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The transition from winter to spring is emotionally fraught. The doldrums of early February lead to a sugar rush of candy hearts, which crashes into the gloomy, rainy days of March. An occasional blizzard or heat wave may intrude along the way, but by the time May rolls around, things even out, with winter coats going into storage and college students heading home for the summer. Throughout it all, music is there to comfort, inspire and rock you to the core. Check out these upcoming shows and you'll see what I mean.
High Noon Saloon, Feb. 5
Pop hooks and a DIY approach to recording are the mainstays of this Philly-based project, which signed with Anti- Records in July. But despite their indie cred, these five fellows don't care much about trendspotting. Instead, they dive deep into the harmonies of the Band, the Beatles and the Beach Boys for inspiration, giving them a psychedelic twist one moment and a punk-rock treatment the next.
Majestic Theatre, Feb. 15
The L.A.-based electronica artist arrived at IDM and out-there, Flying Lotus-style hip-hop thanks to his love of bass - in particular, the double bass and bass clarinet, which he studied in USC's jazz program. However, it's a passion for invention that makes his shows so enjoyable. Clad in a Victorian outfit and armed with a unique electronic trigger known as the Monome, he challenges traditional musical concepts - melody, harmony, rhythm - while creating an atmosphere ripe for both dancing and deep thought.
Overture Hall, Feb. 20
You're in for a treat if you've scored a ticket to this sold-out show. Wilco will explore the self-titled album that came out last year, which ties together the simple alt-country of the group's early recordings and more recent quasi-experimental leanings. Folky post-rock pioneers Califone will also showcase their newest release, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, which accompanies a ghostly film of the same name by bandleader Tim Rutili.
Majestic Theatre, Feb. 25
Copeland should be an A-list celebrity thanks to her huge, expressive voice, but the stars haven't quite aligned for her yet. Nevertheless, the soulful blues singer will give almost everyone, even Gladys Knight (Overture Center, March 26) and Norah Jones (Overture Center, March 15), a run for their money this winter when she performs selections from 2009's critically acclaimed Never Going Back.
Justin Townes Earle
High Noon Saloon, Feb. 26
Earle's sophomore album, 2009's Midnight at the Movies, contains 32 minutes of gorgeous minimalism inspired by 1950s country-western classics, plus a Replacements cover that might be even better than the original. Perfect for the aftermath of Valentine's Day.
High Noon Saloon, March 9
Vetiver's shows are so mellow and accessible that they're perfect for bringing along friends who aren't sold on folk or the indie scene in general. Milwaukee rockers Jaill are riding high after signing with Sub Pop a few weeks ago, so their opening set should be particularly inspired.
High Noon Saloon, March 19
The punked-out rapper from Minnesota's Doomtree Collective didn't just make one of 2009's best hip-hop albums. He created one of its best albums, period, when he dreamed up Never Better. Expect candid humor and focused rage, plus a double dose of beats and bass, when he hits the High Noon with Dessa, astronautalis and F. Stokes.
High Noon Saloon, April 4
It took several albums for the band to shirk comparisons to fellow Glaswegians Belle & Sebastian, but they've done it by introducing big sounds to their cozy love songs, especially on their excellent 2009 release, My Maudlin Career.
Mission of Burma
High Noon Saloon, April 9
Fans were pretty sure the creators of the groundbreaking 1982 post-punk album Vs. had called it quits until they bounced back, as strong as ever, with 2004's ONoffON, followed by 2006's pleasingly subtle The Obliterati. While 2009's The Sound the Speed the Light didn't impress as many critics, it portends great things and should translate well onstage.
Barrymore Theatre, April 9
The charismatic leader of hardcore heroes Black Flag is an undisputed legend. But unlike many legends, he's still making history, hosting a program on the Independent Film Channel, running a publishing company and performing spoken-word pieces for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan - and for you at this must-see show.
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, April 9
The group's just-released debut, Astro Coast, is one of the most buzzed-about albums of 2010 so far thanks to its expert interplay of guitars, twisted surf-rock melodies and a hot single, "Swim," which is bound to bring on a fist-pump-a-thon.
Majestic Theatre, April 28
Last month, the trio were so unhappy that their forthcoming album, Odd Blood, leaked onto the web that they scolded their fans via Twitter. Tongue-lashing aside, Yeasayer's fusion of Middle Eastern sounds and psychedelic pop should prove as engaging as ever, if their summer gig at the Memorial Union Terrace was any indication.
Captured! By Robots
Annex, April 22
Earth Day (April 22) spawned the recycling movement, so how about seeing a show that celebrates it? CBR front man Jay Vance takes the practice to new heights by crafting his bandmates - an assortment of musical robots - out of bicycle brake cables and other junkyard treasures. The current lineup features three headless, hydraulics-powered horn players, two automaton apes, a drum-pummeling doll's head and a foul-mouthed bot that plays wicked-awesome riffs as it mocks the humans in attendance, especially Vance himself.