“We know we belong to you,” croons Colin Meloy in The Singer Addresses His Audience, the opening salvo in The Decemberists’ excellent seventh album.
Like the later Anti-Summersong, it’s a reflection on the artist’s sometimes uneasy relationship with their fans. In this case, Meloy filters his observations through the eyes of a member of a boy band but he recently admitted to the Yorkshire Evening Post that the song was at least “informed” by his own experience of an audience that swelled significantly when their last album, The King Is Dead, climbed to Number One in the USA.
While the likes of Make You Better and The Wrong Year undoubtedly bear the influence of REM circa Green and Out Of Time, there are also throwbacks to The Decemberists’ earlier folkier records, in the shape of Lake Song and Carolina Low.
The parping brass of Cavalry Captain is as catchy as hell and there’s a knowing nod to another Meloy favourite, Morrissey, in lines from Philomena such as “All I wanted in the world/Was just to live to see a naked girl/But I found I quickly bored/I wanted more”.
Wider appeal surely awaits, should they really want it.
Perenially wistful indie pop group Belle and Sebastian are perhaps not the first band you would think to cut a rug to, but their ninth album offers some surprisingly four-to-the-floor material.
Lead single is a disco stomp that instructs the listener to “jump to the beat” because “there is nobody here but your body, dear”. Violinist Sarah Martin takes lead vocals for the Saint Etienne-like The Power of Three while Enter Sylvia Plath channels the spirit of the Pet Shop Boys.
The real gem here is Play For Today, a sumptuous, calypso-flavoured duet between Murdoch and Dee Dee Penny of US noise pop outfit Dum Dum Girls, that includes the pearl: “The back stage of your life is filled with props and lines you should have said”.
The rest of the album is uneven – with the none-more-indie The Cat With The Cream a reminder of their bookish origins.
If Mark Ronson’s collaboration-heavy Record Collection, from 2010, didn’t quite amount to more than the sum of its parts, its follow-up is a far more satisfying affair.
Five years in the making, it wears its R&B, rap, Nu Yorican funk and disco influences stylishly.
Stevie Wonder, whose classic Seventies album trilogy Music of My Mind, Talking Book and Innervisions seems to be the template for much of this, lends his distinctive harmonica to Uptown’s First Finale and Crack in the Pearl Pt II; Kevin Parker of Tame Impala adds psychedelic flourishes to Summer Breaking and Leaving Los Feliz, and hip-hop star Mystikal swears a fair bit in Feel Right.
The Bruno Mars-assisted Uptown Funk, meanwhile, is the best single to top the UK charts since Pharrell’s Happy.
All in all, quite an achievement.
Given the later rise of French nu-disco, it seems strange that the work of Parisian drummer turned producer Marc Cerrone was undervalued in his homeland in the Seventies and Eighties.
The US took him to its heart, however, turning his hedonistic synths-meets-strings mini symphonies into sizeable hits.
Lene Lovich – of Lucky Number fame – penned the lyrics to Supernature and its was subsequently used as the theme music for the British comedy programme The Kenny Everett Video Show.
This two-disc compilation includes the equally sensuous Love in ‘C’ minor and Cerrone’s productions for The Kongos, Don Ray and B.O.F.
His imprint lives on in the work of Todd Terje, Bob Sinclar and James Murphy. This, though, is the perfect place to start exploring his extensive catalogue.