At the end of the year when I put together my list of the best albums of the year, I have a strict 'no compilations' policy. There's no particular reason for this, except that I have extreme anal retentive tendencies and it pleases me to create systems of rules within which my obsessions can operate.
Such a rule - which those same tendencies dictate can't be revoked without me feeling extremely uncomfortable - mean that the new Regal Vs Steamboat compilation from Audio Antihero will be denied what will surely be its rightful place as one of the best releases of 2013, unless of course somebody less constrained by psychological idiosyncrasies is willing to give it that recognition. I hope they will.
Charity releases can, of course, be at best a double-edged sword. Often they can be an excuse for passing off sub-standard material in the hope that people will be obliged to buy it because the cause is a good 'un. Audio Antihero, however, already possess a better track record in this area than most. Their previous compilations have been extremely pleasurable listening experiences and Regal Vs Steamboat, released in support of Rape Crisis, suggests they're getting even better at it.
Here, the usual AA suspects deliver to their accustomed high standard: Jack Hayter showcases a new version of the excellent 'Sweet JD', while Fighting Kites offer a frantic live version of 'Grey Starling', Wartgore Hellsnicker get impressively noisy and Paul Hawkins (above) reaffirms his position as one of our most treasured, and too often sadly underrated, songwriters.
There are further appearances from legendary associates Darren Hayman and Jeffrey Lewis (right), which I would - in any normal circumstances - surely be hailing as the highlights of the collection. But these are not normal circumstances: Ace Bushy Striptease, Burnt Palms and Internet Forever produce indie pop of such a sublime quality that it renders my oft-stated pleas for recognition that we live in a new golden age of such stuff barely even necessary. New additions to the AA roster Cloud would surely incinerate the competition were it not made of such universally strong stuff while Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love are so good they make me put to the back of my mind any reservations about their ridiculous name, which is saying something.
Despite all of this, arguably my greatest pleasure has been in being exposed for the first time to the work of Helena Dukic (left), a London-based, classically trained artist who makes relatively simple music to die for, as is adequately showcased by her track 'Come Along'. It inspired me to check out more of Helen's work here and it's a firm promise that you'll be hearing more of her in my Dandelion Radio shows in the future.
But limiting my reflections to the artists above gets nowhere near to giving you an idea of the panoramic brilliance of this collection. To do that, you really need to get a copy. It's available here for a minimum £3.99. It's for a good cause, of course, but, even if it wasn't, that would be represent a considerable bargain for what is essentially just about the best sampler release you'll hear for a long time.