Go ahead, be cynical. The first mention Small Black on Pitchfork came with the disclaimer, ” Live, they ( Josh Kolenik and Ryan Heyne) add Pitchfork.tv contributors Juan Pieczanski and Jeff Curtin to the mix.” Personally, I’d urge you to put aside your conspiracy theories for a moment and give “Despicable Dogs,” a fair listen, for in its four minutes you’ll find an abundance of warm keyboard sounds presented in the framework of DIY styled, New Order synth-pop.

MP3: Small Black – Despicable Dogs

What did you do with your unexpected summer vacation? Speaking from experience, I can say that taking on artistic projects whilst unemployed is easier in theory than reality. I have no fewer than three movie scripts sitting in various states of completion. San Diego native Travis Trevisan, on the other hand, made himself a band (Tape Deck Mountain) and an album.

“Ghost Colony,” taken from Tape Deck Mountain’s forthcoming release on Lefse Records, starts as your standard slacker rock take on shoegazing (If there is such a thing) and takes an interesting twist near the four-and-a-half minute mark when Trevisan embraces his inner metal man. Oh, if only more indie artists would embrace their inner metal men…

MP3: Tape Deck Mountain – Ghost Colony

The voice of Lightning Dust’s Amber Webber is one made for the chillier months — It’s a full, dynamic voice, wavering with expression, and a hint of isolation. Here, on “Never Seen,” the second song released from her recent Jagjaguwar release, Infinite Light, that voice is paired with sparse percussion and the warmer tones of electric piano, giving the listener a kind of fireside effect, where the body feels both hot and cold.

MP3: Lightning Dust – Never Seen

With all the press Beaten Awake’s Jon Finley has been getting for his work fronting the Akron super-drummer group, Drummer, it’s easy to overlook the fact that his other band also has a new release out. Beaten Awake’s second album, Thunder$troke just came out this past Tuesday on Fat Possum records. The first single, “Coming Home,” may be a bit more synth-y than the band’s earlier work, but once it gets rolling, it hits that same spot — A convergence of workingman, Ohio rock, Nineties indie, and Northwest folk — that made their debut so enjoyable.

MP3: Beaten Awake – Coming Home

If Conor Oberst, M. Ward and Jim James can call their collaboration Monsters of Folk, then Will Johnson (Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel) and Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.) could have surely gone a similar, self-congratulatory route and given themselves an equally ridiculous name like Rulers of Rustic Rock, or Amazing Purveyors of Americana, or Titans of Twang. Instead, they went the low key route and named their collaboration, Molina and Johnson. Quaint name aside, their self-titled debut, due out November 2nd on Secretly Canadian, is one all indie-folk types should have on their radar.

MP3: Will Johnson and Jason Molina – Twenty Cycles to the Ground

Something happened to The Duke (Jessee Lortz) between The Dutchess and The Duke’s debut and their follow up, the recently released Sunset/Sunrise. Reviewing Sunset/Sunrise for Pitchfork, Rebecca Raber suggested that fatherhood may have been weighing The Duke down, as much of the album was penned while Lortz’s wife was pregnant. Only The Duke can say for sure, but there certainly is a change of mood between albums one and two. Whereas The Duke previously showed an inhuman ability to deflect life’s downturn’s and make them into bright, folk melodies, he now finds himself getting weighed down more and more.

When you listen to “Living this Life,” the second track released from Sunrise/Sunset, you hear gravity in Lortz’s voice, and a string section accenting his pain. Yet, even as life has piled onto The Duke, and the day to day has become harder and harder, there’s still quite a bit left of those qualities which made his first pairing with the Dutchess (Kimberly Morrison) such an endearing record — Like the barren production style emphasizing voice and acoustic guitar, those honest harmonies, and real, unfiltered, human emotion.

MP3: The Dutchess and The Duke – Living This Life