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The pros and cons of opening for a bigger act: The house was packed (presumably) when Articles of Separation finished tuning up, but because headliners the Thermals wanted to play a longer set, some of the opening bands were canceled. So the Articles took the stage earlier and had to lop the last song off their planned set list. A last-minute switch to 8:45 from 9 p.m. is probably only frustrating if the music critic reviewing your show, having rarely seen a local show start less than 20 minutes after its scheduled time, shows up at 10 till and misses your first song.

If you’re keeping score at home, AoS’s opener was “Trade in Your Pieces,” which isn’t available on the band’s CD or MySpace page and may or may not be worth showing up early for.

If second song “Aphrodite’s Lost Lullaby,” marked by nearly inextricable threads of keyboard, guitar, and violin, is any indication, though, the Articles deserve punctuality. Singer and guitarist Tim Warlow’s voice takes definite cues from obvious influence Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, but AoS seems more willing to channel its moping into flat out hostility.

Take “A Thousand Tiny Spots,” which builds to a harder-hitting crescendo live than its studio counterpart would indicate. Jesse Delgado’s twinkling keys and Warlow’s resonant double-dot fretwork grows angrier as the song progresses. By the time the space clears for the instrumental breakdown, the song’s grown refreshingly hostile and bitter. Ersatz closer “Damsels” goes further, marring its potentially embarrassing neo-chivalrous pity-sex plea with a looped heavy industrial beat until Warlow’s forced to scream to be heard. It’s a risky move that initially grates but ultimately makes for a more interesting song. Arrive early.

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February 24, 2021

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