GEMS at Black Cat Backstage Monday, July 22

Over the course of several releases, local duo Birdlips had come so close to mastering a kind of bright and folky island-bound Buckingham/Nicks sound. Core band members Lindsay Pitts and Cliff Usher darted down to Florida to record 2011’s One Tongue, appearing to finally settle on a vaguely French, darkened-around-the-edges coastal getaway vibe (fans of Numero Group’s Antena collection, Camino del Sol, will know what I mean). But that record turned out to be a turning point of sorts: Since One Tongue, Birdlips has morphed into Gems and made its primary residence the 4AD back catalog. Gems now has several singles to its name, all of them bathed in the kind of twinkly misery that coursed through the best Cocteau Twins albums. Their lyrics turn to slowly deteriorating love and the naïve grasp of youth, the stuff of Eric Rohmer—and an ideal vehicle for the feather-pillow fight between Pitts’ fragile, pleading voice and Usher’s gushy guitars. It’s all a little heartbreaking, but it’s heartening, too, to see such a great band become even greater.

Gems performs with Indians at 8 p.m. at Black Cat Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $12. (202) 667-4490. blackcatdc.com.

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