A bit more synth and ProTools this time round for the guitar/bs/drums band from Austin, Texas. But the songs are as intriguing as ever, and the sound textures combine machines and organic strings to often Eno'esque effect. There are some straight-ahead fun tunes - including the title track - but I like the moodier stuff more, "Pink Up" and "Us".
Spoon, "Hot Thoughts" (Matador)
Members of All Seeing Eye and Fat White Family as well as Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl all participate in fleshing out the imaginary band that appeared a while back in a most amusing concept album by the Eccentronic Research Council. The results are suitably sleazy, rockingly dark and sometimes gigantically over the top. In other words, a lot of fun.
Moonlandingz, "Interplanetary Class Classics" (Transgressive)
A much more polished and direct affair than their nebulously psychedelic debut, "Volcano" shows off the quartet's ear for a catchy pop melody to good effect. Some moments are positively Sparks-ish, in other places we suspect the influence of "Fragile"-era Yes and Moody Blues. Well-crafted and refreshing.
Temples, "Volcano" (Heavenly)
A sumptuously multi-textured collection of tunes from the Hot Chip's second solo venture in eight years. Served well by several guest vocalists and held together by Goddard's mastery of a range of classic as well as modern synths, the styles blended together range from Detroit and deep house via early 80s soul and disco to post Hot Chip-pop. Lovely all round.
Joe Goddard, "Electric Lines" (Domino)
Jeb Loy Nichols
Raised in Missouri, filtered through the NY art school scene and somehow landed in Adrian Sherwood's On-U crew, Nichols now lives in Wales where he paints, sings and writes songs. This, his tenth solo album, is one of his best. It serves up a steaming hot gumbo of Southern-country-soul in the tradition of Joe South, Tony Joe White and Bobby Womack.
Jeb Loy Nichols, "Country Hustle"
(City Country City)
After years of un-learning ingrained habits and long-taught automatisms, Batkovic has arrived at a truly unique style of accordion-playing. Bending and stretching the instrument to its (often percussive) limits, he drifts between minimalist repetition, church organ-like grandeur and contemporary chamber music intimacy. Co-produced by Portishead's chief experimenter, Geoff Barrow, by the way.
Mario Batkovic, "Mario Batkovic" (Invada)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Superb second mini-LP from this Melbourne quintet. Chiming guitars, shimmering vocal harmonies, fine songs - all in the fine tradition of the unforgettable Go-Between. They keep best for last, the astonishing "Fountain of Good Fortune".
Rolling Blackouts C.F., "French Press" (Sub Pop)
Justin Townes Earle
Wonderfully groovy album from Steve's son, his eighth. A hint of New Orleans here ("15 - 25"), a touch of Bop 'til You Drop-Cooder there ("Short Hair Woman"), and first-rate storytelling everywhere. The odd fleck of brass, clavinet and vibraphone and pump organ provides added spice.
Justin Townes Earle, "Kids in the Street" (New West)
A synth/guitar/drums trio from Winterthur remind me in spirit of the very early, very wonderful and very surreal Split Enz. Their songs kick out in all sorts of unexpected directions and yet never lose touch with a solid handrail of melody. They wear their considerable chops lightly and display a fizzy sense of humour, too. Oh, and their synth bass will make any wall tremble, guaranteed.
Soybomb, "Plastic Festival" (Radicalis)
With Hawkwind in one corner of the sonic spectrum, Neu, Broadcast and Trees in the others, Jane Weaver's latest venture into the pleasures of repetitive riffs, psychedelic synths and vocals as clean, clear and English as Jacqui McShee's, is another woozy and groovy delight. Two Doves are part of the band, Can's ex-singer Malcolm Mooney provides a guest rap, and the whole thing does not reek one bit of retro.
Jane Weaver, "Modern Kosmology" (Fire)
Bonnie Prince Billy
Merle Haggard comprehensively ruined his coolness status in 1969 with "Okie From Muskogee", a song praising the marijuana-free and short-haired citizens of Muskogee. Will Oldham succeeds admirably in dragging Haggard's songs in from the cold with beautifully laid-back if not homely arrangements featuring fiddles, banjos, woodwind and some lovely vocals from him and Nuala Kennedy and Cheyenne Mize. Customarily classy stuff from the Prince.
Bonnie Prince Billy, "Best Troubadour" (Domino)
Dirty Projectors, "Dirty Projectors"
I liked their last album. Now it's back to pure detestation. Endless artificially retuned falsetto warblings, machine-tooled bleeps and chords, unfathomably clever melodic meanderings. Grrr!
Thundercat - Level 42 on Lucozade. This kind of tinkle-tiddly shit used to be called cocktail jazz. Not getting it in a major way. Fucking ghastly.