NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, ELF POWER, THE MINDERS
(Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside) Neutral Milk Hotel ruined everything. Yes, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a flawless masterpiece. But it changed the face of "indie rock," arguably for the worse—a genre that was once imbued with heavy DIY and punk implications is now associated with bookish beardcore groups like the Decemberists and Bon Iver, and we have Jeff Mangum & Co. to thank for that. Neutral Milk Hotel helped cultivate and popularize a bucolic, borderline steampunk aesthetic that we are still reeling from. Like Nirvana, they were a Halley's Comet of a band, one that recorded beautiful music and unwittingly left nothing but musical tragedy in their wake. And like Nirvana, their records made it all worth it. Almost. MORGAN TROPER Also see My, What a Busy Week!
LA FEMME, SUICIDE NOTES, SEX CRIME
(Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside) On their debut album, Psycho Tropical Berlin, La Femme chose a title that only begins to scratch the surface in labeling their eclectic sound. Hailing from Biarritz, a beach city on the southwest coast of France, the group rode whatever waves the Bay of Biscay sent to their shore. Somewhere along the way, they unearthed a strong knack for Ventures-style surf-rock guitar. The band mixes that surf twang with eerie synths and theremin on the album's opener, "Antitaxi," giving Psycho Tropical Berlin a sci-fi bent out of the gate. Elsewhere, "Sur la Planche 2013" resembles the score to a '60s spy thriller, while "It's Time to Wake Up" slows things down to add a synth-driven krautrock groove to the mix. The vocals, mostly all in French, channel yé-yé pop with a cool French New Wave vibe, adding a unique flair to the band's mysterious sound. CHIPP TERWILLIGER
VERTICAL SCRATCHERS, BEAR AND MOOSE
(Bunk Bar, 1028 SE Water) John Schmersal has already cemented a place in the indie-rock pantheon for his contributions to the hopped-up new wave band Brainiac and his founding of the equally tense and wondrous outfit Enon. But he's moved forward with aplomb via his new project, Vertical Scratchers. The sound is much more easygoing than any of his prior work, yet still bristles with electric shocks of energy. In fact, the LA duo's debut album, Daughter of Everything, moves by so quickly, you'll be thrown when you realize Schmersal and cohort Christian Beaulieu have whipped through 15 songs of ragged garage pop in the amount of time it takes you to choose a movie on Netflix. ROBERT HAM