Marina & the Diamonds, Icona Pop Warehouse Live, December 17
Somewhere between Katy Perry and Lana Del Rey on the 2012 girl-pop scale, the Welsh-bred Marina & the Diamonds make big-budget icy synth-pop that you can afford, without the candy-coated gimmickry. Perry comparisons will abound, but singer Marina Lambrini Diamandis is far sultrier and more scuffed-up than the California gurl. (Foul-mouthed, even.) Opening duo Icona Pop played November's Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, and the Swedish act was oddly soothing on a warm afternoon against the festival's metal-flavored blacker stages. CRAIG HLAVATY
Trish & Darin McGonigel's Mucky Duck, December 18
Sunny folk-pop siblings Trish & Darin (Murphy) were one of Houston's most popular local acts in the early and mid-'90s before being bitten by the Austin bug. They still visit about once a month in super-popular '70s/'80s cover band Skyrocket!, but around the holidays revive Trish & Darin for some warm-hearted holiday memories. Trish, who maintains a food blog on her Web site, is even in charge of Tuesday's menu and planning to help prepare the meal. Seating is sold out, but standing room is available at the bar; check www.mcgonigels.com to make sure it's still open before you go. CHRIS GRAY
The Sword Fitzgerald's, December 18
Austin heavyweights The Sword released new album Apocryphon this past fall, further establishing their rep as one of the most influential metal bands of the past decade. As the Sword has progressed from 2006's career-defining Age of Winters, their recordings grown all the more challenging. Whereas Winters was pummeling and caveman-like, 2008's Gods of the Earth and 2010's Warp Riders retained the band's beloved rumble while expanding the Sword's sonic palette for the better and weirder. CRAIG HLAVATY
Sunrise & Ammunition Fitzgerald's, December 19
Sunrise & Ammunition's new album Tesseract is one of the most amplified local albums of 2012. The trio, a self-described "mutation in the suburban gene pool," benefits from production and mixing by NY-based producer Jesse Cannon (Menzingers, Man Overboard), who streamlines the harsher elements of S&A's last two EPs into something less scatter-brained - ten-minute workout "The Apotheosis" notwithstanding. CRAIG HLAVATY
Better Than Ezra House of Blues, December 20
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New Orleans trio Better Than Ezra is one of the few '90s alt-rock bands to have stuck around through music-industry ups and downs, coming out the other end as a group of independent artists in charge of its own career path. It's paid off in spades, because the band is met at every tour stop with a cadre of devoted BTE fans and soon-to-be converts. Nearly 25 years into their history, Better Than Ezra shows no signs of slowing down. Watch for a BTE interview a little later this week. CRAIG HLAVATY