Sheffield, England's Arctic Monkeys: Sickeningly young, obnoxiously talented and -- curses! -- thoroughly pleasant and down-to-earth. The teenage four-piece release their debut album "Whatever You Say I Am, That's What I Am Not" in two weeks and the Observer Magazine spent three months on tour with them, documenting their supersonic ascent from "next big thing" to "big thing." Lead singer Alex Turner (19) gives this insight into the Monkey songwriting process (regarding new song "Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secured"): "'I remember thinking, I'll write a song about taxis,' says Alex. 'In order to make it any good, you've got to create quite a bit, a whole taxi journey. There were another two verses I had to cut ... We'd play it in practice - here's another bit, here's another bit -- and the band were stomping along, doing the same sort of riff, while I did a load of verbal over the top. It were bollocks: if we don't all believe in it, the four kids on stage, then they're [the fans] not gonna.'"
Also, in ones-to-watch news, Brooklyn Vegan offers a couple of suggestions for who is going to make the jump from indie darlings to proper pop stars in 2006: New York's We Are Scientists and Morningwood. Let's see: We Are Scientists are great live, make fabulous videos, conduct very funny interviews, and have the dorky distinction of the best Web site in pop. Morningwood, lest we forget, boast a "hilarious" name. Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. At the other end of the rock career timeline, Manchester cult heroes the Fall have just released their 26th album ("Fall Heads Roll") and the Guardian has a great piece that attempts to track down the 40-odd former members of the group, most of whom were victims of singer Mark E. Smith's somewhat idiosyncratic approach to band dynamics: "It's a bit like a [soccer] team ... Every so often you have to get rid of the centre-forward."
Meanwhile, in 2006's least surprising pop revelation, Lindsay Lohan has admitted to an eating disorder and drug use. Lohan gets a little more personal in a Vanity Fair cover story, MTV news reports, in which she credits "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels and cast member Tina Fey with performing an "intervention" whereby Fey announced "you're too skinny and I don't like it." We wish Lohan well, of course, and are especially pleased to see that, from the looks of the Vanity Fair photo shoot, at least, she seems rather more healthy now.
Surveying the detritus at the end of the festive period can leave one feeling overwhelmed: so much food, so much alcohol, so many best-album-of-the-year lists. An antidote, of sorts, in the form of Kelefa Sanneh's rant against the listmakers in the New York Times, which includes a swipe at the Mariah Carey-less nature of many top 10's, and attempts to solve that crucial end-of-year-poll dilemma "Why bother?" (Because people like to read them, apparently.) In a similar vein, the Independent has an interesting article comparing critics' top 10's with the public's favorites, and questioning the lack of crossover. Interestingly, though, on this British list, two groups (Gorillaz and the Kaiser Chiefs) still score high on both polls, whereas a glance at Billboard reveals that American critical chart-toppers like Sufjan Stevens and the Arcade Fire don't even trouble the top 200 bestsellers.
Finally, Euros Childs, singer for wonderful, whimsical Welsh group Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, has signed to super-hip indie label Wichita Recordings and is releasing his debut solo album next month. His Web site is rather horribly designed, but features the following highlight from a wonderful and whimsical tour diary: "I've had a rough few days and I've been too stressed out to even think about putting pen to _paper. It all stems from Alun Tan Lan's insistence of doing the tour on horseback. Me, Pete and Tom (sound engineer) travel in a mini bus whilst Tan Lan is riding his horse: Nazareth. All well and good, but this entails Tan Lan riding most of the night cross country across Wales, arriving at venues late afternoon. The man's not getting enough sleep, he's in a constant state _of sleep deprivation. I asked him what he's eating, "squirrels, field mice, _toadstools; any shit I can get my hands on" he replied. He's got a wild, wild _look in his eyes and I'm worried he's going to assault me."
-- Matt Glazebrook