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Cloud Nothings leads this week's picks

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CLOUD NOTHINGS

It's been a good year for 19-year old Westlake resident Dylan Baldi, who records as Cloud Nothings. His debut EP, Turning On, came out early in the year and was reissued in October with bonus songs. The New York Times and Pitchfork drooled all over Baldi's basement project. An expanded Cloud Nothings toured with Wavves and Fucked Up. One of their songs played in a behind-the-scenes video for GQ's infamous Glee photo shoot. And they're set to release their self-titled debut album next month. Turning On bristles with low-fi clamor and ragged punk energy. Baldi's voice sits low in the mix, recalling Pavement (so do the sharp angles and knotty trails of distortion). It's all balanced against a jaunty, shambling indie-pop aesthetic. Recording for the first time in a real studio, Baldi promises a higher-fi sound this time, the band's noisy edge sanded back. One song, "Understand at All," has been all over the blogosphere recently. It's a crisper-sounding Cloud Nothings, which doesn't sacrifice any of Baldi's infectious zest or sprightly glimmer. Chris Parker

With Herzog, Low in the Sky, and Relaxer. 9 p.m. Saturday, December 18. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $5; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.

KOFFIN KATS

Koffin Kats incorporate the Stray Cats' rockabilly strut with a dark gothic undercurrent that perfectly suits their moniker. A punkabilly influence can be found in both the Detroit trio's name and sound, but they also indulge a meaty rumble that betrays singer and upright bassist Vic Victor's love of '80s Cali punks like Pennywise and Bad Religion. With five albums in seven years, Koffin Kats have had plenty of time to stake out the wide confines of their music, moving the markers with each new release. Last year's Forever for Hire tips more to the punk and rock ends of the spectrum, downplaying the country and rockabilly influences. Still, the rhythms race like a V-8 muscle car. The band took a hit earlier this year, when founding guitarist Tommy Koffin left for personal and health reasons. He was replaced by EZ Ian, who plays on their latest record. It's a split EP with 12 Step Rebels, which you can pick up only at their shows. Parker

With Rockabye Ransom and Scoliosis Jones. 9 p.m. Saturday, December 18. Now That's Class. Tickets: $8; call 216-221-8576 or go to nowthatsclass.net.

PUNCHLINE

Unless your name is Green Day, pop-punk isn't exactly known for spawning lengthy careers. But Pittsburgh's Punchline have been barreling through snarky three-chord romps for more than a decade now. And while some of those years are best not remembered — the quartet spent the late '90s and early '00s trend-hopping from generic skate-punk to blah emo — the band's most recent incarnation seems to have found its forte. Punchline's latest album, Delightfully Pleased, features unabashed pop-rock that upgrades pop-punk's rousing choruses and bubblegum hooks to stadium-sized slabs of radio-friendly ear-candy. There are more syncopated rhythms, air-guitar-worthy riffs, and bass lines that actually sound interested in grooves. And if you can ignore frontman Steve Soboslai's punch-line-packed lyrics, you'll hear lush harmonies that owe more to 1950s rockers than to, say, NOFX. Delightfully Pleased doesn't sound so much like a band selling out as it does a band finally finding the chops to make catchy that have been in their head the whole time. Matt Whelihan

With Spontaneo, the Promise Hero, and Looking to Score. 6:30 p.m. Sunday, December 19. Pirate's Cove. Tickets: $10, $8 in advance; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.

THE SIDEKICKS

It will be a welcome homecoming for Cleveland's Sidekicks this week. Their current Midwest tour stops at the Grog Shop, where they'll release a new vinyl version of their latest album, Weight of Air. The tuneful punk band's evolution over the years is evident from the first note you hear on the album — an intensely catchy record that never lets up on passion or hooks. The Sidekicks are best experienced in an intimate setting, where you can really feel their riffs wash over you in massive waves. They're a true product of the local underground music scene: four young music fans who play songs that are both challenging and accessible. As the band continues to refine its sound, retiring some of its earlier rawness for a more polished perspective, the future looks very bright indeed. Steve DiMatteo

With Andy Cook & the Wanderloons and Tin Armor. 9 p.m. Tuesday, December 21. Grog Shop. Tickets: $6; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.

MR. GNOME

From its sports teams to its economy, good old Cleveland offers plenty of gloom to go around. The homegrown Mr. Gnome — singer and guitarist Nicole Barille and drummer Sam Meister — channel angst and anguish, metal and math rock, and sleekness and heaviness into their distinct sonic storm. Barille's captivating soprano never screeches, moans, or drones, and Meister is more than a mere basher and time-keeper, injecting his drumming with jazz syncopation and prog-rock sophistication. That's appropriate, since most of Mr. Gnome's songs — especially those found on their latest album, Heave Yer Skeleton — are about the same stuff Wagner, Berlioz, and Celtic Frost wrote about: angels, demons, nightwalkers, and the King of Brimstone City. Promisingly, Mr. Gnome's roadway to the dark side is paved with psychedelic asphalt rather than cracked, nihilistic concrete. Mark Keresman

With HotChaCha and Soft Speaker. 9 p.m. Saturday, December 18. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $8; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.

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