We didn't discover Sky Larkin, of course - they were doing local media two years ago - but we can't help feel an element of paternal pride now more people are starting to wake up to their serrated melodies and Leeds Breeders/Muses come-ons since we first highlghted them last January following Nothing But Green Lights' enthusiasm. Currently, and perhaps forever doomed to be, on the road with Los Campesinos!, single two Molten, again on Dance To The Radio, is a scratchy, vaulting thing that cements Katie Harkin's place among our most nonchalant frontwomen. And while great, its quality is at the very least equalled by unsettling organ-led longstanding demo favourite Keepsakes on the B-side, a Weekly Sweep inductee last June. Von Sudenfed recently played a handful of dates, most notable for how Mark E Smith didn't even dare touch Jan St Werner and Andi Toma's equipment. The celebrations continue with 12" double A side The Rhinohead/Slow Down Ronnie, the most poppy moment from Tromatic Reflexxions allied to a new Mark E appeal to Ronnie O'Sullivan. Mixer of the moment Pilooski contributes a remix too. Forget that band he used to be in, Dev Hynes is very much his own man following his folk-pop heart, literally, as Lightspeed Champion. If the slide guitar at the start of 10" Midnight Surprise - ten minutes long, which for a second single proves he's brave too - suggests George Harrison, the rest reminds you that he recorded it at Saddle Creek HQ. Emmy The Great and assorted Tilly & The Wallers provide backup. Try Harder Recordings are a label we're all going to have to keep a close eye on - already home of Jonquil and Youthmovies and with two early Blood Red Shoes singles and Foals' debut release in the back catalogue, they now bring us another set of Leicester emigres, Tired Irie, who sound adjacent to Foals if they really did sound like being a new Q And Not U some lazy types claim them to be. Tired Irie EP is your first taste of something that could be quite impressive. If Lily Allen's presence proves the former conscious rapper Common has come well in from the cold - album Finding Forever is his first Billboard number one - the commodity cauterising and marching drum hook of Drivin' Me Wild make it the best big hit the genre has produced in a while.
With nine release Mondays left in 2007 we're coming towards the end of the contenders for people's varying lists of the best albums of the year, what with Best Of, compilation and cash-in season pretty much upon us. Someone who might make an appearance on a few is Emma Louise Niblett, Scout Niblett to you. The Nottingham raised, Albini trusting, wig sporting, grunge inspired occasional corporeal form of The Goddess could on fourth album This Fool Can Die Now surely easily be set to make the leap from small scale cult to uncomfortable critical darling. Will Oldham turns up on four tracks but it's all about Niblett's minimal guitar, maximum drums and raw nerve emotions, not easily shrugging off the Chan'n'Polly comparisons but proving that she can sit easily next to them in terms of going against the grain under cover of hoping the mainstream comes to her rather than the traditional vice versa. Uneasy listening, but spellbinding. David Longsterth of the Dirty Projectors supposedly hadn't heard Black Flag's Damaged since college when he decided to make a tribute album to its visceral power, Rise Above, which replaces the barrack-rousing hardcore with eclectic psych-folk, like world music era Talking Heads recontextualising with Grizzly Bear, whose Chris Taylor produces. It really doesn't help to be acquainted with the original, except to explain what the source of the juxtaposition of lyrical theme and pastoral backing is about. we nearly just wrote that one day Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger will find out how to coalesce their overflow of ideas and melodic steals and quirks into a fluid album whole, except it then occurred to us that by this fifth full-length Widow City they would have done so if they wanted to. It does however feature fewer wild tangents and no unifying theme for once, but with more of an overt 70s influence. The Hives have moved on from their overt Detroit 60s influence very, very slightly on The Black And White Album, their fat-free garage augmented by two tracks produced by Pharrell Williams, and not in his N.E.R.D. mindset either. Hundred Reasons have spent too many recent years hanging around the periphery not quite getting it right, and now they've got closer to their original fire on Quick The Word, Sharp The Action the zeitgeist seems to have drifted off. Shame. Anyone who has space for No Wave in their lives, listen up for K Records' Old Time Relijun, whose Catharsis In Crisis redirects Beefheart through Lydia Lunch and James Chance's studios and into the Birthday Party's back alley. We didn't get round to mentioning last week that Robert Wyatt has a new album out, Comicopera the twelth of the ever individual jazz-folk-worldly best beard wearer in, erm, jazz-folk-worldly music. Semi-regular contributors Eno, Weller and Phil Manzanera are back, but this is as ever his perspective only, on war, love, spirituality and globalisation from the view of the cultural dispossessed, apparently signified by Wyatt singing in Spanish and Italian in protest against the English speaking culture. It's also his first release on Domino Recordings, who got Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip to write the press release. Those Arctic Monkeys albums funded this, and that is why we must all have shrines to Laurence Bell in the most sacred parts of our homes.
And so to those compilations, Best Ofs and cash-ins. REM have got this far without a live album, but those revenue streams won't manage themselves. REM Live is a 2 CD and one DVD set recorded at the end of their Around The Sun world tour at the Point Theatre in Dublin in 2005. Luckily its 22-strong setlist is not heavily drawn from that album, which at least one band member now dismisses. There doesn't seem to be much Plus about The Teardrop Explodes' Peel Sessions Plus, just three sessions' worth of fried psychpop gold often reworked from the recorded version, here with Cope sleevenotes. Australia's The Lucksmiths continue that country's grand tradition of assuredly crafted alterna-pop and have enough left over for a third rarities and offcuts compilation, the double disc Spring A Leak. Ed Harcourt's piano-based inventive melodicism could and should have made him big on numerous occasions, and Until Tomorrow Then is full of songs you barely remember hearing on the radio and recognising that their intelligence made them stand out some distance. This claim was rarely made for Carter USM, and surely in the commercial indie sphere nothing marks out the early 90s post-baggy pre-Suede better than their puns, shorts and haircuts. You Fat Bastard is a 2CD round-up of a music that will surely never happen again. Non-chronological order is one thing, but leaving Sherrif Fatman until Disc 2 Track 14 is just silly. A Cellarful Of Motown Volume 3 is a third crate-digging exercise into the mounds of stuff the Hit Factory churned out that was for whatever reason deemed by Berry Gordy not worth the single journey at the time for the likes of Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Mervin Gaye, (Detroit) Spinners, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Edwin Starr. Norman Cook loves this sort of thing and when in the queue he'll be trying not to look directly at his Late Night Tales series contribution, which features a duff cover of Kraftwerk's Radioactivity but also Jonathan Richman, Sly and the Family Stone, Bootsy Collins, Dave and Ansil Collins, Mink Deville's Spanish Stroll and attempts to repatriate Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers.
Bob Mould has always had an ambivalent attitude to his past, putting out an album every three years - just signed to Anti, LP expected February 2008 - accompanied by some grand statement about not making an electrified album any more or putting out a dance album next. Luckily, then, Circle Of Friends - Live At The 9.30 Club acquiesces to take from all over his career, a fully fired-up band taking on Husker Du, Sugar and solo pickings. Any Mould set that starts with The Act We Act and A Good Idea and closes with Celebrated Summer (set proper) and Man On The Moon (encore) is worth the wait. Not quite sure there's the same demand for Lene Lovich - Live From New York At Studio 54, but who knows when it comes to Stiff's most oddball performer in a coterie of them. Lovich's guitarist, co-writer and partner Les Chappell always used to scare us.
Two for bathroom reading this week, or as stocking fillers if such a concept still exists. LA documentary producer turned writer Tom Reynolds, whose last list book I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard caused many a broadsheet thinkpiece, returns with Touch Me, I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs You've Ever Heard. In a more caring bent, Little Black Book of Setlists: The Songs Behind Rock 'n' Roll's Most Famous Gigs is just that, the setlists and information about 150 legendary shows from Altamont to the Lesser Free Trade Hall to Live 8 to the roof of the Apple Building to, good lord, the Stone Roses at Reading.