THE NOTES ON KIMYA DAWSON that I jotted down this afternoon include Madame Bovary, R.E.M., T.S. Eliot, "Subterranean Homesick Blues," and He-Man. Usually when I scribble adjectives about bands, I come up with words like "airy" or "cartoon-y vocals." But Dawson is a different story. Her folk-punk anthems are fully realized miniature universes of friendships and wishes that exist in an all-too-excessive contemporary society.

Dawson's songs spill over with tossed-off references to American junk culture—Big Johnson shirts, silicone tits, Christian comic books, and Sunny D. It's easy and fun to smile at a catchy song that name-checks Julian Lennon and Chicken McNuggets in one breath, but on closer listens, one detects a strain of despair in Dawson's music. It's the sound of a romantic spirit drowning—not just in a culture of junk, but in a society that has collectively fallen in love with their trash.

One of her best songs, "Viva la Persistence," begins in a dream where she thanks Scott Ian of Anthrax for writing one of her favorite albums. He returns the compliment, and the two form a bond based on creativity and respect. She awakes to an overworked family, wondering, "Why does everything cost so much money?" She then goes off on "giant corporations," "theme park plantations," and Vanilla Coke before breaking down at a psychiatrist's office. She turns down medication and an admonition not to "be a retard," skating away from a close call with "deep-fried apathy."

This could all get heavy-handed if it weren't for Dawson's singing and songwriting, which is intensely likeable and freewheeling. Basically, it sounds like "It's the End of the World As We Know It," with a few variations. She's got slower versions, waltz versions, and sing-along versions, but it's a fairly tight range. The beauty and the heartbreak, though, is in her lyrics, which can start with a bottle of Mad Dog, and end with a convincing reminder that we all deserve to be happy.