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A vote for Portland's Ascetic Junkies

What with all the regional and national bands that pass through Savannah week after week, month after month, sometimes the smaller acoustic-based acts fly under the radar.

And that's a shame, because as everyone knows, it's a great time to be an independent artist. You pay homage to a multi-headed muse. Genres have been blurred to such an extent that you can't simply say, in reference to an acoustic act, "They play folk," "They play jazz" or "They play bluegrass."

Those with a fondness for such irreverent quirko-pop groups as the New Pornographers, the Dodos and/or the Dirty Projectors would do well to attend the Savannah debut of the Oregon-based Ascetic Junkies, Jan. 11 at the Sentient Bean.

Kali Giaritta and Matt Harmon create a harmonic combination of words and music, some of it relatively straightforward but even more of it entirely unpredictable. They call it their "shape-shifting, psychedelic songwriting ethic," music that "intentionally sits on the border between ‘really catchy' and ‘pretty weird.'"

In short, it's brilliantly colorful, non-linear pop music.

I asked Giaritta what the line was, for them, between really catchy and pretty weird.

"There's not necessarily a line that we try to stay in front of or behind," she explained. "But just by default a lot of our songs end up being really catchy in terms of the melodies, but in the way that the songs are arranged they might up sounding weird.

"There might be a pop-sounding verse and chorus, but then the song structure kind of goes off that for a little while and has parts that are pretty different from what you'd hear in the usual pop song."

According to Harmon, after three albums of original material, the Junkies are now in an experimental phase. "There's a fair amount, especially lately," he said. "Some of the stuff that we'll play live, that we don't have recorded yet, it seems like lately each song ends up having something about it that is kind of a challenge for us. We just have to push ourselves and see if we can turn it into something that we feel like people will want to listen to."

The pair first met while college students in Boston. That was in 2003, and they began working together - much like Savannah's own Anna Chandler and Devin Smith of the now-dissolved General Oglethorpe & the Pandhandlers - by sitting on the front porch, sharing their original songs and discovering their vocals had a dazzling harmonic blend.

There was, at least for a time, a full band of acoustic ephemera, always with Harmon on guitar. Five years ago, Harmon and Giaritta got married and relocated the act - just them - to Portland. Onstage, they sing to each other.

"It's more fun than I could possibly imagine," Giaritta said, "because Matt is pretty much the best musician that I know, and I'm still learning a lot of my instruments. For me, playing music with him is fun and a learning experience.

"His whole family plays music, and something I've heard them say, that I think is pretty interesting, is that they use music more of a form of communication than a form of entertainment for others."

A few notes

@ We told you that Cusses' video for the amazing "Don't Give In" had been picked up MTV online as a "Freshman" pick. You can help get it into heavy rotation on the channel by going to Vote as many times as you like - the deadline has been extended to 2 p.m. ET Friday, Jan. 11.

@ There's been a lot of recording activity in town lately. Whaleboat's excellent new single, "Socialist," will be available as a CD and 7-inch vinyl at a Jan. 24 show (with Cusses and Can't Kids) at the Jinx. Rappers Knife and Miggs will premiere new songs at the Sparetime Jan. 25, sharing a showbill with Dana Coppafeel and DJ Redlab. Les Racquet is finishing up an album at Elevated Basement (they'll be at Live Wire Jan. 19). Burning Mansions is cutting the folllowup to Labor Day. Chuck Courtenay is releasing a new four-song EP in early March. And Ryan Graveface is prepping a new five-track Casket Girls EP for April release.