Musicians' careers are as a much a product of their environment as talent, so nobody's necessarily blaming Ari Hest for sounding like a poor man's Jason Mraz--suddenly sensitive, soul-baring, acoustic guitar-strumming male songwriters are popping up on every corner. For those not partial to the Josh Kelley/Gavin DeGraw/Howie Day/Daniel Power style of roots-inflected soft rock: Don't despair, and arrive early for local opener k.s. Rhoads. His charming debut, Dead Language, is quiet and delicate at times, grandiose and elegant at others. It sounds honest without getting all confessional, impressive without stumbling into pretension. He's like Rufus Wainwright on a beer budget. Language ranges from bluesy guitar rocker, "The Bayonet and The Cigarette," to jazzy indie pop rap, "Could This Be Love," and the lush piano ballad title track where Rhoads notes, "We work for love, but it's a broken-hearted living."
Sun., Sept. 14, 8 p.m., 2008