With their second album, Helioself (Minty Fresh), Papas Fritas have managed to shake off most of the self-conscious indie-rock blandness that weighed down their promising debut; no longer does the Boston trio feel the need to temper its sugar with salt. There are certainly tunes on the new disc, such as "We've Got All Night" and "Small Rooms," that sting a bit, but this band is best when it concentrates on sweet hooks, and that's mostly what's happening here. "Say Goodbye," for example, features a spare groove and some light keyboard comping, but they merely shadow the woozy melody sung by drummer Shivika Asthana; "Live by the Water" eschews rock altogether in favor of a sashaying calypso-esque beat. There's no shortage of classic pop references--the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Zombies--and the band's musical cataloging of its forebears can get annoying at times, but for the most part the sheer sunniness of the melodies diminishes these shortcomings. It's fluffy stuff, but it sure is catchy. This interesting bill also features wimpy Minneapolis popsters the Hang Ups, off-kilter Atlanta popsters Seely, and an intriguing Dutch sextet, the Schismatics. As heard on its debut Vazen Vol (AMF), the last mixes highly elastic strings (cello, violin, bass) with eccentric, looped vocals a la Phil Minton. Among its members are Han Buhrs, a recently inducted member of the Ex, and violinist Mary Oliver, who's as adept at interpreting contemporary classical works as she is at improvising. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Cecilia Candia.