Well the Bungalow records are classic Pop, as already mentioned, but there’s other sounds that I’d care to coral into some ultimately irrelevant gang for you to take a pick from. First up is The Future Sound of Paris 2, the best compilation record I’ve heard all year, bar the Suite : 98 collection. The date on the sleeve says 1997, but I didn’t pick it up until March, so I’m going to talk about it now. And now might seem a bit like jumping the Gallic bandwagon, given the supply of Air overdosing that is going on these days in the vapour trail of their disappointingly flimsy Moon Safari LP , but whatever. There’s names here that you should recognise as being purveyors of quality: Motorbass, Dimitri From Paris and Etienne De Crecy (who closes the collection with the beautifully drifting ‘Affaires a Faire’) are all present and correct and providing tunes that connect, but it’s the convincing breadth of quality that’s so welcome with this collection. Not a piece of filler in sight, and in Dance or Dead’s ‘The Struggle’ there is a strong contender for track of the year, and damn the fact that it has a 1997 dating. It never stopped everyone putting Belle and Sebastian’s ’96 opus If You’re Feeling Sinister in the 1997 lists. ‘The Struggle’ is just simple beats over what I presume is a vocal tracking lifted from some archive. Whatever, it is heartfelt, poignant and to the bone. Class.

Wiija records are obviously enjoying the cash flow joys supplied by having a money spinning act on their hands, and all credit to both them and Cornershop for braving it out and sticking to their instincts. I thought that the ‘When I Was Born For the 7th Time’ LP was flawed, but have to admit that when it was good it was very good indeed. I don’t know if ‘Sleep On The Left Side’, the follow up to the number one, made the charts, but I thought it was rather fine, and much preferred Les Rythmes Digitales as remixers of choice over Ashley Beedle or Norman Cook. Sound stuff.
Also on Wiija comes the second single release by Velocette, a sparkling Pop gem with a few sharp edges still glistening under the skin. On tour as support to the ever green St Etienne, lead track on the single ‘Spoiled Children’ displays a more obvious penchant for the noisier end of Pop than Bob and co, and brings the Stereolab similarity into the equation. Similarly spunky and with noodles of sound winding around in the background is ‘Strip Polka’, although it’s the middle track which really makes the skin creep. A cover of the Paris Angels’ forgotten classic from the (whisper it) ‘Madchester’ era, ‘Perfume’ is a gorgeous stroll in the morning dew. The original is a seductive stormer of a track, and Velocette rightly don’t attempt to compete on the same terms. Instead, like Galaxie 500’s astonishing take on ‘Ceremony’, they speed it all down to a near funereal pace, allowing the sound to ebb and flow. It’s not a million miles away from the sort of thing bands like The Field Mice or Northern Picture Library were doing a few years ago on Sarah records, although whether you care to take that as a good or bad connection is up to you. Me, I love it to death. Also on a strangely subdued Sarah-esque tip are Whistler, who release their ‘Rare American Shoes’ single also on Wiija. It’s downbeat stuff, and curiously addictive.
Speaking of Sarah records, Field Mice, Northern Picture Library et al, we come to the latest record by Trembling Blue Stars on Shinkansen records. To some ears ‘Lips That Taste Of Tears’ is bland, ineffectual, weak and weedy pap, and that’s fair enough, because on many levels it probably is. For me though, I think we need sensitive to the point of distraction songwriters like Bob Wratten and their songs of simple loss and pain. It’s what makes Pop, after all. Love, loss and distance are the essential ingredients of Pop, and Bob Wratten moulds them into songs of simple magic better than many others. So the songs on this record may lack some lyrical depth and inventiveness, but they make up for this in straightforward, almost brutal honesty. Musically it is a trip back to the electronic adventures of the 80s, with shades of China Crisis and Factory era Wake creeping through, and also from the early 80s: ‘the Rainbow’ could be an out-take from ‘Fox Base Alpha’, for example, and there’s little that shows any real progression from the Field Mice’s career crowning ‘Missing The Moon’. But nevertheless, this record seduces me with it’s downbeat comfort and familiarity and, like the exquisitely titled ‘Her Handwriting’, it plays more regularly than many other records. Word has it that Bob Wratten wanted to be a postman on Orkney, or Shetland or somewhere equally remote and desolate. Somehow that would seem fitting.