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Local Licks

This week we review Berner, Grace Woods, Garrin Benfield, and Ready! Ricochet.

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Berner, The White Album.

White equals cocaine. It also equals ecstasy pills, Polo Club suits, and bone-blond women in white lingerie. And it's shorthand for a grand fantasy of class ascent, as articulated in the title track of Berner's White Album. Actually, "White" is structured as a Catholic confession, and if the lyrics are even half true, then Berner has a lot to repent. (SMC Recordings)

Grace Woods, Afford to Believe.

The fourth album from singer-songwriter Grace Woods seems more consciously pop than previous efforts, if only because it's hook-driven and cleanly produced. Fine string work by celloist Vicky Erlich and viola player Irene Sazer bolsters the melancholy sentiment on "Not About Friday," a pretty, balletic waltz. Woods' vocal range seems limited, but she's a capable composer. (self-released)

Garrin Benfield, The Wave Organ Song.

Garrin Benfield's languid, drawly vocals and cryptic lyrics are about as normal to folk music as the themes in which he traffics. Most songs on this album are either about being lost or stumbling home. Nonetheless, there's a note of urgency and purposefulness that underlies The Wave Organ Song. Benfield isn't just a lone man with an acoustic guitar. He's a seeker. (self-released)

At Swedish American Hall (2174 Market St., San Francisco) on Friday, May 20. 8 p.m., $12.

Ready! Ricochet, Ready! Ricochet.

Yo, Ready! Ricochet. The Eighties just called. They want their music back. Just kidding. In all seriousness, though, the male-female call-and-response on this album sounds like something that B-52s singers Fred Schneider and Cindy Wilson would have done on their 1986 album, Bouncing off the Satellites. Or maybe it's just a problem of vocalist John Young sounding so utterly Fred Schneiderish. That said, some parts of this album are startling and lovely. (self-released)

At Hotel Utah (500 4th St., San Francisco) on Saturday, May 28. 9 p.m., $8.

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