Saddle Creek darlings Now It's Overhead who opened R.E.M.'s 2004 Fox Theatre show successfully capture the enigmatic brooding and mystical Southern Gothic longing of the Athens, Georgia, band's best albums. On the upcoming Dark Light Daybreak, NIO vocalist-songwriter-wunderkind Andy LeMaster croons with a faint wrinkled twang that's very Stipean, while the accompanying music including spiraling lullabies, stormy rock and synth-speckled lurches include the band's best compositions yet. (Added bonus: The fabulous, multi-layered "Estranged" is a lost shoegazer anthem.) In contrast, Omaha's Tilly and the Wall sound like R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" playing on a continuous loop, all rainbows and harmonic sunshine courtesy of twinkle-toed tap-dancer Jamie Williams and cheerful, dueling female vocalists. But their second album, Bottoms of Barrels, lets cracks of lyrical darkness peek through their otherwise Salvador Dalí-surreal, optimistic wordplay. This cloud cover is brief, though, as bullfighting horns, handclaps and other Technicolor indie-rock tricks create a Romper Room-worthy uplift.
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