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A wonky summertime concert preview

Nice weather - hot tunes

Morrissey scheduled to perform July 21 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Courtesy photo

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It is hot as hell in the Pacific Northwest, right about now. Still, something that always sits right with hot weather is music, and summer tends to burst with concerts and events to take your mind off the encroaching sun and its dastardly ways. In addition to the many events coming to the South Sound over the coming months, it's nice to check out what is taking place a hop, skip and a jump away in Seattle and Portland. Big time festivals like the Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot go without saying, so I thought I'd highlight some other unmissable shows.

Shellac, July 6 and 7

One of the most eye-opening musical experiences in my life was hearing Shellac's "Prayer to God" in a random apartment from a manic drug addict. Fronted by known grump and genius producer Steve Albini, Shellac was a band that combined Albini's love of minimalist muscle and dry wit, which was epitomized by "Prayer to God"'s simultaneously ferocious and hilarious damnation of a former love and her current boyfriend. The extended coda of Albini praying for God to kill his ex's new man is a classic bit of music that cuts to the quick of how a lot of people melt down after a breakup.

[TRACTOR TAVERN, w/ Shannon Wright, 8 p.m., $15, 5213 Ballard Ave. NW, Seattle, 206.789.3599]

Brian Wilson and Rodriguez, July 12

Searching for Sugar Man exposed much of the world to an artist known only to few: Rodriguez. The fascinating documentary tracked down the man who had slipped into obscurity, while unknowingly becoming a superstar in South Africa. Since the film's release, the singer-songwriter has come back to the music scene, and will be performing with the legendary Brian Wilson.

[BENAROYA HALL, 8 p.m., 200 University St., Seattle, 206.215.4800]

Big Harp, July 15

One of my favorite musical surprises of the past couple years was stumbling across an album called Chain Letters. The band, Big Harp, approached Americana in a uniquely electrifying way. Buoyed by the big, fuzzy bass of Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, as well as Chris Senseney's commanding baritone vocals, Big Harp crafted an album of gigantic tunes. Songs like "You Can't Save ‘Em All" sound like they could have been performed by kings of melodrama like Elvis Presley or Roy Orbison. If you've yet to hear Big Harp, better get on board.

[EDGEFIELD WINERY, 7 p.m., No Cover, 2126 SW Halsey St., Troutdale, OR, 503.669.8610]

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, July 17

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's 2005 self-titled debut came around at just the right time to infect my burgeoning musical tastes for the better. Buzzing synths, chiming guitars, an unimpeachably strange lead vocalist, and a driving New Wave aesthetic all came together to create a truly magical record. While the following albums haven't quite matched up to that first one, this is still a band worth watching, as proven by their recent, stark departure with the icy, unpredictable Only Run.

[THE CROCODILE, w/ Teen Men, 8 p.m., $20, 2200 2nd Ave., Seattle, 206.441.4618]

Morrissey, July 21

What is there to say about Morrissey that the man hasn't already said about himself? After establishing himself as an iconic figure to angsty youth the world over through five albums with the Smiths, Morrissey has gone on to album after sexually ambiguous album, full of flowery, vicious lyrics. It is true, however, that Morrissey isn't the most reliable performer (insisting under threat of cancellation that Madison Square Garden not serve meat during his performance is something that pretty much only Morrissey could get away with), so cross your fingers and hope he makes it through the show without storming off in a huff.

[BENAROYA HALL, 7:30 p.m., 200 University St., Seattle, 206.215.4800]

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, July 23

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a hard band to pin down. Their self-titled debut was a dizzying beast of lo-fi psych-pop. Bouncy, unconventional melodies kept everything feeling off-kilter and unpredictable. Their subsequent albums have refined and warmed up their style, making them a band still capable of surprising with every twist and turn.

[ALLADIN THEATER, w/ Vinyl Williams, 8 p.m., $18, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland, 503.234.9694]

Charli XCX, July 25

Who would have thought that the girl who sang the hook on that gigantic hit, "Fancy," would show up with an album as kickass and uncompromising as Sucker? For those paying attention to Charli XCX during her rise through internet fame, it shouldn't be that big of a surprise. The British pop singer sophomore album is an explosive mix of pop-punk, nods to ‘80s icons like Debbie Harry and Cyndi Lauper, and electro-pop bangers. Lyrics that emphasize female empowerment and sexual freedom are the cherries on top of this exuberant treat.

[SHOWBOX SODO, w/ Bleachers, 7:30 p.m., $35, 1700 1st Ave. S., Seattle, 206.628.3151]

Scharpling & Wurster, Aug. 29

Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster have been comedy icons for the music world for almost 20 years. Their landmark album Rock, Rot and Rule was passed from musician to musician in the late ‘90s. Later, as the host of The Best Show on WFMU, Scharpling was able to expand his and Wurster's comedic world with the help of an insanely devoted fan base and Wurster's call-in characters. Scharpling is a consummate straight man, and Wurster (when not drumming for Superchunk or the Mountain Goats) is a slyly hilarious agent of chaos.

[DOUG FIR LOUNGE, 8 p.m., $25, 830 E. Burnside S.t, Portland, 503.231.9663]

Destroyer, Sept. 18

For about two decades, Dan Bejar has been making music under the moniker of Destroyer. Over the years, Bejar's musical peccadilloes have grown increasingly singular, resulting in album after album of shifting sensibilities and experiments in new sounds. 2011's Kaputt was perhaps the most drastic of these reinventions - a lush, immaculately produced tribute to the fairly maligned genre of so-called "yacht rock." Where once the cheesy synths and sleazy saxophones were looked down upon, Bejar took these tropes and breathed new life into them. Suddenly, saxophones were sexy again, and those synths transported you back to the ‘80s in the imagination of everyone who's seen an ‘80s music video. Destroyer's forthcoming album is Poison Season, and if the lead single "Dream Lover" is any indication - with its Springsteen-esque drive - it will be another departure for Bejar.

[WONDER BALLROOM, w/ Frog Eyes, 8 p.m., $20, SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland, 503.234.9694]

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