LUDACRIS On his fourth and latest album, The Red Light District (Def Jam South), Ludacris makes no effort to tweak his hectoring delivery, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing–I can’t think of another rapper who can get so much mileage out of a single approach. As usual, the album’s packed with killer bouncy beats crafted by the likes of Timbaland, DJ Green Lantern, and Organized Noize, but the focus is always on Luda’s torrential flow. He has a seemingly bottomless pool of slick couplets at his disposal; brash, funny, and irreverent, his rhymes reflect the pleasure principle of early hip-hop without sounding retro. On their own, there’s nothing too impressive about lines like “Drive through the window, the industry super-sized me / Now the girls see me and a river’s what they cry me” or “But I ain’t speaking about ballin’, ballin’ / Just thinking about brawlin’ till y’all start bawlin’.” But they come stacked in tight verses, one kicker after another–at times there’s so much verbiage it’s almost suffocating. The Ying Yang Twins, Twista, Mike Jones, and Brooke Valentine open. 9 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212, $40, 18+. –Peter Margasak
DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS Just what we needed, right?–another eager guitar-pop squad hoping to take a not-entirely-fresh spin on XTC’s manic complexity straight to the top. And yet these Scots’ earliest singles were enough to win over even those who’d heard the advance hype and dismissed them as some Hot Hot Futureheads tribute act. “Godhopping” is a purely guileless shot of adrenaline, and the even more upbeat “I Love You Cause I Have To” suggests that no one ever told DDIHC that Modern Rock fans have been skank-averse since that unpleasant flirtation with ska in the mid-90s. More lyrical and sedate in spots, the band’s debut full-length, Please Describe Yourself (V2), is further evidence (along with Franz Ferdinand) that the heart of rock ‘n’ roll is still palpitating feverishly, and maybe a little bit awkwardly, in Scotland. Phoenix headlines; Joyzipper opens. 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $15, 18+. –Keith Harris
GUTBUCKET “O.J. Bin Laden” and “Another World Is Possible,” two of the most cohesive, affecting tracks on Gutbucket’s second album, Dry Humping the American Dream (Cantaloupe), were composed to accompany dance pieces, which says a lot about how far this New York quartet is willing to take its kitchen-sink aesthetic. The songs occasionally sound like little more than jams, in part because the guitar-bass-drums-sax setup seems to encourage aimless rock excess–when the band’s on, its music is as sharp and smart as postpunk aggro fusion gets. Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls open. a 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $12, $8 for students. –Monica Kendrick
QUEERS, BLACK HALOS Vancouver glam punks the Black Halos haven’t done much for me since their gleefully nihilistic self-titled debut in 1999. Their only subsequent full-length, The Violent Years, came out in 2001 on Sub Pop, and it doesn’t even sound like it was fun to record. But given this thin catalog, the odds that a song at this show will be from the good album are pretty high–and if front man Billy Hopeless still likes to roll around on the floor and strangle himself with the mike cord, even the droning riffs of the second disc are gonna play a lot better in the flesh. Headliners the Queers have embodied everybody’s inner 12-year-old boy since the early 80s, writing a mountain of brilliantly stoopid Ramones-flavored pogo-pop tunes with titles like “Ursula Finally Has Tits,” “I Can’t Stop Farting,” and “See You Later Fuckface.” I haven’t heard their most recent full-length, 2002’s Pleasant Screams (Lookout), but it’s not like this kind of stuff evolves–and these New Hampshire goofs earned a permanent recommendation from me with their Kicked Out of the Webelos EP, which came out way back in 1984. The Bones play first, the Black Halos second, and the River City Rebels third. The Queers headline a second show on Tuesday without the Black Halos; see separate Treatment item for details. 5 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $12. All ages. –Ann Sterzinger
FABOLOUS The title of the latest album by New York rapper Fabolous, Real Talk (Desert Storm/Atlantic), suggests he’s come up with something new, but his lyrics express the same old gangsta paranoia–boasts about drug dealing and ho fucking, claims that wealth hasn’t changed him, blah blah blah. Fabolous first got attention with some killer mix-tape cameos, but he still hasn’t figured out how to make a solid full-length of his own. Luckily, he has one of the most appealing deliveries in hip-hop; it sounds like he’s shot his mouth full of novocaine. He’s at the mercy of his producers, though, and the big-name ones serve him best: the Neptunes submit the dry, stuttery “Tit 4 Tat,” where a singsongy “doo doo doo” chorus makes the track click, and Just Blaze contributes the hypnotic, relentlessly bouncy “Breathe,” where Fab flexes his muscles with lines like “I address the haters and underestimaters / And ride up on ’em like they escalators.” 7:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $30. All ages. –Peter Margasak
REGINA SPEKTOR On her much-ballyhooed major-label debut, Soviet Kitsch (Sire), singer and pianist Regina Spektor routinely proves that there’s a thin line between beguiling whimsy and irritating nonsense. Critics make much of the fact that she’s classically trained, and though that makes her about as special as a loaf of white bread, she does have a way with melodies and contrapuntal keyboard lines. Her problem is that she ignores meter and basic enunciation as she sings, shifting from hyperarticulate to mush-mouthed in the blink of an eye. There’s nothing wrong with being quirky, but when she rattles off lines like “Maybe you should cut your own hair ’cause that can be so funny / It doesn’t cost any money and it always grows back / Hair grows even after you’re dead,” she sounds like a five-year-old making up a tune as she goes. Sometimes this is entertaining–on “Chemo Limo” she daydreams about being babysat by a hundred-dollar bill–but for the most part Spektor could use a little more self-discipline. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8, 18+. –Peter Margasak
QUEERS Toys That Kill, the Arrivals, and the Brokedowns open. 7 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $8, 18+.
GUINGA Brazilian guitarist and composer Guinga–pronounced geen-ga–has released six solo albums since the early 90s, but he remains the quintessential session man, working with notable figures like Clara Nunes, Beth Carvalho, Alaide Costa, and Cartola. He’s attracted heavies like Ivan Lins, Chico Buarque, Lenine, and Ed Motta to guest on his own occasionally overstuffed recordings, but he’s only as good as his help; he’s a superb player, conversant in styles including samba, choro, and frevo, but I don’t hear a particularly distinctive personality. For these gigs he’ll sing his own songs, backed by a second guitarist, a trumpeter, and a clarinetist. See also Thursday. 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages. –Peter Margasak
GUINGA See Wednesday. 7:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15.