FRIDAY 8/16

SMITH WESTERNS, WAMPIRE, THE HOOT HOOTS

From the first seconds of this year's Soft Will, you know that something is different with Smith Westerns. Compared to earlier albums, where singer-guitarist Cullen Omori's obliquely lover-boy lyrics were hidden behind ramshackle, lo-fi caterwauls or clots of reverb (depending upon the production values), Soft Will has a sharper focus; Omori now appears to be singing to himself, repeating aphorisms, and grasping for resolve, as he does on the stunning album opener, "3AM Spiritual." A song supposedly written in his parents' kitchen after coming home from a long tour, "Spiritual" makes quick work of some gentle verses, followed by a brisk piano jaunt and shimmery guitar solo, before unfurling into a subtle, dreamy, and downright beautiful conclusion. An unfair reputation has dogged the Chicago band during their brief existence—mostly that their members are too young and borrow too heavily from their influences. As the rest of the songs on the record further reinforce, Soft Will is a starry-eyed gobstopper that finds Smith Westerns at their most confident, having steadily perfected their own glammed-out pop formula. Sonic Boom, 6 pm, free; Crocodile, 8 pm, $13.

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TUESDAY 8/20

NO AGE, DEVIN GARY & ROSS, SUN FOOT, NAOMI PUNK

Before tearing up Washington Hall tonight, No Age will also release a new album today. While listening to a few teasers from An Object, their latest for Sub Pop, I'm struck by the clear fact that these songs simply couldn't come from anyone else. On the lead single, "C'mon Stimmung," Dean Spunt's vocals are dialed back enough to recall the artful punk duo's earliest recordings, while Randy Randall has once again tapped into an increasingly strange and resilient wellspring of sounds to get out of his guitar. Additional album preview "An Impression" is a rumbling, gorgeous, and surprising collage of textures (I couldn't have predicted the click track or string section to come in), with lyrics that describe a painting coming to life, but can easily be used to characterize my thoughts on the band as well: "Oh I can't believe/The brush moving perfectly/Richness, symmetry/Perspective harmony." Washington Hall, 7:30 pm, $10 adv/$12 DOS.

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