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Tonight: Josh Ritter, Stars, Abstract Rude, Hot Hot Heat, Ashes Divide, Lucy Woodward

When the New York Times recently referred to Josh Ritter as a staple of "what might be called the soft-rock establishment: NPR, Starbucks and noncommercial radio stations," it wasn't pejorative.

Ritter has long been a hero to fans seeking literate songwriting and engaging storytelling, and his sixth album, So Runs the World Away (released in May), furthers his canon.

No collection of sappy ballads this: The 33-year-old singer-songwriter lays out tales of murder, scenarios of apocalyptic love, historical vignettes and even a reverie about a romance between an archaeologist and her mummy, inhabiting all his characters with workmanlike precision.

Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band headline the Music Box tonight, with old-timey string act Carolina Chocoloate Drops opening. (At the end of this post, check out the video by Royal City Band drummer Liam Hurley, also a puppeteer, for Ritter's song "The Curse.")

Elsewhere: Canadian indie-poppers Stars do their second night at the Troubadour ... Abstract rapper Abstract Rude heads up the lineup at Low End Theory at the Airliner ... And born-again indie-rockers Hot Hot Heat continue their residency at the Bootleg Theater, with Eulogies and Links supporting.

Also: Abandoned Pools with Ashes Divide at the Viper Room; Lucy Woodward at the Hotel Cafe; Olin and the Moon at the Silverlake Lounge; Matmos at the Echo; Hawnay Troof at Echo Curio; Ovideo at La Fonda; Boyce Avenue at the Roxy; and Robert Randolph's free in-store at Amoeba (6 p.m.)


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