Music Picks: Swans, Waka Flocka Flame and More

Music Picks: Swans, Waka Flocka Flame and More
Invoke the glare of James McMurtry if you dare.

Swans

With Xiu Xiu, 7 p.m. Thursday, June 26, at Trees, 2709 Elm St., 214-741-1122 or treesdallas.com, $20

Words like apocalyptic, macabre and brutal come to my mind when thinking about art-rock act Swans. But so should beautiful, even if beauty, insofar as Swans are concerned, is courted only in the most severe terms. Where Swans' early music from their 30-year run was about rage and human grotesquery, present-day Swans are concerned with expressing the redemptive qualities inherit therein, which, in large part, is why the band has never sounded so fierce. Released early last month, their 13th studio album, To Be Kind, might very well be the band's crowning achievement, a surging, transcendent monolith of a record that offers absolute emotional entombment by way of instrumental enormity and spiritual undercurrents. Their live shows, meanwhile, have never been so monstrous, with songs lasting hours. The result is not so much a hallucinatory state as a mystical one, a total purgatorial trance that's absurdly devastating but, above all else, glorious and, yes, beautiful. Jonathan Patrick

Waka Flocka Flame

10 p.m. Thursday, June 26, at The Lizard Lounge, 2424 Swiss Ave, 214-826-4768 or thelizardlounge.com, $30-$110

Don't let reality TV fool you: Waka Flocka Flame hasn't changed just yet. Although the 28-year-old rapper took some time off last year to muck around on VH1's sometimes-entertaining-but-always-disconcerting Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta, he's been working steadily on a new sound and look for 2014. Earlier this year he announced his intentions to release Flockaveli 2, a rap-EDM mash-up album that sports collaborations from Steve Aoki, Drake and Ne-Yo, among others. With a national tour on its heels, it may be some time before Waka returns to the small screen, but at least we know he'll be doing what he does best in the interim. Michelle Ofiwe

James McMurtry

With Parker Millsap, 8 p.m. Friday, June 27, at Billy Bob's Texas, 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, 817-624-7117 or billybobstexas.com, $12

Just by virtue of being born, James McMurtry had some very large shoes to fill in the minds of people who really love Americana. His father, novelist Larry McMurtry, had already cemented himself into the hearts and minds of middle America with Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment, but after growing up on a "steady diet of Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff records," the younger McMurtry has managed to make his own mark. Technically, McMurtry is a hometown boy. He was born in Fort Worth and currently resides in Austin. Billy Bob's in Fort Worth is the perfect backdrop for McMurtry's legendary alt-country-influenced Americana style, and you can expect to hear favorites like "We Can't Make It Here" as well as some new tracks from a forthcoming album due to be released in October. Gravelly voiced and baby-faced Parker Millsap opens up the show, setting the tone for an evening of good old-fashioned music. Amy McCarthy

Merle Haggard

8 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at Billy Bob's Texas, 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, 817-624-7117 or billybobstexas.com, $15-$40

What more can be said about 77-year-old Merle Haggard that hasn't been said before many times over? His excellence among the ranks of living songwriters is only rivaled by Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and maybe his buddy Willie Nelson. But in David Cantwell's 2013 book, Merle Haggard: The Running Kind, it is the songs of the Hag's classic canon that get a more in-depth dissection and comparison to the actual events that have made up his almost mythological life story. Yes, a young Haggard served time in prison, as he famously sings in "Mama Tried," but he wasn't ever serving "life without parole." Thanks to Haggard's authority and relatability, it's understandable that many fans have for years operated under the assumption that he indeed managed to have his time in California's San Quentin Prison miraculously cut short. Oh, and here's a shocker for many: The Okie-turned-Cali resident never really lived in Muskogee, although his father did for a time. But that's what the best writers do. They force us to believe and accept. Haggard does that better than most. Kelly Dearmore

Deafheaven

With Pallbearer and Wreck & Reference, 8 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at Dada, 2720 Elm St., dadadallas.com, $15

Coming back to Dallas one more time on their Sunbather tour (it will be their third visit on this album cycle), don't expect much variation from what Deafheaven delivered this past March at Spillover. But that's not meant to be a complaint. The San Francisco-based band brings fans of My Bloody Valentine, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Carcass, Mayhem and Converge into the same room and they get along very well. Frontman George Clarke doesn't exactly sing. His voice erupts into the microphone, and he conducts the music with his arms and connects to as many fans in the front as possible. Backed by guitarists and a drummer that can fluidly switch between drone, melancholy and shimmering terror, the five-piece gives the audience a kind of release that is unmatched by any other band out there. If you want to see a band in its prime, performing material from an album that's already considered a classic, don't skip this one. Eric Grubbs

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