Of course, making predictions about what lies ahead in the year is a game for fools, as there'll be plenty of developments that we just won't be able to see coming from this distance. What we can do, though, is list eight indicators we'll be watching and waiting for in expectation of being able to look back at the end of the year and sigh about:
Jarvis Cocker's solo album
Well, it's been too long. In fact, it's just gone three years since Pulp were officially put on ice, since when Jarvis has somehow combined moving to France to settle down and gadding about town under the name Darren Spooner in Relaxed Muscle, perhaps wisely putting them aside once everyone realised it was him in a skeleton suit and facepaint. More recently he wrote songs for Nancy Sinatra's last album and fronted the house band in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire with three new songs of variable quality, as you might expect being written to order for such a tough gig. Cocker's solo intentions are as yet unconfirmed but he played at an open mike night at a small LA club in October with film composer and erstwhile Gary Jules sidekick Michael Andrews and Beck/REM drummer Joey Waronker, apparently with a song called Cunts Are Still Running The World.
Cat Power is on the Radio 2 B-list
Look! It's only for a limited edition 7" too, after Ken Bruce of all people made it his record of the week, and one that's downloadable for free from Matador's website too. The album The Greatest, released on January 23rd, finds her in perhaps the best voice of her career - think the milky soft tones she applied in her Handsome Boy Modelling School cameo - handling love, loss and the usual darker matters, backed by smoky Memphis soul. Of course, this sense of publicity achievement will end after 4th March when she plays at the London Barbican with the nation's unforgiving broadsheet review pack in attendance but it's, frankly, nigh-on astonishing while it lasts.
The Black Box Recorder diaspora
Not that anyone who heard their last album - come on, there must be three or four of you - would have expected anything less but Sarah Nixey has gone all Alison Goldfrapp mid-nightmare, or alternately Sophie Ellis-Bextor soaking in cyanide, for her imminent solo releases. The fact she's actually properly singing is enough to take most aback, but the synth-pop stylings could take her deep into radio's heart much as BBR's The Facts Of Life did. Meanwhile Luke Haines' third solo album, due in April, bears the very Hainesish title Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop, and advance notice from his occasional solo shows reveal it's pretty much creepy misanthropy business as usual. John Moore's album is still available, and he's apparently writing a novel.
Pop films that don't feature David Bowie
It seems at times they started work on it round about their formation, but the Flaming Lips' Christmas On Mars is tentatively scheduled for next holidays. Wayne Coyne, breaking off from preparing April 3rd's release of At War With The Mystics (and they're playing the Albert Hall to support it), describes it as "maybe Eraserhead or Dead Man crossed with some kind of fantasy and space aspects, like The Wizard of Oz and maybe 2001: A Space Odyssey, except done without real actors or money, and set at Christmas-time." With real actors and money, and set at some indeterminate point of the year comes the Outkast musical movie currently set for 10th March release in America entitled Idlewild - no, no music press jokes to be had there - set in a Prohibition speakeasy wherein the two performers (oh, guess) contend with gangsters and the like.
The Young Knives finally release an album
We're sure they appeared in a Later spoof for much forgotten BBC Choice series The RDA in 2001, that's how long Oxford via Ashby de la Zouch's own have been in gestation. The wind has finally swung towards their skewed new wave, though, complete arseing up of their last and potential breakthrough single's distribution notwithstanding, and even if it's only as those funny men who wear tweed suits some sort of wider attention seems likely. Single on the ever evolving Transgressive Records in February, Andy Gill-produced album in summer, we'd imagine.
The North American renaissance
From the top: Broken Social Scene's decision to not limit one idea to one song when thirty will do fine has led to some positive, if slightly stunned, reviews - it crosses the pond in February. TV On The Radio's 2004 debut Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes was an astounding work, and their follow-up is likely to sound more band-based, David Sitek warning us to expect a sound with "full production, personal, anthemic, and worthy of makeout sessions with the sky". Yeah. Mission Of Burma's second album after reunion is expected in early summer, one more album of the Shins' idea of power-pop should give them the long-awaited break, The Walkmen have the shimmering cult following of Bows And Arrows to build on, there's new Yeah Yeah Yeahs in March...
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club
A well kept Cardiff three-piece, one male singer-guitarist who looks disconcertingly like a young Boris Johnson, two women on bass and drums who don't. They sound like Wire being attacked by the Deal twins while flirting with the Magic Band, their first single The Tales Of Hermit Mark received the quality assurance mark a 7" on Fantastic Plastic usually delivers, and new single Amateur Man is imminent.
McLusky and Jarcrew have amalgamated
News that's unlikely to get JK & Joel excited, true, but those of us who appreciate a bit of scuzz are excited. A bit of backstory: McLusky made three spectacular albums of grotty guitars, overdriven bass and bizarre, caustic lyricism, while Ammanford's finest made it to a single collection of Fugazi-meets-Fall hyperactivity before disappearing. Now leader Andy Falkous and the drummer from the former, as well as overseeing an imminent three-CD (now come on...) compilation of McLusky's life works, have formed a new as yet unnamed band with, we think, three ex-Jarcrew including frontman Kelson, which Falkous describes as "bluesier, but not in the way you'd expect", and gigging is allegedly imminent. Jon from McLusky is now in Shooting At Unarmed Men, who released a typically splenetic nine track EP a couple of months ago and celebrated by, um, losing a member.