A few years back, Emily Jane White described her job as “writing sad songs.” If her third CD, Ode to Sentience, is any indication, the Oakland resident deserves a promotion. Sentience’s 10 tunes are relentlessly moody and dark—the kind of intense folk numbers that used to flow from the pens of Sandy Denny and Leonard Cohen. The lyrics evoke an era of dour requiems, evil serpents, and a ghost’s melted wings (you’re certainly not going to hear Justin Bieber bring up the Grim Reaper anytime soon), while White’s dusty alto draws every bit of brooding emotion from each Gothic line. The drama might be wearisome if the music weren’t so gorgeous. White’s delicate guitar picking serves as an elegant coatrack on which to hang her bandmates’ lush string parts, murmuring organ, tear-filled pedal steel, and evocative percussion. The results conjure Carson McCullers as interpreted by the Kronos Quartet—Southern lit for the chamber folk set.