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)


Tulsa Drone – “Risk Guitar”
Songs From A Mean Season

On their follow-up to the eerie No Wake, Tulsa Drone have greatly reinforced their sound, producing a heavier post-rock feel akin to This Will Destroy You or Saxon Shore, though it rolls more than it grows. There are also vocals, a mixed bag but not problematic. The hammered dulcimer is ever-present, but is no longer the lead instrument — a loss, if you ask me, since that truly set apart the sound, though the richer tone does have its merits. (insound)

The Drones – “I See Seaweed”
I See Seaweed

The truth is I can’t stand the way this guy sings, but he is one of the rare songwriters out there who can make up for a mouthful of marbles with the quality of his writing. Wait Long By The River… had surprising lyrical depth, and I See Seaweed, the title track in particular, does as well — juxtaposing rising sea levels with more personal human iniquities. It’s not happy music, however, so if you’re looking for something to drag you out of the ditch, this ain’t it. (buy at band website)

SCNTST – “Percee Scan”
Self Therapy

I don’t always go in for these songs that use real-world sounds as their basis (Matmos and M.I.A. are exceptions), but this one repurposes a scanner it for more than just rhythm, assembling several distinct voices from it. The beat could stand to be a little less house-y, but otherwise it’s a solid and highly original sound. “So Tough” is another amazing track if you’re looking for something less weird. (insound)

Silo – Prime Movers

With their single-minded, heavy, groove-focused, mostly instrumental songs, Silo fall somewhere between Trans Am and Tortoise. That the repeating portion is so prominent in most of the songs may turn a few off, but it’s simply a thicker tapestry into which subtle patterns can be woven. (swim)


Speedy Ortiz – “No Below”
Major Arcana

A straightforward quality indie-rock album for the most part, with this excellent track striking a rather darker tone than the rest. The growling bass and lurking guitars lead to a wonderfully noisy but ultimately restrained finale, and the song slips away before it overstays its welcome. (insound)


Grails – “Future Primitive”
Deep Politics

Grails takes it back a couple notches after the sublime Burning Off Impurities and tense Doomsdayer’s Holiday. Here be restrained distortion, subtle arrangements, piano solus, and less overall dread. It’s Morricone-infused 70s psych rock with an undercurrent of unease, and it’s a very good listen. (insound)