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APPLES IN STEREO 2/6, METRO The title of Tone Soul Evolution, the most recent album from kaleidoscopic popsters the Apples in Stereo, might just refer to the technological leap they made in recording it--leaving behind their beloved bedroom studio for 24-track luxury, the better to housebreak their unruly pet sounds. And their recent swiping from the indie Spinart by Sire means they'll most likely be indulging their audiophilia further in the future. Luna, a band that could sure use a shot of whatever the Apples are on, headlines.

FRED ARMISEN Y SU MENSAJE DE CARACAS 2/6, SCHUBAS On a tape recorded live at the Fireside last fall, the former Trenchmouth drummer's compact salsa group--the six core members include Cuban flutist Manny Bances, Cuban conga player Heriberto Dominguez, and percussionist Debbie Winston, who also plays with Malukosamba--lays down long, mellow jams with the occasional burst into flame. They haven't yet released a record, so you can say you saw them back when.

DARKK BROS. 2/6, MCA; 2/11, ELBO ROOM This Chicago quartet's self-titled CD is a pleasant, high-energy blend of guitar, bass, and trombone artistry--it's always a good sign when half the songs are written by the trombonist--but in less inspired moments the Darkks have a tendency to degenerate into riffing over by-the-numbers beats. That's fine if they merely want to provide background music for yuppie mating dances, but I get the idea their sights are set higher.

MARK FEDERIGHI 2/6, GRIND & BREW Homegrown singer-songwriter Federighi does well to forgo a band--too much backup might very well turn his soul-tugging, artfully structured songs into more Americana mush. His rich voice is all that's needed to carry the six dark tunes on his self-released cassette. And in anyone who remembers that R.E.M. was once heartbreakingly good, it'll induce a few extra pangs of longing.

BALTIMORES, pasted on 2/7, EMPTY BOTTLE The debut album from the Baltimores, Plastico del Mundo (on Kingsize Platters, the label run by the Pulsars' Dave Trumfio), comes in a most unappealing package, with a crude cover shot of some weenie animal in a frying pan. But what's inside is lively, occasionally folky Cuisinart rock, a la mid-career Camper Van Beethoven--no surprise, since at least one band member has played in the wildly eclectic ska-core outfit Blue Meanies. First on the four-band bill are Pasted On, who at the very least have solid influences--I can hear the Yo La Tengo beating.

LONNIE BROOKS 2/8, HOUSE OF BLUES Stop the presses: House of Blues Hosts Actual Blues Artist! Chicago listeners have long been familiar with the molasses solos of this steady-gigging Louisana-born guitarist, shown to fine advantage on his recent Alligator retrospective. This is a blues fan's perfect opportunity to see if that box of Delta dirt that's allegedly hidden under the stage actually resonates when exposed to the real thing, or if--and this is my suspicion--it just sits there.

BUCKY DENT 2/10, METRO The artsy but enthusiastic indie power pop on Bucky Dent's demo tape seems just as likely to create jolly drunks as mean ones--and that would be a nice change around here.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Mark Federighi photo by Betsy Boyle.

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