This week I have mostly been reading up on video game addiction. This is both for my real-life job – I'm writing an article based on this particularly amusing news story out of China - but also because I've spent a disproportionate amount of time playing Minecraft. And I'm worried my family may soon be staging an intervention. In-game, obviously, because when have I got time to see them in person? I've got a new wing to add onto my house, and in order to do that I need to mine a heck of a lot more cobblestone, and in order to do that I need to craft a few more pickaxes...

Okay, so maybe they have a point. Sound tracking my obsessive game playing has been a spate of new releases that are available online for your listening pleasure right now! As I pointed out last week, there's a surprising amount of good stuff released at the start of the year (especially compared to all the dross at the cinema, Django aside), so prick up your ears. And you don't necessarily need to be doing some nerdy activity at the same time (but it wouldn't hurt).

The History of Apple Pie – Out Of View (Clash Music)

The History of Apple Pie have made a hypocrite out of me. There's been this recent resurgence in bands that sound like My Bloody Valentine, and Lush, and Ride; they get writers thumbing through their Big Book of Clichés in order to label them blissed out, fuzzy, hazy, shoegazey. The return of the Scene That Celebrates Itself, which shouldn't be celebrated by everyone. Because I think it's mostly crap (I'm looking at you, Ringo Deathstarr). So why am I a hypocrite? Because THOAP (which is a fun acronym to say out loud, like the sound of a dozy wasp being flattened by a rolled-up newspaper) are very in possession of many of the distinguishing features of this hateful resurrection – the distortion pedals being stepped on wherever you turn, like Sideshow Bob standing on rakes; the Belinda Butcher-esque vocals haunting the practice room. Not only that, but they're also in cahoots with this lo-fi slacker rock redux being lead by the lackadaisical Yuck – in fact, it might be why they succeed. That innate sense of melody possessed by the likes of Kevin Shields (and their keyboards) is often forgot by the Pavement-faithful, but they've got it – along with the clattering drums and the blown-out amps of the Malkmus faithful. My favourite bit is the breakdown of 'I Want More' (whose cymbal taps are more than a little 'Summer Babe [Winter Version]'). As our own Gareth O' Malley wrote, "there is an art to music like this".

The Pictish Trail – Secret Soundz vol. 2 (The 405)

I have to write about this again?! Can I not just post my review verbatim? This is a debate I'm having in my head, by the way, I'm not posting the transcript of any correspondence with Our Glorious Editor. I don't actually mind writing about the second Secret Soundz again, because it's one of my favourites of the year so far. How about I just sum up my review, if it's a little tl;dr for you:


  • - Johnny Lynch, aka the Pictish Trail, makes music in his caravan on the Isle of Eigg
  • - Therefore, the recording quality is a little on the cheaper side, but it has a marvellously homespun, quaint feel to it.
  • - He gets described as folk but there's a lot of keyboards and drum machines in it, too; a bit like Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. Except Scottish, and snarkier.
  • - There are some super pretty instrumental tracks from an unreleased children's film Lynch made music for.
  • - It's a bittersweet but beautifully self-referential reflection on ten years in the music industry whilst remaining in relative obscurity (he runs King Creosote's record label, is probably more of Lynch's claim to fame
  • - Look it's really nice and I gave it 8.5/10 okay so listen to it.

Wave Machines – Pollen (Drowned In Sound)

I've been waiting four years for this. Four years! I mean, everyone's been waiting for the same amount of time, I'm just not sure they've been paying attention. Nobody seems to remember the Wave Machines' first album, Wave If You're Really There with much regard – if they remember it at all – but I bloody love it. To this day I can't identify a bad track on it, probably because they managed to Quantum Leap so satisfyingly between loose-limbed P-funk to self-deprecating indie rock to epic stadium rock to eighties electro pop, and back again – all in the space of ten tracks. Pollen is a little more focused, and (I think) loses a little of its charm in being so, but they were already one of the most genuinely interesting and innovative British bands around, so they remain relatively unscathed. If you want to read some less biased, better-thought-through opinions on the album, Tom Dani did that on the site earlier this week. In the meantime I'm'a try and decided whether 'Counting Birds' really will still be my favourite single of 2013 in eleven months time.

Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Adam Green & Binki Shapiro (The Guardian)

I went in expecting this to be a little more Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin than it actually is – probably down to the pairing of the 'talented and beautiful' (as her fan site says) Binki Shapiro and the equally talented but perhaps more... unconventionally handsome Adam Green. As Luke Allen noted in his review, Green has been playing up to the bad boy image as of late, too – forever trying to escape the sincerely sweet (with poop jokes) Moldy Peaches he made his name from. There's no decadence on show here, though – that I can notice, anyway. Just a pretty excellent pairing of voices, Shapiro's "truly gorgeous... which wistfully wraps itself around Green's low croon" (I'm stealing Luke's words again, sorry Luke). As my erstwhile colleague points out, it's a little closer to the Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood relationship – not least of all because Shapiro takes lead on most of the short-but-sweet album's tales of heartache and other song-friendly subjects, with Green skulking in the background, writing songs and playing guitar. A slight but sonorous album.

Ducktails – The Flower Lane (Pitchfork)

Do you ever listen to Real Estate – the New Jersey four-piece who released Days, one of my favourite albums of 2011, an unhurried collection of sunny day jangle pop (Wikipedia says that's a genre) – and think "man, the only way this could be better is if it was a little more... hmmm, seventies"? Yeah me neither, but that's what you get with the latest by Real Estate's guitarist, Matt Mondanile – better known as Ducktails. Or, "The One In The Shorts". Like Real Estate, the guitars sound like they've been baking in some Californian sun for a good few hours (in more ways than one), and the vocals are understated and unruffled; unlike Real Estate, there are seven-minute tracks with multiple sax solos ('Under Cover'), ELO-alike piano ('Timothy Shy') and all manner of wah-wah and other guitar effects that nobody's used since Tales From Topographic Oceans. I never realised that I wanted all of that so much until I heard it. And that revelation can happen to you too! Ducktails, woo-hoo! (Sorry).