Local singer-songwriter Mike Berginc's project As Ladders offers a heartfelt little gem of an EP. While the songs were written over a number of years, the lo-fi production gives the record a feeling of immediacy and intimacy. Musically, Berginc recalls the mid-'90s roots rock of bands like the Jayhawks and Whiskeytown, and one semi-surprising track — the sparkling "Don't Take Yr Love" — brings to mind Steve Earle during his turntable phase. Even the Valentine's candy/text-speak titles ("I'm With U" is another) charm rather than irk — no small feat. Solid effort all around.
AS LADDERS EP RELEASE with JEREMY CAYWOOD & THE WAY OF LIFE, KAYLA SCHUREMAN 6:30 p.m. Sat., Feb. 28. Club Café, 56 S. 12th St., South Side. $5. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com
In a musical landscape littered with bluesy stoner rock, Cruces manages to set itself apart, thanks in large part to the witchy powerhouse vocals of Naomi Curtis. The band has been toiling away for some time now, but its debut cassette still feels like an unexpected treat. Comparisons to bands like Royal Thunder and Christian Mistress are inevitable, but that's not a bad thing. Curtis elevates some competent and rockin' (if not entirely memorable) heavy jams to something special, adding heft to melodies which might otherwise drift.
CRUCES TAPE RELEASE with COME HOLY SPIRIT, DON'T GET CAUGHT 9 p.m. Sat., Feb. 28. Gooski's, 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. $5. 412-681-1658