Like kudzu overtaking its surroundings, Dallas-raised singer-songwriter Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent)’s career over the last decade has often seemed steady, deliberate, inevitable — and capable of growing in unexpected directions. Her fourth, self-titled album continues that trend of surprising shifts, as well as demonstrating a knack for indelible melodies fused with brittle, peculiar sonic textures. Teamed again with Dallas-based producer John Congleton, St. Vincent finds Clark considering a tech-addled society ( Digital Witness) with as much conviction as a vain lover ( Prince Johnny). Less austere than 2011’s Strange Mercy, St. Vincent deftly walks the tightrope between weird and accessible, a feat few successfully attempt. “Am I the only one/In the only world?” Clark wonders during distorted opener Rattlesnake. She spends the ensuing 10 tracks answering in the definitive — there is no one else like her. St. Vincent performs at Dallas’ House of Blues on March 14.
The Orbans, ‘Vedere’
The wait was worth it. Four years after a near-flawless debut, When We Were Wild, the Orbans go bigger and bolder than ever before on their hotly anticipated sophomore LP, Vedere. As before, singer-songwriter Peter Black and his bandmates sculpt exquisite songs that walk the borders of pop, rock and country without ever falling fully into one specific style (opener Backlit Eye will lodge itself in your brain for weeks on end). Vedere should, in a just world, catapult an already beloved band to another level — one of the finest records to emerge from North Texas thus far in 2014. The Orbans celebrate Vedere’s release Saturday at the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge with support from Foxtrot Uniform and the Venetian Sailors.
Rhea Raj, ‘Neon’
If the phrase “electronic dance music” conjures visions of filling-loosening bass drops and grating synthesizer loops, allow Plano’s Rhea Raj to help correct your perception. The teen’s five-song debut EP Neon, set for digital release Saturday, finds the sweet spot between heavy-rotation pop and EDM that would keep the dance floor full. Gifted with a feathery yet muscular voice fitting snugly amid the flourishes, Raj doles out one irresistible tune after another (the title track sparkles like its namesake, while Struck makes for an upbeat ballad). Hers is talent worth keeping tabs on.
Blackstone Rangers, ‘Descendant’
Blackstone Rangers display so much confidence on their second EP that it’s unnerving. Although Derek Kutzer and Ruth Ellen Smith have added a third member ( Daniel Bornhorst) and joined forces with Fort Worth label Saint Marie Records, the clarity of purpose so evident on the 2012 debut is only more so here. With six tracks at its disposal, the band refines its icy, synth-laced style — You Never coats Kutzer’s vocals in a shimmering wall of noise; lead single Frozen Echo is a nightmarish beauty — and cements its standing as one of the local scene’s pre-eminent groundbreakers. Alternately eerie and dreamy, Descendant is magnificent. Blackstone Rangers, currently on a West Coast tour, return to North Texas for a pair of shows next month: March 11 at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth, and March 12 at the Crown & Harp in Dallas.
Online: facebook.com/blackstone rangers