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Critics' Picks: October 2 - 8 

Local shows by San Fermin, Sleigh Bells, Ólafur Arnalds and Bill Callahan

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[AVANT-POP] + THU., OCT. 3

It's hard for us in the singer-songwriter-driven pop-music world to wrap our heads around, but San Fermin is essentially the solo project of a keyboardist and composer; there are vocals on the band's album, but they're contributed by hired guns (including Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, of Lucius, who provide incredible close harmonies). It's all the idea of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a Yale grad who's yet to hit his mid-20s. San Fermin's self-titled debut is a lush mix of pop sensibilities and classical skill that brings to mind chamber-art-pop like Dirty Projectors, albeit more subdued. The band plays Brillobox tonight; Cold Weather and Wicked Chief open. Andy Mulkerin 9 p.m. 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $8. 412-621-4900 or www.brillobox.net

click to enlarge Sleigh Bells at Mr. Smalls
  • Photo courtesy of Petra Collins

[NOISE-POP] + FRI., OCT. 4

Brooklyn-based duo Sleigh Bells will bring its noise-pop madness to Mr. Smalls tonight. The duo is known for singer Alexis Krauss' sweet voice — sometimes singing, other times screaming — floating over Derek Miller's heavy, chaotic guitar work. The band gained national fame after the release of its debut album Treats in 2010, and its sophomore album was one of the most anticipated albums of 2012. Krauss has a knack for energizing audiences, and there's something about Miller's heavily compressed, wall-of-sound guitar that's surprisingly pleasant. This show will certainly kick your weekend off on a very good — and very loud — note. Allison Cosby 9 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $25. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com

[AMBIENT] + SUN., OCT. 6

The Icelandic may not have the market on beautiful ambient music cornered, but they certainly know how to pull it off. The crowd that checked out Sigur Rós recently would be well advised to give Ólafur Arnalds a try tonight at the New Hazlett Theater. The Icelandic composer plays simple, beautiful, sometimes tear-jerking music with a flair for the dramatic similar to Jónsi and company's. AM 7 p.m. 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20-25. All ages. 412-320-6410 or www.newhazletttheater.com

[ALT-FOLK] + WED., OCT. 9

With more than 20 years of recording and performing under his belt, singer and guitarist Bill Callahan has gotten pretty good at it all. The musician, who has also recorded under the moniker Smog, released his 15th studio album, Dream River, in mid-September, delighting listeners with his deep voice crooning over spare instrumentation. Dream River is full of quiet songs that you want to be alone with for a while, the subtleties only coming through after a few listens. Part of The Andy Warhol Museum's Sound Series, Callahan's show tonight at Carnegie Music Hall is sure to be an intimate affair, and one you don't want to miss. AC 8 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $18. 412-237-8300

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