Just because a band breaks up, that doesn't mean it's gone for good. Bedhead was one of the most compelling rock acts of the last several years, its almost defiantly mellow and melancholy music constructed with such craft and delicacy that its dissolution left a void in guitar-rock. But Bedhead songwriters Bubba and Matt Kadane remained active, collaborating with Macha on the worshipfully titled Macha Loved Bedhead EP, then gathering some indie-rock friends into a fresh band called, appropriately, The New Year. Its debut, Newness Ends, shows how little has changed. From the opening "Half A Day" to "Gasoline" and "Alter Ego," sinewy guitar lines lead to Bedhead's trademark beautiful catharsis, while the group juggles refined odd-tempo mope-fests ("Reconstruction") and distorted fuzz ("The Block That Doesn't Exist," "Carne Levare") with in-check austerity. Newness Ends does recall the slightly more jagged direction Bedhead took on its third and final album Transaction De Novo, which makes sense: The Kadanes again recorded with Steve Albini, and these songs were apparently intended for the fourth Bedhead album anyway. Matt and Bubba Kadane still sing like they just woke up, have grown bored, or both, inviting listeners to succumb to their somnambulant vibe, but those deft mood-shifts and irresistibly somber minor-key chord-shifts continue to intrigue. Spent never caught on the way Bedhead did, but many still miss the modest but talented band. The New Jersey outfit released just two albums before calling it quits, and though The Rub is credited to just one of Spent's three songwriters, Annie Hayden, the effort is a Spent member away from a full-fledged reunion. Sort of. Fellow Spent singer John King is here just credited with production, though Spent drummer Ed Radich plays on nearly every track. Unlike Newness Ends, The Rub collects fresh writing, but the project springs to life from her familiar, sweet voice and bittersweet, Spent-style pastoral pop. Hayden plays everything but drums, and the beautiful album benefits from her focus. "Start A Little Late" features one of Hayden's winding guitar leads and a beguiling vocal melody, while "Wood And Glue" comes close to Simon And Garfunkel folk. A languid cover of (the old) Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" is nothing but class, as well as an indication of Hayden's allegiance to California pop over Superchunk rock. From spare tracks like "Red Lines," "Slip Is Showing," and "Pistol And Glasses" to a final, teasing, piano-laden track recorded by Spent's full lineup (Hayden, King, Radich, and Joe Weston), The Rub is a pure pleasure, a welcome return from an underappreciated songwriter.

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