WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
Some things are just meant to be. Ryan Adams may have the soul of a punk rocker, and he certainly has an impressively encyclopedic knowledge of obscure hardcore bands from the early '80s, but he also has the voice of an angel — grievous or otherwise. For all his mainstream popularity, the North Carolina native is still in the process of discovering himself. His new album, Ashes & Fire, isn't just his first full-length release since he disbanded the Cardinals several years ago; it also maps out how he moved to L.A. and reinvented himself as a still-vital creative force. “I'm just looking through the rubble, trying to find out who we were,” he confesses on “Dirty Rain.” Like so many exiles here, Adams has become someone new again, and it should be a heavenly combination when his beautiful voice rings out in this intimate cathedral of sound. Also Sat. —Falling James
Trey Songz, Big Sean
Tonight Trey Songz arrives in L.A. not long into what the R&B star is rather unfortunately calling the Anticipation 2our. The clunky name derives from a pair of Songz mixtapes (including Anticipation 2, released late last year), not to mention the notion that we're all awaiting Songz' upcoming studio disc, Chapter V. We're not in a position — missionary or otherwise — to contest the latter claim: With a killer closer in which he proclaims that “sex ain't better than love,” November's five-song Inevitable EP certainly has us wondering where this formerly guilt-free lothario is headed next. Opener Big Sean, a member of Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music crew, used his 2011 debut to portray himself as a kind of guilt-free Drake: all of the fame, none of the shame. —Mikael Wood
DEL MONTE SPEAKEASY
Nick Waterhouse has been documented nicely in this very paper, but that was before anyone heard his new Time's All Gone LP, which we can joyfully report is bolted-down original R&B just as it came out of the machine at Sun, Chess or Checker Records. This album is all about tension and release — the uneasy balance between Waterhouse's dots-and-details genre expertise and his uncontrollable urge to tear a song to shreds with a sax solo, guitar break or drawn-out ragged animal call. (Will you see a man in a Brooks Brothers suit bend backward and screeeeeeeeam tonight? Yes, you will.) The two-part title track catches it all: the discipline, the drive and the high-octane personality that power the whole thing. As he explains on track four, he can only give you everything. —Chris Ziegler
Don Juan y Los Blancos
REDWOOD BAR & GRILL
Billy Childish should marry Alice Bag and adopt Don Juan y Los Blancos, the punk kids who love rock & roll as it was in the old wild world — or maybe they're rock & rollers who like punk as it was when it left big, nasty marks on everything. They're locally famous-ish already for their reckless take on Huey Smith's “Don't You Just Know It?” and co-singer Becky Blanca's combustible charisma. But now they got a brand-new one, Poder Blanco! (ha ha) and … yow, I think it just burned me. It's smashing (but secretly really nicely written and arranged) soul & roll like they make in places where fluorescent colors never existed. Mickey and Sylvia, meet Mark Sultan and Greg Cartwright, and don't stop rockin' till the firefighters call the cops. —Chris Ziegler
TAMMY FAYE STARLITE AS NICO at Bootleg Bar; FALLING IN REVERSE at House of Blues; MACHINE HEAD at Avalon; EXENE CERVENKA at Harvelle's; NEUTRAL UKE HOTEL at the Echo.
Formed around former Locust members Gabe Serbian and Justin Pearson (latter also fronts and/or plays bass for a bevy of other provocative acts on his Three One G label), San Diego's Retox are equally welcome for their supersuccinct freak hardcore and for how flabby and overblown they make almost all other guitar bands sound by comparison. Dropping the Locust's synth-y (and rather self-aware) new-wave wackiness, the quartet goes at it with an organic tension that's more garage than grindcore, with almost recognizably poppy song structures and actual guitar solos framing Pearson's frustrated, swallowed-a-bullhorn rants. Fast, frantic and oddly fun, Retox's music is seldom simple, yet they never seem to try too hard. —Paul Rogers
THE BROAD STAGE
If some conjurer combined the solo piano virtuosity of Art Tatum with the modernist innovations of Chick Corea, and then injected the potion into a schoolgirl superheroine from a Japanese comic book, the result would be Hiromi Uehara. One can say without hyperbole that this wunderkind is capable of doing things on the piano that no one else in the world can. Granted, her playing can get a little cute, but it's cute like a little girl taking on Godzilla and kicking serious ass, as she did recently with jazz behemoths Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. Still touring with Clarke, Hiromi finds time to play solo and promote her latest album, Place to Be, a breathtaking display of her unmatched talent. It wouldn't be surprising if she literally blew the roof off this gorgeous Santa Monica stage. —Gary Fukushima
BIG TIME RUSH at Gibson Amphitheatre; EMILY WELLS at the Echo; KEITH SWEAT, O'JAYS, WHISPERS at Nokia Theatre; Kathleen Grace at BLUE WHALE; THE FLING at Bootleg Bar; CAKE at Hollywood Palladium.
HOUSE OF BLUES
Even as the Darkness's 2003 debut album, Permission to Land, was becoming a multimillion seller, there was widespread speculation that the Brit band was some sort of spandex-clad spoof — which only lent an unlikely mystique to its AC/DC-meets-classic-Queen retro pop-metal. In fact, this over-the-top quartet was always deadly serious about creating robust glam anthems laced with ludicrous lyrics, swaggering six-string histrionics and frontman Justin Hawkins' eye-rolling falsetto. In keeping with the group's cartooning (accidental or otherwise) of every rock star cliché, what followed included a relative flop of a second album, an ugly lineup shuffle and rehab for Hawkins. But in an equally Spinal Tap–ish twist, the original Darkness now are heroically reunited, with a returned sense of fun and still this millennium's most multidimensionally entertaining live rock show. —Paul Rogers
VEKTOR at the Echo; TONI BRAXTON, BABYFACE at Nokia Theatre.
EL REY THEATRE
If you can get past its awkward, self-help-book-style title, Sinéad O'Connor's new album, How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?, is an impressive return to form. With songs like “I Had a Baby,” themes of domestic bliss and romantic enchantment abound. On “Old Lady,” she takes delight in a lover who makes her “laugh like an idiot/and not be so serious,” and her relaxed joy is almost palpable on the inviting love song “Reason With Me.” Lest you think she's lost her edge, tracks like “Take Off Your Shoes” recall the emotional catharsis of her more provocative early songs, as she declares, “I bleed the blood of Jesus over you/And over every fucking thing you do.” At moments like this, O'Connor's voice is eerily baleful and powerful and still capable of raising literal chills up the spine. Also Tues. —Falling James
Gregory Rogove, Big Sir,Eureka the Butcher, Sadah Luna
Harvard & Stone
Gregory Rogove is the drummer of Priestbird and Megapuss with the Strokes' Fabrizio Moretti, does ace tubs wickedness with bud Devendra Banhart and loads more. Rogove now has a two-disc multimedia release called Piana, an album of very moody, impressionistic solo piano compositions that comes with a bonus DVD, including video interpretations of the tracks and radical remixes by the likes of Banhart himself, the Bees, Lucky Dragons and Violens. Rogove and superspecial guests will further reinterpret the pieces to visual accompaniment. Also Big Sir, featuring the Mars Volta's Juan Alderete and Air vocalist Lisa Papineau — they'll play from their gorgeous new Before Gardens After Gardens album — and Zechs Marquise multi-instrumentalist Marcel Lopez-Rodriguez, who brings his Eureka the Butcher and Sadah Lunah. —John Payne
CRAIG FINN at Troubadour.
Sleigh Bells, Black Bananas
After spending much of 2011 off of the pop culture radar (at least compared to 2010, in which they seemed all but omnipresent), Brooklyn's Sleigh Bells are back this month with the follow-up to Treats, the buzzy, fuzzy debut that launched a thousand headlines about how you shouldn't adjust your speakers. New one's called Reign of Terror, and though we haven't heard the whole thing yet — Sleigh Bells' rep says it's on lockdown until release date, which is the day of this show — advance singles “Born to Lose” and “Comeback Kid” suggest they're still in love with noise. Same goes for openers Black Bananas, the latest outfit from former Royal Trux lady Jennifer Herrema: Their just-issued Rad Times Xpress IV comes encrusted with all manner of scuzz-funk debris. —Mikael Wood
Busdriver has always had a way with words, spitting them out at a mile a minute until the multilayered skein of potent phrases unrolls like a densely detailed, never-ending tapestry where the local rapper weighs in on everything from love and war to racism and the music industry. With a mind this restless, Busdriver can't be neatly categorized or lumped in with other rappers. On his latest album, Beaus $ Eros, his lyrical concerns range from profound social confrontation (“NoBlacksNoJews NoAsians”) to warped and spaced-out goofiness (“Picking Band Names”). Even though the Project Blowed veteran is a supreme wordsmith, he digs into a wider variety of freaky and funky sonic settings on the new album. —Falling James
ANYA MARINA at Hotel Café; BEN PEROWSKY TRIO at Blue Whale; STRUNZ & FARAH at Vibrato; POLICA, POLLYN, ONE AM RADIO at Bootleg Bar.
CENTER FOR THE ARTS, EAGLE ROCK
Here's an artist unafraid to push the limits of accessibility. On his latest EP, Headcage, he blurs the line between experimental electronic music and unabashed pop. With “Around a Fountain,” he delves into soothing, borderline-ambient sounds, but then he brings on the slow, driving funk with the title track. And with “In the Middle (I Met You There),” he churns out what might be his most infectious piece of quirky pop yet. For Dear, the co-founder of acclaimed record labels Ghostly and Spectral Sounds, Headcage is a prelude to his fifth full-length, Beams, due out this year. The New York–based artist will be hitting the road with tunes from both the EP and the full-length in tow. —Liz Ohanesian
Buck 65, Kristoff Krane
With his grizzled voice, easygoing flow and knack for spinning hyperdetailed yarns, Nova Scotia's cult-beloved Buck 65 has long been acknowledged as indie hip-hop's answer to Tom Waits. And over the years (it's been 20 since Buck's first release), the man born Ricardo Terfry has only seemed to encourage the distinction. Of late, he's traded in the experimental beats and turntable tricks of his early career (1997's Vertex being the apex) for the sort of hand-wrought folk and lilting blues heard on last year's impressive 20 Odd Years, which featured collaborations with a half dozen singer-songwriters, as well as Islands main brain Nick Thorburn and Gordon Downie from the Tragically Hip. Minneapolis author-musician Kristoff Krane opens with a similar but more pop-inflected style anchored by introspective rhymes, homey choruses, acoustic strumming and backpack-friendly beats. —Chris Martins
Jeff Lorber Band
Keyboardist Jeff Lorber is viewed as an early jazz-fusion pioneer, beginning in the late 1970s. For much of the last three decades, however, Lorber has been swimming in the waters of the smooth-jazz world — in the '80s his band provided the launchpad for Kenny Gorelick (now known as Kenny G), who went on to become the biggest-selling artist in jazz history. With his latest release, however, Lorber has returned to his fusion roots and enlisted the help of world-class musicians playing challenging music. Galaxy features a host of all-stars, including trumpet master Randy Brecker, Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and the monster drum pair of Dave Weckl and Vinnie Colaiuta. For tonight's show, Lorber's band includes Haslip, saxophonist Patrick Lamb and megadrummer Gary Novak. The group also appears Thursday night at the Baked Potato. —Tom Meek
Ra Ra Riot
EL REY THEATRE
We've long been told sophomore albums are a make-or-break marker in a budding band's career, which puts New York chamber-pop outfit Ra Ra Riot in an interesting position. Their lavish 2008 debut full-length, The Rhumb Line — full of peppy melodies and orchestral-esque string arrangements — was released to great critical praise, effectively placing them in a similar “next-big-thing” stratosphere as fellow prep-rockers Vampire Weekend. But unlike the latter's Contra, Ra Ra Riot's follow-up, 2010's The Orchard, lacked the lasting-impression stickiness of its predecessor. If last year's intriguing “Megafauna” (an Orchard alternate take released on their Too Dramatic EP) is any indication of other directions this Wes Miles–led crew may head, though, it shows that a sophomore-effort overemphasis need not apply to every band. Some acts reveal themselves in a less conventional manner. —Dan Hyman
CHIDDY BANG at Troubadour; FEEDING PEOPLE, PANGAEA at the Smell.
Disappears, Fresh & Onlys
Chicago's Disappears are not to be missed. We could tell you that since the demise of Baltimore's Double Dagger, they're easily the fiercest post-punk outfit operating. Or that this four-man wrecking crew was formed by Brian Case, ace ax-slinger for garage greats the Ponys and prog powerhouse 90 Day Men. Or that these guys are so damn good that Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley up and decided to become their permanent drummer last year. We could talk about their upcoming album, Pre Language, a primal and relentless slab of Krautrock rhythms, stormy guitars and spat vocals. But the truth is nothing compares to seeing these guys in action, ripping through an even blacker version of Suicide's “Radiation,” or making the surprising case that 10 minutes really isn't long enough for a Spacemen 3–channeling single-song freak-out. Hard truth from the edge of the void. —Chris Martins
Wye Oak may just be a duo, but when you close your eyes, it sounds like a much bigger band is cranking out these grand and sprawling songs. One of their marvelous tricks is that drummer Andy Stack is able to simultaneously play keyboards, pumping out shimmering sheets of sound even as he's holding down the beat with complete authority. This gives singer-guitarist Jenn Wasner plenty of space to wander on the Baltimore duo's latest album, Civilian. Her ethereal singing is wrapped up in fragile guitar arpeggios before the songs start to expand outward with dynamic shifts of sound, which alternate between intimately pretty idylls and grungy slabs of noise. When the clouds finally burn away, you're left with irresistibly charming melodies like the beguiling valentine “Holy Holy.” —Falling James
NOSAJ THING at Mondrian; WARRANT at Canyon Club; THE FLYTRAPS at the Redwood Bar & Grill.