Nellie McKay is somewhere in her 20s — the actual date of her birth is disputed, and she doesn't like to talk about it. This reflects her artistic approach: Since 2004's debut album, Get Away From Me, McKay has steered far away from trends. Her piano-based jazz-pop is among the most innovative music out there, but of course the charts have as much use for her sly feminism as they do for her updated take on classic jazz singing. No matter. The well-massaged chord changes, pop formations, and even reggae exercises on the new Home Sweet Mobile Home are further proof of McKay's genius. In little more than half a decade, she's penned two excellent songs about male chauvinism ("It's a Pose" and "Mother of Pearl") and made a double album that rivals the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs as the greatest cabaret work of the era. On 2007's Obligatory Villagers, McKay heightened her politics, and on last year's Normal as Blueberry Pie, she paid tribute to her idol (and fellow animal-rights activist) Doris Day. Home Sweet Mobile Home may be McKay's airiest album, but watching her hammer it all out onstage should be a thrill. — Dan Weiss
7 p.m. Wednesday, December 1, and 8 p.m. Thursday, December 2. Nighttown. Tickets: $30; call 216-795-0550 or go to nighttowncleveland.com.
If you're looking for more proof that '80s pop music will never die, check out Toronto's Diamond Rings. Mastermind John O'Regan offers provocative lyrics, bustling synths, fuzzy production, squirrelly organs, syncopated click-track hiccups, and neon-drenched bass lines and keys that sound like they flew in from a New Order album. Diamond Rings' debut, Special Affections, celebrates all of this with evenhanded confidence, winking broadly at Morrissey, Culture Club, and the Human League without resorting to flashy histrionics or soggy nostalgia. Still, for all of its looking back, the album sounds modern, honest, and pleasantly camp-free. It's more about O'Regan coming to terms with being gay and less about the reckless swipe of rainbow mascara he sports on the album cover. He sings in arresting matter-of-fact tones: dry, sober, and stentorian. In "Give It Up," he pleads: "Hear me out until there is no doubt." You'll believe every precious word.
— Ray Cummings8 p.m. Thursday, December 2. Musica. Tickets: $9; call 330-374-1114 or go to ticketweb.com.
EVERY TIME I DIE
Every Time I Die's live show is electric in every sense of the word. Frontman Keith Buckley invites mayhem and chaos right there onstage with him. If you feel like joining him up there and then jumping off, go right ahead. Buckley doesn't mind. If you feel like sticking around and grabbing the mic for a verse, he's cool with that too. There are few boundaries between the Buffalo metalcore band and its audience. Their latest album, New Junk Aesthetic, came out more than a year ago, and they're still on the road, this time hitting some of the cities they missed during their first swing across the country. The quintet plays pure old-school metal — sweaty, raw, and loud. Their onstage antics — plus their singular blend of hardcore, metal, and southern rock — have earned them an adoring fan base. Prepare to go crazy. — Jara Anton
With Trap Them and Howl. 8 p.m. Thursday, December 2. Peabody's. Tickets: $15, $13 in advance; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com
Soulfly's moniker promises a funky jam band. But the reality is way harder than that. The music is filled with the jackhammer and chainsaw imagery you'll find in the heaviest of metal. All this sonic mayhem comes from former Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera, who left the Brazilian hard-rock band under traumatic circumstances in 1996. He wasted no time jumping into his next project. And while Soulfly haven't had the success of Cavalera's earlier group, they're a solid vehicle for his straight-up blistering metal and musical experiments. From the start, he's taken some detours with the band's sound. On Soulfly's self-titled debut from 1998, they merged dub and reggae with tribal percussion from Cavalera's homeland. On their latest album, Omen¸ you'll find classic rock, '80s new wave, and alt-rock — often in the same song. Despite all this genre-jumping, Cavalera remains true to aggressive, pummeling metal, providing plenty of that too. — Nicholas Hall<>p>With Desperate Union, Straight Line Stitch, and Incite. 8 p.m. Saturday, December 4. House of Blues. Tickets: $25, $22 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
What more can Wussy do? Ten years ago, the Cincinnati quartet's glowing reviews, terrific songwriting, and strange sex appeal would have made them indie stars. But when even Wilco and the Drive-By Truckers are faltering these days, what chance does the best-kept secret in Middle America stand? As long as their upcoming album is as good as the three before it, we don't care. Over the past five years, Chuck Cleaver's Neil-Young-on-peyote croak has been welded to tunes that are even warmer than those he made with his previous band, the underrated Ass Ponys. Lisa Walker's frayed Lucinda Williams-like voice curls around sharp lyrics penned by her and Cleaver. Mark Messerly's dizzying arsenal of keyboard hooks chime in with everything from melodica to glockenspiel. And the songs tackle subjects ranging from bloated blue-collar guys to love in the backseat of a van. It's oddball Americana meets romantic Americana. Just listen to the thick layers of harmony in "Conversation Lags," or the way the line "Las Vegas looks like Christmas when you're high" is so positively heart-wrenching. Best of all, we're betting Wussy haven't made their best album yet. — Weiss
With Old Boy. 9 p.m. Saturday, December 4. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $8; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.