Denton, Texas, indie-rockers Centro-matic
have, over the course of their relatively short career, crafted some of today's most interesting and rewarding quiet rock. Striking a perfect balance between strong songwriting and creatively experimental arrangements, their albums -- the latest of which is Distance and Clime
, on Idol Records -- never fail to surprise and challenge. Even after repeated plays, new wrinkles in the songs reveal themselves. Similar to experimental risk-takers Calexico, there's a uniquely American sense of lonesome desert in Centro-matic's sound, of wide-open spaces that are best filled with weirdness. Singer/keyboardist Will Johnson brings a strong Southern drawl to his vocals, which have the raspy, whiskey-soaked rawness of Jay Farrar or Archers of Loaf/Crooked Fingers singer Eric Bachmann. This may explain why the band is occasionally lumped in with the alt-country crowd, despite the utter lack of anything resembling traditional country in their music. Centro-matic, though truly resembling no one but themselves, should appeal to fans of other American adventurers such as Granddaddy, the aforementioned Calexico or Canyon. St. Louis' Shelby
open the show with their clean, pretty indie emo-pop. Their newest recordings are hook-filled state-of-the-art Vagrant Records-style punk, reminiscent of a full-band Dashboard Confessional or Alkaline Trio, minus the distortion pedals.