Much of a muchness again, but at least it makes things quicker for us: Hot Chip rush-reissue Over And Over to not that much more acclaim, Domino's trust in the crossover potential of the Archie Bronson Outfit continues on Cherry Lips and Field Music stick In Context from next year's second album proper out on 7". My, that Badly Drawn Boy single's poor, isn't it?
On the cover of The Art Of Fiction Jeremy Warmsley is wearing braces. As far as we can tell, this is something that has to be mentioned in all the publicity about it, as well as his being half-French. What difference it makes to anything but the style orientated we've not got a clue, but what we can say is that inside is a singer-songwriter pigeonhole-defying album the scope, breadth and emotional touch of which exceeds even the early promise shown when we first came across him for Weekender back in March. It's not one of those albums that grabs you by the throat from the first moment but instead slowly drags you under its spell only to completely upend whatever ideas you'd formulated about where it's going. It's also an album that's been thought through completely, full of effects and sounds without being cluttered or disguising the quality of the writing. We quite like it, yes. Stephin Merritt has earned a lifetime's exemption from a straight career trajectory, as demonstrated by The Gothic Archies, his "Gothic rock-bubblegum pop" persona under which he pens and performs for the audio books of Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events series, all the songs from which have now been collated as The Tragic Treasury. Similarly singular is Jeremy Barnes, former Neutral Milk Hotel and Broadcast drummer who went to work as a postman in Leicestershire after the former split (lived in the same village as our sister, in fact) while volunteering at a local refugee centre at weekends. His experience playing music with Iraqis, Kurdistanis, Czechs and Bulgarians fed into his project A Hawk And A Hacksaw, whose new album of free-spirited gypsy folk The Way The Wind Blows was largely recorded in a remote village in Romania and, bringing it back down to earth, was finished with the help of fellow Eastern Europhile Zach 'Beirut' Condon. It sounds like nothing else. Also sole furrow-ploughing: Strokes guitarist and Half Man Half Biscuit-referencing joke waiting to happen Albert Hammond Jr explores his band's softer side on Yours to Keep, Robert Pollard releases his 587th project of the year so far Normal Happiness and the music of The Bluetones*, still chipping away regardless of fashion moving on, is on this new eponymous (gulp) album talked up as a back to basics move, which sounds mildly disturbing. The compilation of the week is clearly John Peel - Right Time Wrong Speed: 1977-1987, ahead of the second Peel Day, which does a better job than most of picking out a representative playlist, featuring as it does Laurie Anderson, Misty In Roots, the Four Brothers, Scritti Politti, Ivor Cutler, Wah!, Red Guitars, the Redskins, Wild Swans and Half Man Half Biscuit as well as the family-friendly stuff. (Let's also admire the chutzpah of psychedelic Dandelion Records signings Tractor, who have called their singles collection John Peel Bought Us Studio Gear And A PA) Billy Bragg's second box set, the inventively titled Billy Bragg Vol.2, could loosely be described as the Pop Years, stretching from Worker's Playtime to England Half English and including a DVD of two live gigs, one from 1991, the other his hometown gig on this year's Hope Not Hate tour. The increased interest in Sparks, mostly down to their Jonathan Ross performance featuring Tom White of Brakes/Electric Soft Parade as stand-in guitarist and not derailed by their BBC BANNING! that turned out to be that the BBC London radio breakfast show couldn't play their new single as the show doesn't play music, is capitalised upon with '21st Century Editions' of Kimono My House and Propaganda. Galaxie 500 may be Dean Wareham's more celebrated legacy to woozy New York lo-fi but his following band Luna, who split after fourteen years last spring, had plenty of moments to savour, however surprising the notion of a commercially available Best Of Luna is. The two-disc set is especially noteworthy for its consistently high quality array of covers, including Sweet Child O' Mine, No Regrets, Everybody's Talkin', Jealous Guy and Serge Gainsbourg's Bonnie And Clyde featuring Laetitia Sadier. Lastly, it seems like not a month goes by without a Daniel Johnston covers album but I Killed The Monster: 21 Artists Performing The Songs Of Daniel Johnston has a decent cast list, including Sufjan Stevens, Mike Watt, Dot Allison, Joy Zipper, Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis.
* "...the countries Chad, Paraguay and Laos. Unnecessary."