Austin rock band Spoon released one of its most widely acclaimed albums last year with "They Want My Soul."
They likely have their pick of opening acts by this point in their career. So who's that opening for them at the Wilma on Thursday?
They're Sweet Spirit, a fellow Austin band with nine members that earned notices for its live set at South by Southwest and is set to release its debut EP this summer.
The group, led by Sabrian Ellis and Andrew Cashen, have backed Spoon frontman Britt Daniel for some solo gigs, and collaborated with him on a split 7-inch released last month.
It's easy to see what drew him to the act. Like Daniel's main group, Sweet Spirit keep rock's dance-able roots intact.
Unlike the reserved cool of Spoon, Sweet Spirit are effusive, and stuff their arrangements with the spirit of a band that wants its audience to move and sing along.
The group reportedly started as a country-soul act, and some tunes retain lovable tropes of old country songs, such as the spoken-word verses on "I've Made Up My Mind," in which the narrator flits between dumping her lover and staying with them.
Another tune, "Outlaw," shows off singer Ellis' wicked lyrical sensibility.
The familiar sound of a 1960s heartbreak ballad is disrupted by creepy, desperate chorus: "Would you be an outlaw? I could give you all my love/I don't want to be alone now baby."
The verses are even more jagged ("Hitch-hiked in the night in the pouring rain/Saw off my hand so you could slip off the chains,") and sometimes hilarious ("Would you burn down a house in my defense/It's so sweet when you eat the evidence.")
It could be a touch too jokey for its own good, but Ellis delivers it with the straight-faced conviction of a soul singer, ably backed by an ensemble that sounds just as entranced.
Sweet Spirit will open for Spoon on Thursday, May 21, at the Wilma Theatre. Tickets are $23, available at thewilma.com or the box office. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts a 8.
Martha Scanlan continues pursuing pristine, understated acoustic music on "The Shape of Things Gone Missing, the Shape of Things to Come," her first new album since "Tongue River Stories" in 2011.
Scanlan wrote the eight new songs, plus an instrumental interlude, on an family old ranch in the southeastern Montana.
She paid for the recording with a Kickstarter campaign, and cut it at the Type Foundry Studio in Portland, Oregon, with members of Delorean, the Decemberists and Levon Helm's daughter, Amy Helm. It was produced by Jon Neufeld, and has a clear, spacious sound that highlights slow-burning acoustic guitar and fiddle arrangements, with touches of honky-tonk piano.
The patient ensemble work never detracts from Scanlan's voice, an airy, high-toned vessel that can easily telegraph heartbreak or calm. Songs like "The Only Thing" or "Honey Blue" push the harmonies into impossibly light, breathy territory.
The musical performances are in patient service to Scanlan's, lyrics – meditations on tenuous human bonds that easily come together or break apart on a tough landscape filled with pink moon rising, prairie smoke, painted horses and late-night dance halls.
The album-closing "Black Throated Sparrow," has the most modern arrangements, which juxtapose her vocals against hazy keyboard harmonies, a fitting end to an album that has a rural, otherworldy calm.
Scanlan will mark the release of the CD version of "The Shape of Things" with a seated show Thursday, May 21, at the Top Hat, 134 W. Front St. Special guests are Jon Neufeld and Gibson Hartwell. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7. Tickets are $14 in advance or $16 at the door. Go to tophatlounge.com for more information.