Back in the ’90s, Northern California-born Franklin Bruno — solo artist, frontman for Nothing Painted Blue, frequent co-conspirator with John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats — was a strong favorite for Smartest Man in Indie Rock. These days, “indie rock” doesn’t mean what it used to, but Bruno remains one of those uniquely brilliant songwriters who can push music and lyrics in surprising directions while making the whole thing sound classic. These days he’s a logic professor living in Queens and fronting The Human Hearts, who just released their second full-length, Another (released by Shrimper — damn, it’s nice to see that name in print again, eh?). Check out “See Me as a Lover,” “Love-Starved” and “Cheap Sunglasses.” This is classic Franklin Bruno: brainy, catchy power-pop riddled with dissecting commentary on human relations. “You must be the densest star of all/ The way that you accelerate my fall,” he croons on “Soft Gamma Repeater,” a dark and groovy song that likens love to a gravitational singularity. This Sunday, Franklin Bruno returns to Philly for the first time in a while, backed only by Human drummer Matt Houser, and I’m betting we’ll hear a few old favorites from the back catalogue.
Sun., Nov. 18, 8 p.m., $8, with Gashcat and Gleason, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com.