Tuesday, Dec. 12, at The Fillmore
Selling authenticity, sincerity, and piano-driven ballads about heartbreak is no small feat in our aggressively cynical and disillusioned age. That has not prevented Julien Baker from pulling it off. The 22-year-old folk songwriter released her second studio album, Turn Out The Lights, earlier this year, plunging into a more robust sound without leaving behind the sparse, evocative folk that first won over fans. Baker has always made excellent music to cry to, but her new work reflects a hard-won emotional resilience. The best part? Said resilience comes packaged in some of her strongest arrangements yet.
Sunday, Dec. 31, at Bottom of the Hill
Although New Year’s Eve is frequently as an excuse for sensible people to mix a few substances and thrash around to a superstar producer with 1,000 of their closest friends, that is not your only option for ringing in 2018. The Southern California weirdo-pop group The Garden flies north for this year’s festivities, bringing their erratic post-punk-slash-art-rock with them. Live, the duo — consisting of unsettlingly identical twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears — combine vaudeville costuming with eyebrow-raising acrobatics and sheer volume. Pro tip: Garden shows are entertaining no matter where you stand, but don’t push to the front unless you want to rage in the pit.
Wednesday, Jan. 17, at The Masonic
At this point in the band’s career, Spoon can officially start bragging about their longevity. The four-piece has spent the last 20-odd years stacking their discography full of rock-solid albums, successfully trying on new aesthetics while remaining sure of their established sound. Released this spring, Hot Thoughts, Spoon’s ninth album, flirts with electronica and disco while giving ample space to each element of the band’s carefully constructed rock songwriting. The results are complex, layered, spacious, and easily one of the band’s most enjoyable (and danceable) records to date.
Monday, Jan. 22, at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
The success of St. Vincent’s 2014 self-titled album catapulted her from critical darling to bona fide indie-rock superstar, and she outdid herself (and that album) with the release of this year’s MASSEDUCTION. That said, the lauded guitarist and songwriter isn’t playing it safe at the biggest venues she has ever headlined. She whipped up a flurry of extremely mixed opinions at her sold-out London date — detractors thought her band-free, backing track-powered set was essentially glorified karaoke; NME declared it “a total triumph.” Either way, she made her tour into one of the most hotly anticipated and talked-about shows of the season. For St. Vincent, the only way is up.
Thursday, Jan. 25, at Café du Nord
The term “indie pop” has more or less expired as a useful term in recent years — as would any term used to describe both Lorde and She & Him. It nevertheless remains the most useful term for The Mynabirds, the project of multi-instrumentalist Laura Burhenn. A classically trained pianist and former touring member of Bright Eyes, Burhenn honed her skills as part of the Washington, D.C., music scene before committing to her solo work. What followed was a steady stream of records filled with pop as structural and intelligent as it is soulful and shimmering. Might we recommend her cover — er, “full-fledged transformation” is more like it — of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.”
Tyler, The Creator & Vince Staples
Sunday and Monday, Jan. 28-29, at The Armory
Clearly unsatisfied with releasing two of the best hip-hop albums of the year, Tyler, The Creator and Vince Staples created a mini-hysteria with the announcement of their co-headlining tour. (As in, their Bay Area show sold out so quickly that the rappers added a second date less than a week after the initial announcement.) The pairing makes sense, and not just because of their involvement with Odd Future. Both embrace the avant-garde and the straight-up bizarre; both have been hailed as bona fide geniuses and provocateurs in the press. The shared bill is a predictable combination, to be sure, but no less thrilling for it.
Japanese Breakfast & Jay Som
Thursday, Feb. 22, at Gray Area
Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte have spent plenty of time on the road together, but co-headlining venues is a new joint venture for the friends and occasional collaborators. Both Zauner and Duterte are continually declared bold new voices in indie rock and, as Asian-American women, indicative of the genre’s changing face and expanding limits. Both songwriters specialize in intimate, dreamlike songwriting and splicing open traumatic pasts and mundane moments. Sweetness and substance ensue.
Monday and Tuesday, March 5-6, at The Chapel
If the few singles Porches’ Aaron Maine released this year are any indication, indie rock is as open as ever to embracing the weird. A mainstay on the underground and DIY circuit for years, Maine never felt obliged to confine himself to its limits. Instead, the songwriter spent the last two years venturing further into sparse, electronic territory with Krautrock-esque idiosyncrasies and New Wave-referencing synth sparkle. Expect the evolution to continue with the release of his anticipated third album, The House, next year.
Check out more from our Holidays and Beyond issue here:
At the Midway, Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Year
Breakfast of Champions rings in 2018 at the Dogpatch venue with increasingly big artistic ambitions.
Holidays and Beyond: Art
From a retrospective on hip-hop style to an investigation into Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the season’s exhibits cover virtually everything.
Holidays and Beyond: Books
A new novel by Dave Eggers, essays by Zadie Smith, and Denis Johnson’s posthumous short-story collection.
Holidays and Beyond: Comedy
How bad do you want to see Bill Murray? He’s coming this Friday to the Masonic.
Holidays and Beyond: Film
Star Wars, Madeline L’Engle, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ last role. It’s so much more than Paddington 2.
Holidays and Beyond: Theater
From the Golden Girls (in drag) to Harold Pinter to Marga Gomez’s newest comic masterpiece, it’s a season of the highbrow and the lowbrow (but never the middlebrow).