I saw Miniature Tigers four years ago, when the band opened for Freelance Whales at a club in Minneapolis. At the time, the Brooklyn four-piece seemed to be honing a sound built around 1970s dream folk, with lyrics that were kitschy-cute. I remember the highlight of that performance being a prominent rain-stick solo, if that tells you anything. Things have changed mightily since then. The band's latest full-length, Cruel Runnings, avoids niche territory in favor of power pop that leans on synths and hooks. It's a very likable listen, but some of the precious tarnish of early days Tigers must be lamented. Who knows, though — maybe they've kept the rain stick.
Thursday, July 24, Jackpot Music Hall (943 Massachusetts, Lawrence,
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
When three of the five original members of a band abandon ship, is it still technically the same band? Do you keep the original name and soldier on, or do you call it a day and stake out some new project? Perhaps these questions did not occur to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's Alec Ounsworth, who, when faced with the dissolution of his eight-year-old band, elected to continue as though nothing had changed. In June, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — now consisting mainly of Ounsworth and drummer Sean Greenhalgh — released Only Run, an album that, surprisingly, holds its own (even if it doesn't instantly recall the CYHSY sound). On Sunday, you can decide for yourself whether the change is good.
Sunday, July 27, the Riot Room (4048 Broadway, 816-442-8179)
Ryan Wise and Kris Dover know exactly what comes up first in your Google search when you type in their band's name. This delightful disregard for good manners (and shared computers) spills over into the Sluts' music, which is basically a mess of greasy-haired, potty-mouthed grunge rock. Saturday, the Lawrence band releases a brand-new EP called The Loser, the follow-up to last year's dastardly full-length, Virile. Go get your freak on.
Saturday, July 26, Replay Lounge (946 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-749-7676)
Saturday, the Phoenix celebrates local music with its fifth Phoenix Fest, featuring two stages and a lineup that gathers eight of the area's most laid-back blues acts. For those who prefer air conditioning, the inside stage features Jason Vivone and the Billy Bats, the Stone Cutters Union and more; outside, the whole family is welcome to enjoy FEO, the Brody Buster Band, Brother Bagman, and the MGDs. Barbecue will be served. Margaritas will be poured. Fun will be had. (Don't forget the lawn chairs.)
Saturday, July 26, the Phoenix (302 West Eighth Street, 816-221-5299)
Sara Jean Kelly
There is plenty to love about Sara Jean Kelly's dusky voice. It's a sultry, calloused thing, built to deliver a fine twang. The singer is a born-and-bred Nashville native, daughter to country star Irene Kelly, so Americana is in her blood. But songs like "Cowboy" and "Last One to Know" also suggest a crossover versatility that should enable Kelly to join the ranks of contemporaries such as Tristen, Caitlin Rose and Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Monday, July 28, RecordBar (1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207)
Nick Waterhouse looks like he just stepped off the set of an early Mad Men episode: trim suit, slicked-back hair, vintage-looking glasses. His sound is plenty retro, too. On his latest full-length, Holly, the Los Angeles singer and guitarist packs plenty of swinging horns and brassy R&B notes into his songs. It's a deliciously smooth record, the kind you might put on for a swell lady friend while you mix her a Manhattan. But Waterhouse is not here to cash in on a retro-soul stance. There's something exhilarating about the songs on Holly, something fresh and vibrant — and if his music videos are any indication, you can expect his live show to live up to that.
Tuesday, July 29, the Riot Room (4048 Broadway, 816-442-8179)