So this is what we’ve played thus far this week: a glut of hip-hop; a few selections from the private collections of John Robinson and Mark Bentley; a Walter Becker solo album that doesn’t quite cut it next to all those wonderful Steely Dan and Donald Fagen records; and a Radiohead cover of Portishead, which makes this an uncharacteristically prophetic blog.


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Just back from a week’s holiday, and I’m working through the backlog of post that was waiting for me. Now playing: Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III”, from which we’ve particularly enjoyed “Dr Carter”, where the rapper babbles over a generous David Axelrod sample.


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You might remember that last week’s playlist contained a Mystery Record, sternly embargoed and so on by the record company, thoroughly underwhelming to listen to. A few of you had a decent stab at guessing the high-security identity of the artist(s), suggesting I was sat on new MP3s by The Verve, Bob Dylan produced by Rick Rubin, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, The Wu-Tang Clan, Blur, Oasis, Ride, Guns N’ Roses, Prince, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Kraftwerk or Rage Against The Machine.


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After my first thoughts on “Stay Positive”, we’re continuing to unpick a record that I’m now suspecting is The Hold Steady’s masterpiece. Allan has been even more dedicated in the pursuit of meaning than I have, assiduously studying John Cassavetes’ “Opening Night”, since Craig Finn mentioned that it had a critical influence on his lyrics, most explicitly in "Slapped Actress".


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Since I wrote about My Morning Jacket’s “Evil Urges” a few weeks back (comparing it unfavourably to the Fleet Foxes debut), I’ve been thinking about the band and the record a lot. Picking up Billboard this morning (not a regular habit, rest assured), I found them staring awkwardly out of the cover. Jim James could barely be spotted in the accompanying feature, overwhelmed by laudatory quotes from a great swathe of on-message, optimum-strategising execs and some head-spinning stats suggesting that, yes, they were set to break into the biggish league in America sometime later in the summer.


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I was writing, not for the first time, about Howlin Rain the other week, and admitted that my preoccupation with the band had a certain stalkerish intensity. As I begin yet another blog about James Blackshaw, a London-based guitarist and so on, it strikes me that my prosletyzing on his behalf might be somehow detrimental to his career: a random google of his name would probably bring up this great weight of waffle from me, so hyperbolic that some might suspect we must be related.


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I’ve been blown away this week by the first album from a New York band called Endless Boogie. The name was vaguely familiar, and reading through the press release it transpires that the band played Slint’s All Tomorrow’s Parties a few years back. There are some earlier singles, I think, which Bubba helpfully linked to here.


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I wandered into the office this morning to hear the new album from Stereolab playing – or at least weirdly and abruptly truncated edits of the songs on the new Stereolab album, which weren’t exactly the best way of getting the measure of “Chemical Chords”. The big discovery this week, though, has been the debut album from the pretty self-explanatory Endless Boogie, which I’ll write about properly in the next few days. There’s also, and I apologise, for this, a “Secret” record in the playlist this week, whose title I’m not allowed to reveal since, “All info on this is being kept under wraps until next week so please don't breathe a word to anyone that you even know a XXXXXX album is coming, let alone have heard it.”


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“NEW HARMONY ON AN AWESOME SCALE,” announces Will Oldham on “Missing One”. Somewhere in the shadows, there’s a singer called Ashley Webber playing a discreet Emmylou to his Gram, the latest harmonious foil chosen to track his tremulous voice. Oldham’s voice is much less wayward than it was on the Palace and early Bonnie “Prince” Billy records, of course, but it’s strange how he’s recently found it useful to match his voice against another: on “The Letting Go”, Dawn McCarthy from Faun Fables; on last year’s overlooked covers set, “Ask Forgiveness”, Meg Baird from Espers.


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To the Vortex at midnight. Considering it’s still only March, I’ve seen some pretty remarkable gigs this year: Portishead, Vampire Weekend and the mighty Raconteurs last week; Peter Walker’s flamenco/raga masterclass; Neil Young soloing endlessly into the full glare of a Klieg light, and so on.


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Editor's Letter

Steve Gunn, "Way Out Weather"/Nathan Bowles, "Nansemond"


How does a questing psychedelic guitarist transform themselves into a classic singer-songwriter? By compromising, in many cases. Steve Gunn, however, is managing the transition with uncanny elegance. Maybe you've already heard the latest album from this languidly prolific Brooklyn guitarist: it'...