There are always killjoys at every Christmas party ruining the fun for merrymakers by moaning on and on about how we should remember that this time of year is a joyous time for many, but is a depressing bundle of nerves and gloom for others. Like I really need to hear that Christmas is the worst time of the year to buy pets for loved ones and that suicide rates skyrocket in December when I'm trying to make nice with the new office co-worker who has yet to figure out what a creep I am! Take that shit away from me, Tim Burton! As for the pet buying, it's true -- so think about it before you buy your little critters (just doing my part for the neglected animal world...). But in regard to the suicide rates, I have my suspicions, despite many empirical statements to the contrary. My evidence simply says otherwise. The winter chill of January/February is a bitch on the fragile psyche, and these three facts alone should make it clear that this time of year bears witness to much more mental anguish than sunny December:

- an increase in people getting left-breast tattoos of Anne Rice's misty profile floating over a somber piece of Dante's poetry

- all-time high "serious" levels among Nazi Low Riders (many are finding it difficult to even muster up the energy to spray jizz on the face of a passed-out member!)

- not one, not two, but three new album releases related to a legendary tormented Scottish duo

Of course, all Goth vaulties and nouveau Nazi fucks are complete poseurs in the downcast game when compared to über-misers Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat, a.k.a. the band formerly known as Arab Strap. Or so they would have you believe. As we posted some months ago, the beloved Glaswegians have split, but that does not mean the show is over. Despite being associated with the dark stuff of life, both Moffat and Middleton have so far managed to surprise us with the upbeat feel of their solo projects while keeping their lyrics personal and conflict-ridden. So turn those frowns into straighter lines or even, gasp, smirks, and put on your happy hats, because here we go!

Malcolm Middleton releases his third album,A Brighter Beat, on February 26 on Full Time Hobby. The full-length is the follow-up to his outstanding 2005 album, Into the Woods, and will be preceded by single "A Brighter Beat" (b/w "Point of Light") January 22 on limited-edition 7-inch vinyl concreteness and downloadable digital abstractness. So much for me going out on a limb and declaring 2007 "the return of the cassingle." Sadly, there is no North American release on the horizon, which is a shame because these songs, by the look of their titles alone, are screaming for a wider audience:

1. We're All Going to Die
2. Fight Like the Night
3. A Brighter Beat
4. Death Love Depression Love Death
5. Fuck It, I Love You
6. Stay Close Sit Tight
7. Four Cigarettes
8. Somebody Loves You
9. Up Late at Night Again
10. Superhero Songwriters

Middleton will be touring in support of A Brighter Beat, with dates opening for Sophia in Germany and Badly Drawn Boy in the U.K. before hitting the road for a brief English and Scottish headliner.

Middleton comes alive!