Not the local arts mag, but a four-man Colorado musical-hybrid crew shaking and stirring “elements from hip-hop, dub, drum & bass, funk and live electronica in their high-energy performances.” Translated, that means hypnotic digital loops and beats fortified with organic bass, drums and rhymes from all four members, lit up all multimedia-style. The music isn’t easily pigeonholed, so naturally, neither are the flows. “We’re clumsily honest, less competitive and more introspective with our lyrics,” turntablist Ken Daley told The Scene. “Hip-hop doesn’t always have to be bling-bling.” THURSDAY, May 20 @ Egos, 668 S. State, 9:30 p.m. Info: 521-5255.
New York City singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke is one of countless major-label refugees who’ve forged a more artistically (and financially) satisfying career on their own: Dumped by MCA in 1997 after the release of her critically-lauded 10-Cent Wings, Brooke set up Bad Dog Records and put out Live (’99), Steady Pull (’01) and the new Back to the Circus herself—meanwhile, on the last-laugh angle, MCA has ceased to be. Brooke’s ornate folk-pop and sophisticated lyricism are in top form on Circus, surviving even an inexplicable cover of ... Alan Parsons’ “Eye In the Sky.” THURSDAY, May 20 @ Suede, 1612 Ute Blvd. (Kimball Junction), Park City, 9:30 p.m. Info: 435-658-2665 (with Motherless Cowboys).
Drummers as lead singers haven’t fared well in rock history, but at least Brooklyn’s French Kicks have something to set them apart from Interpol, Hot Hot Heat and the rest of the sharp-dressed new wave of new wave—crooning skinsman Nick Stumpf. That, and two killer albums: 2002’s One Time Bells and last year’s Trial of the Century (StarTime International), both tinged with garage-rock sweat but sporting a cosmopolitan pop polish that suggests they shouldn’t remain indie-buzz blips for much longer. FRIDAY, May 21 @ Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, 8 p.m. Info: 320-9887 (with On the Speakers and the Joggers).
Salt Lake City’s Cryptobiotic have been throwing down since 1998—eons in local band years, even for one named after a wildlife psychology adjective. The hard-touring group’s new Cryptobiotic EP (Cryptobiotic.com), being released tonight, features four stripped-down (read: no DJs, no rappers, it’s so over), tribal-melodic metalcore tracks crushingly produced by Sylvia Massey Shivy, renown mixing-board master to the likes of Tool, System of a Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers and (only peripherally, but funny enough to mention) Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen. FRIDAY, May 21 @ The Ritz, 2265 S. State, 8 p.m. Info: 485-8507 (with Jezus Rides a Rik’Sha and Sindolor).
RIK EMMETT BAND
Any critical respect that ’80s Canadian prog-rock trio Triumph ever received was usually due to frontman Rik Emmett’s sky-high vocals and blinding guitar skills—though the bassist’s righteous moustache and penchant for hockey jerseys did receive some notice from Moose Lodge Magazine. Back on topic: Emmett’s 14-year solo career spans everything from new-age instrumentals, soft-pop ballads, jazz-blues excursions and, natch, fret-shredding hard rock, as well as many a benefit concert performance—like this one for Ogden’s Christmas Box House. SATURDAY, May 22 @ The Ogden Amphitheater, 25th Street & Washington Blvd., Ogden, 6:30 p.m. Tickets: 800-888-8499 (with Slaughter and Shadow; post-show meet-and-greet @ Kamikaze’s).
SOPHIE B. HAWKINS
You remember her: Singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins hit big with her stunning Columbia debut Tongues & Tails and the single “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” in 1992, but the equally excellent Whaler tanked upon arrival in ’94. Timbre, the New Yorker’s expansive ’99 release, proved she was more than a one-hit wunderkind, and her new Wilderness (SophieBHawkins.com) makes the argument that adult-contemporary pop can be both adventurous and soothing. “I’ve stopped trying to control and confine my talent to be good enough for someone else,” Hawkins told Edge Boston. “The beauty and power of nature are my standards, not a corporate model.” SATURDAY, May 22 @ Mo Diggity’s, 3424 S. State, 9 p.m. Info: 832-9000.
From swanky Denver power-pop label Pop Sweatshop (also home to Salt Lake’s own Magstatic) last year came Spiv’s Don’tcha Know and the single “Everybody’s a Rock Star Tonight,” three minutes of gleefully geeky skinny-tie bop produced by ex-Posie Kevin Stringfellow and guaranteed to stick in your brain like bubblegum. Singer-guitarist Chris Barber (a Utah escapee from the SLC Punk! days) calls Spiv “Brit-pop voodoo,” fitting because “spiv” is English slang for “one who uses their wits to avoid a real job.” No wonder the critics relate. SATURDAY, May 22 @ The Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, 9:30 p.m. Info: 746-0558 (with Magstatic and More Than Medium).
Self-described as a “psuedo-classical hardcore positive-goth cello band” formed in “1891,” New York City’s Rasputina remain dedicated to making cellos and corsets cool again. Melora Creager and her menagerie of rotating members first made a splash as a dead-pale cello trio performing in tight-laced Victorian costumes that contrasted seductively with their distorted-but-catchy contemporary alt-rock; Frustration Plantation (Instinct), Rasputina’s new Southern-gothic epic, proves the music is greater than the gimmick, and even features a song called “Saline the Salt Lake Queen” (no relation, as far as we know). SUNDAY, May 23 @ In the Venue, 579 W. 200 South, 7 p.m. Tickets: 800-888-8499 (with Audio Learning Center).
“I used to go out and buy an album and come home and listen to every song and read the lyrics and it would become something important to me,” Toronto singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith lamented to Canadian.com about the go-go-gone state of today’s attention spans. “I like to think that there’ll be a strong wave of this again.” Likewise, Sexsmith’s warm folk-pop stylings are somewhat of a throwback to the ’60s and ’70s, and Retriever (Nettwerk), his sixth and latest, could easily become something important to you. TUESDAY, May 25 @ Liquid Joe’s, 1249 E. 3300 South, 9:30 p.m. Info: 467-5637 (with David Mead).
Though not as sonically psychotic as countrymen and frequent comparison point Melt Banana, Japanese noise maidens Ex-Girl still bring the freak, just with more melody and technicolor. As No. 1 fan Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas) once put it, “Ex-Girl are a beautiful example of information overload: Jagged three-part vocal harmonies, adventurous arrangements, and songs that hook you like the sucker that you are.” Think Devo, Zappa and the 5,6,7,8s from Kill Bill Vol. 1 sucking down acid-laced Skittles, or what Mike said. WEDNESDAY, May 26 @ Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, 8 p.m. Info: 320-9887 (with The Child Who Was a Keyhole and Redd Tape).
The Shins (In the Venue, May 27). Bob Schneider (Halo, May 28). King’s X (Liquid Joe’s, May 28). Styx, Peter Frampton (Usana Amphitheater, May 28). Jill Sobule (Mo Diggity’s, May 28). Rich McCulley (Liquid Joe’s, May 28). Dashboard Confessional (E Center, May 29). Prong (Lo-Fi Café, May 30). Local H (Egos, June 2). Iced Earth (Lo-Fi Café, June 2). Legendary Shack Shakers (Halo, June 9). Sparta (Lo-Fi Café, June 10). Mary Chapin Carpenter (Red Butte Garden, June 10). Kenny Chesney (Usana Amphitheater, June 11). Rick Springfield (Scera Shell, June 11). Utah Arts Festival (Library Square, June 24-27). 311, The Roots (Usana Amphitheater, June 25).