Tennis – “Never Work For Free”
Ritual in Repeat

If this record had released in June rather than September, “Never Work For Free” would have been the Song of the Summer, no question. It’s Madonna-tier Pop with, as you can see, a capital P. You can’t unhear it, and you won’t want to. (insound)

Radar Brothers – “Change College of Law”

The sleepy, strummy crooning of Radar Brothers has been on my playlist ever since 1999’s The Singing Hatchet, but Eight may as well be from a different band (15 years will do that). The rich, shifting phases and varied tones of this track, to say nothing of the almost Grails-like crashing drums and descending bass, were a huge and pleasant surprise, and there are plenty of others worth listening to on the album. (merge records)

White Lung – “Down It Goes”
Deep Fantasy

I’ve been waiting for years for someone to pick up where Hot Snakes left off, and White Lung gets closer to doing so than any band I’ve encountered. Savages got close, but their sound was never desperate enough, and their singer was clearly going for something. Blood on the Wall had some of the attitude, but their best songs were their quietest. This is fast, raw, and brutal, approaching speed metal levels on “I Believe You” but generally striking a happy (and furious) medium with tracks like “Face Down” and this one. Bonus points for having no song reach 3 minutes. (insound)

Dntel (ft. Lali Puna) – “I’d Like to Know”
Dumb Luck

This collection of collaborations is a cheerier affair than suggested by the pessimistic title track (the only one not involving a second artist), and a consistently surprising one as well. Lali Puna meshes naturally with Dntel’s fuzzy electronics and ends up sounding like Ms. John Soda played at 33RPM, while the (excellent) Jenny Lewis track sounds more like a sadistic remix than . “I’d Like to Know” feels extremely carefully crafted, yet at the same time, its 3 minutes and 47 seconds melt away like cotton candy until the sadly brief little breakdown at the very end reminds you what you’re listening to. (insound)

The Drift – “Know Certain Future (Part Two)”
Travels in Constants Volume 19

You’re cheating by not listening to the 17-minute part one, but I think this jazzy odyssey hits its stride here. A bit of horn wankery aside, the driving drums and ominous bass line make it sound like the backing track for ritual dance performed by rhythm-minded demons. (temporary residence)

Kid Loco – “Cocaine Diana”
Kill Your Darlings

A college-era download (recommended by god knows who) comes up on shuffle now and then and sends me down memory lane, scrambling to think of the good times I had when this track was cutting edge. Well, it never really was, but it’s a warm, pleasant guitar/electronic track with a couple great moments that guarantee it’ll be sticking around on my playlist for another 12 or 13 years at least.

Jack Northover – “?”
Spirit of Talk Talk

This album of tributes and covers has a lot of great tracks and interesting takes on Talk Talk’s work (including an excellent one by Do Make Say Think) but this one caught my ear with its creaky yet vibrant tone. I hadn’t heard of Jack Northover and his own compositions are hard to find, but he certainly has a knack for this bittersweet sound. (site)

El Ten Eleven – “Living On Credit Blues”
Every Direction Is North

The song’s structure is simple, and the notes and chords are nothing out of the ordinary, but the basic theme is so triumphant and fun-sounding that it’s hard not to listen to again and again. (bandcamp)

Kepler – “Elemental: Blood or Water”
Missionless Days

This slow-build masterstroke has been in regular rotation on my playlist for 12 years now, but I still manage to feel it’s a song for “special occasions,” not to be spoiled by repeated listening. Not that Kepler needed to prove they could do loud, but coming at the end of this incredibly restrained album, this song feels thunderous.


Manual – “Midnight Is Where The Day Begins”

Confluence was an airy ambient album, very like Stars of the Lid in its ethereal swells. Ascend sounds like it’s sampling Confluence, but for a very different purpose (there are beats, for one thing). Its gentle glitches and washes of filtered instruments remind me of label mate Styrofoam, but it exudes the calmness and confidence of the band’s simpler, softer, and surprisingly, later albums. (insound)