"Kowtow Drops the Pop Off"



"The Town's Old Fair"

Nine Mile/Coffee Stain

The title of Kowtow Popof's latest release, "Kowtow Drops the Pop Off," doesn't go far enough. The Rockville musician should drop the entire name, which is surely scaring away listeners. Far from the unlistenable eccentric his tag suggests, K.P. is a skilled songwriter, arranger and producer. Neither a rock purist nor a electronica zealot, he crafts music that balances songcraft with samples and swooshes.

"Kowtow Drops the Pop Off" previews eight selections from two upcoming albums, one of songs and another of instrumentals. Remarkably, K.P. is good at both. The disc's grabbers are "Higher" and "Life as a Hobby," both tuneful, slightly bluesy rockers that favor guitar over synths. Yet such instrumentals as "Run to Daylight" and the theremin-embellished "Theme From Lucky Guy" aren't mere filler. Any guy who can invoke Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" while singing about "Slim Jims & Tab" over a tick-tock electrobeat is not about to be typecast.

Josh Lederman y Los Diablos also sport a misleading name. This Boston quintet's "The Town's Old Fair" has no discernible Latin influence, aside from the tango touches of the album's lone instrumental, "Palinka."

Instead, the honky-tonk folk-rockers's tall-tale lyrics, wistful disposition and sea-shanty jig melodies suggest the Pogues. Singer-songwriter Lederman will travel a long way for a little whimsy, singing about a girlfriend in Virginia whose "name is ironically Virginia." More typical, though, are such laments as "40 Days" and the title track, in which Lederman's lovers are now only memories.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Sunday at IOTA. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Kowtow Popof, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8127; to hear Josh Lederman y Los Diablos, press 8128. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)