The Best NYC Shows This Week: Moses Sumney, Kesha, Thee Commons


The Baltimore music scene has produced many of the most successful and interesting indie bands of the last decade, from Animal Collective to Dan Deacon. Since 2014, their most widely hailed export has been Future Islands, the scrappy synthpop trio who captured the hearts and minds of television viewers everywhere following a hyper-sincere performance on Letterman. They’ll play Brooklyn Steel three nights this week, while Romantic States, an up-and-coming Baltimore indie pop band, takes the much smaller Silent Barn stage on a lineup of local favorites.

S the Supplicant,
Romantic States, Agua Viva, Air Waves (solo)
Silent Barn
8 p.m., $8

The Baltimore husband-and-wife duo Romantic States have made their mark within their local scene over the last few years, releasing chilled-out indie pop for minimalists. The pair, Jim Triplett and Ilenia Madelaire, recently released its fifth album, Corduroy in Italy, which finds the duo using down-tempo pop songs to alternate between two very different vocal styles: Triplett’s nasally voice and Madelaire’s seductive whisper. They’ll play here with S the Supplicant, a disco artist whose music is a fever dream of vintage synths and falsetto.

Hammerstein Ballroom
8 p.m., $114+

After a years-long battle with her record label, Sony, over allegations that her former producer, Dr. Luke, had sexually and emotionally abused her, pop star Kesha could easily have turned in an album designed to fail, fulfilling the obligations of her contract that ties her to the label without wasting her talent. But instead, the thirty-year-old has released Rainbow, a shift in direction on which she explores both pop-rock territory, with the Eagles of Death Metal, and her Nashville country roots. (One of the tracks is a cover of the most famous song penned by her mother, the country songwriter Pebe Sebert, as a duet with Dolly Parton.) Kesha has overcome a lot to get here, and though the album isn’t all hit-making material, her determination resonates.

Tricky, In the Valley Below
Music Hall of Williamsburg
8 p.m., $30–$35

On his thirteenth album, ununiform, U.K. trip-hop maverick Tricky revisits some of the best eras of his career as he tries to forge a new version of himself. On the closer, “When We Die,” he sings a deeply emotional duet about mortality with Martina Topley-Bird, a sultry English vocalist who starred on Tricky’s first album. (This is her first appearance in his work in fourteen years.) Tricky hasn’t always been known for his live shows — more often than not they’ve been as disastrous as they were revelatory. But ununiform sees the artist turning a new leaf, living a contented life that seemed out of reach when he was younger. It will be fascinating to see how that evolution translates live.

Future Islands, Jenny Besetzt
Brooklyn Steel
8 p.m., $30–$35

It’s still hard to believe that Future Islands, a Baltimore synthpop trio founded in 2006, are now the kind of band that can sell out three nights at a venue the size of Brooklyn Steel. After years of playing its cathartic, intense music to a cult following of fans in basements and warehouses, the band broke through in 2014, when a performance on Late Show With David Letterman went viral. But to longtime fans, Future Islands are still a scrappy DIY act who have persevered against the odds. True to form, on their new album, The Far Field, band leader Sam Herring seems to have found minimal comfort in the group’s rise in fortunes. His grand, synth-fueled pop songs about love and loss remain as heartbreaking as ever. “It’s not easy just being human,” he sings on the standout “Through the Roses.” “I’m no better than you and I’m scared. Just searching for truth.” Also 10/11 and 10/12

Thee Commons, Combo Chimbita, Ratas En Zelo
Mercury Lounge
6 p.m., $10

L.A.’s Thee Commons describe themselves as “psychedelic cumbia punk” and are apparently fantastic performers: L.A. Weekly wrote that if the group was not “the best live band in Los Angeles, they’re damn near the top.” This is probably evidence enough to check out the three-piece, which released its new album, Paleta Sonora, this year. But in case you’re still skeptical, we can confirm: Thee Commons make fun, interesting, Latin-inspired psych rock that is reminiscent of groups like Gogol Bordello. Their live show has been known to include dancing gorillas and juggling clowns, so don’t miss out.

Moses Sumney, Xenia Rubinos
Music Hall of Williamsburg
9 p.m., $22–$25

For the last few years, the L.A. solo artist Moses Sumney has been the indie world’s best-kept secret. With no full-length album to speak of, Sumney’s gospel spread through word of mouth, a few famous fans, and his stunning live shows. Many artists use a looping pedal to augment their solo performances, but the flow of Sumney’s instruments and singing is so natural, you hardly notice it’s there. Much of this is due to his voice, which ascends flawlessly from a deep bass to falsetto. His long-awaited full-length, Aromanticism, captures a lot of his magic, but there’s still no comparison to seeing this rising artist live.

10/11 + 10/12 
New Sounds Live
Darmstadt Ensemble, Ben Neill, Zach Layton
Winter Garden at Brookfield Place
7:30 p.m. both nights, free 

If the pioneering avant-garde composer Pauline Oliveros imagined her legacy, we doubt it would include an installation in a mall. But here we are: It’s 2017, and a tribute to Oliveros on Thursday will grace the bougie atrium of the Brookfield Place mall in the financial district. The installation itself, which is open now and runs through the eleventh, features an artwork by Carol Szymanski that takes the form of an entire alphabet sculpted out of brass instruments. At the Thursday show — and also at an earlier one, on Wednesday — some of these horns will be played live by the trumpeter Ben Neill. Joining him for the Oliveros tribute will be the legendary Darmstadt Ensemble. If you can think of a more perfect representation of late capitalism, let us know.

Against Me!, Bleached, the Dirty Nil
Brooklyn Steel
8 p.m., $23

Shape Shift With Me, the latest album from punk band Against Me!, had a lot to live up to. It was the band’s first full-length release since 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the album that depicted lead singer Laura Jane Grace’s coming out as transgender. Luckily, the new record expands and refines some of the sounds explored on Blues. Though the songs aren’t quite as catharsis-laden, they do describe a time in Grace’s life after her transition when things continued to go downhill, with a divorce and a suicide attempt. Hearing her determination to keep going is inspiring.

Hieroglyphic Being, Marshall Allen, Danny Ray Thompson
Good Room
7 p.m. $15–$20

Jamal Moss, the producer known as Hieroglyphic Being, specializes in Afrofuturist psychedelic house that’s equally at home at electro-nerd events like Moogfest or pounding the dance floor at Berghain in Berlin. Despite darkness in his past — Moss, who hails from Chicago, has at times struggled to survive through times of homelessness — his music emits an optimism regarding art’s place in the world, and its ability to change it.

The Fresh & Onlys
Baby’s All Right
8 p.m., $12

The Fresh & Onlys have often been grouped in with fellow San Francisco–based acts like Ty Segall and White Fence who play psych-inflected garage rock. On its new album, Wolf Lie Down, the band’s first since 2014, that descriptor doesn’t seem as relevant. Though the psych influences are still a major component of their sound, it’s now cleaner, less fuzzy, and more refined, taking inspiration from highly produced Sixties records. The song “One of a Kind” even features a prominent harmonica solo. It’ll be interesting to see how the band has evolved live, especially as it’s replaced its rhythm section since its last release.