For years indie-rock bands have known that breaking up orderly pop songs with the chaos of noise is a good recipe for tension: early recordings by the Grifters floated maddeningly from fuzzed-out haze to sharp tunefulness and back again, and the debut from Apples in Stereo had a careening energy that threatened to trample the defenseless melodies at every turn. On Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (Alien8), Montreal’s Unicorns–led by Nicholas Diamonds and Alden Ginger, both playing guitars, bass, a slew of keyboards, and a lot of the drums–generate plenty of that sort of tension, but it seems to be the result of a short attention span rather than a deliberate strategy. Even the poppiest songs feel like stream-of-consciousness excursions, as sections unknown in the verse-chorus-bridge universe pop up out of nowhere and disappear just as suddenly. Wheezing analog-synth lines egg the lead vocals on and flip them off at the same time, gentle guitar patterns bob in a sea of textural noodling, and ragged harmonies flicker between conviction and boredom. Del Rey headlines; Candyland Riots open: Saturday, January 17, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Pit Er Pat (see Spot Check) opens: Sunday, January 18, 7 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700.

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