Clem Snide and Califone

The guys in Chicago's Califone look at Americana from the inside out, taking stock of the form's parts (rootsy acoustic strumming, wagon-wheel drumming, cigarette-smoke vocalizing) and seeing what's not there (warped keyboard whine, laptop clicks, lyrics about "sugar hands" and "amputated years"). On Quicksand/Cradlesnakes, their latest, they fit all of the latter into woozy, boozy song-sketches that don't stint on the former; it's a strange, disorienting ride to a no-name border town's borders. The guys in Brooklyn's Clem Snide look at Americana from the outside in, taking advantage of what already makes sense to urban hipsters (modest melodies, sardonic slacker-dude humor, cigarette-smoke vocalizing) and importing even more of it (muted emo wordplay, congenial postgrad ennui, a Christina Aguilera cover). On Soft Spot, their latest, they represent for the trucker-hatted few, but do it gently and sweetly enough for the regular-haired many.