Three Must-See Acts This Week

Courtney Barnett, Tim Hecker, and Injury Reserve.

Indie Rock

Courtney Barnett

7 p.m., Sunday, May 6, at August Hall, 420 Mason St. $32.75;

Courtney Barnett never presents herself as a rock star, even after becoming the indie equivalent of a household name over the past five years. Her sarcastically bleak observations, complemented by her mumbly, slacker-infected voice, do not give off the impression she’s keen on becoming famous — but her seemingly lackadaisical attitude is juxtaposed with brutal openness, and that makes Barnett’s music all the more endearing. The Melbourne singer-songwriter got her start in the industry playing guitar for a number of Australian bands before releasing her debut EP I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Harris in 2012 on her own Milk! Records label. Barnett would soon build a sizable fanbase by releasing two further EPs before dropping her debut studio album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, to widespread critical praise. Listeners were enamored with Barnett’s wit and playfully snarky demeanor, coupled with absurdly catchy hooks and refreshingly heavy guitar work. The success of this debut led Barnett on a brisk touring schedule, bringing extra grit and energy to her already shred-worthy tracks. Hot on the heels of the excellent Lotta Sea Lice, Barnett’s collaborative album with folk star Kurt Vile, she’ll release her sophomore studio album Tell Me How You Really Feel in a couple of weeks. The early single “Nameless, Faceless” is an indication Barnett has another success on her hands


Ambient electronic

Tim Hecker

(MUTEK event) 6 p.m., Saturday, May 5, at Gray Area Grand Theater, 2665 Mission St. $45;

Well-educated in the field of electronic sound and composition, Tim Hecker transcends the genre classification of ambient music, as his distinct, carefully constructed pieces of sound prove that he may be one of the most skilled electronic composers working today. Born into a family of art teachers, the Montreal sound designer and musician found himself fascinated with music at an early age, producing techno under the alias Jetone in the early 2000s. Hecker quickly grew bored with the techno scene after he dove into his more experimental tendencies, eventually dropping the Jetone moniker and using his birth name for subsequent releases. In 2011, Hecker released his sixth studio album, Ravedeath, 1972, which is considered to be his finest work due to its emotionally turbulent structure and flawlessly executed sound production. Hecker’s most recent album, Love Streams, is a further exploration of the harshly beautiful sounds from previous albums — but interwoven in the flurry of electronic noise are distorted, angelic vocals, courtesy of the Icelandic Choir Ensemble and composed by the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. When it comes to live performances, Hecker pushes sonic boundaries with blisteringly loud noise and complete darkness, an experience that’s not for the faint of heart.


Alternative hip-hop

Injury Reserve

8 p.m., Friday, May 4, at Slim’s, 333 11th St. $15;

“This ain’t jazz rap, this that spaz rap,” Ritchie with a T angrily spits into the mic on “Oh Sh*t!” the opener off Injury Reserve’s 2016 debut album Floss. For the Arizona hip-hop trio, the line is a tongue-in-cheek response to the often-repeated observation that the group shares superficial similarities with legendary jazz rappers A Tribe Called Quest. While all members admit to the inspiration, the similarities end there. Injury Reserve works in a bizarre realm of hip-hop, and hardly sounds like any other contemporary group—  let alone one from the Golden Age. In a 2017 interview with Complex, Injury Reserve they spoke candidly about their sound — and all three members claim Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is their biggest influence — but their unique style comes from the mere fact that “Phoenix doesn’t have a hip-hop scene,” Ritchie claims. The group found themselves at house shows playing alongside EDM DJs and punk bands in equal number, seamlessly fitting into every niche to be found in Phoenix’s music scene. Through the internet, Injury Reserve’s unusual yet innovative style found a passionate and growing fanbase, and the group’s new EP Drive Like It’s Stolen shows the group’s unmatched potential.


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