An impressive triple header featuring idiosyncratic bands each trying to put its stamp on this modern rock thing. Death Cab (pictured), returning as headliners after being handpicked to open for Neil Young last fall, are still riding high on Narrow Stairs, not only their major-label debut (Atlantic) but also their most ambitious album in a decade-long career. The tougher, unsettling music provides an edgier context for Ben Gibbard's dark, increasingly ominous, even threatening lyrics. The California quartet Cold War Kids conjure their own harrowing sound, meanwhile, playing an emotionally sparse, arid brand of punk-informed blues-rock marked by barbed guitar work and skittish rhythms on the brink of chaos. Singer Nathan Willett's yelp quavers as he tries to keep explosive forces in check while grappling with high anxiety, anomie, and desperation on the Kids' latest, Loyalty to Loyalty. The Rhumb Line, last summer's full-length debut by the New York quintet Ra Ra Riot, established the band as a kind of pioneer of indie chamber rock. While the guitar and bass etch restless rock figures, sometimes edging toward exuberant power pop, cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller saw away, insinuating their strings as integral elements but also providing counterpoint, complicating emotional and musical textures alike with sobering, elegant undercurrents. All the while Wesley Miles sings with cool, bittersweet irony, the lyrics often reflecting on death and watery images in apparent reference to the drowning of former drummer John Pike. All ages.
Wed., April 15, 7 p.m., 2009