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Local Licks

This week, we review Moira Scar, Symbols of the West, and The New Thoreaus.

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Moira Scar, Scarred for Life

Any attempt to describe Moira Scar's sound — which is like stumbling upon a band of satanic, opera-singing, goth-punk gypsies in the middle of a PCP trip — sounds silly, but the music, while playful, is executed with great care. Most of the ten songs on Scarred for Life even border on catchy — for example, "Spacetime Resonators" with its repetitive, hyperactive guitar hook. The band's mix of psychedelia, punk, glam rock, and industrial may be best compared to an avant-garde outfit like Psychic TV, in that the only real expectation is that it will be loud and weird. (Resipiscent)

At Cafe du Nord (2170 Market St., San Francisco) on Saturday, Mar. 23. 8 p.m., price TBD. 

Symbols of the West, A Thousand Lights

If there is an ideal formula for making synth-pop, Symbols of the West has it: boy/girl harmonies, lyrics about failed romances, simple drum machine beats, gentle guitars, and dramatic synths. On its debut, A Thousand Lights, the duo adds instruments like ukulele to achieve a warmer sound, but still retains melodies as compelling as those on The xx's debut album. Ultimately, A Thousand Lights may be a sign of interesting things to come. (Rock Shock It!)

The New Thoreaus, Neon Americana

The New Thoreaus delivers on the "new" part of its name, putting a modern spin on old-timey folk and bluegrass. Cello, upright bass, and trumpet lend the songs a baroque feel that's similar to Beirut, while the harmonica and finger-picked banjo keep it firmly in Americana. But The New Thoreaus' unique sound comes from its three distinctive, dissonant singers: a female vocalist with the pouty attitude of a teenage lounge singer; a male vocalist that speak-sings in a high-pitched nasal tone; and a dominant male vocalist with a gravely baritone. When they blend in rich vocal harmonies, it's akin to an alt-country Broken Social Scene. (self-released)

At The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) on Friday, Mar. 15. 9 p.m., $8, $12.

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