And, as if to signify how much the pressure is on now we've been namechecked in a big paper that people read, after quite a few lean weeks the release schedules are packed once again with much goodness. Is it really more than a year that we've been banging on about Emmy The Great for? Wherever you choose to start it is, with her first single out last April, our first proper mention being at Truck in July and our genre war-starting Friendly Chat this week last year. It appears word has got out too, 300 of the 500 7" run of the home recorded My Bad EP being sold by the start of last week. Collectors of the demo mp3s will need to know it features The Easter Parade, MIA (timely, as you'll see), The Woods (featuring Lightspeed Champion somewhere) and City Song, plus Aiko if you're of a downloading bent, but it doesn't matter that much, one gorgeously sung, intimately played, wryly and intelligently written slice of her work is much like another, if you see what we mean. With post-rock's desire to ape Mogwai/Slint sounds by turning up the distortion pedal settings now out of fashion what we suspect we'll get a lot of in due course is bands working their intricate guitar pummelling into reshaped song structures and finding themselves heading for a groove. And so it is that two of now defunct expansive Oxford trio The Edmund Fitzgerald now form the creative mailine of Foals, who've been out in America recording an album with TV On The Radio's David Sitek they describe as more influenced by Terry Reilly and Afrobeat. In the meantime Mathletics is a second proper attempt to take the math-rockers to the dancefloor. Elsewhere on the dancefloor are Australian teens Operator Please, who are in the loose recent lineage of Antipodeans cutting and shutting together all sorts of influences and sounds in order to make the kids boogie on down, prevalent in everyone from Architecture In Helsinki to Cut Copy. Just A Song About Ping Pong finally gets a 7" release having spent most of the year on the release schedules, sounding like the Avalanches producing Be Your Own Pet, and not at all like the Arctic Monkeys comparison a couple of online writers have come up with. We genuinely have no idea. Our own roudy youths like to mess about too, such as post-twee standard bearers Bearsuit. The look this season is sailor suits with caps; the sound is the usual mess of noise and melodies with horns rather than violins, More Soul Than Wigan Casino another quality product of Fantastic Plastic Recordings. Jail Guitar Doors is a charity which aims to help prisoner rehabilitation by giving them musical instruments while inside; Billy Bragg has spearheaded the campaign and raises money for it with Old Clash Fight Song, released under the name Johnny Clash ("what would you call someone inspired by Joe Strummer who does gigs in prisons?") on 7" and download only available from www.billybragg.co.uk. If you think you've seen well connected laid-back Brightonians Actress Hands' Come The Summer Days listed before you have, twice, in June, but they put it back to the other side of the brief summer heatwave for the year. If you think you've seen The Twilight Sad's monumental And She Would Darken The Memory Of Youth before you have, about every bloody week. Maximo Park release the song on Our Earthly Pleasures that sounds like what people think they sound like rather than what they do do on the album, Girls Who Play Guitars. You could never accuse Dinosaur Jr of not sounding like the marker they set down for themselves nigh on twenty years ago, although limited edition 7" for their Carling Weekend appearance Crumble has the air of that period when Lou and Murph were long gone and J decided he'd much rather be more cheerful about things. The rarely cheerful Brakes are even in that wistful summer mood, releasing the title track of Beatific Visions on download. How does that work, then? Hasn't it been available on download since the album came out in November?
In this glasnost age of music review, the quality of the music is fast becoming the least important facet of a critical review of an album. Layers need adding just so you don't have to glimpse the kernel of what the thing in question sounds like - layers of personal history, political history, perception of the person within, socio-economical factors, anthropology and anthropomorthy if necessary. Nothing is just good because it's good any more, you need to quantify whether that's all you can think about it under the default principle of suspicion - who the label are aiming it at, who might listen to it, the motivation behind the artist as to what level of - ugh! - popular acceptability it might have its eye on, the motivation of everybody involved in the 'project', which is by the way the new marketing rebrand of the concept 'person', as to what markets they can hit and which people they can fool some/all of the time, even when everything is being conducted transparently, in which case you're all cheaters and Judases and we want our money back before you spend it on the military-industrial complex. As long as it places you above the plebs, it's worth running with. Like 'political correctness', 'hipster' is a term only ever used as a derogatory by people who assume that everyone else uses it as a positive. This, then, is what music criticism is in 2007, a literacy Rorschach personality test.
M.I.A. has a new album out. It's called Kala, and it's bloody great. Even the cover won't give you migraines like Arular's did. This is important, apart perhaps from that last bit, in terms of writing about someone who has more footnotes and get-out clauses attached to her than anyone we can remember in the last few years, which are frankly other people's arguments and you're welcome to them as long as you explain why you don't make the same issue about Philadeliphia-born, Brazil-flavoured Diplo, who returns briefly here. She's moved up in the world from Steve Mackey and Ross Orton, Timbaland producing one track not too well, the hotly touted Switch taking the bulk of the production, and she's ditched the short filler tracks. What results is a sound that takes inspirations from her international tours but always remains within touching distance of that electro-favela rooted Arular sound and cultural/political references (Lost namecheck and quotes from Roadrunner, Where Is My Mind and Straight To Hell versus junior gun-running and Darfur) while never being a direct replica, modernist hip-hop that, in a climate that's building Kano up for something big now he sounds like an American artist, recognises that there are possibilities outside what sells. Like PLO her all round upped game don't surrendo. Naming your albums after your parents is slightly sappy, not a characteristic we imagine has often been put to Maya's father before, but naming your fourth album eponymously does suggest a running out of ideas. Ideas are something Liars have never really had at a premium, emerging as the Pere Ubu equivalents from the early US end of the post-punk revival with their theories, industrialism, minimalism and plans to issue a limited edition vinyl single on edible paper with a design of a hardcore gay picture onto which the members' faced had been Photoshopped (did that ever happen?) There's no concept this time and it's easier to get into but no less compelling or experimental in the sense of throwing stuff at a studio console and seeing if it all works. Dan Snaith also likes to work with and against a studio, his albums initially as Manitoba and latterly as Caribou experimenting with introducing electronica to shoegazing and making them feel neatly at home with Krautrock. Andorra, apparently named after he visited the country and decided to theme an album about how he imagined it'd be instead, takes it even further into the three-dimensional dreampop/psych-pop realm. Given time it could be this year's Grizzly Bear. What we could really have done with as an antidote to such witchcraft trickery is some good old fashioned American indie power-pop, but unfortunately both its main protagonists have albums out this week that come up short to previous efforts, the New Pornographers subdued by their own standards (and their own side projects?) on Challengers while Rilo Kiley seem distracted by the commercial breakthrough possibility on Under The Blacklight, which sounds like a grown-up's version of Hole's Celebrity Skin. This is not a good thing. California's The Softlightes know their way around summery indiepop too, Say No To Being Cool Say Yes To Being Happy sounding like the Postal Service producing The Boy Least Likely To. You know that Cinerama Peel Sessions three-disc box set we mentioned the other week? Yes, yes, of course it got moved back. Clearly it's no less worthwhile a document of the sumptuous stuff, twelve sessions' worth, that David Gedge did in the Wedding Present's otherly hiatus. Rob Da Bank's nascent series of themed compilations continues with A-Z of Kitty Daisy & Lewis, not an album from the teen rockabilly revivalists - that's early next year - but an alphabetised compilation of their influences. Da Bank's fellow eclectist Tom Middleton has his own Various Artists idea, Crazy Covers Vol.2 staying largely out of Jo Whiley Live Lounge hell but remains an uncomfortable blend of tracks you never want to hear (the Puppini Sisters' I Will Survive), those you wanted on CD eventually (Dawn Landes' hoedown Young Folks) and songs you know you have to hear if only once (For What It's Worth by Sergio Mendes).