Music in Brief

Sebadoh III (Domino) was all things to all hipsters when it was released in 1991: a gossipy kiss-off from bandleader Lou Barlow to his former Dinosaur-mate J. Mascis, proof that lo-fi indie-rock could be as tuneful and expressive as anything in the mainstream, and a collection of intensely productive navel-gazing that justified the decade-plus of self-absorbed emo laments to come. The album sounds better than ever on its 15th-anniversary reissue, and not just because the volume's been boosted to 2006 CD specification, or because there's a bonus disc of rarities, including the epochal single "Gimme Indie Rock." The muted settings and lilting melodies of so many of Sebadoh's songs show a clarity and purpose that's still all too rare… A-

Spoon wasn't always an innovative, rhythm-minded, cutting-edge rock band, putting out albums that the cognoscenti dissect and dance to with equal vigor. When the band's debut album, Telephono, came out in 1996, it was a joke in some circles how much Spoon sounded like Pavement and Pixies, right down to the Pixies-esque breathy female counter-vocals on "Dismember." In retrospect, the jagged guitars and punchy drums of songs like "Not Turning Off" and "Plastic Mylar" (still one of Spoon's best songs) provide a map to where the band was about to go. It certainly helped that the next stop was the EP Soft Effects, which dropped a lot of the LP's affectations in favor of springy, soulful songs like "Waiting For The Kid To Come Out" and "I Could See The Dude." Long out of print, both discs have just been reissued in a single package by Merge. Yep, it's essential… Telephono: B; Soft Effects: A-

In 1998, John Doe stealthily released the EP For The Rest Of Us, a five-song experiment in blending his increasingly traditional roots-rock with elements of post-rock modernism. Those five songs have been joined by five more from the same sessions for the reissue For The Best Of Us (Yep Roc), which points the way toward the fresher-sounding music that Doe has been making since the turn of the millennium. Of special note is the album-opener, "A Step Outside," an oddball rocker that meanders from abrasion to open yearning in ways that are timelessly stunning… B+

In 1996, Seattle's Suicide Squeeze Records released a couple of the earliest singles by 764-Hero and Modest Mouse, who were mutually inching out the shape of a new indie-rock, more expansive and aggressive than the insular basement symphonies that were dominating the genre at the time. Since then, Suicide Squeeze has continued to stay ahead of where alternative music has been headed, by partially subsidizing the airy folk of Elliott Smith and Iron & Wine, and the Great White North rock weirdness of The Constantines and The Unicorns. In celebration of the label's 10th anniversary, it's compiled Suicide Squeeze Records: Slaying Since 1996, featuring standout tracks—some out of print and some unreleased—from the bands who've called SS home. It's a winning sampler… B+

The compilers behind the "Tiny Idols" series have the right idea: trying to make a neo-Nuggets out of the forgotten gems of '90s indie-rock. But like Rhino's two botched attempts at encompassing the alternative-music era—Left Of The Dial and the still-good-but-in-a-different-way Children Of Nuggets—2004's Tiny Idols Vol. 1 and the newly released Tiny Idols Vol. 2 (Snowglobe) make some weird choices, avoiding the presumably hard-to-license 45s that formed the real backbone of the decade's indie movement. That said, Tiny Idols Vol. 2's emphasis on homemade retro-pop (like Guppyboy's charmingly twee "Holiday") and dreamy soundscapes (like Galaga's "Arilang") does tell a story, about people replicating the sounds that mean the most to them, on a low, low budget. B-

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