Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a little break. That's exactly what Michael Nau did when he formed Cotton Jones a few years ago. The Maryland singer-songwriter started the side project during some downtime with Page France, the indie-rock band he leads. The folkier Cotton Jones have released a series of EPs and albums since 2007. The latest, Tall Hours in the Glowstream, is filled with some of the best Americana music you'll hear this year. At his best, Nau crafts elegant, dreamy songs, and there are plenty of them on Glowstream. Even though there's some melancholy here, most of the music radiates warmth. It helps that Nau always sounds like he means every word he sings. Plus, the curveballs Cotton Jones throw to listeners — like the horn-driven instrumental "Goethe Nayburs" — are always loads of fun. Turns out the best thing for Nau was that vacation he took from Page France. Let's hope he isn't planning a similar hiatus from this other project anytime soon. — Ed Condran
Cotton Jones, with Pepper Rabbit and Dreadful Yawns. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 13. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $10, $8 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
High on Fire/Torche
It's a great week to be a fan of forward-thinking metal in Cleveland. An unofficial and seemingly unplanned festival of distorted delights hits our city, starting with Brooklyn-born retro-thrashers Early Man rolling into Peabody's on Thursday. Five days later, the Sword stop by House of Blues to show why shifting down a gear on their new album just might make them the new kings of hard rock (read our feature story in this issue). In between is this very cool and diverse pairing of metal's new guard, featuring Torche, a Miami band that may be the most miscategorized group to ever wear the "stoner rock" tag. They actually play an up-tempo brand of smart progressive music that would be just as at home sharing a bill with Yeasayer as with their tour's headliners High on Fire. That band's already legendary frontman Matt Pike may be the natural successor to Lemmy Kilmister's "soul of heavy metal" crown. But that laurel undersells the musicality, diversity, and ferocity of Pike's songwriting, singing, and especially his riff-generating abilities. The man is truly a force of nature, and all self-respecting fans of metal owe it to themselves to see Pike and his nearly equally awesome High on Fire bandmates. — Matthew Wilkening
High on Fire, with Torche and Kylesea. 8 p.m. Friday, October 15. Grog Shop. Tickets: $15, $14 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
You know Disturbed have hit a wall when even a 12-year-old kid listening to their new album cracks, "Are all of their songs about dying?" Let's see — "Crucified" and "Sacrifice" are. "Another Way to Die" definitely is. And I'm pretty sure "The Infection" is too. But that's always been Disturbed's style — misery, death, repeat — and things aren't all that different on their fifth album, Asylum, which recently debuted at No. 1. The band still cranks out blistering decibels of alt-metal, David Draiman still sings like the proverbial thorn is lodged firmly in a vital organ, and the songs still wallow and thrash in self-pity and despair. And don't let Asylum's hidden bonus cover of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" fool you. Disturbed haven't gotten religion; there's little light in sight. It's all pained complaining, but as long as there are kids pissed off about something (parents, boyfriends/girlfriends, school, getting pwned at Modern Warfare), there will always be a place for a band like Disturbed. That they've managed to stay near the top for a decade now says a lot about their audience, who are growing up but not getting a whole lot happier. — Michael Gallucci
Disturbed, with Hail the Villain and Art of Dying. 8 p.m. Saturday, October 16. Agora Theatre. Tickets: $37.50; call 330-696-1010 or go to ticketmaster.com.
Paste Magazine Tour With Jason Isbell
Since the Paste Magazine Tour was announced a few months ago, the actual magazine folded. But its name is still attached to this cross-country show headlined by former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell. His band, the 400 Unit, gives his southern rock a crackly spin with twangy guitars and jangling keyboards. The Alabama native split from the Truckers in 2007, but he still writes the kind of rock anthems that hurtle through a room. He's joined on tour by Langhorne Slim, a Brooklyn singer-songwriter who brings his own southern spin to indie music. His songs bounce restlessly from one guitar-fueled stomper to another. The most intimate music on the road show comes from Oregon's Mimicking Birds, a trio that toils in contemplative reflection and beautifully twisted atmospherics. Understated vocals brush on top of looped acoustic guitars in nearly every song. The Sweet Hereafter's Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher round out the lineup with a set of tunes filled with spacious organ and haunting voices. The magazine may be gone, but the Paste name lives on with these artists — all of whom were championed in its pages during its brief, prominent run. — Danielle Sills
Paste Magazine Tour, with Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Langhorne Slim, Jesse Sykes & Phil Wandscher, and Mimicking Birds. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, October 17. Grog Shop. Tickets: $15, $13 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
OK Go have gotten so good at making viral videos, it's easy to forget that once upon a time they were just another band from Chicago playing pop-charged alt-rock songs. But maybe this is for the better, since the group's videos (the treadmill-driven "Here It Goes Again," the Rube Goldberg-fueled "This Too Shall Pass," the jumpsuit-splattered "End Love," the new doggy-tricked "White Knuckles") are almost always way better than the music. OK Go's latest album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (released earlier this year), is their sturdiest, but — like those super-fun videos — they're always delivered with a smirk. That can be fun when you can see what's going on, but without the visuals, their white-boys-on-Prince funk quickly becomes annoying. There's not much substance to the band's music, which is even more frustrating when you realize that maybe the songs are meant to be secondary to the videos, not the other way around. Let's hope OK Go bring some dogs, or at least treadmills, onstage with them when they come to town this week. — Michael Gallucci
OK Go, with Company of Thieves and Summer Darling. 9 p.m. Wednesday, October 13. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $15; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.