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BOTTLETONES 2/9, SCHUBAS With their new album, Adult Time (Relay/Hepcat), the local Bottletones seem more intent than ever on working that rockabilly-revivalist tag off their big toe. Of the nine tracks, only "Everybody's Lookin'" has that Stray Cat stench to it, and on the whole the album is more focused than 1999's The Sheriff of Bottletone County--solid, raging country rock with a hint of loopiness and a whiff of corn liquor. As for energy level, file these guys somewhere between the Polkaholics and the Waco Brothers. LOW 2/9, METRO For years I thought these sad-eyed indie rockers were self-important whelps, acting like the audience's attention was their birthright but never actually re-warding that attention. Well, it might be their new album, Things We Lost in the Fire (Kranky), on which a raft of guests drape strings and samples over their slow skeletons of songs, or it might just be a shift in my own brain chemistry, but I suddenly feel a lot more warmly toward Low than I used to. In particular, the pulse and drone of "Embrace" is deliciously eerie, especially when Mimi Parker rises from the soup like a Maddy Prior for the sad millennium, and the roil and boil of "Medicine Magazines" is downright hallucinatory. NICKEL CREEK 2/9, BORDERS ON MICHIGAN & SCHUBAS These baby-faced virtuosos--two of the three are 19--are well past their first equipment endorsement and onto their fifth album of contemporary bluegrass, an eponymously titled release on Sugar Hill Records produced by former child prodigy Alison Krauss. Like Krauss, they're a natural crossover act: mandolinist and singer Chris Thile, guitarist Sean Watkins, and his younger sister, fiddler and singer Sara Watkins, claim Toad the Wet Sprocket as an "influence," and Thile has performed with Hootie & the Blowfish. Their soft folk-pop and slick "newgrass" are performed with abundant skill and sincerity, but they never inspire the chilly thrill of one good high and lonesome yodel. AMY CORREIA 2/12, SCHUBAS When Amy Correia plays the role of storyteller on her Capitol debut, Carnival Love, letting the words roll off her tongue in busy reams of lazy syllables, she's a latter-day Rickie Lee Jones, but when she gets worked up over a personal apocalypse (like on "Gin") she sounds more like Polly Harvey lite. Still, her lyrics evoke a nice range of moods and situations, from the very personal ("Bike," a detailed and heartbreaking family tale) to the personal but universal ("He Drives It," about unrequited lust). She even makes an awkward but noble attempt at updating the archetypal: in the sparse, sincere "Blind River Boy" the drowning man is holding a can of warm beer and singing "Whole Lotta Love" as he wades into the river. PAPER AIRPLANE PILOTS 2/13, SCHUBAS This cute local fuzz-pop quartet used to be known by the unsuitably grisly moniker Pets or Meat. Under one name or the other, they've been around since 1995, but the seven-song CD Welcome to the Drunk Tank (Debris) is the first thing they've released that's anywhere close to a full-length. I'm not complaining, though. The title track is sticky as flypaper--it was still on my brain a couple days after my first listen--but all the other songs, except maybe the loopy but low-key "Century Kid," with its Kinks nod in the break, are more or less the same song. Well, garage pop was always a singles genre anyway. FRENCH KICKS 2/15, EMPTY BOTTLE Three of the members of this New York quartet--Jamie Krents, Nick Stumpf, and Matt Stinchcomb--played together as kids in D.C., played together as students at Oberlin, and in 1998 became starving postcollegiate rockers together in Brooklyn, where they met guitarist and keyboardist Josh Wise. Though the glistening, crunchy pomo pop on their new Young Lawyer EP (Star Time) has a hint of NY attitude about it, it's really the product of a transatlantic range of art- and garage-rock references, with everything in the right place but nothing terribly distinctive. In that respect, they remind me of the Pixies--another band I'm still waiting to have my mind changed about. Tastes great, but you'll be hungry again a couple hours later.

--Monica Kendrick

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

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