Recent Kendrick Lamar collaborators Imagine Dragons are in town Friday, but there are better noises elsewhere. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., for a start, who will play Dada this Thursday. The rest of our picks follow.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Thursday, February 20, at Trees
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Nothing in the music of Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott would suggest that the clever indie combo of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. hailed from Detroit. Augmented live by a keyboardist and a drummer, Epstein and Zott specialize in a harmony-laden hybrid of pop, folk and electronica. There's not an ounce of Motown to be found in songs such as "Beautiful Dream," "Dark Water" and "Don't Tell Me." Sure, there's a rhythmic pulse that suggests a worn-down, late night dance club on the wrong side of town. And that's the best thing about this strangely named collection of nerds: They defy easy definition or categorization. The music of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. exists in its own universe, in a dreamy place where reality is challenged at every turn. Darryl Smyers
Thursday, February 20, at the Kessler Theater
Well known for his inspired mix of soul, rock and pop, Marc Broussard never strays too far from his Cajun roots. And although his music definitely has spirit and fire, it is always so tastefully produced and packaged that the guy can actually chart on the Hot Adult Top 40. The fact that Broussard has opened for everyone from Willie Nelson to Maroon 5 tells you quite a bit about the guy's diverse appeal. Although ravaged by some critics, Broussard's self-titled fourth album (released in 2011) actually showed a singer messing with the formula and incorporating a few modern elements into the sound. Whatever the format, however, Broussard is an excellent composer and vocalist. He is the perfect guy to inhabit the profitable zone known as the middle of the road. Darryl Smyers
Friday, February 21, at the American Airlines Center
Josh Homme's recent tirade at a concert in Houston notwithstanding, a lot of people love Imagine Dragons, and it is easy to see why. The rock group just won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance for their megahit "Radioactive," and the song is a perfect example of what you get from them and why their performances are so electric. There's the dreamy, spine-tingling guitar melody that plays at the edges of the song, the stuttering, almost marching cadence of the track's hip-hop beat and the thunderous drums. But there is an undeniable sense of release, of catharsis, of expelling one's demons every time singer Dan Reynolds' heaven-piercing cries come to bear on the chorus. When Reynolds sings "I feel it in my bones," there is no doubt that he really does. Brian Palmer
Shovels & Rope, Hurray for the Riff Raff
Saturday, February 22, at Trees
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Before they fully became the husband-wife duo now known as Shovels and Rope, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst were excellent singer-songwriters as solo-performers. Hearst made herself known to Texas country fans a few years ago when she sang the sassy, ready-to-party female role in Hayes Carll's "Another Like You." But, indeed, since the release of their 2012 full-length (the follow-up to their self-titled debut), O' Be Joyful, one would be hard-pressed to find a greater Americana success story that doesn't shout "Ho, Hey" than the group that took home the award for Emerging Artist of the Year, as well as for Song of the Year ("Birmingham") just this past fall in Nashville. The betrothed's two-person band, where each takes turns on the snare drum and acoustic guitar among other instruments, is raw and, in a live setting, just plain exhilarating. As much as anything else, a local equation can best sum up the deserved rise of Hearst and Trent. Late in 2011, the duo played in the middle of the musty, cramped Tradewinds Social Club in Oak Cliff, but this week, they'll play to an audience probably 10 times bigger than that one when they hit Trees. Kelly Dearmore
Saturday, February 22, at House of Blues
Ever since 2007, Dr. Dog have been refining an oozy-bluesy, dirt-caked crunch of a sound — Beefheart's Safe As Milk and The Band's Music from Big Pink never left their rearview mirror. Excavating raw nerves from whiskey-stained grooves and vocals like cackling coyotes, Dr. Dog have long walked a line that placed them just outside the indie mainstream (spaghetti Westerns are more applicable than sappy, lo-fi pop). But now, as posturing trendsters always do, the slow-moving cattle have caught up, and a wave of beardy, plaided Urban Outfitter rejects led by Mumford & Sons are toiling in the same carefree Delta aesthetic Dr. Dog broke seven years ago. Thankfully, you can't teach heart, and Mumford's sons remain too short to reach the top-shelf emotional heft that blues requires to take flight. At the House of Blues, under a warm blanket of '60s psych homage and casual saloon-era swing, Dr. Dog will show just how big the valley is between musicianship and musician shit. Jonathan Patrick