Malcolm Middleton: Sleight of Heart (FullTimeHobby/Rhythmethod)

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Malcolm Middleton: Blue Plastic Bags
Malcolm Middleton: Sleight of Heart (FullTimeHobby/Rhythmethod)

This astringent Scottish singer-songwriter and former Arab Strap member appeared at Elsewhere previously with his excellent album A Brighter Beat, the opening track of which was the brittle but bouncy We're All Going To Die.

That song was released as a UK single before Christmas last year and started at odds of 1000-1 against becoming Radio 1's Christmas number one.

But -- shades of Love Actually -- various websites and DJs swung in behind him and by Christmas Eve the odds had narrowed to 9-1. (He lost to some tele-show winner covering Mariah/Whitney's When You Believe).

It's a good story -- and Middleton has a lot of them, mostly pretty grim. He is a great lyricist, check these for opening lines: "The whole world's going home with blue plastic bags. Six bottles of Stella, Jacob's Creek and twenty fags . . . " "We're having a week off, we're having a rest. Listen to the way we cough, it's for the best."

Very much in the folk troubadour tradition -- most everything here is just him and acoustic guitar or with minimal augmentation from piano, double bass, drums, violin -- Middleton's voice and lyrics drag you in, and down.

Most striking here is his remake of Madonna's chipper Stay which he -- as Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame did with Van Halen's Jump -- finds some darkness in the words and hauls them to the front in a melancholy treatment.

You don't come to Middleton for the laughs but he does address some uncomfortable truths.

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