Nobody except the young and naive expect anything more than basic Hallmark sentiments from Adam Young, the 25-year-old mastermind behind Owl City. "Fireflies," his breakthrough hit from two years ago, found an audience because it played to the most facile of emotions. It's sweet, simple, and the kind of thing you'd expect a sheltered kid from Minnesota to say from the safe haven of his parents' basement. Young doesn't get much deeper on his third album, All Things Bright and Beautiful, which came out earlier this year. He sings about angels, dreams, and butterflies — all that's separating him from your mom's spinster aunt is a picture of his cat dressed like some British dandy. Still, the dude writes bouncy synth-pop songs that you'll find yourself nodding to in spite of yourself, as long as you don't pay too close attention to them. Owl City get under your skin that way. But don't expect Young or his music to go much deeper than that. — Gallucci
7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 17. House of Blues. Tickets: $25, $20 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
There's likely a measure of right-place, right-time mojo behind Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews' success over the past couple of years. Not much symbolizes New Orleans' post-Katrina resiliency better than a new star rising from the city's storied musical tradition. His repeated celebration of the culture on HBO's Treme certainly helps. But it just may be that an artist with a deep roots connection occasionally comes along to quench a thirst people didn't know they had. True to the Crescent City's rep, borders blur in Shorty's music. Where the jazz ends and the funk begins — or whether power chords, hip-hop beats, or brass band horn charts are the ticket — are all open questions resolved in a mix that recasts NOLA's musical bounty in a fresh and energized voice. It's a sound that netted a Grammy nomination for last year's Backatown. The recently released For True sports guest cameos (including Jeff Beck and Kid Rock) that are fitting for a rising star. — Duane Verh
With Revolution Brass Band. 8 p.m. Saturday, November 19. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $25; call 216-383-1124 or visit beachlandballroom.com.
Ever since his breakthrough 2004 album Two Way Monologue, sparrow-voiced Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche has played around with his music. First he time-warped back to pure jazz, doo-wop, and Tin Pan Alley arrangements on 2006's Duper Sessions. Then he went the other direction on the following year's Phantom Punch, loading up on guitar fuzz and locomotive speed. But as its title suggests, his new self-titled record is a reaffirmation of purpose. His sixth album recalls the classic sound of his second one, balancing pretty guitar melodies with old-school orchestration and clever romantic lyricism. Sondre Lerche pairs melancholy torch songs with sleek modern rock tunes, weaving a rich tapestry of guitars, strings, pianos, and drums. It's Lerche's best album since Two Way Monologue — and a clear sign that the Scandinavian pop revivalist is once again finding his stride, nearly 10 years after his debut. — Keith Gribbins
With Peter Wolf Crier. 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 22. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $17, $15 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or visit beachlandballroom.com.
Paul Simon has never had Lou Reed's downtown cool or Bob Dylan's deified mystique or even Neil Diamond's spangled flair — just to compare him to the other Jewish singer-songwriters who were kicking around New York City in the 1960s. But he certainly knows how to craft a song — "Mrs. Robinson," "The Sound of Silence," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" — not to mention classic albums like Bridge Over Troubled Water and Graceland. He has imaginatively incorporated 1950s pop, gospel, R&B, and — most famously — African sounds into the folk-rock template. Even after 50-plus years of making music, the 70-year-old Simon is far from slip slidin' away. His latest album, the beautifully mature So Beautiful or So What, expertly delivers adult ruminations with cross-pollinated global sounds. Simon stands as one of the top composers of the past half-century, coupling an ambitious music approach with an unparalleled lyrical sense. — Michael Berick
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 23. EJ Thomas Hall. Tickets: $47.50-$85; call 330-972-7570 or go to ticketmaster.com.
The fifth album by the North African band Tinariwen features collaborations with TV on the Radio's Tunde Adepimpe and Kyp Malone, Wilco's Nels Cline, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. But these six musicians from the Sahara Desert (who play guitars and percussion spiked with African and Arabic flavors) don't need assistance from English-speaking fans to get their musical points across. Tassili, which came out this summer, is more acoustic-leaning than Tinariwen's previous albums — especially 2007's Aman Iman, which was championed by aficionados like Robert Plant and introduced the group to world-music fans here in the States. On the surface, the group plays blues music, but it's blues informed by generations of a nomadic lifestyle that amounts to a sort of homelessness. The wail and din of Tinariwen's best songs fall somewhere between desolation and celebration. It's powerful stuff that hits even harder onstage. — Michael Gallucci
With Sophia Hunger. 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 22. Grog Shop. Tickets: $23, $20 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
Under the Radar
Maynard James Keenan is one of those guys who'll never be satisfied with his regular band. Or his side group. Puscifer, more or less, is Keenan's solo project, an electronic experiment that plays around in corners that Tool and A Perfect Circle never quite crawl into. Puscifer's second album, Conditions of My Parole, is less abrasive than 2007's "V" Is for Vagina, but no less assaulting. Keenan brings an expanded Puscifer to the Lakewood Civic Auditorium on Thursday.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.