Ah, breathe the free air again, my friends! 2003 and its myriad frustrations -- wars, death and recession -- lies behind you, mere dust trails in an optimistic look forward at the year to come. Time to erase your past mistakes, pounce on passed opportunities and get crackin' on making the world a better place for everyone. OK, who am I kidding? Truth is that 2004 stands to become an even bigger headache than 2003 -- can you say election year? -- so you're going to need some serious sonic analgesic.

Six Parts Seven, Lost Notes From Forgotten Songs

No matter what anyone says about Sigur Ros, Mogwai definitively rules the post-rock roost until someone comes along and knocks them off the mountain. Right now, there isn't a band that can do that (especially not Sigur Ros), but there are some tantalizing alternatives. Enter Six Parts Seven, an instrumental outfit on the impressive indie label, Suicide Squeeze. Their complex musical structures usually oscillate between treble-charged masterpieces and ominous soundscapes, but this latest release is actually a collaborative revision of their earlier work with some noted artists. Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock jumps the train on "From California to Houston, on Lightspeed" while Black Heart Procession and Three Mile Pilot's Pall Jenkins (who teamed up with Brock for Ugly Cassanova) guest stars on "Seems Like Most Everything Used to Be Something Else." Sam Beam from Iron and Wine and Dave Bazan from Pedro the Lion also hop on board for the somber fun. While not a concrete introduction to their work, Six Parts Seven's latest is nevertheless one of the coolest collective efforts so far this year.

The Sleepy Jackson, Lovers

Do you know who Luke Steele is? Wait, let's rewind that. Do you know who George Harrison is? Well, Luke Steele does, but Sleepy Jackson's psychedelic, intricate songcraft only begins at The Quiet Beatle, before moving outward into Flaming Lips and Soft Boys territory. The Australian native Steele is basically the brains behind Sleepy Jackson, and has proven it by breaking the band up a few times to shape it in his own crafty image. But the music remains the same, and it's about as addictive as alt-pop can get. Whether it's the ethereal strums and chants of "Good Dancers" or the electronic dalliances of "Don't You Know," Lovers is a stunning debut from a guy who only wants to perfect the pop music nugget. He's getting close.


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© Melt Magazine 2004