Ah, the four-day week after the July 4th weekend -- hallmark of hungover, half-hearted efforts at work, mid-summer malaise, and other variations on slothfulness. That's most certainly the kind of week I've had, so let's cut to the chase; these were some of my favorite Epitonic tracks posted throughout summer's "lost week."

Killer Mike "That's Life 2": Over the course of his decade-plus career, Killer Mike has quietly ascended to the zenith of Atlanta's formidable rap scene. He started earning his chops working on Outkast's Stankonia and in years since has proven himself a highly sought-after producer and quite the rapper himself, toeing the line between socio-political pundit and a hard-edged man of the streets. "That's Life 2" picks up where I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind's "That's Life" left off, conveying musings on -- and frustrations with -- modern society in a more pointed, straightforward way. "That's Life" rambles; "Life 2"'s words cut. The track's propulsive cadence is a perfect match for its acid-tongued musings on modern society -- including the masterful "[Sean] Hannity/ insanity/ vanity/ financially/ calamity" rhyme scheme, admonishing poor people who vote Republican for being as dumb as kids who look up to rappers, and the valid point that Jesus was a man of the streets. Whew.

The Civil Wars "If I Didn't Know Better": What would a version of She & Him that I actually like sound like? The Civil Wars may have inadvertently answered that question. They're all sweet harmony and dark undertone, the way the good lord intended country music to sound. Bonus: this is a live cut, so those gorgeous voices aren't the work of studio trickery. Although the song's subject matter is certainly different (here, cheating ends happily -- instead of exploding into an Appalachian bloodbath), "If I Didn't Know Better" scratches the same itch as Nick Cave and PJ Harvey's turns on Murder Ballads -- quiet and lovely, danger lurking around every corner.

Shabazz Palaces "Youlogy":
In lesser hands, Shabazz Palaces' artistic vision could be a total mess. A melange of jazz, dub, and experimental hip hop could easily turn into a royal mess, but not when Digable Planets' Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler is at the helm. "Youlogy"'s beats disorient without alienating, its different voices creating a life out of a series of vignettes…not unlike a eulogy.


Honorable Mentions

The Civil Wars "20 Years":
Seriously, I can hear Paste Magazine drooling from here.

Yair Yona "Brave Walls": Not sure if you, like myself, were raised to think of Leo Kottke and John Fahey as demigods, but even if you weren't you've got to admit Israeli guitarist Yair Yona has got some serious chops. For such an insane amount of technical precision, Yona's music sounds warm and human.

Nina Nastasia "Stormy Weather": Gorgeous. Cue it up when you're moody. Or when it's raining. Or when the two occur simultaneously.