An astute friend of mine who's fond of making profound superstructural observations about culture proclaimed recently that so far this decade the overwhelming majority of pop rock has been perfectly OK--the kind of stuff another friend calls "listening-grade music." But on any bell curve there are always exceptional folks two or three standard deviations to the right of the lumpen middle, and I'd include the local band Favorite Saints in that rarefied stratum. On their Southern Gentleman EP, released in August on their own Play Favorites imprint, they're a four-piece--bandleader David Johnson, who sings and plays guitar, samples, percussion, and drums; bassist Allen Johnson, David's brother and former bandmate in Champaign's Very Secretary; vocalist Alison Rich; and violist Jessica Butler. (Since recording they've acquired drummer Scott Venvertloh.) The self-produced and self-recorded 22-minute disc is full of unusually sophisticated arrangements for such a DIY project, and each of the six songs has its own appeal: "Never Turn in Your Brother" is a stately waltz-time number led by a beautiful viola line, and the opener, "First Words," draws you in with jangly, strummy guitars and rich male-female vocal harmonies. Johnson and Rich's voices also complement each other on a beautifully crafted melodic hook in the pensive "Near Dark"--probably the best tune. This record was one of my favorite local releases last year, and one of my favorite EPs of the year, period; these folks obviously know what they're doing, and David is currently building a studio where the band plans to work on its full-length debut. The Brief Candles headline, the Favorite Saints play second, and Sanawon opens. Wed 2/22, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7.