A suburban childhood rife with ghosts, superstitions, and racial identity issues sounds like the perfect fodder for a novel that could appear on any number of college English reading lists. But when those themes are set to heavy electric guitars and the tumbling of well-pounded drums you get something else altogether. On her sophomore record, Everyone Wore White, D.C.-based singer-songwriter Carol Bui turns her memories into music that’s often forceful enough to plow down a room full of sweaty guys and lucid enough to avoid being perceived as Wagnerian-emo-wailing. On songs such as “The Year After,” Bui ornaments a temper tantrum of Throwing Muses-style guitar riffs with layered lyrical symbolism. The more nuanced “Quan Am” passes a series of slanted chords over a chorus of ambient gurgles and haunting melodies. The tricky emotional territory covered on Everyone Wore White—immigrant experience, Southeast Asian culture, and family drama—might have made for some pretty affecting literature. Instead, Bui fashions her experiences into highly arresting listening: hard, smart, and heartfelt music that sounds best at speaker-cone-shredding volume. Bui performs with the Rosebuds and Drug Rug at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE. $12. (202) 388-7625.