Bob Mould w/Cymbals Eat Guitars; Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell
After nearly two decades of spotty solo efforts, punk legend Bob Mould hit it out of the park in 2012 with Silver Age, a hyper-melodic, smoldering collection of songs that touched on some pretty depressing themes (including the ephemeral meaningless of fame, lost innocence, heartbreak, and coming to terms with your inevitable death). However, Mould's new record, Beauty & Ruin, makes its predecessor seem like a Jimmy Buffet record by comparison. Mould allegedly composed the bulk of it while mourning the death of his father, and unsurprisingly, a palpable sense of sorrow constitutes the emotional foundation of pretty much every cut. Opener "Low Season" is hazier and more lackadaisical than anything on Silver Age, accurately reflecting the album's downcast essence and serving as the perfect springboard for acerbic follow-up "Little Glass Pill." But in the midst of all the doom and gloom lie some of the catchiest songs Mould's ever produced, including "Fire in the City," "Hey Mr. Grey," and in particular, "I Don't Know You Anymore"—his most indelible earworm since Copper Blue favorite "If I Can't Change Your Mind." As the title Beauty & Ruin suggests, Mould's gift resides in his ability to convert pain into something beautiful and universal. Let's just hope his muse is here to stay. (This is also Bob Mould's first all-ages appearance in Portland in like, forever.)
Koji w/Allison Weiss, Lee Corey Oswald, Rachael Miles; Slabtown, 1033 NW 16th
Folk-punk pontificator Koji has always been a little hard to grade. His first proper release, the Some Small Way EP, was a consistently hummable, emo-tinged indie-pop affair that thoroughly stimulated the hook-addicted pleasure centers of my brain. Subsequently, Koji reverted into an almost entirely acoustic act, which wasn't nearly as impressive. The "rock band" aesthetic on Some Small Way perfectly complimented the urgency inherent in Koji's voice and seemed to balance out the songwriter's more maudlin sensibilities. Which is not to say he's at all an incapable tunesmith—on the contrary, "Spinning Silent," on new record Crooked in My Mind, is one of his best compositions to date. But man, would that shit rule with half-stacks....