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Weekend thumbnails: Arctic Monkeys, Son Volt, Sufjan Stevens

It’s a pleasant shock that the Arctic Monkeys are still playing clubs like First Avenue. The raucous quartet sells out arenas in their native England, with the time-tested kinetic, skeletal songcraft that animated Paul Weller’s The Jam, or The Strokes. The tunes on the Monkeys’ first two discs feel like varied wavelength on a continual eruption: They like to blurt, but not harshly, their punk instincts bubble-wrapped in pop. It’s thrilling, unmistakably youthful music.

Initially peddled over theIinternet four years ago, the then-teens were cutting tracks like “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor,” their equivalent to the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.” (Check out a vintage live version here.) The group’s third and latest record, “Humbug,” fattens their sound and retards their verve a tad with the help of producer Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and a little Smiths-like ennui. It is a smart accommodation of the inevitable, a slight, not jarring, maturation, and likely moot onstage tonight at First Ave.

This year has brought the most conclusive reminder yet that the band Uncle Tupelo wasn’t big enough for both Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar. Strong songwriter-dominant new albums by Tweedy’s Wilco and Farrar’s Son Volt, both of which eclipse anything in the old UTupe oeuvre, can sustain many intelligent listeners negotiating kids and a job while maintaining a toehold on philosophy and pleasure and disdaining fancy new musical trends. Son Volt’s “American Central Dust” lives up to its title and the tradition of the band’s new label, Rounder, by sticking with earthy, Americana verities — call it modern folk music. And don’t forget that Farrar has three periods of songs — the early ’90s Uncle Tupelo, the mid-’90s trio of Son Volt discs for Warner Brothers, and this latest batch of three better-than-ever indie outings. Here is the band live in Seattle this summer, playing the first song off the first Son Volt disc.

Perhaps even more cherished among indie pop-rock fans than a ducat to Son Volt is entry into Sunday’s sold-out show at the 400 Bar for Sufjan Stevens. The idiosyncratic, delicate singer-songwriter from Michigan is on a guerrilla tour of relatively tiny clubs to workshop material old and new. The old stuff will include songs from his great state-tribute discs, “Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State,” and “Illinoise,” as well as cuts from his “Enjoy Your Rabbit,” a zodiac-like electronic song cycle recently retailored for string quartet. The band includes trombone and french horn/keyboards as well as drum and bass. Here he is doing the wonderful “Casimir Palaski Day” from “Illinoise.”

Arctic Monkeys at First Avenue, tonight at 8 p.m., $25. Sold Out.
Son Volt at First Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m., $20.
Sufjan Stevens at the 400 Bar, Sunday, Sept. 27, 9 p.m., $15. Sold Out.

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