Ex Hex are back, and sweeter than ever.
Ex Hex are back, and sweeter than ever. Michael Lavine

Ex Hex, "Cosmic Cave" (Merge)

If Mary Timony's in a band, you should probably pay attention. Her latest project—Ex Hex, with bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris—released an outstanding power-pop-inflected debut in 2014 called Rips. Stranger freelancer Bree McKenna was one of many critics wowed by Rips. She wrote in these pages that its "short, party-worthy songs never lose momentum, with Cheap Trick-esque hooks all over the place and lyrics that zazz up homages to the classics of punk-rock love (like the Velvet Underground appropriation/nod 'I just wanna be your mirror' followed immediately by Ramones-worthy 'yeah yeah, yeah's)." Ex Hex have been dormant since then, but the Washington DC trio return with a new album due out March 22 titled It's Real.

The album's first single, "Cosmic Cave," shows that Ex Hex are picking up where they left off, as if the the last five years were merely five minutes. This is classic pop-rock with flickers of girl-group vocal mannerisms, glam-rock bravado and guitar phasing, Go-Go's-esque backing-vox magic, and a chorus and curlicue ax solo that make you feel like you're floating eight miles high on all the clouds. A love song seemingly about gender-role reversal, "Cosmic Cave" is a mere tease at under three minutes. Always leave 'em wanting more more more...

Ex Hex play the Crocodile April 20 with Feels. Tickets go on sale Friday, January 11.