Archer Prewitt

The National Trust

Josh Rouse (pictured) makes stylish, seemingly middle-of-the-road music—the sort that pretentious noise mavens such as myself profess to abhor, lest we be run out of our Metal Machine Music chat rooms on a rail. (Why, if you squint your ears, it’s almost like listening to David Gray!) But give the Nashville-based Rouse a chance and he’ll sneak up on you like one of those creepy snakeheaded land fish currently stalking our suburbs. Rouse—who is responsible for three full-lengths, not to mention a 1999 collaborative EP with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner—specializes in evoking the commonplace disappointments and front-porch epiphanies of everyday life; his music carries with it the evocative tang of newly mown suburban grass, memories of sunlight, and the taste of wet shadows. You owe it to yourself to check out this year’s splendidly bittersweet Under Cold Blue Stars; it’s positively goosebump-inducing, especially the haunting “Summer Kitchen Ballad,” the euphoric “Feeling No Pain,” and the world-weary “Christmas With Jesus.” Archer Prewitt, on the other hand, stresses style over emotional substance. On his niftily arranged 2002 release, Three, Prewitt—formerly of the Coctails and the Sea and Cake—summons up the sassy spirit of the swinging ’60s without sounding nauseatingly retro: Anybody who digs smart, soulful pop—or thinks Blood & Chocolate-era Elvis Costello marked the apex of Western civilization—will probably want to check him out. As for the National Trust—the neosoul combo led by former Dolomite man Neil Rosario—call it an acquired taste I haven’t acquired yet. Sample all three bands at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $12. (202) 667-7960. (Michael Little)