No unicorns, but the cover art for the 90 Day Men’s new Panda Park (Southern) does feature rainbows, magic mushrooms, and rows of wildflowers, and the ornate music within certainly lives up to the prog-rock imagery. This would have been hard to imagine early in the band’s career–they started out in the mid-90s as dealers in post-Birthday Party punishment–but things began to change with the arrival of keyboardist Andy Lansangan. His melodic influence has grown as the sonic mayhem has subsided, and he’s the dominant presence on the new record, scattering glittery piano arpeggios all over the place. At this point 90 Day Men don’t really sound like anyone else out there. Part of the credit belongs to bassist Rob Lowe. Although he’s contributed vocals before, here he cuts through the sweetly swirling din in a piercing falsetto that recalls the free-form soul singing of Tim and Jeff Buckley; he’s confident enough to sound like he’s not in control. Guitarist Brian Case’s sultry whisper offers a nice contrast, while Lansangan’s sole vocal turn, on “Silver and Snow,” is pure man-in-tights bombast. Some of the songs meander, too content to glide along on the instrumental sparkle, but Panda Park is impressive both on its own terms and as a measure of how far the band has come. Sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady, Brooklyn’s CocoRosie, are just getting started, and the homemade music on their forthcoming debut, La Maison de Mon Reve (Touch and Go), is beguilingly quirky. Over little acoustic guitar figures, spare piano and harp licks, and a profusion of lo-fi electronic elements–a recurrent rooster sample, popping-popcorn sounds, cheap beatbox rhythms–the Casadys sing wispy melodies in a coy Billie Holiday-style vibrato. The lyrics can be annoyingly simplistic, but they’re offset by clever production touches: a dopey verse will give way suddenly to a sped-up looped chorus. I’m told it all works even better live. Friday, February 20, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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