The Domestics, Little Darkness (Self-Released)

[CAREER OPPORTUNITIES] Anyone who's ever driven past the Liquor Store or No Fun at 2 am on a Tuesday and wondered about the daily lives of the chain smokers out front is bound to be interested in the Domestics' second album. On Little Darkness, the songwriting duo of Leo London and Michael Finn reprise their status as the poet laureates of Portland's underemployed 30-somethings, while the music briefly teases a future beyond the alleyways and rusty Volvos in which their stories unfold. On opener "Love That Dress," London sings drowsily about splitting a pack of cigarettes over a Room On Fire-era Strokes riff and tinny garage-rock beat. On the next track, the galloping "Tunnels and Trains," Finn and London take a left turn toward sunny, strummy indie-pop of the sort that would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to The OC. Songs like that and the slow-building banger "For the Last Time"—with a chorus pleading to "get high to Destiny's Child/Get stoned to the Rolling Stones"—show a strident ambition that fits uncomfortably next to simpler efforts like "Trampoline Girl" and "Going Down the Wrong Way." The Domestics' generous use of weeping strings, buzzing organs and spiky guitars hit that sweet spot between the sharp R&B of Spoon and the bittersweet soul of Harry Nilsson. But in light of the ill-advised viral marketing stunt that engulfed them in a cyclone of bad press last year, it seems like London and Finn are making a serious push to transcend the quarter-life doldrums that once grounded their subtle brilliance. Whether or not a bonafide career in rock 'n' roll awaits them remains to be seen.

SEE IT: The Domestics play Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with Kacey Johansing, on Friday, January 12. 9 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+. Get tickets here.