It wasn't that long ago that the entire music industry would become a barren, snow-covered tundra this time every December, but these days it's just getting warmed up. That's mostly because the music industry doesn't revolve around physical record releases anymore and, even if an artist has an album coming out in next year's fiscal first quarter, now they can whet your appetite way ahead of time by throwing a song stream online. In this installment of Mandatory Music, we've got a couple such singles that dropped this week along with a few other digital stocking stuffers.


'Strange Eyes' from 'Big Dark Love'

Indiana indie outfit Murder by Death have made a career out of grit. Blending roots Americana with cello-driven arrangements and raucous pub shout-alongs, they've been churning out new-school gothic epics for 15 years. But on their upcoming seventh album, 'Big Dark Love,' the quintet delve into new sonic depth with the addition of more psych-rock, mainstream pop and synth-fueled elements as demonstrated by the pulsing lead single, 'Strange Eyes.'


'Spooks' from 'Inherent Vice' soundtrack

We heard back in October that a previously unreleased Radiohead song, 'Spooks,' would be featured in Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice,' and now we know it won't feature any of Thom Yorke's spastic vocals. Since Radiohead multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood scored the movie, he kept the base of the song in tact (you can watch Radiohead perform it in 2006 here), but singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom (who also appears in the film) provides spoken word lyricism. It's not exactly a typical song, but Anderson and Greenwood don't often do typical.


'Minions' from 'Restarter'

Miami-based sludge purveyors Torche are back with their first new music since 2012's 'Harmonicraft,' and bassist Jonathan Nunez -- who produced the new record -- said in a statement that the 10-track 'Restarter' should be a noticeable step forward. "I feel it’s strong sonically and harder hitting than the previous record," he said. "It’s just more solid song to song." Our first taste comes in the form of 'Minions' -- an angular stoner-rock anthem that apparently has little to do with 'Despicable Me.'


'Wicked Game'

There's been no shortage of 'Wicked Game' covers over the years. Chris Isaak's sultry 1989 hit has been taken on by everyone from R.E.M. to Three Days Grace. But the latest rendition from Canadian pop experimentalist Lydia Ainsworth blows at least 87-percent of the others out of the water. Brimming with atmospheric moodiness, her sparse and minimalistic version brings layers of breathy vocals to the forefront above cinematic-sounding piano. It's the definition of haunting.


'If I Could' from 'Whatever, My Love'

If you're old enough to remember MTV's 'Buzz Bin,' the name Juliana Hatfield should bring back at least a few flannel-filled memories. After co-founding the Blake Babies in 1986 and going on to play with the Lemonheads, she became one of the most beloved singer-songwriters of the '90s college-rock scene both on her own and with the Juliana Hatfield Three -- who released just one album in 1993. But that'll soon change as Hatfield announced that a long-awaited follow-up, 'Whatever, My Love,' will drop in February.

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