Sound Menu 

CL's picks for the week's best shows

WED/9

THE HISS, DEREK LYNN PLASTIC, KNIFE & THE 4TH WARD DAGGERS Atlanta five-piece the Hiss crafts rousing, big beat rock 'n' roll songs that draw from a penchant for garage rock and surrealism. Knife and the 4th Ward Daggers plays a set of speedy, bratty and tightly wound boy-girl punk tunes. Derek Lynn Plastic opens with a show of paranoid and sneering horror punk and spun-out new wave rock 'n' roll jitters. $7. 9 p.m. Star Bar. 404-681-9018. www.starbar.net. -- Chad Radford

THE LEVON HELM BAND Life after the Band hasn't been easy for the group's drummer, mandolinist, vocalist and sole American member. But after beating throat cancer and winning a Grammy for his most recent album, things are looking up. He's never stopped playing though, and now brings the monthly Midnight Ramble sessions he holds at his Woodstock home on the road for a rare Atlanta appearance. Expect plenty of old-timey American folk and blues from the new release along with enough Band nuggets to give the classic rockers who will flock here something to sing along with. $45. 8 p.m. Variety Playhouse. 404-223-1100. variety-playhouse.com. -- HH

THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT Michael Nyman, best-known for his soundtrack to the film The Piano, composed this chamber opera based upon the case-study essay of the same name by neurologist Oliver Sacks. The semistaged performance by the Opera Institute of Boston University tells the story of a professional singer suffering from "visual agnosia," a neurological condition that causes him to mistake his wife's head for a hat, and progressively forces him to depend upon musical references to cope with everyday life. Free, but requires reservation of tickets. 8 p.m. Cannon Chapel, Emory University. 404-727-5050. www.arts.emory.edu. -- MG

THURS/10

COLIN MELOY The Decemberists' frontman reprises the solo persona as he's done for a few years now between band tours. He describes the shows as being similar in spirit to a "campfire sing-along" on the recently released Colin Meloy Sings Live! As in past appearances, he has recorded a tour-only EP of covers, this time five Sam Cooke songs. Like with the Decemberists, Meloy's songs are lyrically knotty and mannered with a faint fantastical air that's grounded by Meloy's self-effacing charm. $22. 8 p.m. Variety Playhouse. 404-524-7354. www.variety-playhouse.com. -- Chris Parker

JEFF BLACK, TERRI HENDRIX & LLOYD MAINES Singer/songwriters have a tough time making an impact, but when they're good, they're great. Black hasn't broken out like he should, but his work is consistent, captivating and contagious. Texan Hendrix tends to be a bit on the spacey side, but she's a great singer, and with steel player Lloyd Maines (the smarty pants Dixie Chick's dad) on board, this is a must see. $15-$75. 8 p.m. Eddie's Attic. 404-377-4976. www.eddiesattic.com. -- James Kelly

PAPA MALI The one-time Killer Bee left reggae and returned to his Louisiana roots, but his music retains a languorous, shuffling groove, as it scuttles through Big Easy swing and bluesy swamp boogie. Mali's a wonderfully engaging performer who segues easily from greasy, Delta-soul-soaked rock to psych-tinged blues-funk workouts with a gruff growl and tasteful fretwork flash. Last year he released his second album, Do Your Thing. $12. 8 p.m. Smith's Olde Bar. 404-875-1522. www.smithsoldebar.com. -- CP

ROBERT CRAY BAND Little has changed in Cray's sound since the soul/bluesman crossed over with 1986's Strong Persuader album. Despite a dozen quality releases since, he plays virtually the same-sized venues and remains the ultimate professional, incapable of putting on a poor show while showing flashes of brilliance in his generally underappreciated guitar work. More recently, he has shifted to topical material and toyed with the occasional offbeat song structure and/or arrangement to mix things up. But he remains a classy and distinctive performer who plays with more passion and intensity than he is given credit for. $28-$30. 8 p.m. Center Stage. 404-885-1365. www.centerstage-atlanta.com. -- Hal Horowitz

FRI/11

DuoATL Flutist Nicole Randall and guitarist Brian Luckett created duoATL in 2005, and have developed a reputation for blending classical and cool in their performances. This concert includes the premiere of Randall's "Mangosteen," The duo also performs music by Astor Piazzolla, Joaquin Rodrigo, Michael Daugherty and Radames Gnattali. $10. 8 p.m. Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. 404-872-5338. www.callanwolde.org. -- Mark Gresham

GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL CHOIR You've seen the Gloucester Cathedral featured in Harry Potter films (nos. 1, 2 and 6), and now Atlantans can hear its 450-year-old choir on tour under the leadership of its new organist/choirmaster, Adrian Partington. Frequently appearing on British radio and television, they have a lovely rendition of "In the Bleak Midwinter" on YouTube, and were featured in the 1995 British film The Choir, based on the novel by Joanna Trollope. $15. 7:30 p.m. Cathedral of St. Philip. 404-365-1052. www.stphilipscathedral.org. -- MG

SON VOLT, BOBBY BARE JR. Jay Farrar is considered a guru in the Americana scene, having been part of the seminal Uncle Tupelo way back in the day. He's still doing pretty much the same stuff, but has matured a lot. Some of it is immaculate, some is disposable. Bare Jr. is one of those Nashville anomalies who doesn't quite fit in that scene but is doing something really interesting. $20-$22.50. 8:30 p.m. Variety Playhouse. 404-524-7354. www.variety-playhouse.com. -- JK

SAT/12

SHELBY LYNNE She was just 20 when she scored her first hit, and Lynne's early career saw more change than a MARTA kiosk. She grew into her expressive, soulful voice, and in her 30s has released a series of wonderful albums combining AC pop, country and soul in an idiosyncratic way, beginning with her breakthrough I Am Shelby Lynne. Her songs explore the pain, confusion and uncertainty of the world with a heartened pragmatism that reflects her own resilience. Her latest, Just A Little Lovin', covers Dusty Springfield, which proves a fine vocal fit. $25. 8:30 p.m. Variety Playhouse. 404 524-7354. www.variety-playhouse.com. -- CP

UNKNOWN HINSON, SYRENS OF THE SOUTH Imagine, if you will, an unholy hybrid of Hasil Adkins and Bella Lugosi, and you have Unknown Hinson. He's the rockabilly "vaym-parr" whose sly and slurring croon gives new meaning to Southern gothic. He's truly an old-fashioned troubadour of the night whose country twang and aw-shucks sense of humor is all about the red in redneck. Atlanta burlesque troupe Syrens of the South also performs. $13-$15. The Earl. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com. -- CR

SUN/13

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, LICHENS Austin, Texas, four-piece Explosions in the Sky crafts massive instrumental rock that is filled with breezy crescendos and sparse valleys of rhythm and resonance. Chicago's Lichens is the sometimes-solo, sometimes-full-band project of former 90 Day Men bassist Robert Lowe. As Lichens, Lowe dwells on the subtle elements of drone music and avant-garde folk pickery, relying on the microtones and the imperfections of sound to craft songs. $12-$14. 4:30 and 8 p.m. Variety Playhouse. 404-524-7354. www.variety-playhouse.com. -- CR

TAKÁCS QUARTET The 2002 Grammy-winning Takács Quartet performs "Quartet in G minor, Op. 74 No. 3" by Franz Joseph Haydn, "Quartet No. 3 in B-flat major, Op. 67" by Johannes Brahms, and "Quartet in C major, Op. 59 No. 3" by Ludwig van Beethoven. The string foursome's passionate performances, teasingly subtle, dig deep to reveal the music from the inside out with unanimity of purpose. $40. 3 p.m. Spivey Hall. 678-466-4200. www.spiveyhall.org. -- MG

MON/14

CARBON/SILICON, MATT POND PA. Aging but still vital punk icons Mick Jones (the Clash) and Tony James (Generation X) teamed up in 2003 but finally released an unusually under-the-radar and unfairly ignored project last year. The sound is closer to Big Audio Dynamite, minus the dance sheen, than anything Jones did with Joe Strummer, but even with somewhat spotty material, the collaboration is a successful meeting of the minds within a standard pop-rock format. The likelihood of Jones reprising a few "Train in Vain"-era hits though makes this a must-see gig. Prolific indie pop-rockers Matt Pond PA make a strong opening act. $14-$17. 8 p.m. The Loft. 404-885-1365. www.theloftatl.com. -- HH

IRON & WINE, CALIFONE Melodic, artful, poignant and occasionally funny, Iron & Wine doesn't really fit into any particular category, but who cares? It's fascinating stuff; you never know what will come next. Califone's hypnotic and complicated space songs will be a perfect complement to open the show. Sold out. 8 p.m. Variety Playhouse. 404-524-7354. www.variety-playhouse.com. -- JK

SPOON, WALKMEN The jerky, spidery rhythms give the hooks sashay as they swing down the indie-rock corridor, the clean, crisp wiggle silhouetted against Britt Daniel's elliptical lyrics, drifting expressionistically like smoke from the end of a noir movie hero's cigarette. They've yet to release a disappointing album, and last year's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga may be their best. The Walkmen boast a rich, theatrical style that rattles, shimmies and shuffles like a bloozy beatnik carnival sideshow, suggesting the Band if they had grown up in the Bowery. $15. 7 p.m. Center Stage. 404-885-1365. www.centerstage-atlanta.com. -- CP

TUES/15

KATE NASH Two chart-topping hits and critics'-darling-of-the-month status allows Kate Nash to headline this "NME Awards Tour," named after the UK music weekly, that kicks off its month-long American jaunt tonight. Nash's generally fluffy approach belies some dark lyrical undercurrents that offer a much-needed edge, even if her talk/singing and inherent Britishness make crossover U.S. success, even with major-label backing, tricky. $15. 8 p.m. Variety Playhouse. 404-223-1100. variety-playhouse.com. -- HH

PORTER/BATISTE/STOLZ This trio of New Orleans veterans has the requisite impressive résumés (Meters, Neville Brothers) and undeniable chops to pull off the funkiest show you've ever seen without breaking a sweat. It's the live experience that will make you a believer in the power of Crescent City funk performed by some of the journeymen who played an integral part in its creation. $15. 8 p.m. Smith's Olde Bar. 404-875-1522. www.smithsoldebar.com. -- HH

Bands/performers/venues wishing to be included in Sound Menu's noted-acts boxes may send recordings, press material and schedules two weeks in advance to Creative Loafing c/o Rodney Carmichael, 384 Northyards Blvd., Suite 600, Atlanta, GA 30313, or e-mail information to: rodney.carmichael@creativeloafing.com. To be included in the listings only, e-mail venue and band schedules by Thursday at noon (for the issue that comes out the following Wednesday) to soundboard@creativeloafing.com.

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