The emo-pop underground gets no more mainstream-leaning than this: earnest Chicago quartet Hey Mercedes (who used to be called Braid when a different guy played second guitar), goofy Boston geeks Piebald and determined Ohio popsters Koufax, all hitting town the same week as their more successful contemporary Dashboard Confessional in an attempt to prove that they, too, have listened to plenty of FM radio since the year punk broke. Perhaps the most: The Weekend E.P., Hey Mercedes' new follow-up to its debut album from last year, isn't much different from Default or Seven Channels or whoever--the guitars crunch, the drums keep up, the singer overemotes. Does it disappoint? Only if you consider anonymity a handicap. Piebald must, because it fills its third album, We Are the Only Friends We Have, with plenty of inside references, even name-checking popular New England record chain Newbury Comics one song in. (This is also known in secretive indie-rock circles as a great way to guarantee that killer in-store display.) When it comes to songs, they're somewhat less discriminating, though Friends does offer a handful of hearty Elvis Costello bits and possibly ironic guitar solos--not exactly singular but pleasant in an Eve's Plum sort of way. And Koufax? Well, Koufax digs Pet Sounds and vintage keyboards. Better luck next time, guys.
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