Aside from having one of the best names in music, Lydia Loveless also has talent. The 23-year-old's most recent album, February's Somewhere Else, is at first a country disc — but, oh, it's nothing for today's country radio. Under twangy guitars and her supple, whiskey-coated voice, Loveless is really a black-eyed punk following her own agenda. On Somewhere Else, she paints herself as a wine-trashed villain, raising her fists more often than not. No matter. Loveless has that brassy, badass edge you've always secretly wished you could pull off.
Thursday, March 6, at Czar (1531 Grand, 816-421-0300)
Columbus, Ohio's Saintseneca is the little band that could. The foursome came together in the waning days of their college lives at Ohio State, back in 2009. In the years since, they've managed to carve out a small piece of folk-rock real estate with a couple of well-executed EPs and a 2011 full-length, Last. Now Saintseneca is ready to release its follow-up, Dark Ark, April 1. The band has already debuted two singles off that album — the canyon-sweeping ballad "Happy Alone" and the moody, darkly melodic "Uppercutter" — that are getting attention on the Internet. But even if you don't care about the usual online chatter, Saintseneca seems poised for a breakout.
Monday, March 10, at Czar (1531 Grand, 816-421-0300)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Detroit duo Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott are not super-huge NASCAR fans. Well, they might be, but that isn't what their music is about — despite their wonky band name. With their latest full-length, The Speed of Things, Epstein and Zott have found a sonic sweet spot. The album is full of dreamy hooks and wall-shaking synths, the way we want all music to sound right now, apparently. But boy brainiacs Epstein and Zott balance these expectations with measured doses of quirky lyrics. In some ways, The Speed of Things is a satirical analysis of pop-music trends. Maybe that self-awareness is why Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr. pulls it off so well.
Monday, March 10, at the Bottleneck (737 New Hampshire, Lawrence, 785-841-5483)
Dr. Dog has come a long way since it first emerged in 2002 with its humble, lo-fi debut record, Toothbrush, and scored a slot opening for My Morning Jacket on two North American tours. Twelve years and a staggering seven albums later, the Philadelphia folk-pop act has achieved something that most bands find only in dreams: stability. Dr. Dog's latest release, October's B-Room, is plenty evidence of that, as it surfs along the soulful, all-together-now 1960s grooves for which it has become known.
Monday, March 10, at Liberty Hall (644 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-749-1972)
When Diane Birch released her debut, Bible Belt, in 2009, I felt a little guilty for liking it so much. It had a rootsy but polished 1970s vibe, presenting her as a folk girl trying to talk herself out of being a pop artist. Birch's follow-up, last fall's Speak a Little Louder, throws a whole new light on the 31-year-old artist. The album's title track features driving electric guitars and 1980s-style mechanical drumbeats, as though Birch spent a little too much time watching Pat Benatar videos on YouTube. That Reagan-era hangover lingers over the rest of the album as Birch throws her powerful voice around, no longer the folkie but not quite the pop starlet.
Saturday, March 8, at the Bottleneck (737 New Hampshire, Lawrence, 785-841-5483)
The Soul of John Black
John Bigham — or, if you like, the Soul of John Black — is an old-school funk throwback. On last September's A Sunshine State of Mind, the former Fishbone member channels Prince and gets his groove back. The album floats breezily along, adhering only to Bigham's own soul-driven schedule — a loose one at best. He croons luxuriously to blues-guitar riffs and the occasional island-ready percussive rhythm. His music oozes romance from across the room, so if you're looking to revive something in your love life, here's your chance.
Saturday, March 8, at Knuckleheads Saloon (2715 Rochester, 816-483-1456)