"these dark days"

a great tune, and a fair description of these winter nights drawing in. here are 39 songs for surving them - take one each day and it should get you not just to xmas but tip you into the new year.

sonico "alamma"

this is from jamie bissmire's jack trax vol. 1 ep, a phono-treat which also features friend-of-the-site (in our dreams) paul langley of "sexual predator" (the song) fame. "alamma" is all layered up with plenty of DOOSHes and bleeps and noises and bass. in other words, pretty fantastic.

k.n. "technique on monday"

headspringingly fine tokyo techno, a-side of 12" on the ever-reliable cluster. can't really describe why it's so good, but basically it has that kind of air-raid siren sound, and then that kind of lorry-reversing sound, and then plays them across each other. actually, that's probably why it's so good.

ted maul "200 dbs down"

this is from the "white label" cd album on raise the game. not many bands named after "the day today" reporters, but then there are not many bands like t.m., a london six-piece (can't bring ourselves to say sextet, simply for the kinda jazz fusion images it conjures up in our easily frightened minds) who do thrash with a touch of drum and bass, plus some quieter passages that gleam with idle riches of leftfield noodlism. the more metallic (in)fusions are in truth a little overlong, but the frenzied d&b passages, part-reminiscent of purity, yet then lightly glittered with metal (of which this is one) have a certain irresistible energy.

obliteration "the instrumental"

unlike the june brides' "the instrumental", this "the instrumental" is just an instrumental, even if it's perhaps a measure of the mild disappointment engendered by obliteration's debut album "perpetual decay" that it's this slab of servicable, terrorizer-like grind that we've chosen to represent it. anyway, let's have some vocals.

harper lee "ilene"

"the matinee hit parade" compilation, sold as a celebration of 10 yrs of this most rewarding label's past, is actually a very positive primer on its future - perhaps the best v/a comp of this ilk since we set hands on the bus stop label's "peppermint stick parade" somewhere in the previous century. we therefore make no apologies either for liberally sprinkling tracks from this cd throughout this list, or of course for starting with our favourite.

harper lee always excel - sob, excelled - in simple brilliance, and "ilene" is cut from the same cloth, all uncomplicated thoughts and unforgiving battery of the emotions as keris howard turns on the taps of regret and floods the place to oblivion. there are elements to "ilene" which do perfectly recall his brittle youth in brighter - the "la-la-la's", the cascading second vocal, the lack of swearing - but once again there is something grown-up, wearier, about the words and the way they hang off the keyboards, and the chime of the picked guitars, that is pure harper lee, and a reminder of what we are all going to be missing so.

sarandon "joe's record"

"joe's record" (the song) - taken from "joe's record" (the record), a 3-track 7" from slumberland on glorious mottled pinkish vinyl - is a charismatic *splurge* of energy, a stop-start post-peel tour de force of spikiness from a band who have even now got to co-opt free frenchster and ex-keaton rhodri marsden to guest on a bit of keyboard. many people who have been the subject of popular music - the lady in red, whoever "ruby" is, even nelson mandela - would be entitled to have been disappointed with the rubbishness of the tune bearing their name, but joe, whoever he may be, must be happy as a pig in swill city that his record is completely storming.

looking for an answer "cada nacimiento es una tragedia"

more amazing espagno-vegancore from allegedly forthcoming "extincion" lp: at time of writing, downloadable from here

electrophonvintage "break my heart again"

this just sounds perfect starting just as "cada nacimiento es una tragedia" finishes, and along with "where you're not" represents the high watermark of the fabulously louche, snug, acousticky, genteel and pipas-petite "we sang a ye ye song" album on unique records. last we saw, you could find "where you're not" for download here.

general surgery "ambulance chaser"

and this sounds fabulous coming hot on the heels of epv, a growling demo from '05 which if you're lucky you can find at their myspace. seeing gen surgery and lfaa on their current / recent tour would be quite amazing we fancy (even better if electrophonvintage played a set in the middle).

slipslide "let things fall apart"

and graeme elston has been making great records for 16 / 17 years, at least. while we enjoyed the last couple of slipslide sets we saw in london, "let things fall apart" seems to have a little more pizazz and sparkle than some of the other songs - it's a sweepingly fine, grown-up record, with sentiment as sorrowful and unyielding as harper lee's, yet it's still recognisably by the same guy who was recording scuzzier, but equally charming and intelligent pop songs for a turntable friend and co nigh on a generation ago.

chipmunk "64 bar statement"

at 16, chipmunk is fairly old for grime, perhaps, but he seems to have his head screwed on sentiment-wise on this "league of my own" mixtape. there are a few excellent tracks, inlcuding a couple produced by the equally ubiquitous and fabulous maniac, and the more knockabout, wiley produced "consistant" (sic), but you know we're always a sucker for 64 or sometimes 96 straight bars of rhyming, and it's always a good barometer for whether an mc can hold his own. chipmunk does the job.

little dee "star in the making"

and this is a maniac production too, as we suspect is half of what we've listened to this yr. if you are in any doubt as to how vital little dee is, check not just this song but the run of half a dozen or so tracks that starts, about halfway through this "don't let the name trick you" mixtape, with "calm down" - a pleasing lack throughout of the kind of slushy stuff that pads out most otherwise-arresting mixtapes - the guy is really raw, very exciting.

sunny intervals "sixty seconds to fall in love"

hidden treats don't come much more hidden (or as much of a treat) as the 5-track "call and response" mini-cd on wee pop! which is so much more than a lo-fi pocketbooks side project (although it is that). with lyrics, as you'd therefore expect, that entertain and actually reflect on london reality in doing so, while keyboards and guitars dance around them attempting unsuccessfully to rein in the singer's endless pop enthusiasm, this is the kind of thing that could give twee-pop a good name.

math and physics club "nothing really happened"

math and physics are BACK and they haven't lost it either, with their tender marriage of smithsian tales of youthful indiscretion and delicate, spinning guitars. the a-side of this cd-ep on matinee recordings, "baby i'm yours", pushes all the right buttons, but "nothing really happened" is even better: the smiths-isms combine most happily with the sort of spiralling, echoing guitars that made st. christopher's "cathedral high" soar so.

syer "normal day"

actually an ode of sorts to dagenham, prob the first since morrissey defined the britpop movement - not that anyone noticed - with "dagenham dave". the "side fx section 2" mixtape as a whole is a little patchy, as the music - even when the likes of jme assist - doesn't always match syer barz' own energy and authority, but he gets the balance right on this, its closing track.

manhattan love suicides "cracked open"

hinge-breaking, door-kicking-in noise-pop thrills from "kick it back" ep on magic marker, that follows on from the equally impressive re-recorded title track that manages to improve even on the album version, largely through increased feedback (yay). notwithstanding this, there is still an uncomfortable question out there as to how much better mls really are than pop threat, but there is at least no doubting that they are fairly amazing.

tippa irie "the neighbour next door"

tippa is an artist of the old school who probably loves lyrics even more than he loves the music (witness "lyric that's my hobby" or "lyric a rhyme"), and his new lp "talk the truth!" on lockdown is rumbustious, irrepressible, varied and, given that tippa is still best known for "hello darling" back in approx 1666, surprisingly informed with modern inspirations as his patented-over decades brand of uk dancehall seamlessly takes in all kind of bhangra and hip-hop influences and a number of guest slots and productions, the best of which are possibly the intro by soulforce and the tippa vs. frankie paul sweet reggae of "free up". anyway, today "the neighbour next door" wins because it's a bit like smiley culture's "police officer" (which it acknowledges)facing off chas and dave's "turn that noise down" (which it doesn't). such a combination strikes us as being approx as good as music can, in fact, get.

lovejoy "astronauts"

richard preece at his glimmering best - a most worthy tribute to the late k.g. which is good enough that it could have sheltered without disgrace on lovejoy's "everybody hates" album. can we have a single, please ?

blak twang "help dem lord"

older readers will remember a time when blak twang received constant attention from these pages, not unlike wiley does now - the b.t. of "red letters" / "19 long time" vintage was a big part of the soundtrack to our late-90s hopping around bedsitland. anyway, after "the rotton club" album, which was perhaps a little meek compared to the soccer a.m.-friendly hoolie of "kik off" or "publik order", there was a little silence, now broken by an excellent, and much more grown-up twang (probably handy, given that lethal bizzle and co are now making music directed almost exclusively at 14 year olds). "help dem lord" is not the cheeky, blokey, ducking and diving tony rotton: instead, he steps back with anincredibly widely-targeted rant, full of the consciousness that fired our past favourites like "fearless". it's a 12" on rotton products.

captain polaroid "shatner"

scratchy, endearing lo-fi wedd pres cover, the energy of which happily puts one in mind of the thrill of hearing "george best" first time round (this is not easy) and so ties in with our recent gigwatching exploits. "shatner" is taken from the patchier "nineteeneightyseven" compilation via the filthy little angels corporation. the captain also appears, we should remind you, on the ever-necessary "honey the dog's home" benefit cd on ilfu, along with various major-league genii like the beatniks, the racer, and the horowitz.

terminator "05"

this being the storming show-closer from scorcher / the movement's underwhelmingly-titled "thunder power" mix cd. as terminator gets very excited about the aircon in his motor, his delivery fair puts one in mind of the near-horizontal deadpan cool of j. gambles, while still itching with a little menace.

club 8 "heaven"

a free download single from labrador, discovered as no end of these tracks are courtesy of http://www.indie-mp3.co.uk. while club 8 are never bad, they don't always make much of an impression on us: but, sandwiched between terminator and mistress, "heaven" seems veritably to spring out of the blocks, in a manner rarely seen since pine forest crunch did "cup noodle song" (and then fell off really badly, even worse than superrhymes).

mistress "the glory bitches of doghead"

in which a pastoral, rainsoaked intro soon gives way to fulltilt metalgrindcrust noise occasionally evoking clanging recent bolt-thrower or even midstream napalm. this tune kicks off the cd of the same name, on lord shane embury's feto label.

the would-be-goods "temporary best friend"

yep, more from this damn (fine) matinee comp. this is the WBGs sounding not un-heavenly, fact fans, which may not be surprising as this is a p. momtchiloff composition of the old school. as such, it rolls and roars and jangles supersweetly.

bedroom eyes "hand-in-hand grenade"

sublimely confident, tiptop, well-executed scando pop thrills from ep of the same name on cloudberry (tho "motorcycle daydream" is very nearly as good): also on their "valentine vacancy" download ep we think. don't be fooled when he sings about dan treacy though, because this is of far more polished ilk than the last tvp single (even though that, lest we forget, was one of the best singles ever, in a very different way).

marshall smith "please let this go on forever"

marshall smith are a combo featuring ex-a witness, pram and bIG*fLAME members (the latter being current sarandon bassist alan brown, a man also once responsible for the unrecognised greatness that was the great leap forward's strikingly ambitious, ever slept-on "don't be afraid of change") whose "colours" album obviously therefore sparkles when tracks like "cross of wages" and "jumpin' a red light" directly recall the happy, twisted, brutal indie-pop grooves of a witness. however, the downside of recalling the ever-wowsome a.w. is that you start craving keith curtis' vocals, so it is in some of the other tunes, like this and the title track, on which marshall smith really shine as a band in their own right: introspective, tight-knit indie melodies with bright guitars that you might expect of the forest giants or kelman.

kelman "is this how it ends ?"

and speaking of kelman... this is taut, shimmering, dreamy velvets vs. weddoes download single on linear from another seemingly perpetually underrated outfit...

obituary "evil ways"

download single on candlelight records, also on "xecutioner's return" cd album: we were a bit sniffy on first hearing, sorry... it's true that "evil ways" would be twice as good if it was half as long and didn't have the guitar solo, but then if it was half as long and didn't have the guitar solo, then it wouldn't be obituary. and then it wouldn't have the ever-warming john tardy vocal, which gives us the same goosebumps as jim reid's or tinchy stryder's...

skepta "greatest hits"

now this is, as you might guess, title track to the long-promised "greatest hits" cd album on boy better know. aside from 2 or 3 tunes - most inevitably the cringing, perhaps postmodernly bad single, "sweet mother" - this album meets even the unrealistically high aspirations we had for it. not even the fact that skepta, brother of jme and token non-e3 member of roll deep, was apparently employed to play peaches geldof's birthday party can detract from the fact that he is a real talent, and that his confidence is rarely misplaced.

even as we speak "100"

unforgivably ignored / forgotten non-sarah single from "a three minute song is one minute too long - the singles 1986-1990" compilation cd on egg records, which also features versions of a few more familiar tunes that later made it on to their sarah 7"s. this is jangle of a high order and, we would venture to suggest, ripe for an indie-disco near you.

verb t / the last skeptik "winterland"

typically neat track from "broken window", an album made at least as much by dj collaborator the last skeptik as by verb-t himself: "winterland" can't really fail, given that it has a guest slot from (former manage collaborator)syanide, and cuts from (diversion tactics deck genius) jazz-t. even ukhh student pin-up jehst steps up to the plate.

seb zero "one step too far"

what makes good grime ? it's not - as n-dubz might have it - about learning to temper the anger and incorporating "classic" song structures, verses, bridges and hooks. it's about one thing only - hunger, and being able to hear it -and frankly, if the beats are good enough, the more repetitive they are, the better. so this is fabulous stuff again, from the "thunder power" mix cd.

horowitz "hug target"

melody-melding fuzzy pop track on alleged forthcoming split 7" with ex-urusei bods project ako. the other track that horowitz contribute is arguably even greater than this, but it's an argument we'll return to another time.

the electric pop group "my only inspiration"

having got over mild disappointment that the electric pop group are not a pop group tribute band, i can at least report that they are fairly ace, sounding a bit like a more mannered sea urchins or the clouds, and that "my only inspiration", with even a touch of the "velocity girl"'s at the end, is now a permanent fixture in our empty little heads here at in love with these times, in spite with these times mansions. why not listen here ? as correspondents have mentioned, our northern european neighbours are really making a mark on indie-pop at the moment - there's more to the scandos than just pitergrind, you know.

ice pack "247"

b-side (but superior side) of ice pack and rob tryptomene's "freeloaders of society" 12" on cluster as liberator and mcaffer collaborate again, with one of their sparsest (and hence best) productions so far this year. it's a little frustrating that virtually every techno release these days seems to be incomplete without the music being uprooted by extensive samples of ppl going on about how brilliant drugs are: after all, listening to indie music would be significantly less enjoyable if every single track was full of samples of people going on about how great weak beer and dandruff were. perhaps we're just grumpy because we feel lonely in loving this music so much even when entirely sober, when really we should probably feel lucky in that.

tullycraft "the secret history of devil's paw"

given how amazing tullycraft are and have been for a long time now, how they are certainly one of the premier american bands of the best decade or so, how seeing "superboy..." live frankly slayed us, and how "disenchanted hearts unite" hinted at shocking greatness in places like "leaders of the new school" and "polaroids from mars" - "every scene needs a center" doesn't register with us in quite the way we expected or hoped. while the lyrics throughout are of a uniformly high standard, it's six tracks in before we make any real kind of connection with it, during "dracula screams of tiger style"'s slower passages and the wistful but rather lovely "the lonely life of a ufo researcher" that follows it. then, there's another hiatus before the album finishes with, in our view, its three best songs -all quite mid-paced and including a suspiciously well-observed / researched number called "one essex girl" - and reminds us that tullycraft can still pull up trees if they want to. anyway, this is the middle one of those three, and it's the best ballad we've heard since frank turner's "thatcher fucked the kids".

the lucksmiths "good light"

you can guess what v/a comp this is from. here the 'smiths have a slightly more driving (er, less languorous) sound and are all the fresher for it: and it seems perfectly conceivable to us that they are going to be making records this good at least until the end of time, which is a win / win for humanity we think. if you stop us in the street sometime we may also go on about their sprawling yet fantabulous "spring a leak" double-cd comp, and particularly about the excellent remixes by the likes of hydroplane and pipas that give the lucksmiths a new dimension (even on top of marginally more conventional temptations like the delicious "make a wish", their stripped-down take on "i've got it and it's not worth having" or their cover of the sugargliders' superb "dolly"...

the steinbecks "1987 + 1994 = 2007"

... speaking of which, the sugargliders / steinbecks / lucksmiths synergy underlies this marvellous "far from the madding crowd" album on microindie on which tali white features prominently, and this is year-rolling back pop gorgeousness from it, as the brothers meadows manage to keep the vocals sounding slightly pained while the music remains as blissfully light and intertwined as "letter to a lifeboat" or frankly anything from the sugargliders or steinbecks since then. i mean, we're never quite going to burst with the hives of happiness we had on first hearing crumpled cassettes of "top 40 sculpture" or "which part of no don't you understand ?" but this is another song that oozes charm and angst in equal measure, sounding exactly as you would expect and - more importantly, want - the meadows brothers to. can't think of a better closer.

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