Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
A few songs on Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' latest album, I Learned the Hard Way, sound so old-school R&B, they distract from the great singer and band playing them. The group's 2007 breakthrough, 100 Days, 100 Nights, sounds like it was made in the late '60s too, but things come together a bit more effortlessly on that record. You can hear the machine grinding away on I Learned the Hard Way, as Jones and band (the great Brooklyn combo that gave Amy Winehouse's Back to Black its distinctive flavor) work through a dozen mostly original songs. Let's hope this quasi-gimmick doesn't become a crutch, since Jones and the Dap-Kings are one of the tightest, if not totally original, groups making music these days. They're performing a free show at the Rock Hall this week. You need a ticket, but the venue has been giving them away via various promotions over the past month. You can still snag one. Check out the Rock Hall's website for details. — Gallucci
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. 8 p.m. Friday, August 13. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Free; call 216-781-7625 or go to rockhall.com.
California indie rockers Grandaddy and Earlimart have been pals for more than a decade. There's even been some crossover, like when Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle produced Earlimart's 2003 album Everyone Down Here. Given their history, you could call Admiral Radley the least surprising supergroup since Asia. What is equally predictable is the easy tunefulness of their first collaboration, the recently released I Heart California. Lytle and former Grandaddy cohort Aaron Burtch team up with Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray, and it brings out the best in everybody. Lytle sounds more engaged here than he did on his solo album last year, especially on the majestic "G N D N," a ballad that ranks with Grandaddy's finest moments. Earlimart's Hymn and Her (from 2008) was kind of disappointing, but that's because it lacked cuts as effortlessly catchy as Espinoza's "Lonesome Co." or as playful as Murray's "The Thread." The real-band thing is blunted a bit by I Heart California's songs, which are instantly identifiable as coming from the Grandaddy or Earlimart side of things. But that's nitpicking. The foursome is clearly having fun and has stretched what was initially scheduled to be just a few California shows into a full-blown tour. We're also thankful they didn't go with their proposed moniker: Earlidaddy/Grandimart. — Chris Drabick
Admiral Radley, with Hooray for Earth and Trouble Books. 8 p.m. Saturday, August 14. Grog Shop. Tickets: $10; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
Miniature Tigers generated some buzz in 2008 with a pair of EPs and their debut album, Tell It to the Volcano. The bright, sunny sounds were carried along by breezy melodies and a quirky, lighthearted attitude. Frontman Charlie Brand's fey charms were expressed in jangly, whimsically lovelorn paeans to Annie Oakley and other rapacious, heart-munching women ("Cannibal Queen"). The lyrics occasionally meandered into silliness, which only added to the music's innocence, recalling the wide-eyed swoon of pre-psych '60s pop. But a lot has changed for Brand and his band over the past couple of years. Miniature Tigers have expanded to a quartet (to help out onstage) and relocated from Phoenix to Brooklyn, where their oddball indie pop feels right at home. They unveil a far more layered, intricate sound on their recent follow-up album, Fortress, coming off like a junior Animal Collective. While Fortress retains Brand's ample melodic gifts and trippy subject matter ("Japanese Woman Living in My Closet"), it leaves behind the ragtag bedroom-bred unaffectedness in favor of carnivalesque flamboyance. Keyboards swirl amid handclaps and choruses of background voices as the album revels in a Day-Glo exuberance that's somewhat overwhelming. It's still charismatic and colorful, but the music feels mannered and too sonically encumbered at times to support its former gay and sprightly mien. — Chris Parker
Miniature Tigers, with the Spinto Band, the Moonmen, and Travis Caudle. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 11. Musica. Tickets: $10. Call 330-374-1114 or go to akronmusica.com.
Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles/The Big Sweet
These Massachusetts roots rockers have been on the road for more than a year supporting 2009's The Stars Are Out, so they're sounding really tight at this point. The album — a mix of covers and originals — never quite breaks a sweat, but between Borges' raspy-but-pretty voice and the band's solid chops, The Stars Are Out comes close enough to rock & roll at times. Borges and her three-piece group often shade their songs in an atmospheric haze on record. Live, they're more straightforward. Openers the Big Sweet — four Northeast Ohio teens — recently released their debut album, Shot of Bliss, a set of Pavement-inspired jagged rockers that also builds mood slow and steady. The last time these two bands played together, they all ended up onstage at the end of the night. So be sure to get there early and stay late. — Michael GallucciSarah Borges & the Broken Singles, with the Big Sweet. 9 p.m. Thursday, August 12. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $10, $8 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
When Ilya Lagutenko formed Mumiy Troll in Russia 27 years ago, the Cold War still lingered in the political air. Mumiy Troll (literally translated as "The Mummies' Troll") played around for several years until Lagutenko had to serve his time in the Russian Air Navy. After his discharge, the band reformed and released two albums in 1997. When MTV Russia launched a year later, the first video it aired was by Mumiy Troll. Movie geeks may recognize Lagutenko from his role as a vampire in the Russian horror film Night Watch. He calls his group's blend of Russian folk roots, hard-rock convention, and curious lyrics "rockapops." Over the past 15 years, Mumiy Troll have become a hugely influential force in Russian youth culture — from music to fashion to attitude. When the group formed in 1983, it was banned by a local Communist Party leader, who called Mumiy Troll "one of the most socially dangerous bands in the world." They were recently voted Best Band of the Millennium in their home country. That's change you can believe in. — Brian Baker
Mumiy Troll, with Run Run Run. 8 p.m. Tuesday, August 17. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $17, $15 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.