Top 5 Must-See Phoenix Shows This Week

It's nearly the end of 2013 and you still have to pay attention to Justin Timberlake. I don't think most people are so bothered by that, but just enough people are that I'd like to apologize to them personally.

Don't worry: I know that when you were a 12- to 100-year-old *NSYNC hater back in 2000 that your only consolation was that a decade later you wouldn't have to pay attention to that insufferable kid with the Afro anymore. But at least "Suit and Tie" was kind of catchy, right? (View our complete concert calendar here.)

The Hill in Mind - Crescent Ballroom - Tonight

There are weird bands everywhere, probably, and if I clicked around Bandcamp enough I'd find them, but this isn't a contest, so I'll just say that Phoenix produces a lot of delightfully weird but also unequivocally poppy music, and I enjoy listening to it.

The Hill in Mind, whose self-titled EP came out just last month, is another arrow in that particular quiver, playing herky-jerky, dense guitar music that goes in a new direction on every song. "Spider-Shirt" will leave you thinking ELO, "Fall.E" Matthew Sweet, "Buckwheat" Paul McCartney and Wings(!) and so on, with all four songs eventually combining to leave you thinking of nothing at all.

Eventually those sounds will probably coalesce into something else entirely. But this is the rare band whose development is fun to listen to for its own sake.

Justin Timberlake - US Airways Center - Tonight

Justin Timberlake was a weird pick for the decade's Uncontroversial Pop Superstar, coming as he did from an uncontroversially bad boy band and partaking of nearly every terrible '90s trend there was, but maybe that's the whole point: Justin Timberlake was photographed for our sins. All of us have incontrovertible evidence that he was not always very cool, and so long as we remember his highlighted Afro he is a man of the people, and not some golden, unapproachable god.

As things stand now he's only occasionally a golden, unapproachable god; every couple of years he releases a song that seizes upon the culture's intense urge to be charming, suit-wearing adults, and the rest of the time he appears on Saturday Night Live and makes viral videos about having weird sex. That's a minor simplification, but it's not a major one; Justin Timberlake is ultimately not a very complex figure. We like him because he's talented, but not too talented; handsome, but not too handsome; and cool, but not so cool that he makes you feel bad about it.

Red Fang - Club Red - Tonight

A new source of intensity adds to the fiery, riff-heavy attack on Red Fang's third album. With a relentless touring schedule leaving little time for songwriting or recording, the band felt the deadline pressure seeping into their music.

Sandwiched between the Australian Soundwave Festival in February and a European festival tour in June and July was a three-month, back-to-the-wall burst of creativity.

"It was pretty stressful. We're not very good at writing on the road. We basically don't do it at all. On the little breaks we've had from tour, we were trying to write here and there," says drummer John Sherman. "We had some of March, then April and May to write and record the whole record. We just had to set a deadline for ourselves and not do anything other than go to the fucking woodshed and jam. We'd never really written like this before. It was more like every day going in, whether we felt like playing music or not, and just jamming." "The good thing from that is when I listen to it, there's a sense of urgency to this record that I like. The stress came through in a pretty cool way and I'm super happy with it," he says.

Whales and Leeches, the Portland quartet's third album and second on Relapse Records, is dark and adventurous, 13 songs that sit at the intersection of stoner metal and hard rock built from big riffs, dynamic tempo changes, and lyrics about vampires, zombies, and other dooms and destructions. --Eric Swedlund (Read the complete feature.)

Captain Squeegee - Crescent Ballroom - Thursday, December 5

Talking about Captain Squeegee's new album, To The Bardos, frontman Danny Torgersen is excited about the songwriting and the performances, and he's excited about the crowdfunding campaign that made it possible -- he's excited about most things, to be honest. But that's not what he's most excited about. "I think Bob Hoag saved the record," he tells me. Hoag, who recorded and produced the album at Flying Blanket Recording in Mesa, was the impetus for all the crowdfunding in the first place.

"There's seven of us playing like 10 instruments . . . and there's always been this problem where by the time we're done recording you can't hear anything." The way he says it it sounds like the problem is mystifying him even now, with copies of the record sitting shrinkwrapped in his backpack.

That's the big deal about To The Bardos, really: If you haven't seen them live, this is the first chance you'll get to know what Captain Squeegee sounds like. The unwieldy klatsch of horn-players and guitarists is separated in the mix now, and Torgersen is willing to send most of the credit Hoag's way -- the added clarity, the professional equipment, even the ability to tell them what not to play. "He said 'no' to me more than I've ever heard the word in the studio, and he was the first person I believed when he said it . . . He was like an uncle I could trust with my children for the summer."

Florida Georgia Line - Comerica Theatre - Thursday, December 5

It's that time of year again, and with the holidays comes the annual Almost Acoustic Christmas concert at Comerica Theatre on December 5. A staple in the Christmas season, and one of the more buzzed about events among Valley country fans, Almost Acoustic Christmas plans on beefing up the artists on the bill this year by featuring up-and-coming musicians Cole Swindell and Laura Bell Bundy, along with country-lifestyle-living good ol' boy Colt Ford and headlining superstars Florida Georgia Line.

"It's going to be the biggest party of the [season]," promises Brian Kelley, one half of FGL. "I can't wait for everybody to see the production, because we have put a lot of time into it. We have lighting rigs that nobody else has, and video screens, and some other tricks up our sleeve. More than anything, just focus on the music. Any Florida Georgia Line fan knows what to expect at our show." -- Caleb Haley

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Dan Moore