A hefty week for releases all round, just the singles featuring quite a few big shots and a few we had to sieve out to keep this bit manageable. Let's start with three former Friendly Chatters, as they're the ones most likely to remember us, and going on both alphabetical order and sheer affectingness - is that a word? Whatever - we'll kick off with Jeremy Warmsley. In fact, we'd be so bold as to state here in the public domain that you won't hear many more affecting singles all year than I Believe In The Way You Move, which as well as being that rarity, a reworking of a previous single that's better than the original, weaves together many disprite elements in his self-production, from brass crescendos to electronics to Tom Rogerson's sparkling piano runs (oh, and yet another ex-Chatter, Emmy The Great, on backing vocals), yet the effect adds to the atmosphere rather than overwhelms it, with a disarming heartfeltness at its heart. That he's not being shouted from national rooftops, something that's not for the want of Transgressive Records trying, is indicative of something very wrong at the heart of pop media of late. Imagine what he'd be like putting that short story you've been cradling for years to music, eh? Well, that's exactly what could happen if you win a competition he's running, the results of which will be on the next single's vinyl B-side. Next up, a song that first appeared on an EP Transgressive put out a year and a bit ago when the Pipettes were a mere support act curio. For many Judy was the song that demonstrated that they just might have substance behind the schtick, and now they're a growing cult indiepop outfit (stick their name through YouTube for evidence), which given their oft quoted desire to be seen as a pure pop band must be both a blessing and a curse, its morally confused sway gets a proper release. Our Trying Too Hard? Department would like us to mention that one of the vinyl B-sides is called The Burning Ambition Of Early Diuretics. We weren't even trying to find extra connections between these in any other way than showing off how great we are at questions, but Gareth Parton (actually, we've Chatted with him too, haven't we? We hope everyone involved is making note of this), co-producer of the above, went on to weave studio spells around the jagged Wire/Pixies/all points west edges and turbo-realism of the Victorian English Gentlemens Club. Impossible Sightings Over Shelton, a 6 Music breakfast record of the week, looks to finally be getting them somewhere. It's about Adam observing the patients at the Shelton mental hospital near Shrewsbury where he worked as a cleaner, constantly looking out of the windows at the skies, which we mention as an apology for our badly worded question about their lyrics. Quickly through the best of the rest as we've got plenty to get through - Texas buzz band Voxtrot go staccato jangle on very promising opening shot EP Mothers Sisters Daughters And Wives, Franz-approved The Blood Arm start turning into their seniors on Suspicious Character and James Dean Bradfield, recently sighted on The Sharon Osbourne Show, pays tribute to the Manics' late publicist Philip Hall on album standout An English Gentleman, backed by a cover of Sinatra standard Summer Wind. 7"s of note are the return of Canada's most perverse the Hidden Cameras with album title track Awoo and the return of Simple Kid on double A side Serotonin/The Ballad Of Elton John.
Not that Sweden was ever exactly lacking in sugary-sour guitar bands, but there's been an extraordinary upsurge in classy Anglophilic Scandinavian indiepop with the last three letters capitalised over the last couple of years, from the twee carnivals of Suburban Kids With Biblical Names to the Radio Dept's lo-fi to Jens Lekman's lamentations to Peter Bjorn & John's top 40 gatecrashing. It was really only a matter of time before someone declared that hey, let's do the show right here, which is where I'm From Barcelona step in. As with obvious hydra-headed goodtime antecedents the Polyphonic Spree you'd probably wear of them much quicker over time, but Let Me Introduce My Friends's literal DIY ethic, all 29 members playing, shaking, chorusing and doing whatever else feels necessary, makes for a sunny experience. Emanuel Lundgren does look like Kevin Eldon as Rod Hull with a moustache, though. Back in Blighty, it seems that our own current hub of at least highly publicised creativity is out in south west London, not too far from Eel Pie Island where you could make a case that all this started. Larrikin Love are currently one of those bands who you're sure could make a breakthrough were anyone listening, and sales of The Freedom Spark might surprise a few people in the way the Young Knives album being a smidgeon away from top 20 status did. Edward Larrikin hijacks the good ship Albion on its way to Arcadia, bringing with it gypsy-ska-Smiths-skiffle-reggae-Pogues-punk - ask for it by name - and, still whisper it, a concept. Beguiling. As, in a different way, are The Early Years, whose eponymous debut merges guitar dronescapes, Krautrock rhythms and shoegazing rushes, like Secret Machines getting somewhere. Brian Eno was apparently watching on rapt at Truck this year. We didn't see him, but we saw them there at completely the wrong time of day (the midday sun) and were awed. It's been five years since we've heard from Mark Linkous AKA Sparklehorse, since when he's been producing Nina Persson's A Camp project, moving to North Carolina, playing bass on the Danger Doom album, working on Daniel Johnson projects and battling mental problems. Somewhere in the middle he's been working on the next step in his psychedelic alt-country path, Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain, part produced by Danger Mouse and perhaps not uncoincidentally sounding not unlike the White Album. Lots of returning heroes this week, as Evan Dando resurrects the Lemonheads name for a self-titled jaunt that sounds as much like they always did as he looks unchanged, Lloyd Cole's craftsmanlike songsmithery returns for the first time in three years on Anti Depressant, Stephen Jones' decision to work under his own name didn't last long as Babybird partly reform for Between My Ears There's Nothing But Music which is still his first proper album in six years, and Momus who hasn't been away at all but it's always heartening to see he's still following no path but his own on Ocky Milk. Meanwhile Andy Partridge has opened another old box and found two more volumes of XTC demos, out-takes, instrumentals, studio pissing about etc, Fuzzy Warbles Volume 7 and Volume 8. Finally, doesn't time fly - it's ten years since the first Placebo album, so here it comes again with demos, B-sides and a DVD of videos, live and TV performances.
Wasn't it just the other week that we were referring to the Monochrome Set's gilded place at the heart of turn of the 80s jangly indiepop? They may not be the most obvious band to be awarded a retrospective DVD, but Monochrome Set: Destiny Always Calls Twice collects videos and live material originally found on VHS in the early 90s plus bonus live tracks.
Some of these release dates given on Amazon are all over the place, but pressing on... there's an unmissable anthology of Morrissey press interviews coming in a couple of months, but the other half of the severed alliance gets paid their due in Richard Carman's Johnny Marr: The Smiths And The Art Of Gun-Slinging, featuring an excellently pensive cover shot. The political wing of the songwriting fraternity gets a good runout on shelves this week, Billy Bragg leading the charge with a book we suspect you're going to be hearing a lot about, The Progressive Patriot being a personal examination of what being British means in an age of religious fundamentalism and nationalism, while Michael Franti puts his thoughts on visiting war zones down in I Know I'm Not Alone: A Musician's Journey Through War and Occupation In Iraq, Palestine, And Israel and collects his words in Food For The Masses: Lyrics And Portraits. If you want something lighter as your next bathroom read, The Rough Guide Book Of Playlists appeals to the invenerate pointless listmaker in us, from themed songs to recommendations from artists.