Till now this New York band’s art-damaged heartache has felt to me like a fashion move, but on the new Misery Is a Butterfly (4AD) their agony finally takes on some weight; unapologetic in its fragile despair, the album borders on emotional pornography. Once-ferocious singer Kazu Makino has been reduced to a broken ballerina in a jewelry box–she still shrieks, whimpers, and whispers like a manipulative nine-year-old, but now she seems to know she’s not going to get that pony. The angular guitars of yore (as heard circa 1998’s In an Expression of the Inexpressible) have lost all definition and faded into cinematic orchestral vapor. And for serious snobs like these guys, new age wind-chime melodies and bongo-dependent rhythms (not to mention song titles as unambitious as “Magic Mountain”) are warning signs of imminent psychological collapse. So thumbs up to them–for having the guts to expose themselves so completely, or for faking grief so well. Secret Machines open; Friday’s show is 18 and over. Friday and Saturday, April 2 and 3, 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.

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