You can read the shifts and jumps in style and tone of Santigold's second album, Master of My Make-Believe, as part of the restlessness that's gripped the former Santi White, who's fronted a punk band, wrote glossy pop singles, and worked as a record-company rep before releasing her 2008 debut. Or you could see it as an artist who isn't quite sure where the fuck she belongs in today's marketplace. Her debut album, Santogold (her original stage name, before she was legally forced to change it), wrestled new wave from synth-pop, indie rock from hip-hop, and so on. Master of My Make-Believe continues this try-anything grab: Bubbling among the aforementioned grooves — supplied by heavy-hitters like Diplo, TV on the Radio's David Sitek, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner — are some reggae bounce, ear-peeling art-rock, and street-level electronic jams. It runs more smoothly than you'd think, thanks to Santigold's forward drive. Her first tour rolls through town this weekend. — Gallucci
With Theophilus London. 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 29. House of Blues. Tickets: $23, $21 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or visit
These lines, from his 2006 song "Dipped in Vaseline," pretty much sum up what Mickey Avalon is all about: "In the Hollywood Hills, swallowing pills, tipsy off scotch whiskey, sniffin' blow through hundred dollar bills." The 36-year-old Hollywood MC mostly raps about things you'd read about in Nikki Sixx's autobiography. And the dude looks the part, shirtless and covered in tats. While his rhymes and flow aren't exactly A- or even C-list, Avalon knows how to grab your attention with them. His back story is thick with tragedy. At one point, he became a prostitute to feed his heroin habit. His father, also a drug addict, died in a drunk-driving accident, and his sister died of a heroin overdose. Avalon eventually got clean and launched a music career with his pal Simon Rex, the former MTV VJ, and his self-titled 2006 debut album attracted lots of buzz when it came out. He recently released a follow-up LP, Loaded, which is filled with trashcan beats and sleazy rhymes about sex, drugs, and good times. — Eddie Fleisher
With Millionaires and Sean Benjamin & Lucky City. 8 p.m. Saturday, June 30. Grog Shop. Tickets: $15; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
There can't be much left on Neil Diamond's bucket list. Over the past 50 years, the 71-year-old New Yorker went from faceless songwriting machine to massively successful pop star to magnetic concert entertainer to cultural icon. He's sold more than 100 million albums, scored some No. 1 singles, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, heard his songs interpreted by artists ranging from Elvis to the Monkees, won a Grammy, starred in a movie, set countless attendance records at his concerts, and released more than 30 albums and almost as many greatest-hits collections. Diamond's last two Rick Rubin-produced LPs, 2008's Home Before Dark and 2010's Dreams, earned him some of the best reviews of his long career. And, remarkably, Home Before Dark was his first No. 1 album ever. But Diamond has always been more interested in entertaining his loyal fans than catering to critics. He comes to the Q this weekend for another hits-stuffed show loaded with all sorts of glitter. — Brian Baker
8 p.m. Sunday, July 1. Quicken Loans Arena. Tickets: $55 - $120; call 888-894-9424 or visit theqarena.com.
Death Cab for Cutie/ City and Colour
Death Cab for Cutie released their least pop-sounding record since 2003's Transatlanticism last year. Stepping back from the guitar-driven melodies that anchored its two predecessors, 2005's Plans and 2008's Narrow Stairs, Codes and Keys sounds like new territory for the band, even if it isn't exactly. The album's first single, "You Are a Tourist," feels like something from the late '80s — part Stone Roses and part Cure, with a rolling bassline that has you anticipating some languid sniveling from Robert Smith. But frontman Ben Gibbard and the rest of the Death Cab for Cutie crew are at the top of their game here, especially guitarist Chris Walla, whose sharp production is becoming a key element to the band's sound. Be sure to get to their concert at Jacobs Pavilion a little bit early this week to catch the openers, the divine City and Colour, a solo project spearheaded by Alexisonfire's Dallas Green. It all adds up to plenty of brooding and angst for your hard-earned money. — Peter Chakerian
8 p.m. Tuesday, July 3. Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. Tickets: $30 and $39.50; call 800-745-3000 or visit livenation.com.
It's no surprise to singer-songwriter Todd Snider's fans that the dude, despite his dazed-and-confused attitude and look, is way more efficient than his slightly disheveled songs let on. He tours relentlessly, and he writes songs — often long, wordy, and winding songs, at that — at a pace that no couch-surfing slacker could even dream of. Snider has released two albums so far in 2012: Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, a set of typically wistful ballads and smart-ass social barbs, and the recent Time As We Know It: The Songs Of Jerry Jeff Walker, which pays tribute to the singer-songwriter who penned "Mr. Bojangles." But who knows what you'll hear when Snider plays the Kent Stage this weekend. His shows are rambling, funny affairs that feed as much off the audience as Snider's mood that night. There's a good chance you won't hear a single tune from Time As We Know It, and you may hear only one or two from Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables. There's no telling what you'll get from one of our best songwriters; that's what Snider delivers night after night. Pump yourself up with last year's excellent concert album Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller. — Michael Gallucci
8 p.m. Friday, June 29. Kent Stage. Tickets: $20; call 330-677-5005 or visit thekentstage.com.