The Jazz Butcher: The Highest In The Land (2022)

I've loved the Jazz Butcher for the longest time, enchanted by their unique blend of jangly guitar pop and humorous British whimsy, so it was particularly sad when band alter-ego Pat Fish passed away last year. Fortunately, he left behind a final posthumous release, and it's a real treat. As with Bowie's final album a few years back, there's a sadness to the record, which may or may not be right there in the music but is inescapable with the knowledge of Fish's untimely demise. Many of the songs lean towards quiet, jazz-tinged balladry, sweet & earnest numbers like "Sea Madness" and especially the gorgeous "Never Give Up." But there is still of that old-school Jazz Butcher light touch, like the faux lounge jazz of "Melanie Hargreaves' Father's Jaguar," the perky "Sebastian's Medication," and the countrified pop "Running On Fumes" (which squeezes in a nod to Bowie's passing and is the closest thing to a throwback to the band's early days). It's almost cruel to close things out with the slow-burn send-off "Goodnight Sweetheart," but it feels right.

You can buy the album at Rough Trade.

Meanwhile, fans are also treated to a fantastic retrospective of early work. Dr. Cholmondley Represents (released last year) is a generous box set of the band's earliest singles and b-sides, some appearing on CD (or digital download) for the first time, coupled with some 1989 radio sessions. So you can finally get the band's greatest song, the original single version of "Southern Mark Smith," coupled with fantastic ditties like "The Devil Is My Friend," "Real Men," and the band's unique twists on "Roadrunner" and "Sweet Jane." You can buy it at Bandcamp.

Here's an animated video for "Running on Fumes" from the new one:

...and an audio rip of "Sea Madness":
And from the retrospective, here's "The Devil Is My Friend":
...and, of course, "Southern Mark Smith":