The Guardian Indie

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  1. (Matador)

    On Kurt Vile’s seventh solo album, he covers Charlie Rich’s Rollin With the Flow. As song titles go, it’s as good a description as any of this Philadelphia native’s modus operandi. Without fail, the songs on Bottle It In unfurl in a leisurely fashion, recalling by turns Neil Young at his most free range and Pavement’s way with a skew-whiff melody, with Vile laconically drawling verses that sometimes sound as if they’ve been improvised on the spot over the top of gently meandering guitar solos. The centrepiece is Bassackwards, the combination of hypnotic interlocking acoustic guitar riffs and stoner poetry lyrics seemingly over too soon, even at nine minutes.

    Elsewhere, the gorgeous Loading Zones opens proceedings with an early REM jangle and a lyric about Vile’s meter-evading, oblique parking strategy: “One-stop shop life for the quick fix before you get a ticket/ That’s the way I live my life/ I park for free”. Check Baby locks into a more muscular groove; Skinny Mini benefits from washes of artfully deployed distortion.

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  2. (Bella Union)

    A great many people will love John Grant’s fourth solo album, and they will not be wrong to do so. They might well be drawn to the idiosyncrasies, and to the way his increasing use of electronics has led him to an album on which the squelch of analogue synths all but drowns out pianos and acoustic guitars (“It’s the sound I’ve always dreamt of,” Grant told Uncut). They might adore the kaleidoscopic nature of the lyrics, which skip from yeast infections to Islamic State to broccoli with cheese sauce in a couple of lines.

    Related:John Grant: 'I'm sensitive. I spent a lot of time trying to destroy that'

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  3. (Matador Records)

    Playing big theatres and releasing an average of an album a year for eight years suggests steely professionalism, but Philadelphia songwriter Kurt Vile still thankfully sounds like a guy on a skateboard who tries to sell you a 10-bag after asking you for directions. His distinctive drawl suggests a somewhat fugged mind, something that the lyrics back up: on Bassackwards, he’s doing a radio show under the influence of something or other, saying of his co-host “I appreciate him to the utmost degree” with a stoner’s ironic grandeur. On Hysteria, he “took a drink of a dream smoothie / and all of a sudden I’m feeling very loopy”. But if he’s high, he’s surfing a crystalline state of amused, outward-facing insight, rather than crashing into catatonic self-regard (even if, on Mutinies, he bashfully admits to popping pills to shut up the voices in his head).

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  4. Since his last album, the Americana songwriter has had two children and almost died of meningitis. Little wonder he’s confronting his mortality

    Eight years ago, Matthew Houck had made some pretty big changes in his life. He’d gone from making cracked, vulnerable songs on his own to playing full-throated, big-hearted Americana, accompanied by an unruly band he described as “a bag of puppies”. Where Houck’s earliest gigs were wobbly affairs in dark basement bars, he was now headlining New York’s Bowery Ballroom. His publicity shots had him in aviator shades riding his motorbike.

    During an interview in his Brooklyn warehouse studio at that time, I asked the Alabama-born songwriter where things could possibly go next, imagining some kind of Boogie Nights, drug-fuelled, silk-dressing-gown-wearing manic episode, and he laughed: “Let’s see how weird things can get!”

    Related:Phosphorescent: C'est La Vie review – an alt-rock original in full command

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  5. After her record label rejected her album, singer-songwriter Chan Marshall found a new home for her singular sound

    Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when someone from Matador – Cat Power’s former label – reportedly played this veteran, otherworldly talent an Adele album, to demonstrate what hits sounded like. Chan Marshall was in the process of delivering her 10th full-length outing but, despite a working relationship of over 20 years, the august indie stable did not take to Wanderer – a spectral work of piano, guitar and multitracked voice that slips out of your fingers the more you try to pin it down. This, you might argue, is the pleasure of many of Cat Power’s records. Matador, long held to be a bastion of artist-friendliness, neither confirmed nor denied the episode detailed in Marshall’s New York Times interview, but stressed their respect for Cat Power as an artist.

    In an era of pop careerism, we have to remind ourselves that some artists don’t have much choice in the matter. The material world is often incidental to them; they are grappling for things we can’t fathom, dodging things we can’t see. “No, I’m not like those other ones,” sighs Marshall.

    Related:Cat Power: 'I didn’t know I loved myself when I was younger'

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