- We've talked at uneasy length about the lateness of big album releases this year, and even at this late stage the odd one is creeping through the cracks in the skirting to launch itself upon us. We've spent a decent period this week listening to Meursault's damn strong album, released on December 15th (!), and we'll talk about that nearer the time. An album we've really been anticipating for a good year or so is released this Monday, though, and as we haven't heard it yet it's really buggering up our end of year countdown preparation plans. Anathallo are longtime favourites of STN's - in fact, we interviewed since departed member Andrew Dost back in June 2006 - after picking up last album Floating World, never released in Britain, on import. That was an extraordinarily ambitious record, picking up all sorts of freak-folk and post-Sufjan batons and running with them as far as Japan, where the album's central conceit originated, conceiving a tidal wave of online hype... except for on Pitchfork, whose 2.7 - 2.7! - killed all that at a stroke. Canopy Glow is their follow-up, recorded in a church in Chicago and given international prominence thanks to the band signing to Anticon apparently at Yoni Wolf of Why?'s insistence. Essentially what they do is place delicate storytelling at the centre and then land hordes of percussion, strings, horns and choral sections atop. God, we're just reading reviews of it and we're wondering how high in said countdown we can get away with placing it.
- In the singles world Norman Cook's The BPA's Seattle is a mere extra chalk mark on the wall for Emmy The Great guest vocals, while Clinic follow their Planetarium Of The Soul music plus animation tour, which finishes tonight at the London Scala, with Tomorrow. So there's the bands you've heard of. One you won't have are Minnaars, bringing the mathrock Kinsellacore/Minus The Bear guitars to dancepunk (yeah, a bit like Foals, but they make that remark themselves) from Britain's post-rock boom town Leicester (Kyte, Her Name Is Calla, Maybeshewill). Says here they've labelled themselves "mop", a cross between math and pop, and they can stop that nonsense at once. Their self-titled debut EP, with ¡Forward, Russia!'s Tom Woodhead at the controls, is out. Meanwhile, iLiKETRAiNS have always been irritatingly named from a Shift key point of view, but stylistically we're not sure I LIKE TRAINS is much of an improvement. Still, I LIKE TRAINS it is now, and their first single in a cornetless existence is The Christmas Tree Ship EP, a five track instrumental single piece based on the story of a ship that delivered its cargo of trees to the people of Chicago for many years until being sunk in storms in November 1912. Packaged with it is a DVD which credits a dancer. That's iLiK...I LIKE TRAINS alright.
- Meanwhile, Chris Morris and the future The Day Today team plus Lee and Herring's Radio 4 magnificence On The Hour is released by Warp as two box sets, unedited for the first time. Nothing to do with much, but we're excited.
MYSPACE INVADERS: In November 2006 we ran a feature called Songs To Learn And Sing, in which we invited bloggers, musicians and passers by to nominate the one song they'd like everyone to hear. You may remember it. As we always do when we're short of numbers, we asked Jeremy Warmsley to pitch his oar in, and he picked a song by a Glasgow band called Afterchristmas, comparing them to Animal Collective. That band split in March and leader Cammy and drummer Raindeer (mm) have moved on to Mitchell Museum, where everything they promised back then has for us become that crucial little bit clearer. There's echoes of a cleaned up Avey Tare and co still at work, and also like the earlier band there's a large portion of Flaming Lips wired psychedelics in there, along with Midlake back before they discovered MOR and Mercury Rev when they still had David Baker. Whacked out but somehow still oddly melodicism retaining, basically. Anyone interested in the back issues of Spencer Krug should also be tipping an ear towards this; having just released a single, the world, or at least an increasingly active Scottish scene, seems their oyster.
VISUAL AID: It's Lee Hazlewood being introduced and interviewed by Rolf Harris! And Splodgenessabounds, of Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please fame, covering Two Little Boys! Meanwhile, Sandie Shaw with the JoBoxers and Steve Nieve! Be easy on us, it's near the end of the year and we've got loads of these in reserve. Some undignified Style Council miming for Dutch TV, for instance.
* As the more astute may be aware, we're fans of quintessential British Northern Soul-indie dreamers Spearmint, which is why we're gladly noting frontman Shirley Lee has started his own site up. This is to tie in with his eponymous debut solo album, to which all of Spearmint have contributed but apparently the songs are too personal. And there'll be a diary and all that.
* Wichita Recordings have got their vodcasts back up and running, and the latest is with one of the longest running obsessions in STN's lifespan, the three fine people of Leeds that are Sky Larkin. They talk! They play a new song acoustically while Katie sits on a car bonnet! Katie looks like Liz Barker who used to present Blue Peter even more than usual! Also recently videoed: Les Savy Fav, Conor Oberst, Those Dancing Days, Her Space Holiday and Peter 'Bjorn & John' Moren.
* Intriguing celebrations of little regarded, or maybe little connected, trends always fascinates us, which is why we've spent some time this week reading A Trip To Toytown, a listing and explanation of 'Toytown Pop'. As the site says: "Toytown Pop is English and is derived from aspects of British lifestyle and culture. Influences include: Edward Lear, Alice in Wonderland, Listen With Mother (and later, of course, Watch With Mother), George Formby, Flanders & Swann, The Goons, The Wind in the Willows, Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, English fairytales, Lord Kitchener and his pals, Oscar Wilde and Victoriana in general." There's quite a few names you'd recognise - Laughing Gnome mode Bowie, the Kinks, the Bonzos, the Bee Gees, Spencer Davis Group, the Hollies, Manfred Mann, Freddie and the Dreamers, Kenny Everett, Marty Wilde, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Mike Batt - but it's the songs that'll pull in (alright, and possibly repulse. There's a lot about toys and fairytales, let's just say that.
* And a quick bit of self-promotion, after a fashion - on The Art Of Noise now is the second 5x5, a feature we curated whereby five volunteers review five unmarked mp3s of songs by bands high on the next big thing radar. When we/TAoN last did this in May we predicted the subsequent rises of the Ting Tings, Laura Marling, Joe Lean And That and Does It Offend You, Yeah?, so there's a lot, or perhaps very little, to live up to.