Sure, Pufferfish’s second full-length effort, Swell, is chock-full of cheery banjo solos and lively traveling songs that command a dose of cheer. But the most striking track on the record is its saddest. “Wrecking Ball’s” mournful refrain, “I am gone, I am gone” resonates with emotional weight, and it’s just that heavy feeling that makes it one of the best alt-country songs released by a Seattle artist this year. So far, Pufferfish has swum pretty well under the radar, and the unfortunate timing of this album’s release may mean that it’ll take a while for Swell’s simple beauty to sink in. Yet there’s no doubt that it should. Jonah Baker’s voice shares elements of its timbre with Jay Farrar’s, making Pufferfish the sort of band with the potential to appeal to alt-country devotees everywhere – not just the plaid-shirted urban cowpeople milling around Ballard Ave. With Star Anna, Kristen Ward. SARA BRICKNER

Sat., Dec. 26, 9:30 p.m., 2009

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