Tuesday, Dec. 6, Ryan Adams, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Carnegie Hall, $30
Ryan Adams' new album is not so much his best album in years as it is his most focused. Instead of indulging his every whim, be it a Grateful Dead impression to an ode to "Star Wars," on Ashes & Fire there's an audible effort being made to group together songs that work as a piece with a minimum of dull moments or completely out of place "Oh, Ryan" moments. It's a great album for people who like the idea of Adams (or at one point liked Adams) but are still traumatized by the time he released 85 albums in 2005. And hardcore Adams fans that actually like it when he makes songs about "Star Wars," take heart. He's just as likely to play it straight at Carnegie as he is to offer up a 20-minute version of "Halloween Head." If you decide to risk it, show up early for Jessica Lea Mayfield, the sort of singer from whom colloquialisms like "a whole tornado of trouble" were created.
Tuesday, Dec. 6,G-Side, Mr. MuthafXXXXX' eXquire, Cities Aviv, Glassland, $12
The pride of Huntsville, Ala. have already dropped to solid releases this year, The One...Cohesive and iSLAND that take hard-knuckled cues from Southern rap 8Ball & MJG, UGK and Scarface, but adds a warm dose of working-man humanity. Get there early for current New York mixtape king Mr. MuthafXXXXX' eXquire so he can explain to you why he finds your partying habits woefully poor.
Tuesday, Dec. 6, Parenthetical Girls, Sam Mickens and Guests, Shea Stadium, $7
Parenthetical Girls is 4/5 of its way into an unorthodox, limited release schedule: The Portland, Ore. band is pressing its experimental pop into a five-EP vinyl set called Privilege, 500 of each disc made. It's less-than coincidence that like-vibratoed showman Sam Mickens and his band will join the Girls Tuesday: he's a former touring member of Parenthetical Girls. With Mickens on stage and Jherek Bischoff playing alongside the elliptic ladies, we're one man away from The Dead Science tooling out more art-jazz -- with such a friends' club at Shea Stadium, Tuesday, who knows?
Wednesday, Dec. 7-Saturday, Dec. 10, The Weakerthans, The Bowery Ballroom, $20
The Weakerthans are so Canadian that they write songs about beloved Montreal icons, but they have enough stateside fans that they're setting up shop in New York for a few days for their "4 & More NYC" tour stand, for which the Canuck punks will perform one of their albums in its entirety each night, "plus favorites." Their debut Fallow gets aired on Wednesday, Left and Leaving on Thursday, Reconstruction Site on Friday and their most recent release, 2007's Reunion Tour, on Saturday.
Thursday, Dec. 8, Cheap Trick, The Paramount, (Huntington, N.Y., on Long Island), $49.50
Even if you have to party-bus it out there, even if you know the aging power-rockers for nothing more than "I Want You to Want Me" and four-armed guitars, this one's worth checking off the to-do list. This is the bulletproof show, carrying the heft of honest-to-god rock icons. I refer you to this Sept. 23 video wherein the band plays on a stage lit from below and with an orchestra in a loft rather than a pit. But if you watch really closely, it appears the stage's monitors also function as teleprompters for the band? This renders Cheap Trick's lyrics literally unforgettable. This show cannot fail. Unless you count the weather issues that in August forced the band from the stage only a few songs in at Marty Markowitz's Coney Island shindig. Now that was a cheap trick.