Givers – “Ripe”
In Light

From an uncertain beginning (on both the album and this song), a confident and memorable song. Once it actually starts moving, about a minute in, this catchy tropical romp demonstrates a surprising breadth of sounds, and some effervescent, precise guitar/vocal interplay. (insound)


Ms. John Soda – “Elusive”
No P. Or D.

This old (2002) album is still my favorite of Ms. John Soda’s; others I’ve listened to have continued the sound, but the well-crafted lap-pop of “Misco” and “Elusive” is as fresh today as it was nearly 10 years ago, and the rest of the album is still solid. I like the little fade-out on this one, mirroring the fade-in of the first track. (insound)


Sister Crayon – “(In) Reverse”

With shades of Nudge, but with more of a focus on the vocalist’s soft but soaring voice, Sister Crayon’s Bellow is a thoroughly pleasant album which, while it rarely ventures too far in any direction, succeeds very well at what it does. There are a few times when they transcend their own type – the brief ending revel of “Stem,” or the mechanical repetition of “Anti-Psalm,” but for the most part it’s just a beautiful place to inhabit for an hour or so. (insound)

School of Seven Bells – “Sempiternal/Amaranth”

I had no idea this group, composed of former members of Secret Machines and On!Air!Library!, even existed. But their rhythmic, synth-washed, brand of whatever it is caught me by surprise at a coffee shop and I immediately picked up this album. This song isn’t the most representative, but it is perhaps the most striking – a metronomic, pitch-perfect opener (Sempiternal, presumably) followed by an extended mantra-like build-up and crash, and then a warm, prickly blanket of a coda. Unique and confident music-making. (Ghostly)


Dirty Three – “Lullabye For Christie”
Whatever You Love, You Are

Inevitably, whenever I run into a “what’s the saddest song in the world” discussion or article, my mind jumps immediately to “Lullabye For Christie.” Sure, there things like “Tears In Heaven”, Barber’s Adagio For Strings, much of A Silver Mt. Zion’s first album, and more recent stuff like The Antlers’ Hospice. But I always come back to this simple call and response, its inexorable, funereal procession and final unhinged shriek. Soundtrack to a burial at dawn.


The American Analog Set – “Aaron & Maria”
Know By Heart

This whole album passes by in an instant, and not just because it isn’t particularly long. It’s just so pleasant, and so of a piece. Nothing but tight playing, sweet melodies, and soft singing – yet it isn’t twee, nor pretentious or cloying (though it is arguably innocuous). It’s just plain good.


Labradford – “David”

I had a minimalist music phase in college – when I discovered not every song needs to have drums, keyboards, bass, samples, voice, and so on. Labradford and Stars of the Lid are the main finds from that period, and Fixed::Content remains one of my go-to albums for days like today, when “real” songs just grate. Even though there are only four tracks on it, “David” still feels like a last farewell after the epic “Twenty.” Its pleasant synth washes and Labradford’s signature thoughtful plucking give it a sense of finality.


Unwound – “We Invent You”
Leaves Turn Inside You

The primary purpose of this track is to signal that something big is coming. That incredible noise, which, yes, does go on for a full two minutes, is like a priming coat for your ears, preparing them for this incredible and unique album. It’s a sign of a truly great band that they were able to encompass so many sounds and yet stay cohesive. Leaves Turn Inside You is definitely a milestone.


Gang Gang Dance – “Nomad For Love (Cannibal)”
God’s Money

The last “song” (more a movement) on this album, sandwiched between two scary and beautiful instrumental pieces. God’s Money is utterly insane all the way through, and definitely better than their poppier follow-up, Saint Dymphna (excluding that album’s opening one-two). It lives in the same totally self-contained world of early Espers, Oval, Charalambides, and other bands that created a world of their own for the space of an entire album or more. The cover art is fantastic as well.