Given the three-year gap between Portishead's first record and their second, and the 11 years between album two and their third LP of new material, the emergence of new music a little over a year after 'Third' was released, displays admirable productivity for the band. OK, it's only a single song, not a full album, but still.
The new track is called "Chasing The Tear" and was released last week to mark Human Rights Day, with proceeds from the single going to Amnesty International UK. Get the track at 7digital.com/portisheadamnesty. It has a great driving electro rhythm with drums, guitar and Beth Gibbons's voice all chiming in with brilliant effect. It calls to mind a modern take on something from the first album by 1970s German experimentalists NEU! – maybe Portishead watched that great Krautrock documentary on BBC4 a few weeks back and had an idea or two. It bodes well for the future if this new-found productivity is maintained. Watch video footage of the band performing the song in their studio at vimeo.com/8003873.
Portishead (see above) aren't the only ones getting in a charitable mood. Canadian art-punks Fucked Up have recorded a playful cover of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in aid of three worthy Canadian charities. The tongue-in-cheek cover has a cooler cast of performers than the original – irony or no irony The Quo are not cool – with guest vocalists including Yo La Tengo, GZA, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, Bob Mould, Tegan & Sara and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio. In a neat trick, comedian David Cross does the Bono part of the song making a slight joking amendment, singing, "Tonight thank God it's them instead of Jews". It's selling for 79p on iTunes.
Northern lights on the White Stripes
In 2007, the White Stripes toured every province and territory in Canada. It's not clear why they undertook such an extensive jaunt through the country but it was documented for a film, 'Under Great White Northern Lights'. In March they release the film in an impressive limited-edition boxset. Watch a snippet from it at tinyurl.com/ybpvxeg. The clip features the band performing their first ever single, "Let's Shake Hands", now with added bagpipes, for no apparent reason.
Old, new, borrowed and blues
A treat of '09 has been Fact Magazine's free mix downloads. The series began mid-way through last year, but it has come into its own this year with a constant stream of mixes offering tunes new, old and obscure. The latest, number 109, is compiled by underground dance pioneer Todd Edwards, get it at factmagazine.co.uk. Each mix is available for three weeks so you can still catch up with efforts by the likes of Simian Mobile Disco and dubstep producer Guido.
Bradford Cox of art-rockers Deerhunter has posted a free download of a 2005 10-track CD-R recording he made called 'Carve Your Initial Into The Walls Of The Night' at deerhuntertheband.blogspot.com. "It features only me and Moses [Archuleta] and is very experimental in nature," Cox writes. "This was during our 'tape phase' when we would often play shows as a duo (or as a trio with Colin [Mee]) playing only tape machines and vocal loops." Also on the site is a video of a duo called The Voluptuous playing an instrumental version of Deerhunter's song "Never Stops" on just two pianos. Played like this, it resembles the repetitive style of Philip Glass. See more piano cover versions by the pair on YouTube at tinyurl.com/yeqpun5.
The word on...
The best album of the decade
'Untrue' by Burial..."This is music in a state of suspended animation, timeless and frozen, yet also firmly embedded in the urban now. With his second album, Burial stripped UK garage of its twitchy micro-textures and created a fabulous new strain of future soul." - factmagazine.co.uk
'White Blood Cells' by The White Stripes... "The sound of the duo coming into its own, particularly Jack White... damn near perfect, a slice of sweetly snarling blues-pop so convincingly original that it rendered the whole garage-rock revival immediately irrelevant." - avclub.com
'FutureSex/LoveSounds' by Justin Timberlake... "'Justified' showed us that the former boy-bander could make it on his own. But it was 'FutureSex / LoveSounds' that put him on the map as one of the great talents of his generation with hits 'SexyBack' and 'What Goes Around'." - popeater.com
'Kid A' by Radiohead... "Ten songs, all great, here, in this order, working together perfectly... Other records were catchier or better for dancing. But no other record captured the complex feeling of the era in such an elegant and beautiful way." - pitchfork.com