Pathways To The Heart
Isnít it great? People still releasing 7Ē vinyl singles, still putting out fantastic Pop artefacts and revelling in a scene thatís more about arts projects and aesthetics than it is about industry and profits. Having the nerve to not compete, to create your own set of rules and success criteria: nothing to do with lacklustre indie underachievers, though some find it hard to see the distinctions. If you get it you get it and if you donít you donít. So the world is one of fluid sub-cultures and macro-societies these days. Thatís a good thing, surely?

Well, whatever, all I really know is that this three track single on Ďcoke bottle clear vinylí by The Pathways is genius (but a plea - drop the 'the'); is the kind of rampant Pop noise that I have always adored and will no doubt die adoring. Itís the kind of sound that the early Go-Betweens or Feelies made, the kind that I remember Pavement once made: a sound that treads the fine line between melody and cacophony; a sound that wears its bruised heart on a bloodied sleeve with the kind of obsessive pride you canít help but admire. And didn't Josef K once sing about pathways leading to the heart? Iím filing this alongside Pathways' peers Pants Yell! as some of the most exciting new sounds Iíve heard in ages, and Iím looking forward to the release of their Boat Of Confidence set (also on the Recommended If You Like Records label ≠ you can download another two tracks from their website) with rabid anticipation. One more reason why Spring canít come soon enough. Quite simply, if youíve a heart that beats then you need this record.

Similarly you need the Love Is All 7Ē on Smashing Time. Another bunch of Pop Possessed Swedes, Love Is All make a fabulously edgy noise thatís part TV Personalities, part Essential Logic, part Life Without Buildings, part Huggy Bear, part Altered Images. It all adds up to full on delight that pisses from a great height over so much of what has passed for a new wave of post-punk influenced groups of late. The sounds of razor blades sunk in powder pink candyfloss, no less, and one more reason to love Gothenburg with a an infatuated passion.

More evidence that Sweden is at the heart of some kind of bright Pop renaissance is provided by The Lovekevins. Encased in a great fold-out sleeve that looks like it was beamed right out of 1982, their four track 'Blame The English' EP is full of the kinds of breezy Pop sounds that in the past and present have been made by the likes of Mighty Mighty, June Brides, Trashcan Sinatras or Lucksmiths. Thereís even shades of the legendary Sea and Cake in there, and you canít get better than that, of course. All four cuts are prime quality, with a penchant for blending sprightly melodies and inspirational horn bursts and with a Spectoresque production that puts a haze on the background and gives the details the fuzzy glow of fornicating snow angels. All which means you must love The Lovekevins. You know it makes sense.
On the CD single front, meanwhile, thereís Camera Obscura. I do like Camera Obscura. I thought their 2003 album Underachievers Please Try Harder was just peachy, and whilst Iíve yet to actually hear their Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi set of last year, Iím sure it was just as sweet. But whilst I do like Camera Obscura, thereís something about them that stops me going that extra mile. Something to do with them never quite managing to step beyond the sum of all the influential parts, maybe. And maybe thatís why I never actually bothered to pick up that album last year, and maybe itís why I canít quite bring myself to froth and foam over their new single. Then again, maybe the reason I canít find it in myself to really go for that is the Robert Burns connection. You see, two of the songs on this three tracker are Burns poems put to Camera Obscura music, and I have to say here and now that I really struggle with Burns. Maybe itís having been brought up in Ayrshire, born just a stones throw from where he is rumoured to have written the infamous Ďred red roseí poem that makes up one of the tracks here. Or at least, born by the banks of the Afton, flowing gently and sweet or otherwise. Maybe itís the suffocating Scottishness of the Burns industry. Maybe itís the memory of being forced to memorise and recite Burns poems in primary school. Maybe itís the fact I simply donít much care for the words, and never have. Whatever, it certainly turns me off this EP. And thatís a shame, because musically Iíd admit that itís really all rather fine and pleasant, lilting along in a jaunty, studiously fey way. But not for me. Not today.

Much finer are a couple of four track CD singles on the ever marvellous Matinee. First up are the Lucksmiths. Lead cut ĎThe Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Franciscoí is a real gem with one of those memorable sing-along chorus lines that stick in your head for days on end and that you find yourself singing aloud at bus stops. Elsewhere thereís a great take on The Bee Geeís beautiful ĎI Started A Jokeí. Itís one of my favourite Bee Gees singles, and the Lucksmiths were always going to have to go some to even begin to match Robin Gibbsí gloriously tortured delivery. To their credit they do a fine job, playing the same kind of downbeat card that Harvey Williams came up trumps with on his take on the equally wonderful ĎKilburn Towersí that follows it on 1968ís fine Idea album. Definitely one to pick up as soon as possible, the more so since itís limited to a run of 1000 copies.

There are also hints of late Ď60s Soft Pop in the sounds made by The Happy Couple on their 'Fools In Love' EP. Certainly ĎAnother Sunny Dayí is light enough on its feet to be a Sandy Salisbury tune, whilst the dreamy ĎDonít Call Ití is like Broadcast still in love with guitars. Elsewhere, The Happy Couple make a Pop racket that thinks its still 1986 and that The Kids are still in love with ankle socks, stripy tops and anoraks. I get the impression that The Happy Couple dream of 7Ē singles by Marine Girls and of eating ice creams on the prom with Razorcuts, and thereís nothing wrong with that of course. Really, no, there isnít. File close to similarly besotted contemporaries like Language Of Flowers, and enjoy for the fragments of moments it takes for the bubbles to float to the surface of your sunny sundae smile.

Finally thereís Trembling Blue Stars and their Bathed In Blue EP on Elefant. With a beautifully brooding cover photo of electricity pylons stark against a purple sky, this is similarly atmospheric music that shivers and soars in spirals around your heart. Lead track ĎThe Sea Is So Quietí is a remixed version of the song that featured on their recent The Seven Autumn Flowers set, and comes complete with a new ending and an extended version that stretches out to seven minutes, like Kate Moss luxuriating on an Eileen Gray Montecarlo sofa. Also included are three previously unreleased tracks, all of are mighty fine, though the aptly titled EP closing ĎThis Is Blissí is my pick of the bunch if only for its monumental Stephen Morris type drumming, radio interference and psych guitar squalls, over which Bobby Wratten intones with his trademark deadpan soulful vocal delivery.