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Local Licks

This week we review Vir, Victims Family, Irony Butterfly, and Eight Belles.

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Vir, Engineers

It's probably intentional that the guitars on this album drown out Sam Sloane's murmuring vocals, which are certainly dynamic and theatrical, but which tend to hover in the background — like a hawk whose wings get blotted out by the nearest ponderosa pine. Sloane is so quiet and shuddery that it's easy not to realize that his voice actually is the linchpin of every song. He can ride a single chord forever and still make it rise. (self-released)

At The Starry Plough Pub (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) on Friday, July 20. 9:30 p.m., $7, $12

Victims Family, "Have a Nice Day"/"Let's Cancel the Future"

Yes, it's a 45, but the new 7-inch from Eighties hardcore band Victims Family sounds almost as good when played at 33 RPM, if only because artificially slurry vocals befit the petulant lyrics and ragged guitars. "Let's Cancel the Future" is a startling and arresting song. It ambles between genres, with a bluesy opening hook and a mid-section that's straight thrash. (Alternative Tentacles)

Irony Butterfly , "Bad Needles"/"Ed's White Glove"

Songs about benders are such a common trope in rock that it's hard to produce one without devolving into cliché. But Irony Butterfly's "Bad Needles" is surprising, if only because the giddy melody helps obfuscate the singer's pathos. Dietger Genet is not a superlative singer, but he knows how to lean into a lyric. "Ed's White Glove" is more somber, but equally singable. (Little Pablo Records) ∂

Eight Belles, Girls Underground

A plainspoken country girl from rural Michigan, Jessi Phillips sings with the cadence of someone dispensing advice, albeit in an extremely beautiful way. She trills all the long vowels, adding just enough bluesy ornamentation to make each song seem elegant but homespun. Guitarist Henry Nagle accompanies every song, usually with a rhythm section of pedal steel and light drum fills. Even the slower, lumbering tunes are resplendent. (self-released)

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