- This and next week are the first huge new release pile-up weeks of 2008 - why, it's almost as if the winter lull is over come March or something. In a crowded market it really must take something special to stand out, and even by a band who have rarely known anything but Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have done the business and then some. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, some versions of which come with an extensive booklet of lyrics, writings and photos, is the Bad Seeds' fourteenth studio album and Cave's 23rd, yet it doesn't sound at all like the resting on laurels or experimentation for experimentation's sake of a man who has reached an unbeaten half century since we last heard from him. Grinderman in retrospect seems a mind-clearing exercise, this album almost free of the introspective balladry that littered the previous decade's work, Cave redonning his rock'n'roll catharsis towards God/man's inhumanity to same preacher's persona. Although he and his ever versatile men, the same line-up as on Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, can still knock out a pretty confessional it's the ghosts of the Velvets and Nuggets that prevail around Cave's still sparkling lyrics, part-beautiful imagery, part-far too direct, part-darkness on the edge of the world incorrigable. Nobody else would attempt a passing lyric like "who is this great burdensome slavering dog-thing that mediocres my every thought?" without protective clothing. Hell, reinventing 'medicore' as a verb is far beyond the ken of most, especially when following it two lines later with "it's fucked up and he is a fucker".
- Otherwise our recommendations come with plenty of caginess surrounding them. Billy Bragg's Mr Love And Justice, his second consecutive album named after a book by 50s youth culture novellist Colin MacInnes, is his second with backing band the Blokes, who add a never wholly successful goodtime rhythm and blues sheen. Get in quick for the two CD version, the other being Bragg doing the whole set solo. If Bragg has been a major influence on one whole sphere, another has sat at the feet of Stephen Malkmus, albeit mostly his Pavement days than his solo material. Real Emotional Trash, co-credited to The Jicks (now starring Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss), continues his journey through the secret record shelf life of Moby Grape and the Groundhogs. Out on the outside we find Caz Mechanic, the playful folk acoustic solo setting of Caroline Banks, drummer with the currently AWOL Seafood. After last year's excellent split LP with Ray Rumours comes the cumbersomely titled The Secret Life Of The Wife Of The Captain Of The Ship In A Bottle On The Mantle Piece.
- Singles? The increasingly beleagured Vampire Weekend finally get around to A-Punk, while current and former Weekly Sweep featured singles out are Jacob Golden's Out Come The Wolves, MGMT's Time To Pretend, This City's Kids With Fireworks EP and Youthmovies' The Naughtiest Girl Is A Monitor; sallow folk, psych-pop, abrasiveness and spasmodic intensity (leader Andrew Mears famously co-founded and named Foals) respectively.
- We'd be surprised if it's the first proper go at the sprawling tale, but journo of repute Stevie Chick (NME, Melody Maker, Plan B, Moho, Guardian)'s Psychic Confusion: The Sonic Youth Story can draw upon input from the members and those around them plus a wealth of background material to trace a path from Glenn Branca proteges to elder avant-statesmen/woman.
COMING SOON: In early 2006 the Decemberists' Colin Meloy went on a solo tour to play around with old favourites and try out new songs in the traditional 'intimate settings'. Colin Meloy Sings Live! is a collection of recordings from that tour, issued April 8th in America (no word of a UK release as far as we know), featuring two new songs neither of which was on the then forthcoming The Crane Wife. We Both Go Down Together transfers very well to the stripped down format; further demos and 'stuff', as well as why Blur's Girls And Boys features his favourite bassline ever, on his Myspace.
MYSPACE INVADERS: Manchester's The Beep Seals used to be Jim Noir's live band, singer Ian Smith also formerly guitarist in NME tour alumni Alfie. It's Noir's Beach Boys psychedelia that weighs heaviest on the band's sound, although certainly there's a lot of listening to the Flaming Lips' Clouds Taste Metallic behind all this and some Stephen Malkmus, Elephant 6 collective and even Todd Rundgren's hi-fi oddness behind these acid fuzzbombs. Similar near-crossover cult success as their former employers seems almost a given.
VISUAL AID: (Behind) Closed Doors is an initiative from the Dutch digital channel 3VOOR12 in which those passing by Amsterdam get as many members as humanly possible into a hotel or venue lift with instruments and, well, perform. Clientele featured include Okkervil River, Los Campesinos!, Super Furry Animals, Black Francis and friend, Jeffrey Lewis, Sons And Daughters, Jon Spencer's Heavy Trash, Badly Drawn Boy, the Maccabees, Two Gallants, Iron & Wine and Loney Dear. Lightspeed Champion, the rebel, stayed in his hotel toilet.
* Speaking of getting people to record you their stuff, "The idea behind The Underground Party Broadcast is a familiar one: to create and record a live music show featuring performances and interviews with artists as a medium for them to reach and treat their audiences, and more importantly, for a whole new audience to access and discover them." The Frank Turner-headlined first party seems an excitable affair.
* Dayrobber.com prefers to let its favourite people talk rather than perform, and so far coalescing are Lucky Soul, Liars, the Von Bondies and Mando Diao.
* Remember the rap as graphs and charts from a few weeks ago? Inevitably they've now got onto pop expressed in graphical form. And it's on flickr, so people can offer critiques on the ongoing process.