Top Five Must-See Shows This Week in Metro Phoenix

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Yeah, yeah, yeah...we get it. Mondays suck (we've read Garfield). But it means the start of a new week, which means a bunch of killer shows in and around Phoenix.

And here are a few of the coolest -- our top five must-see shows this week.

Monday, December 17: Breakup Society @ Crescent Ballroom

Ed Masley is the poet laureate of romantically challenged, over-educated, ne'er-do-wells, channeling the clever knock-kneed misanthropy of Elvis Costello. The Breakup Society frontman formed the band from the ashes of his old outfit, The Frampton Brothers, who broke up while recording the songs that would comprise TBS' 2004 debut, James at 35.

The album title -- which plays off the name of a '70s TV teen drama -- is indicative of Masley's pop culture fluency. The music's typically punchy guitar-driven power pop pitches somewhere between Weezer and the Bangles, though it also wanders into '50s pop balladry, British Invasion, and psych rock. Now, five years after Nobody Likes a Winner, Masley (who works as the music critic at the Arizona Republic) is releasing the similarly (dis-)spirited, So Much Unhappiness, So Little Time.

There's lots of the wit and tunefulness we've come to expect. The dozen tracks range from Kinks-esque biting social criticism ("He's Supportin' the War"), to music hall-inflected nods to the Beatles ("Another Day in the Life"), and infectious jangle pop ("The Upward Spiral"). As usual, there are several searing kiss-offs ("Your Invitation to Quit" and the title track), but the best tracks are the pretty, lovelorn "8th Circle of Hell" and fuzzed-out Dream Syndicate-ish psychedelic closer, "She Doesn't Cross Against the Light." Another strong addition to the catalog. -- Chris Parker

[Disclosure: New Times music editor Jason P. Woodbury appears in a Breakup Society video, and will be DJing at this show.]

Tuesday, December 18: The Brian Setzer Orchestra @ Celebrity Theatre

For the past few holiday seasons, Stray Cats front man Brian Setzer has been on the road playing hepped-up Christmas standards with his rockabilly orchestra.

He even manages to work "Stray Cat Strut" into a slinky version of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," while also paying homage to Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Bobby Helms. This ain't just a Christmas gig, though, because Setzer also throws a few more solo cuts and other Stray Cats stuff into the set list. -- Craig Hlavaty

Tuesday, December 18: Sonoran Pop Festival @ Deadhorse Warehouse

In this week's issue of New Times, I chart the conversation that occurred when I sat down with J.S. Aurelius and Alexander Jarson of Tempe's Ascetic House, a creative "collective" that releases art, video, music, and literature. The two aren't eager to define what Ascetic House "is." And that's the idea.

"I would consider the art -- the fliers we've done -- 'releases,'" Aurelius says. "It's all the catalog of our accomplishments. Whether it's a punk show or performance art [or] a painting someone did . . . Any aspect of that is part of the same thing."

That "thing" is best experienced, and next week Ascetic House hosts the Sonoran Pop Fesival 2012, featuring Body of Light, Marshstepper, Soft Shoulder (Gilgongo Records), Christian Filardo (Holy Page Records), and Documentarian, as well as a cast of national and international acts like Lust for Youth, Pharmakon, Anti-Civilization Mask, Søren, Foreplay, and Granite Mask. It's as good a chance as you're going to get to experience Ascetic House and its international connections.

The show acts as a sister festival to the Sacred Bones Five-Year Anniversary Celebration in the Mojave, on Friday, December 21. That gathering features Zola Jesus, Wymond Miles, Lust for Youth, Pop. 1280, Psychic Ills, Vår, Cult of Youth, and DJs Jonbenet and Becka Diamond at desert venue Pappy and Harriet's in remote Pioneertown, just outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California.

"When Marshstepper [Aurelius' noise/dance project] went to Europe," explains Aurelius, "Loke [Rahbek, of Lust for Youth, Posh Isolation] was talking to us about how he really wanted to come to Phoenix, how he wanted to come to the desert and shoot guns, stuff like that. They told us they were coming out for some festival in Joshua Tree, and I was like, 'Joshua Tree, what the fuck?' I said, if you can come out [to Phoenix] we'll make it worth it."

The plans further aligned when Aurelius ran into Taylor Brode of Sacred Bones while performing with Destruction Unit in New York (the night Hurricane Sandy hit, no less). "Since Lust for Youth [would] be in New York for some shows leading up to our anniversary, and geographically, Tempe is kind of on the way from New York to Joshua Tree, we thought it would be a good opportunity to do something collaborative with Ascetic House," Brode explains. "Pharmakon and Søren from Rosenkoph are good friends of both labels, and Foreplay is the new project of Chris Hansell, formerly of The Men (who are also on Sacred Bones). The other member of Foreplay is Margaret of Pharmakon's older sister. It's all incestuous, but in the best possible way."

The dual festivals not only showcase some of the most forward-thinking acts in experimental music, but also allow for a little hometown pride for the Ascetic House group.

"I think that a lot of people are starting to connect the dots that there's actually interesting things happening in Phoenix," Aurelius says. "Because it's been so isolated, it's hard for people to pick up on." -- Jason P. Woodbury

Wednesday, December 19: Arsis @ Rhythm Room

Arsis, a decade-and-running act devoted to true death metal and pretty much nothing else, save for the occasional touch of thrash.

That means no "deathcore" or the trappings of any other genre -- just pure, technical, warp-speed drama that plays carefully on the tension between nanoseconds of silence and explosions of pure power. --Arielle Castillo

Thursday, December 20: Licorice Stick @ Crescent Ballroom

Ah, the sinful sensuality of rock 'n' roll. Hey kid, you were lucky to be born when you were. In the old days, folks had to hide their records from their parents. "The devil's music," they called it. Yes, Beelzebub himself supposedly created the classic four-chord progression and hip swivel.

But you? You get to celebrate classic records, publicly put them up on a pedestal completely out in the open. Since you're going to hell in a hand basket, you might as well splurge for the full damnation care package. Embrace your damned self as members of Valley blues rockers Black Carl spin some of their favorite old school rock, blues, and soul records during Licorice Stick in the lounge at Crescent Ballroom.-- Christina Caldwell

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