By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
During Sonic Youth's indefinite hiatus, no member of the group has made the avant-garde a focus the way Kim Gordon has. A new duo with scrape-scene guitarist Bill Nace is her main gig, not a sideshow. Coming Apart, Body/Head's first noisy double-LP for Matador (!), is full of throttled moans and folk tunes abstracted past the point of recognition, but the sound remains classic Kim Gordon. Live, expect all her usual cool and catharsis—and more moods, to boot, seeing as the group likes to foster a multimedia vibe via projected-movie lightshows. Union Pool, 484 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, union-pool.com
John Zorn @ 60
September 15–October 4
The East Village's jazzer-composer-rocker extraordinaire gets a crosstown blowout in honor of his 60th birthday. Columbia's Miller Theater has the orchestra and chamber work evenings (plus "game" pieces and a solo organ recital) from September 23–27; (Le) Poisson Rouge gets Moonchild, his doom-rock outfit with vocalist Mike Patton, on September 29. Events at New York University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Japan Society round out the festivities. Pick your favorite Zorn flavor (or one you haven't tried yet), and toast the man who's done more than anyone to keep the downtown aesthetic alive during the condo-ization of Manhattan zip codes. Various venues, zornat60.com
Muhal Richard Abrams
If you don't know where to begin with modern experimental music, start with this guy. After all, it was his Experimental Band that led to the creation of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in the mid-1960s—and thus the careers of Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and many, many others. He has released essential large-ensemble albums like The Hearinga Suite and Blu Blu Blu, in addition to chamber works and solo piano essays (as on 2007's spellbinding Vision Toward Essence).
Still in possession of fearsome improvisational skills at the piano, as well as compositional smarts at the conceptual level, Abrams drops by Roulette to offer a little bit of both during this one-night-only engagement. The first set will see him alone at the piano, while during the second he'll lead a big ensemble of new-classical and avant-jazz luminaries that includes vocalist Thomas Buckner and pianists Joseph Kubera and Amina Claudine Myers. Either presentation, taken on its own, would make cultural shortlists during any year. A single $15 cover granting admission to both halves of the evening looks like one of the top values of the upcoming season. Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, roulette.org
The Awl rightly calls her "a musician that almost literally everyone can agree on." So, quite rightly, she's being waved on into the storied midtown venue on the heels of her new album (deep breath), The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You. Even if she sings some sad songs, the mood won't be dour—and you can count on the audience to love Case back with a pugilistic tenacity. Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, radiocity.com
Majesty Shredding got a lot of press, simply because it was such a welcome surprise. (While we'd seen classic indie rock acts get back together after a decade on the shelf, we'd never seen anyone do it with new songs, and without missing a step.) Their latest, I Hate Music, might not surprise at the same level, simply because our expectations are (appropriately) high. But even if their mastery now feels de rigueur, don't take the band's new songs for granted—nor their tight, catalog-encompassing live show. Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, boweryballroom.com
Sir Lucious Left Foot was supposed to grace us earlier in the year, with Killer Mike in tow, but got waylaid by a torn patellar tendon. After knee repair, the still-active half of Outkast ought to be prepared to step into some funk on this replacement date. Special guest stars are promised, but since Big Boi now has two solo albums (one excellent, one acceptable) behind him—three if you count Speakerboxxx—he's got the catalog to hold down a show even without Andre 3000. Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, brooklynbowl.com
Nine Inch Nails
Reznor's got the band (and the brand) back together, as well as a new album, Hesitation Marks, out on Columbia. Opening single "Came Back Haunted" was the high-energy downer of the summer (complete with a David Lynch–directed video), and word is the band has developed a light show inspired by Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense in honor of their first arena tour since 2009. Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, barclayscenter.com
Nico Muhly: 'Two Boys'
October 21–November 14
When it debuted at the English National Opera house in 2011, American composer Nico Muhly's first opera presented a story that felt ripped from those ripped-from-the-headlines police procedurals. (It features violence and flirtation borne of chatroom misadventure.) The music was even better, bearing traces not only of the minimalism Muhly raised himself on, but also, in one thrilling chorus, the chaos of Stockhausen. The same production team loads the attractive, digital-tech-heavy show into the grand old Met house, which seems to do well whenever it gets around to works by living composers. Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, metoperafamily.org