Viza's association with System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian (the band is signed to Tankian's management company, and he guested on Viza's Made in Chernobyl album) serves their visibility well but almost does their sound a disservice. See, while this nine-membered, multi-ethnic L.A. crew certainly intermingles rock and traditional Armenian influences a la SOAD, they shun that band's chunky metal chassis and plunder a broader stylistic palette, including fluttering Russian and Greek folk and dexterous Middle Eastern rhythms. As its name suggests, last year's Chernobyl is an Eastern Bloc party both lyrically and musically, and there's every hint that imminent newbie Carnivalia will continue Viza's rare ability to sound simultaneously knee-slappin' and hand-wringin', somber yet sanguine. —Paul Rogers
Big Sean, Cyhi The Prynce
As rappers continue flexing their label-owning guns, Kanye West has made a similarly palpable push behind his own imprint, G.O.O.D. Music, to which both these middle-of-the-road MCs are signed. Big Sean, a Detroit native who caught West's attention at a radio station back in 2005, and often sounds as if he's doing his best Kanye imitation, arrives behind a slew of mixtapes and this year's pop-centric debut, Finally Famous: The Album. His labelmate, Atlanta's Cyhi The Prynce, of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's “So Appalled” notoriety, is one step behind Sean, having released six mixtapes but no proper debut. Both rappers' overarching motto of mimicry is best summed up on the oft-repeated line in Kanye's “Blame Game”: “Yeezy taught me.” —Dan Hyman
Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Beethoven, Hillborg
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
The L.A. Phil, the Master Chorale and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen should prove a fittingly powerful alliance in these interpretations of new and old works, which expand the classical tradition in subtle and surprising ways. Soprano stars Anne Sofie von Otter and Hila Plitman join forces in Beethoven's bold “Leonore Overture No. 2″ from his only opera, Fidelio, a knottily structured piece that brazenly broke with traditional symphonic forms of its time; so did Ludwig van's brashly drawn and very Mozartian Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring pianist Emanuel Ax. The world premiere of Swedish experimentalist-traditionalist Anders Hillborg's Sirens, inspired by Homer's The Odyssey, promises an eclectically orchestrated work by a master of orchestral color of tone. And who better to guide us through these finely shaded and (very important) rhythmically robust works than Salonen? Also Sat. and Sun. —John Payne
THE DEVIL MAKES THREE, BROWN BIRD at House of Blues; HIVE MIND at Vacation Vinyl; CHRIS ISAAK at Fred Kavli Theatre; MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER at Pantages; MARK SULTAN at Alex's Bar; FISHBONE at Brixton South Bay; THE AMADANS at the Redwood Bar & Grill.
Morrissey, Kristeen Young
Long before he was deified by his fans as an inapproachable and infallible rock god, Steven Patrick Morrissey was one of pop's more insightful poets. The dilemma for such a working poet is how to remain creative and relevant while defying the deification process and batting down the mundane expectations of people who want him to re-create the ephemeral glories of his old band, the Smiths. “I'm doing very well,” Morrissey sang on his 2009 album, Years of Refusal. “I can black out the present and the past now.” He acknowledged his past earlier this year with the release of Very Best of Morrissey, but he also hinted at the future, debuting three intriguing songs on the BBC: “Action Is My Middle Name,” “The Kid's a Looker” and “People Are the Same Everywhere.” Mentor/tormentor Morrissey likely will be challenged tonight by the presence of his provocative protégée, Kristeen Young, who contrasts the clockwork intensity of her madcap synth-pop fever dreams with a refreshingly self-deprecating and cheeky onstage persona. Also at the Fox Theater Pomona, Mon. —Falling James
Jim Wilson & Daniel Lanois
Longtime local musician Jim Wilson has been seen most recently playing bass in Daniel Lanois' crazy-great psych-soul outfit Black Dub. (Seriously, their El Rey gig earlier this year? One of the few times in my professional show-going life that I've ever wanted a band to jam some more.) Tonight Wilson celebrates the release of his self-titled solo album, and though it's rarely as thrilling as Black Dub's 2010 debut, Jim Wilson definitely has its moments: “Cry Now (Pay Later)” is a weirdly touching ballad with input by Ron and Russell Mael of L.A.'s Sparks, while “Honest Mistake” strikes a trippy cosmic-Americana note. The latter, FYI, features Lanois, who'll sit in with Wilson for this show. —Mikael Wood
BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME at House of Blues; PLAID at El Rey Theatre; TERRY TROTTER TRIO at Vitello's.
The ultimate adrenaline band, the Tokyo-based noise rock trio has been specializing in full-on sonic floggings for nearly two decades. Melt-Banana is one of those bands that can't be captured fully on tape; you've got to see their insanity live. The unintelligible yelps of Yasuko Onuki (is that Japanese or gibberish?) will haunt your dreams and make your eardrums bleed, and you'll love every second of it, guaranteed. Brutal L.A. quartet Retox, who've been documenting their pathological optimism via a tour diary published to larecord.com, will perform with Melt Banana in support of their recently released debut album, Ugly Animals. —Lainna Fader
Greg Bissonette Quintet
Once a year drummer Gregg Bissonette hosts a Sunday night show at Café Cordiale, replete with fellow all-star musicians. Bissonette counts stints with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Ringo Starr, Santana and David Lee Roth among his credits, which also include numerous film and TV soundtracks. His companions tonight include trumpeter Walt Fowler (Frank Zappa), sax/flute/EWI studio master Steve Tavaglione, electric mega-bassist Jimmy “Flim” Johnson, and Jimmy Kimmel Live keyboard wiz Jeff Babko. Bissonette's drumming is respected enough that he was invited to play for the first Buddy Rich Memorial Concert alongside drum luminaries Vinnie Colaiuta, Dennis Chambers, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl and Louie Bellson. Expect a standing room–only crowd, but it'll be worth it. —Tom Meek
Africa Hitech, JonWayne
The title of Africa Hitech's debut album for Warp, 93 Million Miles, refers to the distance between the Earth and the Sun, but it could just as well allude to vast sonic territory covered by veteran genre-hopper Mark Pritchard (Global Communications, Jedi Knights) and Steve Spacek (from triphop-ish outfit Spacek) in the record's 58 minutes. From ambient field records and astral jazz to grimy beats and pitched bass, there's a far-reaching mix of African and electronic sounds that flow throughout this LP, one of the most entrancing records released this year. Master rapper/beatsmith JonWayne, who just dropped The Death of Andrew, a killer follow-up to his fantastic 8-bit influenced Bowser, opens. —Lainna Fader
BLACK ELEPHANT, TRAPSPS, THE LOVELY BAD THINGS, COSMONAUTS at the Smell; JOHN DAVERSA SMALL BAND at the Baked Potato.
Say what you will about Sting's fabled yoga practices and adult-contemporary leanings, it's hard to quibble about someone who has written such seminal tunes as “Roxanne” and “Every Breath You Take.” This year, to celebrate his 60th birthday and his 25th anniversary as a solo artist, Sting has embarked on a “Back to Bass” tour, which features stripped-down versions of his solo hits as well as classic Police tunes. For Sting, stripped down means being backed by a five-piece band, with nary a lute or symphony orchestra in earshot. His three-night stand at the Wiltern should be a dream come true for fans hankering to see him in an intimate setting following his sold-out arena shows on The Police reunion tour. —Laura Ferreiro
However interesting its instrumentation, rock & roll traditionally achieves its most intimate connection through vocals, which makes sans-singing rockers like this Chicago group brave indeed. Like all effective mouthless outfits, this adventurous trio sees their dearth of words as more gift than curse, allowing them to explore places too dense and detailed for the frailties of the human voice, and structures too oblique to support repeated melody. On new album Empros, gauzy guitars step aside to let the bass flex and fuzz in the foreground, while drums batter with earnest bluster. The effect is that of a mute Secret Machines (whose Brandon Curtis produced the record), until closer “Praise Be Man” allows some blurry singing in and reminds that Russian Circles are largely instrumental wholly by choice. —Paul Rogers
RHETT MILLER at Largo; ROBBY MARSHALL GROUP at Seven Grand.
CSU Northridge Jazz Ensemble's Rolling Stones Tribute
VALLEY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Rising up like a cultural oasis from the desert floor of the San Fernando Valley, the beautiful new VPAC is the equal of such venerable structures as Disney, Dorothy and Royce. It's also the home court of the best college jazz ensemble on the West Coast. This band routinely produces top-notch albums and wins contests, including the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival, where they are an annual mainstay. This homage features Stones veterans backup singer Bernard Fowler and saxophonist Tim Ries, Big Phat Band drummer Bernie Dresel, and esteemed jazz guitarist Jeff Miley. Rounding out the ringers is everyone's favorite, Larry Goldings, near perfection on piano and/or organ. —Gary Fukushima
Cave, Sun Araw
Formed by some of the guys from Warhammer 48K, CAVE zero in on the repetitious pounding and pummeling nature of the best dual drummer'd, riff-heavy hard psychedelic rock. You hear Circle and Pharoah Overlord, as well as Hawkward and Can and Lightning Bolt and Faust, all boiled down into one shaken, stirred and blown-up megafrenzied band. Though they released their debut, Hunt Like Devil/Jamz, on Permanent Records (the label counterpart to the Eagle Rock record shop), CAVE is now at home on Chicago indie powerhouse Drag City, and they play tonight with Sun Araw. —Lainna Fader
We're still amazed about the way Liz Pappademas has reinvented herself. A few years ago, she was a solo singer-songwriter with a decisively propulsive, Fiona Apple piano style matched with unusually dense and poetic lyrics. Since then, she's surrounded herself with a full band, the Level, and released an ambitious concept album, Television City, about romantic entanglements played out against the backdrop of a fictional game show. Pappademas has said the album is a spiritual cross between Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets and Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, but it sounds like no one else. —Falling James
There are singer-songwriters, and then there's Rachael Yamagata. The native Virginian has always had a more sophisticated delivery and contemplative presence than most pop wannabes, and her latest album, Chesapeake, reveals the full breadth of her musical expressions. Dreamy ballads like “Miles on a Car” and the R&B-flavored “Stick Around” bump up against such fragile piano pop interludes as “I Don't Want to Be Your Mother” and “Full On.” Even better, Yamagata rocks it up a little on “Starlight,” a sparkling and sultry groove where she utters her mysterious entreaties in a confessional low whisper that's quite captivating. Prepare to be enchanted. —Falling James
CAPT KIRK at the Baked Potato.
Henry Rollins, Dave Navarro, Corey Taylor, Shepard Fairey
Punk rocker, wordsmith and all-around good guy Henry Rollins is set to host and perform at a raucous benefit concert for Drop in the Bucket, an L.A.-based charity that constructs wells and sanitation systems at rural schools in sub-Saharan Africa. Stone Sour/Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor also are on tap, joined by Dave Navarro and members of Rob Zombie's and Marilyn Manson's bands for an all-star jam. If things get too hard-rockin' and you feel like getting your groove on, famed “OBEY” artist Shepard Fairey will spin tunes as guest DJ, and The Office's Kate Flannery will provide some comic relief. Pure rock & roll for pure water? What could be better? —Laura Ferreiro
Joshua White Trio
It's been quite a journey for Joshua White, from playing gospel piano at his mom's church in San Diego to the final round of this year's Thelonious Monk Competition in D.C., where he placed second to bluesy virtuoso Kris Bowers, won lots of cash and met President Obama. He swings hard with harmonies as dense as that fruitcake from last Christmas yet with an imagination as fresh as that expensive orange juice you always pass on at Ralphs. There are times for a little indulgence, and this is one of them. White plays with refreshing honesty and a true individual voice in a world of emulation and facsimile. He's joined by the ebullient yet polished Edwin Livingston on bass and drummer Dan Schnelle, who has steadily and relentlessly become one of L.A.'s finest. —Gary Fukushima
CASS McCOMBS at the Echo; BOOM BIP at the Satellite.
Iggy & the Stooges
It's only taken the Stooges about 40 years to achieve overnight success. Back in their heyday, in the 1970s, presumably progressive local classic-rock DJs like Jim Ladd wouldn't be caught dead playing their music, leaving it to the marginalized (and also blacklisted) punk-rock generation to champion these genuine Motor City (by way of Ann Arbor) madmen. With his spastic gyrations and slack-jawed poetic minimalism, Iggy Pop naturally gets most of the attention, having proved decades ago that he was a wilder onstage performer than Mick Jagger, but in some ways tonight's show (which had to be rescheduled after Iggy hurt himself at a Romanian gig earlier this year) is really all about James Williamson. The long-MIA guitarist supplied the napalm that torched “Search & Destroy” and “Raw Power,” songs now considered certifiable classics. Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Jim Ladd the news. —Falling James
There's no denying the similarities shared by James Blake and Jamie Woon, two of the more visible faces in England's percolating post-dubstep scene. Like Blake, Woon sings soulfully over sleekly detailed beats he mostly produces himself; each dude sounds as if his ideal venue would be a very tiny aquarium. And now Woon is preparing to follow his Feist-covering forebear into the American market: On Jan. 31 Verve will issue a U.S. edition of Woon's often-lovely debut, Mirrorwriting, which came out across the pond last April. Before the record hits, Woon's softening the ground with a handful of shows in L.A. and New York, and he's also got a Lana Del Rey remix making the rounds online. Hey, whatever it takes, right? —Mikael Wood
My Morning Jacket, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Kentucky's My Morning Jacket, amazingly enough, had to make one of its most bizarre, least accessible albums, 2008's Evil Urges, to cement their place as one of this generation's most popular, widely adored crossover rock crews. But this year, the Jim James–fronted outfit returned with Circuital, a more lush, beatific collection of roots-rock nuggets than was seen in past efforts. It's through their neck-thrashing live performances, however, with James shrouded in trench-coat mysteriousness, as guitarist Carl Broemel and company spazz out in the backing shadows that they've established themselves as a rollicking musical wrecking ball. Always the purveyors of fine, well-aged melodies (see their collaborations with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band) MMJ are joined by the blustery boom box of magnetism, Sharon Jones, and her doo-wop backing crew, the Dap Kings. —Dan Hyman
Dan Deacon, XBXRX, DJ Frankie Chan
Baltimore brainiac Dan Deacon's live mixes of populist big boom-beat, sing-along scream, synths, samples and sound mashes are, just maybe, the most primo collage of pop art, with high-n-mighty musical (intellectual) concerns, full of razor-focused density of texture and process that ah, never mind. It's fun to party down with Dan, but it's weird, too, because his live sets are like music of the mind turned inside out. Oh, and Deacon, by the way, has just scored Francis Ford Coppola's latest film, Twixt. Also post-post-post–hardcore sort-of-punk deviators XBXRX, and DJ/ IheartComix mainman Frankie Chan. —John Payne
THE JIGSAW SEEN at Silverlake Lounge; RENE LOPEZ at the Mint; HUNTER HAYES at Troubadour.