WEDNESDAY: Maybe it's the English weather that can make even electro songs about Prince sound like the Smiths, but Hot Chip definitely has that British blend of funky and dour down pat at Sonar. And black-metal band Goatwhore might be even more depressed than Hot Chip at the Ottobar with Swarm of the Lotus, Audio Terror Regime, Cryptic Warning, and Infidel. Of course, you expect black metal to be depressed, especially when it comes from a place as fucked up as New Orleans. Brooklyn, N.Y., indie-rock band the Oxford Collapse makes up to break down at Washington's Black Cat with Chin Up Chin Up.
THURSDAY: There will probably be weirder show/venue combinations this year than Clipse at Rams Head Live, but we're having trouble imagining what they might be. Maybe if the Virginia rap duo decided to deliver its pun-heavy, grimy coke rhymes at ESPN Zone. Or the Meyerhoff--that might be weirder. You can tell by their black hair dye, copious tattoos, and facial piercings that Dylan and Tech Itch will be throwing down the heavy metal version of drum 'n' bass at Sonar. It's all so loud and obnoxious that you can almost forget that jungle used to be funky.
FRIDAY: By now more people have probably heard the legend that Blue Cheer once crushed a dog onstage with the power of its amps than have heard the proto-metal band's actual music. In a space the size of the Talking Head, the reformed trio might just be loud enough to crush you, too. Not much heft to Thank You's fractured take on postpunk rhythms at the Current Gallery with the Oddbones, but the band sure knows its way around some cracked instrumental interplay. The Kevin Robinson Jazz Ensemble mixes up a gumbo of hot jazz, bop, R&B, soul, and the gritty, gutbucket blues for the first of a two-night stint at New Haven Lounge.
SATURDAY: Local prepunk groove outfit Low Moda rattles off some dark rum-pa-pum-pum at the Talking Head for its album-release party. Zinc 9 Psychedelic--the trio of Dave Ballou on trumpet, Nick Didkovsky on electric guitar, and Kevin Norton on drums, plus various electronics from various members--explores improvisation that goes beyond jazz and into a world of pure electro-acoustic sound swirl at An die Musik. Featuring the kind of reflexive name that makes record geeks squeal with delight, the Yah Mos Def is a Philly hip-hop duo that apparently raps about nothing but old hardcore records at Charm City Space with fellow Philly indie rappers K-Mass, local hardcore band the Cult Classics, and Pennsylvania thrash band Threats of Life.
SUNDAY: For 10 years now, California's Stones Throw Records has been peddling something for the blunted, stoned indie-rap that hovers between retro and out there. An anniversary tour rolls into Sonar featuring crate-digging, true-school heroes Madlib, J. Rocc, Percee P, and Peanut Butter Wolf. And at Floristree a trio of Christopher Willits, Jeff Donaldson, and David Zimmerman hot-wires a whole bunch of keyboards, noisemakers, guitars, boxes, and whatnot to make a racket that will undoubtedly push the music-or-isn't-it boundary. The reformed Slits--which probably just means the Ari Up Show and Backing Band--skanks into the Black Cat and shakes its natty dreads with the Apes and Eyes of the Killer Robot. Sometimes you can go home again--or, uh, tour internationally.
MONDAY: With more people onstage than a performance of Rent, Canada's Broken Social Scene's mix of ambient pop and sweeping shoegaze epics feels as big as its membership at Sonar, joined by equally sprawling Canuck collective Do Make Say Think, an offshoot of that sunny bunch of hippies in Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Lumbering, heavy-ass math-rock band Form of Rocket brings its stop-on-a-dime riffs and crushing rhythm section to the Sidebar with Lewerentz.
TUESDAY: Our 2006 band of the year, Metal Hearts, brings its diffident, drizzly shuffle and just-can't-get-out-of-bed harmonies to the Talking Head with Say Hi to Your Mom, Cache Cache, Panda and Angel, and Alec K. Redfern. A few steps away, there's nothing drizzly or diffident about the punchy, femme-fronted garage rock of Thee Lexington Arrows at the Sidebar with the Husbands, the Points, and the Makes Nice, one of those bands that should really lop the "the" off its name, for us grammar pedants if no one else.
WEDNESDAY: Playing live again after a nearly 26-year break, pioneering postpunk and dance-pop band Scritti Politti brings its new stripped-down, Beach Boys-influenced sound to Sonar with Jeffrey Lewis. If they don't play "Skank Bloc Bologna," we'll just die.
IN THE WINGS: Bizarre pairing alert: On Dec. 20 Sonar hosts BT, he of the anthemic trance and frosted hair, and Thomas Dolby, he of--well, you know. The secret ingredient is keyboards, we guess. (For more information visit www.sonar.us or call  327-8333.)
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