125 E. 11th St., (212) 353-1600
The decade-old confab known as globalFEST takes the whole world as its stage, with a wild and thrillingly mixed cast of acts from all over. Directors of the festival include world-music programmers with ties to Lincoln Center and Joe's Pub, and there aren't many continents they have neglected to enlist in their cause. (Might we someday see a touring musical act from Antarctica?) This year's lineup, all packed into a single night of music, features 12 acts on three stages at Webster Hall (the main Ballroom plus the Studio and the Marlin Room), with musical delegates from Turkey, Iran, Spain, France, Zimbabwe, Mali, Canada and the U.S. Among the homeland representatives are the Stooges Brass Band, a group from New Orleans that mixes time-tested brass-band tradition with contemporary hip-hop beats; Chicago's Mucca Pazza, a "circus punk marching band"; Los Angeles's La Santa Cecilia, a pan-Latin sextet; and Stephane Wrembel, the French-born, New Jersey-based jazz-guitar virtuoso.
431 W. 16th St., (212) 414-5994
Shuggie Otis formulated a smeary, bleary sort of psychedelic soul music in the 1970s. Topping his list of accomplishments, underappreciated but canonical to those who know him, is "Strawberry Letter 23," a song about rainbows, waterfalls, orange birds, cherry clouds—a kaleidoscopic fantasia that made the song an appealing sample for OutKast as well as Beyoncé and Digable Planets, among others. Mr. Otis, who is now 59, earned some deserved attention when his 1974 album, "Inspiration Information," was reissued in 2001, but he only recently came out of relative seclusion in Los Angeles to make good on a legacy that never quite prospered as much as it should have. Still another reissue of "Inspiration Information" is due in April, and with it will come an additional album featuring songs recorded up through 2000—the first new songs by Mr. Otis to be heard in decades.
881 Seventh Ave., (212) 247-7800
Known for baroque vocal arrangements and all manner of sophisticated musical moves, Dirty Projectors started out making music on cruddy old film equipment before evolving into the kind of indie-rock band that can command the stage at Carnegie Hall. They've been arty all the while—recording songs on magnetic film stock at the beginning made for nothing if not a sui generis sound. But the art of the enterprise turned more discerning, with an ear for skewed pop now integral to a mix of influences that includes avant-garde classical music and futuristic R&B. On the group's celebrated 2012 album "Swing Lo Magellan," Dirty Projectors mastermind Dave Longstreth assembled a series of delicate, refined rock songs that strut, stutter and swerve—all with a smoothness that makes them fun to hum while also trying, sometimes in vain, to make them make sense.
Brooklyn Academy of Music
30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, (718) 636-4100
Morrissey makes misery fun, or at least somehow grounding in its effects. From his early years with mope-rock band the Smiths to his long-gestating solo incarnation, the pompadoured master of misanthropy has made a career of mining his discontent. He famously romanticized death for doe-eyed lovers by double-decker bus; he bemoaned a world "full of crashing bores"; he hates it when his friends become successful. The list of moody moves goes on, but he addresses them all with enough flash and flair to suggest a devilish detachment, too. At 53, he's also a rare aging rocker with no interest in reunions: When rumors arose last year that the Smiths might regroup, a Morrissey rep suggested otherwise by saying: "The Smiths are never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever going to reunite—ever."
125 E. 11th St., (212) 353-1600
Purity Ring is a young duo from Canada with stated synth-pop allegiances and an ear for striking melodies that would resound no matter the instrumentation. Like fellow recent Canadian standout Grimes (she of the angular pixie hair and the voice of a giddy alien), Purity Ring made a formidable showing last year with "Shrines," an album released by the revered indie label 4AD. It mixes ethereal singing with textural electronic timbres and thwacking rhythms, but it wiggles as well with a sense of songs conceived and crafted refreshingly on the fly. There's nothing especially programmatic about Purity Ring, even at the duo's most processed, and there's no telling what might stand to transpire when Megan James and Corin Roddick grow out of their early 20s.
A version of this article appeared January 9, 2013, on page A20 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Ballads and Block Parties.