Local Licks

This week, we review The Thirstbusters, The Sam Chase, Spencer Owen, and Mr. Kind.

The Thirstbusters , Caught Between

The members of this melodic rock quartet are alumni of the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble, so their strong musicianship and sure-handed songcraft aren’t surprising. Thirstbusters’ songs fall squarely in the pop template, but they’ve got rich orchestration, tight drum fills, and difficult piano lines. A solid pop outfit. (self-released)

At The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) on Sunday, Aug. 5. 4 p.m., free

The Sam Chase, Live at The Kate Wolf Festival 2012

Sam Chase has the kind of growly, snarly voice that makes Tom Waits so iconic, and he’s found a suitable template for it with The Functional Alcoholics, a jug band that includes fiddle, cello, banjo, accordion, saxophone, and other miscellany. As evidenced on this live CD, Chase’s performance at last month’s Kate Wolf Festival didn’t suffer for lack of energy, although the zenith is the delicate folk ballad “Escape Artist.” (self-released)

At The Independent (628 Divisadero St., San Francisco) on Friday, July 27. 9 p.m., $12

Spencer Owen, End Vogue

A persuasive singer, Spencer Owen displays well-honed musical chops on this quirky album. Each song takes at least two listens to properly digest, owing to Owen’s penchant for flitting between styles. “My Troubled Past” is a valiant attempt to wed Afropop and country. Catchy Afro-Latin vamps shore up the offbeat melodic ideas in “Sleeping in Public.” (self-released)

Mr. Kind, OK

Being “way too nice” isn’t exactly a gimmick, but the members of Mr. Kind have managed to distinguish themselves in a scene already crawling with feel-gooders. Their new EP is larded with warbly lyrics, two-part vocal harmonies, and jangly guitar. It veers from up-tempo garage to languid alt-country, but the tone and mood stay consistent. (self-released)

At Hotel Utah (500 4th St., San Francisco) on Friday, July 27. 9 p.m., $10 

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