For Belly’s second album, King, Tanya Donelly has focused her lyrics and turbocharged her pop instincts; the result is a delectable and emotional song cycle whose dark underpinnings clash thrillingly with her cascading melodies and Glyn Johns’s dense production. In Donelly’s songs, twisted and sometimes menacing themes–with their hints of predatory lovers, familial dysfunction, and generational anomie–fall over one another; her characters, accordingly, are somewhat overstimulated, their impressions tumbling out in a multidimensional torrent (“I’m your faith / I’m your faithhealer / I’m your faithless companion”). Mysterious phrases (“Stand like you did when I was beauty-marked in your eyes,” “And when you breathe / You breathe for two”) arc up and out, demanding concentration and respect. Uniting the record is the title track, whose rippling time changes and dark currents (“Little bird / I won’t prey on you”) are ultimately overwhelmed by a climactic coda (“Baby I can’t take it / I’d like to see you naked”) and her bristling band’s massive attack. Superchunk and Cold Water Flat open. Friday, 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800 or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stephen DiRado.