ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS 4/9, the HIDEOUT So aggressively likable you want to hate them, these Austin-based acoustic swingers are more about songs and less about instrumental color than comparable outfits like the Hot Club of Cowtown–though the virtuosity’s there, just waiting to bust out in the breaks of tunes like “I Don’t Wanna,” from their new Hot Lunch (Cold Spring). But as personable as they try too hard to be, it’s only when multi-instrumentalist Christina Marrs takes the vocal mike from hucksterish multi-instrumentalist Pops Bayless that they show something akin to genuine soul. MACHA 4/9, EMPTY BOTTLE Some of the buzz about this “garage gamelan” from Athens, Georgia, compares it to Can and the Fall, but there’s nothing as thrilling as the former’s creative overgrowth or the latter’s wild jagged edges happening on Macha’s Jetset Records debut. I hear a pinch of the paisley underground, a dash of industrial ferocity, a hint of postminimalist long-attention-span theater, a tetch of Slinty dynamics, and a teaspoon of camp, bundled resourcefully into songs built on licks Stereolab would use as cheap asides. GRIMBLE GRUMBLE 4/10, LOUNGE AX The Chicago music scene is internationally known for many categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories–blues, free jazz, math rock, Cheap Trick rock–but unfortunately endurance-testing, deeply tripped-out six-foot-hookah psychedelia isn’t one of them. Pretty much the only band doing that around here is the quartet Grimble Grumble. Not that they’re aloof–they’ve got their buddy bands (Aden, Ashtray Boy) and their side projects (Salome, Mr. Rudy Day, Kelly Hogan) like everyone else–it’s just that when they go for the dark side of the moon astride their Pink Floyd- and Can-inflected melodic drone, they go alone. They’ve issued a string of beautiful releases on various tiny indies, including an EP on the Michigan psych label Burnt Hair; a CD (which includes the three Burnt Hair tracks) on Germany’s Bouncing Corporation label; an EP on Won’t Go Flat; and two seven-inch singles, one on the British label Amberley and a brand-new one on Audio Information Phenomena; and they just keep getting better. This bill, with Novosonic and Salome, is a showcase for Burnt Hair. MICHAEL KRASSNER 4/10, TRUCKSTOP Producer and composer Michael Krassner is probably best known for assembling the all-star Boxhead Ensemble and directing it on the subtle sound track for the film Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back. His solo debut (on the Truckstop label) keeps things similarly understated; its ten doleful, simple songs seem the descendants of Protestant hymns by way of “The Long and Winding Road.” He shares the bill, at Truckstop’s spacious South Loop headquarters, with fellow bards of day-to-day sadness Simon Joyner and Edith Frost. OLD 97’s 4/10, DOUBLE DOOR In a note on the back of my advance copy of this LA country-rock band’s fourth album (its second for Elektra), front man Rhett Miller warns: “Hope shows its face a couple of times herein, but inevitably gets sent packing. Anger, discontent and regret run this show.” That may fly over the head of listeners who catch one of these tunes on the radio–Miller’s boyish croon and the band’s restrained twang-chug tend to give off happy vibes, despite guitarist Ken Bethea’s occasional Neil Young-worthy ferocity and heartrending lines like “If you don’t love me / Would you please pretend?” ANA EGGE 4/14, SCHUBAS Austin’s all abuzz about this young singer-songwriter, who has already been invited to tour with Iris DeMent, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Shawn Colvin on the strength of her much acclaimed debut, River Under the Road (Lazy S.O.B.). On her second album, Mile Marker (Grace), recorded live, her songwriting is fluid, insightful, and unrelentingly sad. Her voice is thick and rich but not too heavy, like real maple syrup, and even her covers are inspired: Ron Sexsmith’s “Lebanon, TN,” Ferron’s “Ain’t Life a Brook,” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Edelweiss.” The fuel under the fire, though, is her lush fingerpicking, and that can only get more interesting as it develops–I wouldn’t say “an artist to watch” if I didn’t mean it. –Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Ana Egge uncredited photo.