The Lisps/Shivering Timbers
Bronx-based indie rockers the Lisps (pictured) come off like a mix between pop-minded hipsters, goofy costume rockers, and absurdist vaudeville holdovers. You'll hear plenty of these styles swirling around on their debut album, Country Doctor Museum, and in Futurity, a musical they penned that combines sweet indie pop with a story inspired by Jules Verne. At times, the Lisps recall the Moldy Peaches — especially in the soft vocals of César Alvarez and Sammy Tunis, who bicker back and forth on cutesy acoustic numbers like "I'm Sorry" and "Compromise." At other times they soak their sound in bubbling synths and harmonized voices, evoking a stripped-down Of Montreal. Expect to hear danceable tunes with enough awkward charm to fuel a Juno sequel. Be sure to get there early for Cleveland's minimal indie-folk duo Shivering Timbers, whose saccharine vocals and sparse arrangements are a perfect complement. — Aaron Vilk
8:30 p.m. Thursday, January 6. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $7; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
To many metal fans, Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy guitarist (and former Ill Niño member) Marc Rizzo will forever be "the dude in the yellow backpack." The bag, which he wore onstage for years, is gone, but Rizzo's profile continues to rise, and his latest instrumental album, Legionnaire, should push it even higher. It's a shredtastic opus featuring tracks with awesome titles like "Release the Kraken" and "The Wrath of Crom." The album mixes Yngwie Malmsteen-ish fretboard fireworks with gentler passages that fall somewhere between flamenco and fusion — think mid-'70s Santana on speed. Still, Rizzo realizes that instrumental metal, no matter how energetic, will only get you so far. So he mixes things up onstage with a range of covers, including songs from some of the bands he's played with and metal classics by Slayer, Pantera, and Sepultura. Whether you're in the mood to hear screaming guitar solos or groove/death-metal riffage, Rizzo's got you covered. — Phil Freeman
8 p.m. Sunday, January 9. Peabody's. Tickets: $8; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.
The Dirt Daubers
Colonel JD Wilkes is somewhat of a southern-gothic renaissance man. He fronts roots rockers the Legendary Shack Shakers, but he's also a visual artist, a cartoonist, and a filmmaker. Ever restless, Wilkes started a second full-time band a couple of years ago — the Dirt Daubers, an acoustic flipside to the plugged-in and amped-up Shack Shakers. The Dirt Daubers mine hot jazz and old-sounding Appalachian tunes, but they never take a stuffy academic approach to their music. The trio (which also includes Wilkes' wife Jessica and Shack Shaker cohort Mark Robertson) serves up spirited renditions of vintage covers and retro-sounding originals. The Dirt Daubers have released only one album — 2009's self-titled debut — but they're currently working on a second one. You'll probably hear some of the new songs when they come to town this week. — Michael Berick
8:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 11. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $7; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.Toubab Krewe
Toubab Krewe's name says a lot about their sound. "Toubab" means "foreigner" in several West African languages; "krewe" is New Orleans speak for "crew." These North Carolinians blend Malian music with rock, blues, and stinging surf guitar for a wild, slamming journey around the world — all fueled by massive amplification. They've played just about every music festival out there and made several trips to Africa to work with musicians. Their second album, TK2, came out last year, and it's a multifaceted, organically flowing record with tracks like "NTB," which are loaded with screaming guitar on top of Sahara-rockabilly rhythms. And on the slower, gentler "Sirens," "Konekoba," and "Mariama," they infuse the Black Keys' raucous garage blues with African modality. Something else to keep in mind: Toubab Krewe are less interested in cultural sensitivity and the preservation of tradition than in rocking your ass off. — Freeman
8 p.m. Tuesday, January 11. Grog Shop. Tickets: $12; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
Sarah McLachlan's 2010 wasn't so stellar. Laws of Illusion (her first album in seven years) reworked many of the themes that made her a star back in the '90s, but it really didn't catch on with listeners. She also rewired Lilith Fair for a new generation of girl-power fans. But the traveling music festival ran out of steam almost immediately out of the gate, with several dates either canceled or playing to half-filled amphitheaters. So McLachlan is scaling back in 2011, with an intimate new tour she hopes will bring her closer to fans. We're guessing it probably will, since she's playing smaller venues that emphasize her songwriting, which, at its best, sounds like whispered confessions. McLachlan will close the gap between artist and fan even more with a mid-set Q&A, where she'll field the audience's questions about her songs, life, and the thin line between them. Of course you're going to hear some songs from Laws of Illusion, but you'll also hear plenty of the classics you probably made out to back in the day. — Michael Gallucci
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 5. EJ Thomas Hall, Akron. Tickets: $29.50-$65; call 800-745-3000 or go to livenation.com.