April & May Reviews – Richard Hawley, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Williams & The Boat, Wedding Present and more

I thoroughly enjoyed my Record Store Day 2012 – I hope you did too. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover, here are April and May’s album reviews for Clash, along with the usual commentary.

April May 1


Having rounded out the first phase of his career with a lavish boxset, Wainwright turned to Mark Ronson to smooth down the flamboyant edges and ensnare the music-buying masses. The result is a surprisingly effective 21st century take on the Seventies singer-songwriter album, with tight band performances from the likes of the Dap-Kings and sympathetic production from the king of the trumpets. ‘Perfect Man’ is a pure pop gem, the feel of which Wainwright has never previously achieved and it is this lesson in restraint which Ronson brings to the table. Although, quite how the bagpipes which close the album slipped through, is anyone’s guess.

A genuinely splendid record this, which should draw in some more mainstream attention even if it won’t change the minds of those who couldn’t be doing with his previous work. The pairing of Wainwright and Ronson is clearly one of those moments where something just clicks and anything and everything works. There are at least four stone cold classics on here and some of the finest tunes he’s released to date. Well worth seeking out.


After the spacious soundscapes of 2009’s ‘Truelove’s Gutter‘, the Sheffield-drenched psychedelia found here may surprise but, thirty years from now, crate diggers of the world will seize upon this album in rapture. ‘She Brings The Sunlight’ is a stellar statement of intent, slowly building to a euphoric squall of droning guitars and sugary harmonies, while ‘Down In The Woods‘ buries an echoey vocal at the heart of a bluesy rattle. Even when ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun’initially evokes memories of tunes gone by, upon reaching the three-minute mark it soars in muscular fashion, the easy emotive colouring of strings left untouched. An unconventional masterpiece.

Regular readers will know that I love Richard Hawley. I love his voice, I love his lyrics and I love the production of his records. All of this triumvirate of loves remains intact after spending time with these nine songs. Stuart Maconie was spot on when he wrote, in his review for The Word, that parts of this album hark back to the sound of Oasis when they tried to vary it a little – ‘Who Feels Love’ was the track I immediately played after listening to the album’s opener, ‘She Brings The Sunlight’. I know it’s hard not to construe this as an insult, but please try. This is a wonderful album and one which becomes familiar in no time and a favourite soon thereafter. Brilliant double vinyl pressing too.

April May 2


I’m always deeply suspicious of anyone who says they don’t like The Wedding Present. They’re certainly not toiling away at the avant-garde coalface of musical invention, but they don’t seem to ever deliver a stinker. ‘Valentina’, their third outing since rebooting as part of David Gedge’s metamorphosis back from Cinerama to one of Peel’s favourite bands, features the odd surprise – not least some vocals in German – but it’s largely business as usual. Blokey but heartfelt vocals from Gedge and lyrical lovelies like “if I were a painter, I’d just paint portraits of you. You’d be in everything I do.” Predictable, yes. But really comfortingly so.

If you like the Weddoes, you’ll be happy. If you don’t, you probably don’t care by this point. If you’ve never heard them before, it’s as good a primer as any. I do and I am.


Having toured with the likes of Coldplay and U2 and performed for Barack Obama, this husband and wife duo were keen to both pursue a rootsy take on their Malian blues and also record an album of collaborations with a wide variety of musical acquaintances. As it happened, two become one on this warm, soulful record, which features performances from Jake Shears, Santigold, Amp Fiddler and, most mesmerisingly, TV On The Radio. Some collaborations are more successful than others, but what never changes is the punchy sense of melody which runs throughout ‘Folila‘, a title which simply means ‘music’ in the language of Mali, Bambara.

An album I found hard to warm to massively but I can admire it. I know that sounds HUGELY patronising but it’s just a little inoffensive to me, even though I can tell that it’s the sort of thing that will inspire passionate recommendations. The middling, pleasant records are always the hardest to review. Give me a crap album anytime. Oh look…


The feeling on a June day when you think the sun’s going to come through, but it doesn’t. When you sup your post-work pint on a Friday, having imagined its capacity to remove all of your stress, only to find it’s a bad barrel. Spotting a book in the bag of the person you’re hopelessly infatuated with which, upon reading, is really nothing to write home about. Inoffensive, occasionally melodic plod-pop-rock which talks a good talk and doesn’t really deliver.

Hahahah! See what I did there. The album’s called ‘Analogies’, so I…oh, never mind.

April May 3

M. WARD‘A Wasteland Companion’ (BELLA UNION)

In the three years since Matthew Ward released career highlight ‘Hold Time‘, he’s been kept busy as a quarter of Monsters Of Folk and half of retro-pop combo She & Him. Both had their moments but, after the scope and ambition of that last solo outing, hopes are high for the next instalment of the day job. ‘A Wasteland Companion‘ partly delivers, not least on the uncannily Ed Harcourt-esque ‘Primitive Girl’ with its hammered piano refrain and syrupy backing vocals. The gorgeous ‘Crawl After You‘ gets inside you like the smell on a rainy day, but such emotive responses are less common that you might expect.

I do really rather like M. Ward, and he has released some fine albums including the aforementioned ‘Hold Time’, but I find this a little below par. Still a number of fine moments but it didn’t woo me as a complete outing. The blurring of the She & Him/M. Ward venn diagram didn’t help. I’ve still not forgotten that bloody Christmas album.


Grandiose orchestral clout mixed with a neat pop nous and a voice pitched somewhere between We Are Scientists and Mull Historical Society, the music of Brad Oberhofer is pretty much adorable. Drums clatter and stutter in frenetic fashion beneath chiming xylophone, indie harmonies and riff-heavy guitar for much of ‘Time Capsules II‘, and its relentless energy is utterly addictive. It perhaps never quite manages to live up to the genuinely breathtaking magnificence of opening track ‘Heart’, with its spectral wall of sound production effects, but those are high standards indeed. The shamelessly repetitive ‘I Could Go‘ comes close, mind, with an embarrassment of hooks.

Took me ages to click with this one. Until the last couple of listens, this was heading for a fence-sitting 5/10, but then it all seemed to make sense. It’ll work well in the sun. So, er, take it on holiday if you go abroad this year.


With bass from Colin Greenwood and production duties fulfilled by Kieran ‘Four Tet’ Hebden, this is a lot less fragile than it first seems. While it owes more to Kathryn Williams than either of its distinguished collaborators, their touches are still noticeable and the rhythmic backdrop to many of these songs is disarmingly complex. Kathryn Bint – who, perhaps understandably, trades as One Little Plane – possesses a gorgeous, whispered burr, best highlighted on the chiming, hypnotic shuffle of ‘Nothing Has Changed‘.

Not the sort of thing you’d immediately think of if somebody told you it was a new release on the TEXT label, but rather charming nonetheless. Gilles Peterson has played a track recently on his splendid new Saturday afternoon 6 Music show and it seems to garnering positive notices from most corners. Worth a listen.



At a time when alternative music seems so often preoccupied with fitting in rather than standing out, it’s refreshing to hear such a wilfully individual sound. With roots in the melodic world of the mainstream, ‘Teenage Blood‘ is an instantly endearing proposition, although repeated listens unveil the twisted, writhing soul at its heart. The dextrous band ooze and explode thrillingly with each emotional turn, while Williams’ sung-spoken vocals are perhaps the band’s trademark, variously murmuring, bellowing and spitting out lyrical delights such as “my sister was a referee, reffing Sunday morning leagues, south of Sheffield at a park, showing yellow cards to rapists and thieves.”

Ah, one of the Just Played favourites. The product of a Pledge Music campaign, ‘Teenage Blood’ builds on the majesty of the debut and is a great example of albums where you should listen to the whole thing in one sitting. It’s wonderfully sequenced, brilliantly produced and blessed with some excellent tunes. ‘Trouble With The Truth’ is one of the year’s finest songs to date. There’s a lovely, heavyweight vinyl pressing out there but don’t mull for too long as they’re pretty limited.

July Reviews – Rufus, Liam Finn, Jill Scott & She Keeps Bees

A bizarre mix this – two I was absolutely desperate to hear and two about which I was mildly curious. I imagine it’s pretty obvious which ones belong in which pile. 220 words simply do not provide an opportunity to do the Rufus box set justice but I tried. Most other magazines appear to have given it a full page and, I would argue, it deserves it. Anyway, here’s to July…

July 11 trio


Anyone who heard Finn’s excellent debut, ‘I’ll Be Lightning’, will know that the knack for melody was passed down the family line from his father, Neil from Crowded House. On ‘FOMO’, short for ‘fear of missing out’, Liam Finn manages to do the whole ‘second album about life on the road’ thing without sounding like some pissy grouch. Instead, the euphoric, floating 60s guitar sheen and carefree swagger which dominates proceedings is utterly uplifting, with ‘Cold Feet’ the massive summer smash that will never be. The early-Nineties indie guitar excess on ‘Reckless’ offers another standout moment on an album which takes bold and successful strides.

Oooh, this is a good ‘un. If you never partook of his aforementioned debut, get yourself caught up. I won’t tell anyone you. This is a more fully-realised outing sonically but it’s the sheer joy of his songwriting that makes him worthy of your attention. As something of a Finn Fann, I was always predisposed to like him but he’s more than earned his stripes with this release.

Continue reading “July Reviews – Rufus, Liam Finn, Jill Scott & She Keeps Bees”

27. Rufus Wainwright–All Days Are Night: Songs For Lulu

Best of 2010This record proved to be a breath of fresh air after the overcooked swamp of a record that was ‘Release The Stars’. New converts will not be found, and I know how much he splits opinion even amongst you splendid folk, but those who’ve been in love before will be in love again. It’s a dense work which requires some love and attention but it gives but as much as it takes once you’re ensnared.

Rufus Wainwright

Never one to hide his emotions previously, here Wainwright offers a sparse but staggeringly heartfelt collection of songs for voice and piano, influenced, at least in part, by the long-term illness and recent passing of his mother. After experiments in bombast and imitating Judy Garland, this is all about the bare bones and, held against the aforementioned previous outing, the relative simplicity is very welcome. While three Shakespearean sonnets set to music are successful without being showy, Wainwright saves the very best till last. Lyrically, album closer ‘Zebulon’ is endearingly direct, “my mother’s in the hospital, my sister’s at the opera, I’m in love, but let’s not talk about it,” and home to his best vocal performance to date.

Having seen the live show which accompanied this album, which involved Wainwright performing the entire record in full, in order, with a request of no applause between songs, I actually found I loved it just a little bit more. The funereal procession with which he entered and exited the stage did make my soul itch a little but the overwhelming aura of grief, combined with no little sprinkle of pomposity, somehow ended up endearing the record to me even more rather than, to use modern parlance, ‘getting on my tits’. As I said at the start of this piece, do not approach this if you’ve already decided that you hate his voice, face or other specific parts of his anatomy. Your opinion will not be changed. But my, this is a bold record both in terms of what it sits alongside this year and also its bedfellows in Wainwright’s catalogue. A surprise triumph.

April Reviews

Below can be found the latest instalment of what has become a regular feature. These are the six reviews of April releases I wrote for Clash Magazine which can be found in the print edition that should have just about hit the shelves as you read this. Some very good records in amongst this lot, including a splendid Doves career retrospective and the increasingly marvellous sounding debut from ex-Czars man, John Grant.

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RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – ‘All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu’ (UNIVERSAL)

Never one to hide his emotions previously, Rufus Wainwright offers a sparse but staggeringly heartfelt collection of songs for voice and piano, influenced, at least in part, by the long-term illness and recent passing of his mother. After the suffocating arrangements that dogged parts of his last album, the relative simplicity is welcome. While three Shakespearean sonnets set to music are successful without being showy, Wainwright saves the very best till last. Lyrically, album closer ‘Zebulon’ is endearingly direct, “my mother’s in the hospital, my sister’s at the opera, I’m in love, but let’s not talk about it,” and home to his best vocal performance to date. 8/10

I think I’ve briefly mentioned this record here before, but it’s worth restating how much of a breath of fresh air this is after the overcooked swamp of a record that was ‘Release The Stars’. New converts will not be found, but those who’ve been in love before will be in love again.

DOVES – ‘The Places Between: The Best of Doves’ (HEAVENLY / VIRGIN)

Quietly labouring away for some twelve years, Doves have amassed an outstanding catalogue of work. As a result, the deluxe edition is an essential purchase, with a second disc of b-sides, rarities and the odd album track too good to leave off. Sequenced by the band, both discs are remarkably cohesive; ‘Black And White Town’ and ‘Pounding’ nestle alongside atmospheric monster ‘The Cedar Room’ and new single ‘Andalucia’. The finest of the three new songs, ‘Blue Water’, kicks off disc two in style, deploying the same hiccupping drum pattern that served early single ‘Here It Comes’ so well. ‘The Places Between’ is a beguiling celebration of truly excellent music. 9/10

The new tracks on this make it well worth seeking out as it is, but the second disc is a tour de force in showing what Doves are really capable of. Stitching together b-sides, album tracks, session recordings and a few unreleased moments, it is a quite staggering listen and proof if it be needed that they are one of our great bands of the last ten years or so. If you have one of their previous albums on CD, click here to get £2 off the special edition.

JOHN GRANT– ‘Queen Of Denmark’ (BELLA UNION)

There’s a chugging seventies soft-rock quality to this record, giving it a warmth that’s hard to resist. The entire album’s beautifully measured musical backdrop is especially noteworthy, provided as it is by Midlake and, yes, that makes it as good as you might expect. ‘Queen Of Denmark’ is a luxurious sounding collection but what sets it apart from so many decent sounding folk-rock albums is the rich drawl of Grant’s baritone voice. Sweeping, epic ballads are his forte, but there’s something ludicrously charming about the skulking ‘Chicken Bones’, which sounds like a Scissor Sisters track played at half-speed. Odd though it seems, that’s a good thing. 7/10

An example of an album continuing to grow on me after reviewing, this one. I’d already sussed that it’s a good ‘un, but I’ve kept coming back to this and would now be tempted to budge it up to at least an 8. Nagging melodies and beautiful musicianship make this an absolute must. Simon at Bella Union reckons the vinyl edition will be something pretty special too.

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SHE & HIM – ‘Volume Two (DOUBLE SIX)

Sometimes it’s nice to find music that doesn’t require five listens before a tune emerges, to hear songs that capture a rapturous love of music and to spend the entire duration of an album grinning like an arse. Ludicrously talented pairing Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have kept everything that made their debut great and added a little more jangle and some absolutely beautiful vocal effects for this second outing. While Ward is responsible for the arrangements and production, it’s Deschanel who can take all the credit for writing these timeless, sun-kissed pop hugs. ‘In The Sun’ is the masterpiece, but you’ll keep coming back to it all. 9/10

It’s albums like this that make you rue your absolutely miniscule word count. I could have happily rhapsodised about this one for several pages – and may still do at some point. Building on the greatness of the debut, this one is meticulously produced and perfectly suited to the six days of sunshine we’ll get between now and Christmas.


Marrying bittersweet lyrics with unashamed killer pop hooks is a tricky business. The Smiths were masters of the art form and, while they may not sound especially alike, Lucky Soul share a similar knack for musical alchemy. Singer Ali Howard possesses an absolutely adorable voice, knowing exactly when to go through the gears and when to rein herself in, and The Smiths comparison holds up with such lyrical delights as ‘some say I’m schizophrenic, but I walk in single file’. Part pop, part soul, part country and with a sprinkle of the classic girl-group sound, Lucky Soul make music to soundtrack the good times. 8/10

If you haven’t already figured out that I love this one, then you need to do some reading. Click here for the FUTUREMUSIC piece from earlier this year.


Brother of Fleet Fox and fully-fledged solo artist J. Tillman, Zach Tillman opted for a more atmospheric stage name before foisting his recordings upon the listening public. The moniker serves this record well, for it’s an often gravelly, proudly lo-fi collection of beat-up folk. There’s plenty here to suggest that a few albums down the line Tillman could be responsible for something genuinely special, but even this wilfully shambolic collection has its moments. ‘I Was A River’ is a beautiful meditation on love lost while ‘Golden Funeral’ is an opening track so hymnal and atmospheric that it makes it difficult for anything else to come close. 6/10

I suspect that this one could have long-term appeal. The sort of record that after living with it for six months, it all clicks into place. There are moments of beauty to be found, even on the first play, but it’s not as consistent as most records bearing that reliable Bella Union moniker. On that note, the new album by The Acorn, ‘No Ghost’, is bloody marvellous and due in June.

2010 on the record

Wittering Wednesdays – Plastic Beach and a dog in a bath

I spent much of last weekend with the new Rufus Wainwright album, ‘All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu’, and I’m happy to tell you that it’s a charming and understated little record. I know, I never thought I’d type that about Wainwright either, but here it is: a collection of twelve songs featuring Rufus and his piano. It features some of his most beautiful singing to date along with complex piano figures, similar to those found on parts of ‘Poses’. Some songs feature guest lyricist Bill Shakespeare who, it turns out, can bash together a decent sounding phrase or two. Album closer ‘Zebulon’, a live version of which appeared on The Guardian’s site a few weeks ago, is spellbinding. I can’t recommend it enough. An alternative performance can be clicked on below.

The need to ensure the Rufus review was done on time meant that a number of delightful promos that landed towards the tail end of last week sat on the side for a while. I’ve previously tweeted about Allo Darlin’ who, despite a truly chronic band name, make some lovely, melodic indie pop. The include Aussie legends The Go-Betweens in amongst their influences and that should give you some idea about their commitment to songcraft. Well worth keeping an ear on. The album will appear in June and I’ll endeavour to say more about it nearer that time.


Tracey Thorn is back in May with ‘Love And Its Opposite’, an album which eschews some of the bleepier aspects of previous outings and presents a record of chiming, mature pop that sounds blinking great to me. I’ve always loved her voice but sometimes the material hasn’t quite lived up to it. Certainly not the case here and, but for the fact that I can’t imagine how the general public might be whipped into such a frenzy, this record deserves to sell well. As it is, I suspect it’ll end up being a lesser-known favourite amongst those with discerning lug’oles. Get in ahead of the game with a free download of the track ‘Oh, The Divorces!’ which you can claim here.

The rest of the promo jiffy bag was less obviously fantastic fare, but I imagine at least a couple more of them will get a mention here soon enough. Fabulous one man music cloud, Keith KenniffHelios, Goldmund – has had some professionally made editions done up of his previously CD-R only website releases ‘Unleft (Unreleased Vol. 1) and ‘Live At The Triple Door’. You can order from him direct here and expect to receive your discs rapidly and wrappedly. Did I get away with that? Hmmm. Anyway, they arrive neatly wrapped with a little bow around them. Charming. The music is, just as you might expect by now, ethereal goodness that tops up the soul and massages the ears. Highly, highly recommended. Should you need further convincing, here’s the old FUTUREMUSIC piece from last year.

plastic beach

As I type, ‘Plastic Beach’, the latest opus from Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz, is blaring away and I have to say, it certainly has its moments. Mark E Smith’s “where’s north from ‘ere” at the start of ‘Glitter Freeze’ is, perhaps, enough to justify buying the whole bloody record. Add in the just-the-right-side-of-annoying ‘Superfast Jellyfish’, childishly lolloping ‘Some Kind Of Nature’ (replete with Lou Reed) and the chaotic ‘Sweepstakes’ and things are looking up. ‘On Melancholy Hill’ is the latest addition to the Damon Albarn Musical Genius Songbook, a compilation I really should make some day. It is borderline perfect, with its slow-Daft-Punk opening, muffled Damon vocals and innocent background chimes. It makes me smile, and that’s a pretty decent test as far as I’m concerned. At almost an hour, it flies by surprisingly quickly and there is little to make you long for more judicious editing. The vinyl edition can’t come soon enough, but there’s much to like about the CD/DVD Experience edition so I’d treat yourself if I were you. You look like you deserve it.

A few shocks this week. Firstly, it turns out I love the album that is currently top of the UK sales chart. I feel completely out of step with what old people call the ‘pop charts’ these days, so to find that Ellie Goulding’s ‘Lights’, which may well end up being the pop album of 2010, is the best selling album in the country, despite me really liking it, took me by surprise. Were all of the supermarkets’ stocks of Michael Buble albums on holiday for a week? What happened? Anyway, forget some of the slightly sneering backlash that some corners of the music press are opting for and embrace an album full of lovely melodies and outstanding production.

The second shock was rather more severe. It was caused by this picture:


This is the actual cover of the new album by The Divine Comedy! What can you say? Loving the gong at the back of shot and the return of the ‘A Short Album About Love’ era logo design though. Till next time…

09. Rufus Wainwright – Want One

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Sometimes you just need something unashamedly huge. Stop sniggering at the back. Sometimes you need music that is unafraid of being called pompous, music that is simply driven by a ludicrous dose of ambition and confidence. Sometimes you want a full orchestra, a classical reference and a track that seems to keep building so much it may actually topple over. To summarise, sometimes you just need Rufus Wainwright and, to narrow it down even further, sometimes you just need ‘Want One’.

09 Rufus Wainwright

‘Want One’ is a spectacular record on which the pace rarely lets up. On the odd occasion when Rufus entertains hitherto alien notions of restraint, he can then have you on the verge of tears without much trouble. He is, for want (no pun intended) of a better phrase, an absolute fucker when it comes to melody. Once his songs claw their way into your head you stand pretty much no chance of escape. I spent three months in 2004 with ‘I Don’t Know What It Is’ as the sole track on my internal jukebox. I can’t say that it was a bad thing, and it played a large part in kick-starting my fondness for all things Wainwright, R (and Wainwright, M for that matter.)

I’ve previously mentioned my belief that ‘I Don’t Know What It Is’ is one of the greatest pop songs of modern times and I stand by that. Just past the three and a half minute mark it gets even bigger than it already is and in that magical moment I think you can hear exactly what makes Rufus Wainwright such an outstanding songwriter. He knows when to go in for the kill. He knows how much his audience can take and he takes them to within a fraction of that threshold. He toys with out ears as much as he toys with out hearts. ‘Want One’ is pretty much a masterpiece and, while ‘Poses’ demonstrated earlier in this very countdown that he has made other wonderful records, it’s hard to imagine him ever topping it.

It is, for me at least, largely about the music when it comes to Rufus’ music. I include his unique vocal sound within that definition – at times I’m not sure it matters all that much what he’s saying. Not that he’s not a dab hand when it comes to the lyrics, mind. I remember discussing, some five years ago, how romantic the song ‘Vibrate’ is with a female friend who doesn’t often dish out praise. As a metaphor for a relationship, it’s bloody effective and, as a mid-point in an album that swirls and blasts intently, its a wonderful, temporary ebb in all of that grandiose flow.

The other lyrical heavyweight in this collection comes right at the end. ‘Dinner At Eight’ takes his father to task for his less than admirable parenting skills, telling Loudon Wainwright III, “don’t be surprised if I wanna see the tears in your eyes.” As Rufus delicately but passionately intones “no matter how strong, I’m gonna take you down with one little stone,” I defy anyone listening to not feel something. It’s a beautiful moment on an album full of beautiful moments but it’s so starkly placed at the end of the record that all of the joyous noise that has come before is put back in the box and the mood shifts. ‘Want Two’ may be intended to sit alongside ‘Want One’, but it doesn’t quite measure up and ‘Release The Stars’ suffered from a few misfiring plodders. But even if he never manages another great record, I won’t worry too much. There’s so much to love about ‘Want One’ that his legacy is very much secure.

35. Rufus Wainwright – Poses

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I can’t actually remember when it was that I first heard him, but I can remember trekking to the Royal Festival Hall in London to see him do one of a spattering on UK shows in September 2004. We had amazing seats – my eyes pretty much directly in front of and directly in line with Rufus himself. Keane were there for the ride, ruddy-faced hay-muncher, Tom Chaplin was stood mere inches from us at one point as he checked his mobile before going back in. He must have been really excited about the concert as he’d gone all red. Oh, wait.

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Rufus was in spellbinding form and, from that day, the love affair was truly on. I’d already picked up ‘Want One’ and this album, ‘Poses’, prior to attending the gig but they were played solidly for weeks afterwards, so in thrall was I to this natural performer, gifted entertainer and passionate performer. I’m well aware that many people don’t see the appeal, saying he slurs his words, neglects his melodies and is unbearably smug. On occasion, I’ll grant them the last one, but I even find that endearing. Rufus and his band finished their performance at the Royal Festival Hall that night in full witches costumes, pointy hats and all, swaying around to ‘Oh What A World’ and it was bloody marvellous. I left absolutely beaming and had his songs bouncing round my heard for the duration of the three hour coach ride home.

For a while, ‘Poses’ was my favourite Rufus album and, had I compiled this a year or so ago, it may have appeared higher in the list. Having said that, it’s a beautiful collection of musical endeavour. ‘Greek Song’ and ‘Poses’ are charmingly complex, while ‘One Many Guy’ is a startlingly great cover of one of his father’s songs. ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk’ is the big pop moment and is ludicrously catchy, not unlike ‘California’, a distant cousin of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’. However, ‘Rebel Prince’ just edges the rest of them. It’s a swooning, sensual performance of a masterfully constructed tune and it even has the dubious honour of having been covered by The Beautiful South.

A reasonably concise update

It wouldn’t be the same if this blog didn’t just grind to a halt for a month or so every now and then, would it? I’d originally intended to rest it for a week or two while I delved into the Beatles remasters but a week leads to a fortnight, a fortnight to a month and, well, you know how it is. Quite a month, mind, including the live return of one of my all-time favourite bands, Massive Attack. If the new songs played on that drab night in Sheffield are anything to go by, the new album will be everything people have hoped for and a little bit more. There’s one new track, (I have no idea about the title, I’m afraid) sung by Horace Andy which may well be one of the best things they’ve ever done. The ‘Splitting The Atom’ EP emerged last weekend as a digital download and it’s a pretty impressive quartet of new material. The lolloping title track belies the fact that Damon Albarn has been involved this time around, while ‘Pray For Rain’, featuring vocals from TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, has a wonderful gear change about four minutes in which elevates it to ‘special’ status. You can sample it for yourself over at Spotify, purchase it as a high-quality FLAC download from 7Digital or even shell out £20 for a spangly vinyl edition from those Monkey-box-set-making-types over at The Vinyl Factory.

Beatles expenditure limited the funds for new music last month, but a few splendid things snuck though, such as the latest offering from Richard Hawley, ‘Truelove’s Gutter’, which is a muso’s dream and the very definition of a ‘headphones album’. Coming off the back of the really rather polished ‘Lady’s Bridge’, (hmm, that sounds slightly wrong) an album with only eight songs, two of which scrape the ten minute mark, it’s an absolute delight to listen to and it may well be his best. ‘Remorse Code’ is a remarkable beast, languidly atmospheric and beautifully recorded. ‘Open Up Your Door’ may have spent some time with ‘The Ocean’ from ‘Coles Corner’, mind. There is meant to be a deluxe double vinyl edition with free CD and signed photo springing up at some point but, with every additional week’s delay, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The NME has a new editor in the shape of Krissi Murison and she’s already made a few changes. Icky changes, largely speaking. Making me actually wish Conor McNicholas hadn’t left after all kind of changes. The most unforgiveable change is the removal of Mark Beaumont’s weekly column, which was as good a reason as any to shell out £2.30 a week. Thankfully, Peter Robinson Vs has been retained, tucked away at the back now, or I may have had to have said goodbye. Again. Oh, who am I trying to kid. Still, it’s a shame as Beaumont was a witty and acerbic observer of the music scene, something the NME was always good at and I’m not sure how that hole will be filled.

The Radiohead deluxe editions for the latter half of their EMI tenure proved to be delightful additions to the collection, containing some splendid B sides which I’d never previously spent any time with and selected visual highlights from this wonderful, wonderful Later… special.

Put aside an hour and treat yourself. It’s really rather special. While I’m talking about all things Yorke, if you’ve not yet sampled the two tracks recently released as a (bloody expensive) heavyweight vinyl 12” single, you’re truly missing out. Click here to sample ‘FeelingPulledApartByHorses’ and ‘The Hollow Earth’, the latter track being one of the finest things I’ve heard all year. It’s in the same, slightly skittery vein as ‘The Eraser’, with a nagging hook and a thumping beat. It’s almost worth the insane amount the 12” costs. £10, by the way.

I’ve been ploughing through my record collection for the last few weeks, attempting to assemble a list of some kind ready for the launch of the previously trailed, ‘Just Played – Albums Of The Decade’ feature, which will be arriving fairly soon now. It’s been lovely to be reminded of albums like Daft Punk’s ‘Discoveryand Air’s ‘10 000Hz Legend’, alongside Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Howdy and Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Poses. There are some absolute certs for the final list, but it’s been interesting to realise some of the records I’d totally forgotten about that are thoroughly deserving of a place. More on that soon.

Oh, and there were those remasters I briefly mentioned at the start. I haven’t got an awful lot to add to the millions of column inches offered up over the last six weeks (and largely bought by me) so I’ll not say much. (On the other hand, recent convert, Dan of teatunes, says plenty here) Suffice to say, the more expensive of the box sets, ‘The Beatles In Mono’, is an absolute delight, with the sound punchy and remarkably clear. I feel obliged to inform you that you haven’t heard ‘Rubber Soul’ until you’ve heard the mono mix at a fair old volume – it’s a rather special moment. The packaging is wonderful and a serious step up from the fold-out card things used for the stereo reissues. As for the more widely available stereo mixes, I found that box a slight anti-climax, what with it arriving four days after the mono box had had its chance to seduce me. That said, it’s still a beguiling collection of music and those albums only available in stereo sound pretty impressive to these ears. I’ve certainly never liked ‘Abbey Road’ more than I do now. I love their catalogue now more than I ever previously have, but that’s probably no great surprise. For anyone who takes their music listening seriously, you really should get at least one of these boxes, if you haven’t already, as they are the definitive versions. Sod the money, on this occasion. Buy a few less takeaways or £40 games and treat yourself.

Oh, and if you’ve still not heard the new Maps album, sort yourself out, eh?