Like Neko Case or P.J. Harvey, Eleni Mandell sings like a gal you don't want to mess with. Any poor Joe who's done her wrong has surely been called out for it, because Mandell's seventh release, Artificial Fire, is full of smart little comebacks. The Los Angeles-based chanteuse proves hard to stay mad at on the lengthy 15-song disc, which finds her at ease with many song forms: upbeat rock, pretty waltzes, golden oldies, and toe-tapping pop suitable for Wes Anderson flicks. Guitarist Jeremy Drake and an A-list band make Mandell's every whim into a sparkling reality; you might think the Old 97's were backing her on "Bigger Burn," or perhaps the High Llamas on "Right Side." It's hard to think of a modern songwriter who's so adept at wearing multiple hats, and so damn sexy, too (musically speaking, of course). Though the audience for Mandell's old-fashioned charms may be slowly burning out, there's nothing artificial about her fire. Catch her at an early show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at Davey's Uptown.