Breathe Owl Breathe
Breathe Owl Breathe got their start in 2004, when Oberlin College freshman Andréa Moreano-Beals was on tour with another band. She met singer and guitarist Micah Middaugh, and it wasn't long before she was adding her classically trained cello to Middaugh's warm folk songs. A few years later, percussionist Trevor Hobbs joined in. The trio lives together in a Michigan cabin they call Magic Central, a place where they can blur life, work, and art on a daily basis. Their home lends its name to Breathe Owl Breathe's latest album. Tracks like "Dragon," "Parrots in the Tropical Trees," and "Swimming" evoke perfect summer days with childlike grace, all guided by Middaugh's playful, singsong voice. But there are moments on Magic Central where the mood gets a little dark. "Icy Cave Dancers" tells a sad story of lost love in the city, over an insistent beat by Hobbs. And "Across the Loch" features a noticeably gloomy undercurrent of atonal guitar and grim percussion. In their woodland habitat, the dichotomy between lovely, lazy summers and harsh, trying winters can be startling. But Breathe Owl Breathe sure know how to make it sound like home. — Chris Drabick
Breathe Owl Breathe, with Lowly the Tree Ghost and Leach Lou. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 15. BeachlandTavern. Tickets: $8; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
After Kellie Pickler was eliminated from American Idol in 2005, it looked like she would go the way of most of the show's alums (paging Justin Guarini and that Sanjaya dude). But the ditzy North Carolina native has carved out quite a career, racking up several hits (including "Red High Heels," "I Wonder," and "Best Days of Your Life") over the past four years. Perhaps more astonishing: Both of her albums — 2006's Small Town Girl and 2008's Kellie Pickler — topped the country chart. The 24-year-old comes off somewhat scatterbrained at times, but she's a former cheerleader and beauty queen — so it's not like our expectations should have been very high. She's charming and sexy, and she has managed to steer away from the more controversial aspects of her past. Both of her parents have done time: her dad, an alcoholic and drug addict, for aggravated assault; her mom for writing a fake valium prescription. Pickler is finishing her third album, which should be out soon. Expect to hear a few songs from it when she opens for Rascal Flatts at Blossom this week. — Ed Condran
Kellie Pickler, with Rascal Flatts and Chris Young. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 16. Blossom Music Center. Tickets: $47.85-$120.65; call 330- 920-8040 or go to livenation.com.
Jackson Browne & David Lindley
Rock & roll is a young man's game, and it isn't so easy to age gracefully when you play it. Once you hit 50 or so, there are only a few options: oldies act, retirement, pop-culture punch line. Jackson Browne, who'll turn 62 next month, is taking another route. His latest studio album, 2008's Time the Conqueror, features some of his best songs in 20 years. And his recent collaboration with longtime guitarist David Lindley (who gets equal billing on Browne's summer tour), Love Is Strange, is an acoustic live album that includes some of Browne's greatest songs. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (class of 2004) has almost 40 years' worth of material to choose from, so his concert sets span his entire career. He also has plenty of stories to share onstage, so no two Browne concerts are ever the same. Still, you can expect to hear favorites like "Late for the Sky," "These Days," and "Running on Empty" when Browne and Lindley come to town this weekend. — Condran
Jackson Browne & David Lindley. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, September 19. Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City. Tickets: $35-$84.20; call 216-522-4822 or go to livenation.com.
Land of Talk
Land of Talk is another one of those not-really-a-band bands. Since forming in 2005, the only constant member has been singer Elizabeth Powell, rounded out by a few short-termers and a whole lot of guests. The group's music molds around Powell's vocals, so it makes sense that she's the centerpiece here. Rich and powerful, yet always peering over the edge of trembling fragility, her voice levels Land of Talk's sound, allowing bass, drums, and guitar to foil and complement in equal measure. When she walks the line of tenderness, the band makes sure the sound stays rooted, keeping the music from tripping over itself. When Powell belts, the group backs off a bit, underscoring her power with gentle prettiness. Over time, this approach has moved Land of Talk away from their early days, when they played popped-up and moody guitar-driven indie rock. With this summer's Cloak and Cipher, Land of Talk indulge their sense of textural interplay almost to an extreme. The album plays more like a suite, with passages moving into and out of one another. The push and pull are still here, but they focus more on subtlety than surprise this time. And they make the moments of unhinged, unbridled rock all the more satisfying. — Nicholas HallLand of Talk, with Suuns and Good Touch Bad Touch. 8 p.m. Sunday, September 19. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $10; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
Matt & Kim
Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino are two Brooklyn pals who also happen to be the happiest and most carefree dance-punk duo touring the country right now. Whenever they’re onstage, they break out huge smiles and get real goofy — a perfect complement to their ecstatic music. Matt & Kim write giddy and assertive songs for kids who just want to let loose and dance their guts out. “Gardens and trashcans/Hoodies and Chuck Ts/Arms, fingers, and hands/Don’t slow down,” goes one tune. Drummer Schifino crafts hooky beat patterns and sings backup; Johnson takes lead vocals and adds spastic synth and keyboard riffs to his arsenal. They make a lot of noise, pounding and jumping on their instruments, and engaging audiences in sing-along dance parties. You’ve probably heard “Daylight” in commercials for candy bars, Bacardi, and the Xbox over the past few months. Matt & Kim’s new single, “Cameras,” previews their upcoming album, Sidewalks. You can hear the whole record a couple of months before it comes out if you show up to the show early. They’re hosting pre-concert listening parties at each stop on their tour. — Danielle Sills
Matt & Kim, with So So Glos and the Very Knees. 9 p.m. Thursday, September 16. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $17, $15 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.