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Friday, December 5
KIIS Jingle Ball
With its deep lineup of the biggest hitmakers of 2014, KIIS FM’s annual holiday-themed festival may have outdone itself this year. The sold-out extravaganza will feature many headliners whose songs have been fixtures on Top 40 radio throughout 2014. The show also provides the rare opportunity for fans of individual performers to see acts they’d never pay to see on their own. Where else can Sam Smith fans have the chance to see Taylor Swift? The same goes for that rare blend of 5 Seconds of Summer and Pharrell Williams fans. If you pay any attention to pop music, then it’s likely you’ll hear all of the hits you’ve been jamming to all year. — Daniel Kohn
This Little Rock quartet is at the forefront of a new breed of metal bands, which are equally adept at emoting melancholia and beauty through their sound. On new album Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer infuses the slow-tempo doom-metal blueprint with dashes of psychedelia and beautiful guitar harmonies. The overall subject matter is still suitably depressing, but catharsis is attained thanks to wonderfully crafted, harmonized vocals from guitarist Brett Campbell and bassist Joseph D. Rowland. Campbell’s guitar work combines with that of second guitarist Devin Holt to create a chilling atmosphere similar to early efforts from Euro-doom greats such as Paradise Lost. Haunting solos with clean tones mix with crunchy riffs for a listening experience that is uplifting even when the band is trudging through its darkest moments. — Jason Roche
Saturday, December 6
Since singer-keyboardist Christine McVie returned to Fleetwood Mac earlier this year, reuniting the band’s classic Rumours/Tusk–era lineup for the first time since 1998, all reports from the famously tumultuous group have been hunky-dory. They’re even recording new songs for a planned 2015 album. “I feel like a pig in poo,” McVie told Rolling Stone in March. Still, with Christine entering her 70s, bassist John McVie battling cancer and singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham remaining as mercurial as ever, the Mac feels like a fragile alliance. Just in case this third and final Forum appearance is your last chance to hear Stevie Nicks, Buckingham and McVie harmonize on indelible hits including “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop” and “Think About Me,” it’s one classic-rock reunion show that truly shouldn’t be missed. — Andy Hermann
Two decades ago the DJ bible of the time, Mixmag, gave Sasha the title “Son of God” (with a superfluous question mark at the end). While the internationally renowned DJ may still cringe at that tag, there is a reason it was bestowed upon him. The much thrown-about DJ phrase “taking you on a journey” — which these days is speedbumped by builds and breaks — is what Sasha does best. Taking his time, Sasha is all about the intricacies and the strategic arrangement of sounds. His appearance at Exchange’s Inception Saturdays isn’t one of Sasha’s Last Night on Earth parties, named after his imprint, but experiencing any of Sasha’s sets feels as if it could be the last night on Earth, and what better way to end your existence? — Lily Moayeri
Saturday, December 6 (cont'd)
The Pretenders were coming off their best album in years — 2008’s Break Up the Concrete — when lead singer Chrissie Hynde fell in love with Welsh songwriter J.P. Jones and seemingly threw it all away. She ramped down The Pretenders and threw in her lot with Jones, sharing vocals with him in a new group, J.P., Chrissie & the Fairground Boys. The pair had already broken up romantically by the time of the release of their intriguing debut album, Fidelity!, and Jones doesn’t appear on Hynde’s triumphant new solo album, Stockholm. But traces of him linger in bittersweet references to fairground rides and a pair of “Dark Glasses” driving “another woman’s car.” Guest Neil Young counters Hynde’s rueful serenity on “Down the Wrong Way” with a rumbling, rudely overdriven and heart-gouging guitar solo. — Falling James
EL REY THEATRE
As the daughter of “Girl From Ipanema” singer-guitarist João Gilberto, Bebel Gilberto could easily coast on her family name, crooning the same bossa nova tunes her father helped elevate into the Latin jazz canon. Instead, the Brazilian chanteuse has tweaked her sound with each album, collaborating with the likes of Thievery Corporation and Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett to inject her swaying samba and bossa nova tunes with touches of dub, rock and ambient electronica. Her latest album, Tudo, is in many ways her most traditional, even featuring a duet with samba revivalist Seu Jorge. But a startlingly effective bossa nova spin on Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” proves that, even at 48, Gilberto resists letting her music slide into easy-listening territory, however soothing its sun-kissed surfaces may seem. — Andy Hermann
The Living Sisters
HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY
Harmony Is Real, declare The Living Sisters with the name of their new album, subtitled Songs for a Happy Holiday. Easy for them to say. When you’re a quartet composed of notable singers Inara George, Eleni Mandell, Becky Stark and Alex Lilly, harmonies are not only real but often surreal, blending into beguiling note combinations that make traditional folk music feel fresh and even haunting. The mood on the new holiday album is more breezily enchanting than eerie, as the Sisters frost standards such as “Jingle Bells” and “Little Drummer Boy” with those divinely layered harmonies. They come off like a groovier Andrews Sisters on “Kadoka, South Dakota,” while the chamber-pop title track floats airily like glittery flakes spinning dreamily in a snow globe. — Falling James
Sunday, December 7
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Estelle was a cool breeze when she blew across the often cynical British music scene in 2004 with poppy, autobiographical hip-hop tracks such as “1980.” The London singer didn’t really make an impact in the United States until the 2008 release of her second album, Shine, on John Legend’s label, HomeSchool. If Estelle appeared sweetly charming and even innocent with songs such as “American Boy,” which featured a rap by Kanye West, her recent single “Make Her Say (Beat It Up)” might surprise you. Over a slinky, insistently sinful beat, Estelle coolly declares, “Beat the pussy up” and invites her lover, “You can fuck me again, babe, but never the same.” Yesterday’s pop-soul ingénue is suddenly today’s dance-club dominatrix. Whether she’s trying to be shocking or just feeling horny, the new Estelle is nonetheless irresistible. — Falling James