Top Five Must-See Phoenix Shows This Week

My version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a lot different from the final cut. It's not that I have anything against Jane Austen or George Romero; I just prefer the British invasion to the actual, brain-eating invasion.

(View our complete concert calendar here.)

The Zombies - Crescent Ballroom - Monday, September 16

Breathe In, Breathe Out, the most recent record from The Zombies, came out in 2011. Yeah, those Zombies--the band that recorded "She's Not There," "Time of the Season," and "Care of Cell 44." The band that recorded Odyssey and Oracle, which created the framework for most modern psychedelic pop. The new record finds the group sounding far more "adult contemporary than that record," but there's a spark twitching in the album's songs that makes it clear that the duo of songwriter Rod Argent and vocalist Colin Blunstone are having a hell of a lot of fun.

"Most of the basic tracks were recorded live, with the band playing together in the studio," Blunstone says. "When we did the Odessey and Oracle Live concert, it struck me how nice the energy was from all the guys playing together and interacting," Argent says. "I thought, 'That's something that's really quite valuable; let's capture some of that again.' That's obviously the way we used to do things -- there wasn't any other way at the time." The title track recalls the smooth AOR pop of Steely Dan, with the vocal chemistry of the Zombies of lore. It's a testament to the duo's creative partnership. "It just seems to work," Blunstone says. "There are certain people you just seem to get on with. It's just like in any other area of life . . . When we get into a recording studio, it just seems to work. It's not something we've questioned much." -- Jason P. Woodbury

Tech N9ne - Marquee Theatre, Tempe - Wednesday, September 18

As far as American cities go, Kansas City isn't at the top of the list when it comes to violence, tunes, and scandal. But that wasn't always the case, with the city's music and organized crime worlds inextricably intertwined.

Kansas City was a hotbed of jazz in the '40s, acting as a petri dish for the music's evolution from big band swing to bebop. A civic effort in the '70s to revive the jazz scene, however, ended up with a mafia war, nightclub explosions, and corruption involving Las Vegas casino development. So it's not too weird to have a local rapper name himself after a sub-machine gun. That'd be Tech N9ne, a K.C. icon whose lyrical flow is just as rat-a-tat as his namesake. -- Chris Hassiotis

Jason Isbell - Crescent Ballroom - Thursday, September 19

On his recent album, Southeastern, singer/songwriter Jason Isbell writes plaintive ballads about dying cancer patients, tender country soul numbers about the process of recovery, and swampy power-pop about Super 8 ass-whuppings. It's his fourth solo album since leaving Georgian southern rockers Drive-By Truckers, a group he left in 2007, following a divorce from Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker, years of Jack Daniels bottles emptied on stage, and musical differences.

Southeastern finds Isbell sober (his friend Ryan Adams played a role in his recovery), and happily remarried to songwriter/fiddler Amanda Shires, with whom he writes and records. His previous solo albums, filled with Muscle Shoals-inflected R&B and country rock, have always been good, but never quite as good as this one. Southeastern is in turns dark, seedily funny, and carefully hopeful. Whether it's Isbell himself in the song (and often it is) or characters he's singing for, his voice has never sounded so confident or engaging.

"If you're writing novels, you have to know where you're going to shelve them; you have fiction and non-fiction," Isbell explains over the phone from Nashville. "With music, you don't really have to differentiate between the two...but, you're always in the songs, if they're any good." -- Jason Woodbury

Vial of Sound - Last Exit Live - Friday, September 20

The way Vial of Sound produces, distributes, and performs its music is nearly as interesting as the music itself. That would be a backhanded compliment if the music weren't good, and the production and distribution weren't so interesting. In order: Vial of Sound uses vintage, analog synthesizers exclusively to produce its vintage synth-pop albums.

They distributed two recent singles, "A Lifetime Passed" and "The Day We Both Died," with music videos that have found an entirely new audience on Vimeo, where one was named a Staff pick. And they perform with a video synthesizer that makes each show into a bespoke visual experience.

Few bands in the Valley feel so deliberate in everything they do, and it pays off in a way that enhances the experience of their music, instead of distracting from it. Friday they're opening for Moving Units, Californians who use more conventional instrumentation--guitars and drums, some of them probably made in the last 30 years--to get crowds dancing.

Vex - Joe's Grotto - Friday, September 20

Phoenix band Vex is one of those intriguing acts capable of bridging the gap between indie art-rock and classic heavy metal elements. Equipped with catchy, soaring guitar riffs, rock ballad-worthy vocals, and atmospheric instrumentals, the music is hard to categorize. It's as if White Snake and Aerosmith had a love child, and the resulting baby couldn't choose between Dark New Day and Band of Horses. So he decided a love triangle was his best bet.

This September 20, the band can be described in yet another new way--as active participants in the fight against cancer. In conjunction with the band's music video release for the song "Road To Success," Vex is also hosting a cancer benefit for the organization Singleton Moms, a cause that is very close to their hearts. "Road To Success" is off of Vex's debut album, Vitriolum, a solid introduction to the local music scene. The fun claymation video for "Road To Success" has been in the works for a long time, and has attracted an array of other popular local bands to perform on the bill, including Frequis, Whiskey Six, and The Oxford Coma.

Whether you are interested in indie rock, hard rock, heavy metal, visual art, or just charity, this is a locally entrenched event not to be missed. -- Lauren Wise

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