My Education – “A Man Alone”

Sometimes, when you discover an incredible sound as a musician, you can’t help but build an entire song around it. This is certainly the case with “A Man Alone,” which doesn’t travel so much as just layer and intensify that shocking guitar sound, or whatever it is, sending shivers up my spine.


The Ivytree – “The Book Of Job”
Winged Leaves

This extraordinarily low-key and low-fidelity album sounds as if it was recorded in the lee of a rock, a thousand miles from civilization, and only discovered by accident 20 years later. Completely unaffected and simply beautiful all the way through. It’s a Jeweled Antler Collective thing, and only a thousand were made; it’s nearly impossible to find.


Kinski – “New India”
Be Gentle With The Warm Turtle

I class this song among the loudest ever recorded, along with The Psychic Paramount’s “Para5,” Crystal Antlers’ “Parting Song for the Torn Sky,” and the Red Sparowes “The Sixth Extinction.” The fun thing about “New India” is that you keep thinking they can’t add any more to it, and that’s just when yet another guitar comes in. Kinski has mellowed out quite a bit since this album; I wish they’d stayed monstrous.


Smog – “Palimpsest”
A River Ain’t Too Much to Love

I’d scratched Smog off the list after being disappointed some years ago, but after hearing this album at a cafe recently, I decided to give it another shot. Despite its simple singer-songwriter nature and plain instrumentation, it’s hard to pin down, mostly because of the delivery. His wry and subtle writing is hard to decode, but in this song it’s at least pretty easy to appreciate. (insound)


Ambulance LTD – “Helmsman”
Heavy Lifting 7"

This track and “Straight A’s” (from the same single) are just two fabulously well-crafted songs – the preferred genre of Ambulance LTD, whose 2003 LP remains one of the most solid collections of discrete indie-rock songs of the decade. The sound may not be original, but the frequency with which this band bests their influences is impressive.


The Intelligence – “Like Like Like Like Like Like Like”

A raw, basic, and fun album with the charm and energy of The Lovely Feathers and the stripped-down aesthetic of Japandroids. The songs are simple and bite-sized, the longest track (“Males”) running just 4:47, with more than half being an instrumental breakdown and a full minute of glorious, unaccompanied distortion.


Michael Trommer – “Morning Haze”
Tree Line

This barely-there album is like Tape’s most abstract pieces, further deconstructed and stretched out into soundscapes. Its moments of beauty are like the natural moments of beauty inherent to the world: transient and difficult to isolate. This track doesn’t really get going, if get going is an applicable idiom, until around two minutes in. The album is free.


Black Forest/Black Sea – “These Things”
Forcefields And Constellations

It’s a strange and noisy album, but sounds cohesive in that every track is something that could only come from Black Forest/Black Sea. Often the highest points of more traditional styles of music approach the quality of the best tracks from more popular or ancient bands like the Beatles or Pink Floyd. But it’s nice to have bands that, when they do something perfectly, you think “man, that is so… them.”


The Cubists – “The Orchestra Breathes”
Mechanical Advantage

There’s something soft and effervescent about this song, like it’s reaching you through a layer of drugs and water.


The Dismemberment Plan – “Crush”
Split EP w/ Juno

This deconstruction of the original pop song by Jennifer Paige is, in a way, a precursor to the slowed-down Bieber of memedom. Changing the instrumentation and tempo to let the melody breathe makes for a completely different song.