Stephin Merritt has described curating Obscurities an ‘agonising’ and ‘depressing’ experience, with most candidate tracks decreed obscure for good reason. As always, his dour demeanour is best served salted; there’s certainly nothing dispensable about the songs that made the final cut. The collection’s miscellany stands out in a discography known for cohesive artistic statements, but this affects the quality not one iota; peeking through his songbook’s neglected appendices is a delight.The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, The Gothic Archies and fabled unfinished musical The Song from Venus all make appearances, but it’s an eye-moistening version of Plant White Roses from pre-Magnetic Fields project Buffalo Rome that will have you wishing Merritt had added a second disc, meticulous quality control be damned. Few songwriters could hope to pen a magnum opus as interesting as this, let alone an off-cuts collection, making this essential listening for dabblers and obsessive fans alike.
Deskjob is not, Jonnie Common has been keen to stress, a remix album. There’s no chopping and screwing here: instead, consider his role akin to Phil Spector, pre-spherical hair and murder conviction. As curator/producer, Common respectfully decorates bare-bones tracks from friends and contemporaries, capping his idiosyncrasies for the most part (for those craving undiluted Common, try recently-released solo debut Master of None).
Since his stated intention was simply to get “loads of people who I think are immensely talented onto a release together”, it’s appropriate to focus on who he’s producing, rather than how he’s doing it. Highlights include Meursault’s tempting new track And Butter Would Not Melt and Conquering Animal Sound’s Maschine, as resplendent in this guise as on Kammerspeil. Every invitee – from The Oates Field’s deadpan Nae Luck to Eagleowl’s drifting Sorry I Spoke – sounds wholly simpatico with every other, guided into the Common aesthetic gracefully.
Exitmusic - From Silence EP (***)
Until Boardwalk Empire, Alleksa Palladino had a pretty patchy acting CV, sprinkled with direct-to-DVD horror sequels and minor bit parts. Now, HBO and Martin Scorsese have added a more illustrious credit to a fifteen-year screen career perpetually one step away from its big break. On the strength of From Silence, Palladino seems likely to establish herself in the music world far more efficiently, with Exitmusic already signed to Secretly Canadian and turning heads in all the important places. Together with husband Devon Church, the EP offers four promising examples of their faintly familiar but well-executed schtick, a kind of ghostly electronica existing somewhere between Zola Jesus and Austra; if they continue in this mould, there’ll be no need for leg-ups.