The Flaming Lips

Spontaneous combustion: The return of Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire's first album catapulted the unconventional Canadian outfit into the rock stratosphere, drawing eulogies from Springsteen, Bowie, Byrne and more. Six years later, their third album is awaited with bated breath. Andy Gill sets the scene for the release of the year

Album: Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse, Dark Night of the Soul

Some nights of the soul are obviously darker than others. During the year-long dispute with EMI that held up this album's release, two of the musicians involved have taken their own lives, the disabled songwriter Vic Chesnutt by an overdose of muscle-relaxant drugs last Christmas Day, while Mark "Sparklehorse" Linkous shot himself earlier this year.

Album: Miike Snow, Miike Snow, (Columbia)

Miike Snow is not a man. Miike Snow is, in fact, two men: the band alias of Swedish duo Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, whose CD sleeves are annoyingly damage-prone cut-outs of the mythical jackalope.

A flip of the Coyne: The Flaming Lips singer and 'nicest man in rock'

While others have self-destructed or fallen by the wayside, psychedelic pop visionaries the Flaming Lips are still going strong after 25 years. Their frontman Wayne Coyne tells Craig McLean why, if his band stick to natural highs, toys and fancy-dress costumes, they'll never turn into 'assholes' like Arcade Fire

Caught in the Net: Nu-folkers bare their teeth

You could call it the alt-folk answer to the 80s supergroup Traveling Wilburys. Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, M Ward and the much-in-demand producer Mike Mogis have teamed up to form a new band called (with collective tongue in cheek) Monsters of Folk (left). The quartet's self-titled debut album arrives in late September. In advance of that, their first roar has arrived. Called 'Say Please', it largely dispenses with the folk and goes for more of a mid-tempo country rock feel. They're giving it away for free at – all you have to do is say please, or more accurately, type "please". Granted, the Traveling Wilburys comparison is glib, but to compound it a little, consider this: for the group, Jim James is calling himself Yim Yames, for reasons unclear. It's a pseudonym he has also used for another recent project – 'Tribute To', a six-track EP of George Harrison covers, he of Traveling Wilburys among others. It gets a physical release on 4 August, but a digital version of it can be found at

Album: Iron And Wine, Around the Well (Sub Pop)

Sam Beam's output as Iron And Wine has been so scattered across various formats that he's the exception that proves the rule about mop-up compilations of outtakes and B-sides not being worth the bytes bitten off to burn them.

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Album: Boredoms, Super Roots 9 (Thrill Jockey)

For their first release on Thrill Jockey, the legendary "Japanoise" band Boredoms present the latest in their Super Roots series, a single 40-minute piece in their signature tribal-drone style, called "Livwe!", recorded at a Christmas Eve 2004 concert in Japan.

Album: MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)

MGMT are, along with Vampire Weekend, the most droppable name out of New York City right now, and have been heralded with the loudest buzz of advance hyperbole of any NYC band since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, if not the Strokes.

The man who's laughing all the way to da Bank

Despite looking just like a regular punter, the Radio 1 presenter has created the hit Bestival events, runs his own record label, and now has a very successful podcast. Ian Burrell reports