Slim pickings this week as everything winds down for extended Christmas breaks. That is, apart from the singles market, with everyone picking the post-Autumn rush/pre-Christmas battle period to either be launched or get a single out of the way. So say hello to the much blogged Cold War Kids, new entrants to the Americana pop-lyricism-as-novella brigade with much Wilco-blues-Buckley promise demonstrated on the We Used To Vacation EP. On this side of the pond Nottingham teenage duo I Was A Cub Scout arrive amid no small amount of ballyhoo themselves for the wistful electronica of Pink Squares, while recent vintage wunderkind Sam Duckworth, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly to you, plucks another single from his not bad actually album, the perhaps more old label emo than necessary War Of The Worlds. No link, but we believe Pagan Wanderer Lu's The Independent Scrutineer EP is out on CD too - of course we had to mention the Songs To Learn And Sing contributor but his messed up indiefolktronica is well worthy of further attention.
If you like cheap compilations, you'll be in hog heaven. Otherwise, we should mention the proper box set version of Sufjan Stevens' Songs For Christmas is out this week with a booklet of short stories, stickers, enhanced elements and "an original Christmas Family Portrait painting of Santa Sufjan (with wife and kids!) by Jacques Bredy". Step your game up, Gallagher!
A couple of old Elvis Costello videos have been given the necessary upgrade - Live: A Case For Song is an extended version of a 1996 Later special alternately featuring the original Attractions, a jazz septet and the Brodsky Quartet, with whom he covers God Only Knows. This was in the wake of their collaboration on The Juliet Letters, of which this is a documentary and live performance.
Anything calling itself "a definitive history of punk" is almost begging to be handled with care, and there doesn't seem to have been a lot around Pretty Vacant by Phil Strongman and Alan Parker, both of whom make great play of having been There At The Time, but we'll see. Let's just quote the synopsis: "the authors have interviewed all the major figures to build up a complete portrait of a remarkable era of change in music and youth culture. Their story features Richard Branson, Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, Tony Parsons and many more who took their early steps to fame and fortune around this time. Band members of The Clash, Stranglers, Sex Pistols and many others recall what happened, bringing their story to life with vivid anecdotes and telling detail. It is a book that no true fan of music can afford to be without, for this is the ultimate inside account of punk, told by those who really were there from the beginning."