We've been waiting for the release schedule to kick into gear for 2007, but we didn't think it'd happen this thoroughly, with a massive pile of recommended releases to wade through. The single of the week isn't even out on CD or linked on Amazon, as finally Future Of The Left arrive to deliver the knockout blow to legions of McLuskyites (on their old label Too Pure too, 7" only) on Fingers Become Thumbs! Even accounting for second album cynicism, we're surprised at the questioning reception the new Bloc Party album is getting - we've been listening to it a lot lately and it seems not only less commercial than Silent Alarm, despite the bigger soundscape and Jacknife Lee's presence, but more intricate and likely to really click a few listens in. There's more than a feeling of TV On The Radio about preview single The Prayer, which is of course no bad thing at all. Camera Obscura release the most straightforward bittersweet retropoppy thing on Let's Get Out Of This Country, If Looks Could Kill, which is being heralded by a tour of, erm, America. The website promises UK dates in the spring, but really that's stable door/bolted horse distance at this juncture. Annuals, the nom de indie of North Carolina's Adam Baker (nineteen when he recorded all this, the bastard), is/are being talked up as the latest New Arcade Fire but EP Big Zeus reminds us more of The Soft Bulletin duking it out with Grizzly Bear and Broken Social Scene. A highly promising talent, whatever. The rest of the best in alphabetical order, briefly: the less cocksure second Cold War Kids single, Hang Me Up To Dry; Dartz! relay itchy post-punk on Once Twice Again!; Hot Club De Paris finally make sense of the Merseyside Futureheads tag on Shipwreck; Lady Sovereign, having taken America, attempts to take Britain again with Love Me Or Hate Me; much vaunted Shins-esque Californians The Little Ones debut with Oh MJ!; the Noisettes attempt to distil their stunning live show on Sister Rosetta (Capture The Spirit); Boo Radleys singer Sice is back exploring his old band's poppier side with Paperlung on Do What Thou Will; and Black Box Recorder chanteuse Sarah Nixey continues as the personification of Sophie Ellis-Bextor's darker, more literate elder sister with When I’m Here With You.
Album of the week would for most be the Decemberists' Crane Wife, but never mind what Rough Trade say about release dates as there's been non-import copies of it on the shelves since last October so it doesn't count. Anyway, it's fantastic. So, what is the Klaxons album Myths Of The Near Future really? Not rave, as everyone's now aware apart from the Guardian reviewer who seemed offended that there was little sign of 606 beats on the album. One of them quoted John Foxx as a major influence in the week, and it's that dystopian 80s electro-futurism that colours a lot of the album, as well as the artier end of art-rock, leftfield pop (As Above So Below is pure Berlin Bowie) and the prophecy-lit grab-bag suggested by the title and lyrics of the singles. Throw in the mischief angle and we have our Noughties KLF. Give it time and it might just crystallise into something that'll stick around long after the last glowstick factory has been razed to the ground by angry mobs. Outside the realms of the on-beat but no less easy to decipher we find former band of the here and now Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, experiencing a bad case of post-hype pissing in the wind as Some Loud Thunder approaches. It's far less of an easy listen too, burying the first track in distortion and layering everything else in layer on layer of whirling dervish basslines, subtle guitars and electro touches. We have a love/hate relationship with Jamie T - very keen on Salvador and Sheila, not at all on the two more recent singles - and Panic Prevention hasn't exactly helped tip the balance, but what's evident is the wealth of ideas at his command. A band with rather too many ideas, the Earlies, are still split over two continents as they return with the neo-psychedelic orchestral bleeps of The Enemy Chorus; the Shins' literate Anglophilic power-pop reaches a commercial pass on Wincing The Night Away and Kristin Hersh puts aside the disappointing 50 Foot Wave for a moment for her first album of impassioned dysfunctional singer-songwriting in four years, Learn To Sing Like A Star. This year's Rough Trade Shops: Counter Culture 06 compilation is out and the usual contrary collection it is too, not least when five tracks into the first CD, after Various Productions, The Last Town Chorus, Campbell & Lanegan and Beirut, it drops in, of all bloody songs, LDN, followed by the two 2006 singles you'd hope in a more just world would have had the pop exposure LDN had, Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken and Young Folks. From there it's Yo La Tengo, Cold War Kids, Bricolage, Broken Social Scene, Burial, Scritti Politti, Uffie, Crystal Castles, Envelopes, CSS, Metronomy, Xerox Teens, Bromheads Jacket and Gossip all the way home, along with the usual pile of stuff you've never heard before. And Ripchord, who are appalling. To celebrate the shop's thirtieth birthday there's also Rough Trade Shops: Counter Culture 1976 which is equally confusing, kicking off with Joe Strummer's The 101ers, then X-Offender, So It Goes, New Rose and The Saints' I'm Stranded before lurching into Dennis Brown, the McGarrigles, Patti Smith, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Ivor Cutler, the Upsetters, the Flaming' Groovies, the Ramones, Aswad, the Residents' version of Satisfaction, Candi Staton's Young Hearts Run Free, Tom Waits and Yabby U. From one celebrated label to a more cult affair, Oxford's Shifty Disco, celebrating ten years of indie jangle and oddball singledom with a 3CD set Shifty Disco 10. The aforementioned Paperlung and highly rated The Race are highlights of the current roster only CD1 and we've never heard of anyone on CD3, but it's the middle disc that provides the standouts of early Young Knives, Beulah (it's not the track chosen but we have a Shifty Disco limited edition CD of Score From Augusta), the ace Murry The Hump, Thom's brother Andy Yorke's nearly big The Unbelievable Truth, AM60, Elf Power, Dustball, Schwab, Nought and Jack Drag. We mentioned last week that Dexys Midnight Runners are again a going concern, which makes it a good time to bring out The Projected Passion Revue. This is a document of what's become known as Dexys Mk II, between Mean Streets brass (most of whom had just walked out to form The Bureau) and Emerald Express fiddle, when the look was ponytails and trainee boxing kit, the sound was intense Stax, the press were only connected with in the form of full page NME adverts and the offstage business involved puritanical lifestyles and training regimes. Kevin Rowland reckons this was the best version of the band, never making it to an album but producing three extraordinary singles in Plan B, Show Me and Liars A To E, here with B-sides, BBC sessions and live tracks. We can't imagine, from his Brighton somgwriting office, that Nick Cave is quite so puritanical about the way the Bad Seeds carry on, but he can carry a live act too, as The Abattoir Blues Tour should prove (also available on DVD) Lee 'Scratch' Perry is famously eccentric - worshipping bananas, eating money, wearing a toaster on his head, burning his own studio down - but he did completely revolutionise reggae and dub production so we can just about let him off. The Upsetter Selection: A Lee Perry Jukebox collects the best of what he did with the Upsetters, the Wailers, U-Roy and Max Romeo among others. Forward a generation, Efil4Seitlayor, it's The Best Of N.W.A: The Strength Of Street Knowledge. The brutal Pacific Northwest American garage rock of the Sonics rarely gets considered among the great garage groups of the mid-60s, but 1965 debut Here Are The Sonics makes a case for them as inventors of the cruder end of the spectrum. Go and download The Witch, Boss Hoss and Strychnine and see what we mean. Tricky to get from there to the "purveyors of fine radiophonic sounds" Piano Magic, the literal spectral collective headed by Glen Johnson who reissue 2003's The Troubled Sleep Of Piano Magic and 2005's Disaffected. Given there's already a Greatest Hits available, which we only know because of that carry-on with pre-Koopa chart baiting a few years ago, is there a need for The Ultimate & Pen-ultimate - The Best And Second Best of John Otway? Who can really say.