Let's have a change of pace, shall we? I keep an iTunes file called 2008 Old Songs. With 2008 halfway finished, and this being the deadest summer for singles that I can remember, I'm going to present its contents with commentary over the next few columns. Maybe that's indulgent. But these tracks are as life enhancing as any of the new stuff normally covered here, and many double as recommendations for their host album.

Beck's "Deadweight" (from Odelay: Deluxe Edition, Geffen): Still one of his prettiest songs, and one of the handful I treasure.

Billy Eckstine, "Ask the Lonely" (from The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 9: 1969, Hip-O): Eckstine was one of the suavest of the post-Sinatra crooner brigade, but he never fully transitioned into R&B, which is why he's so obscure today. His voice was huge and deep and stolid, and he murders this great Four Tops hit, primarily by sounding like Levi Stubbs a few years and a handful of real regrets down the line. There isn't a trace of false hope.

The Elcados, "Ku Mi Da Hankan" (from Nigeria Rock Special, Soundway): Organ-guitar combo to melt the heart, with vocals to match. Then after two minutes, they decide to turn loose: The funk and the rock aren't distinguishable, either in the rapid, comfortable beat or the rangy, rattling, fuzz-guitar solo.

George Akaeze & His Augmented Hits, "Business Before Pleasure" (from Nigeria Special, Soundway): Do you know how much fun it is to cherry-pick from Soundway's recent miniglut of African re-issue comps? This one is buried on Nigeria Special's second disc, but its instrumental textures are so juicy you want to bite into them like you were Chairman Kaga from the Japanese Iron Chef.

Grand Kalle & L'African Jazz, "Parafifi" (from The Rough Guide to Congo Gold, World Music Network): A Congolese rumba from the early 1960s, and one of the most shamelessly beautiful pieces of music I've ever encountered. The highlight is a high-pitched guitar solo that ripples ecstatically over occasional depth-charge bass pokes; when a lower-pitched six-string comes in to relieve it, it's like the world shifting color. recommended