Jones Hall, May 11
It doesn't feel like much of a stretch to say Sufjan Stevens could be the Cat Stevens of his generation; his gentle acoustic-based songs have an effortless intimacy and a tendency to linger long after the music fades out. They may lack the kind of overwhelming hooks that made "Morning Has Broken" or “Wild World” massive pop hits – maybe Paul Simon is a better match, come to think of it – but in a decade and a half Stevens has nurtured one of the most passionate fan bases in indie music, scads of devotees who scrutinize his lyrics like others do fan fiction for sci-fi TV shows. That doesn't totally account for the 39-year-old Brooklynite's occasional diversions into avant-garde electronic music (2009's BQE), but he's back to examining the familiar topics of family and faith on latest album Carrie & Lowell, which Pitchfork has already declared Stevens' best work to date.
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Fitzgerald's, May 11
Combining prog-rock and post-punk with classical aspirations, Austin’s …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead has long delivered artfully arranged, often acutely melodic guitar-and-drums racket like few others. The creative partnership between Conrad Keely and Jason Reece, who grew up together in Hawaii and attended college in Olympia, Wash., was going strong well before the two hit the Texas capital in the mid-‘90s, where they expanded into a quartet and quickly won an international reputation for lethally potent live shows; bouts of Who-like onstage destruction were not uncommon.
Since then, …Trail of Dead became among the first bands to earn a coveted 10.0 Pitchfork rating with 2002 Interscope debut Source Tags and Codes and actually lasted three albums on the major label, no small feat given their exacting artistic standards and — not by coincidence — limited mass commercial potential. Introducing 2014’s IX on the Web site of Germany’s Superball Music, the band’s distributor since 2008, Keely dedicated the album to Russian femme-punk heroes Pussy Riot and “any and all artists who have attempted to exercise their creativity under the oppression of government, as well as the endemic oppression of an indifference to passion present in our mainstream culture.”
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
House of Blues, May 13
Rumors of an Oasis reunion have been swirling around lately, but one of the reasons they haven't gained much traction (yet) is that Noel Gallagher is making some pretty damn good music with High Flying Birds. On two albums thus far, most recently March's Chasing Yesterday, High Flying Birds will neither shock nor disappoint fans familiar with Gallagher's existing body of work, which he broadens here to include jazzy psychedelia (“Riverman”); sweeping strings and glockenspiel (“In the Heat of the Moment”); and spangly, piano-heavy disco-rock (“The Ballad of the Mighty I”). Britpop lives.
Discovery Green, May 14
Even longtime Gourds fans are now finding themselves a little shocked at what a transformation Kevin Russell has done with Shinyribs. Certainly the seeds were there in the longtime Austin roots favorites' off-color jokes and melting-pot grooves, but since that band folded in late 2013 Russell has taken it to the proverbial next level. Released last month, Shinyribs' sophomore effort Okra Candy works Russell's idiosyncratic lyrics in and around a variety of lively arrangements, only starting with country-funk showpieces “The Sacred & the Profane” and “Red Quasar,” San Antonio garage tribute “Donut Taco Palace,” and straight-up rocker “Longer It Lingers.” So good it'll make you want to come back for seconds. With WRENFRO.
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Pachanga Fest Houston
Warehouse Live, May 14
Not only is Austin’s Pachanga Fest one of the most diverse gatherings of Latino musicians in the Western Hemisphere, it’s also one of Texas’ most exciting music festivals in any language. Now in its eighth year, Pachanga is branching out this year by bringing a handful of headliners to Houston and Dallas before Saturday’s main event, and even had the good sense to start in the Bayou City. Up last is veteran Monterrey electro-alternative band Kinky, whose eclectic catalog, deep funk appreciation and imaginative videos position them as a sort of Mexican Beastie Boys (or close enough). Before them is Compass a clash-of-titans DJ duo of MIS (Mexican Institute of Sound) and Mad Decent recording artist Toy Selectah; and former Latin Grammy nominee Ceci Bastida, a synth-pop performer who has recorded with Baltimore rapper Rye Rye and Rancid’s Tim Armstrong.
Note: this article has been corrected because Cat Stevens had nothing to do with "Cat's In the Cradle," as originally stated; that was Harry Chapin. Our bad.