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Human Television tunes in to '80s college rock; Pillows presents warm, soft country rock

On Human Television's debut EP, All Songs Written By, the Philly-based quartet delivers the minimalist pop hooks and urgent, heartfelt vocals that made college radio so exciting in the mid-'80s. Hell, if someone had sneaked "Yeah Right" in between Robyn Hitchcock's "Madonna of the Wasps" and the Go-Betweens' "Cattle and Cane" on Rhino's Left of the Dial box set, no one would've been the wiser. HTV understands what few groups today do: You don't need a million overdubs and a yowling singer to make affecting music. All it takes is guitars that can jangle one minute and slash the next, along with delightfully odd lyrics that you can sing along to (e.g., "Saw you walking by just the other day/ I said, Hey ... hey hey hey hey'"). Years of obsessive fandom and minor fame (see the Wedding Present and the Chills) await Human Television, but for now you can catch the band on Sunday, Jan. 23, at Café Du Nord; call 861-5016 or go to www.cafedunord.com for more info.

It's always amazing when something good comes from something bad -- like how we now get four more years of George W. Bush jokes. Or how the breakup of an excellent local band occasionally breeds another one, as in the case of Pillows. Formed by Julia Shirar and Jessica Cowley after the Run for Cover Lovers dissolved in summer 2003, Pillows takes the Lovers' straight-ahead country-garage sound and twists it into new shapes. There are still plenty of tough-gal vocal harmonies and dirty guitar licks, but now there are also pretty waltzes, delicate piano parts, and kicky drum machines. And lyrically, although the ladies continue to channel the swoony sadness of Patsy Cline ("Hardship is our medium/ We fight therefore we breathe"), they also embrace the poetic righteousness of Patti Smith ("This is the noise my mind makes/ This is the spoon my love cakes/ This is the way my heart aches/ If you want it you don't need to know why"). The duo doesn't play around very often anymore -- Shirar lives part time in New York now -- so you've got a rare opportunity to witness a silver lining in action when Pillows performs on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at the Hotel Utah; call 546-6300 or go to www.thehotelutahsaloon.com for more info.

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