Max & the Martians, “Please Hold On” / “Love on Vacation” (Mashed Potato Records)

Max Bien-Kahn and his ever-mutating band of backup Martians have been swimming around in the shallow end of indie whatevercana for the past few years, relying on lots of echo and reverb, an offbeat sensibility, and a generally upbeat mood stemming from what seems to be a real genuine open-heartedness. This latest single is a real step forward, though, at least for his muse: “Please Hold On” is pure aching jangle-pop, Big Star filtered through that peculiar post-psych melancholia of the very late ‘60s. It’s gloriously, beautifully sad in a way not usually found outside Brian Wilson’s sandbox or Gram Parsons’ desert hell. The flip, “Love on Vacation,” is more like what we’re used to from Max, but even here there’s a deceptive air about his jauntiness, the kind of studied sunshine that hid deeper pain on Velvet Underground’s Loaded album. Someone or something broke this guy’s heart in the past few years. I’d lay money on it.