Aimee Mann and Ted Leo are famously friendly. They were the first show ever at the new Boot & Saddle, and were a highlight at last year's Non-Comm radio fest at WXPN. There's something about their shared sensibility, a common musicality and aesthetic that was officially manifested on their 2014 collaboration album, The Both. The pair are embarking on a festive, short run of nine holiday dates full of good cheer and, we hope, some wry, nondenominational covers. Their mash-up of folk, hard, and indie rock will likely treat December with the proper amount of zeal (mixed with healthy handfuls of snark). If that weren't enough, they're bringing along living legend Liz Phair to Philadelphia. For rockheads in town, a Kris Kringle-inspired live-music moment doesn't get cooler than this. - Bill Chenevert
The Aimee Mann and Ted Leo Christmas Show, with Liz Phair, Jonathan Coulton, and John Roderick, will be at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. Tickets: $35-$40. Information: 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.
After going five years without a new album, Jesse Malin delivered two this year. Both New York Before the War and Outsiders play to the former D Generation front man's strengths as an urban troubadour and scrappy, street-savvy rocker. It's a style that has won him the admiration of Bruce Springsteen, among others. And no wonder. On one new song, "Bent Up," Malin sings about someone who's "all messed up on rock-and-roll." But the singer himself taps into what's most inspiring and redemptive about the music - even more so in a live setting, where he's a particularly dynamic and charismatic performer.
- Nick Cristiano
Jesse Malin, with Dead Heavens and Don DiLego, plays at 9 p.m. Thursday at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave. Tickets: $15. 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com.
Success came perhaps too quickly for Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller. While still in his teens, his self-released mixtapes spawned party-happy hits, such as "Donald Trump" from 2011's Best Day Ever (Trump initially praised the song, but eventually tweeted his disapproval). His first official record, 2011's Blue Slide Park, debuted at the top of the Billboard album charts. The MTV2 reality series Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family depicted Miller and his friends trying to settle into life in his new Los Angeles mansion as he worked on his second album, 2013's Watching Movies with the Sound Off. But his substance-abuse problems led him to bottom out last year, as he delineated on the trippy Faces mixtape. He has cleaned himself up - somewhat - for this year's GO:OD AM album, which finds the 23-year-old ruminating about being a white rapper who wants to deflect Eminem comparisons, about the trials of success and addiction, and about someday making his mother a happy grandmother.