- In Rainbows - Radiohead
What We Said : The downloading/MP3 debate can be held another time. What we really want to know is what 'In Rainbows' is actually like. Is it any good? Thankfully, yes. It has 'good' all the way through it, energy, beauty and creativity embedded deeply within it. In short, it's fabulous.
- Wild And Undaunted - Lisa Knapp
What We Said : Her own compositions don't sound out of place and the trad arr tunes fail completely and joyously to sound old in any way whatsoever, despite the largely traditional instrumentation used throughout. In summary, her voice is stunning and the sound is both respectful of folk traditions and progressively forwards looking and fresh. Quite some acheivement
- Mirrored - Battles
What We Said : A mischievous sense of fun is retained and the alien moon-race that we last heard on Joe Meek’s ‘I Hear A New World’ have inhabited the vocalist. He opens his mouth and this pinky/perky alien noise comes out like a cartoon vision. On stand-out track ‘Atlas’, these voices are heard in full effect whilst the drummer manages to conjure up one of the finest glam beats now known to mankind. Sounding like two drummers, he propels the song onwards whilst the bass player seemingly twists and turns in all directions. It’s a mighty feast and could well just be the future of music
- Tromatic Reflexxions - Von Sudenfed
What We Said : It quickly becomes apparent that Mark E Smith is the real deal, rather than the admitedly sincere tributes of LCD Soundsystem, Von Sudenfed simply have so much more power as an entity. Mark E Smith holds nothing back and neither do the Mouse Of Mars guys, bringing a whole arsenal of unrelenting beats and experiments to the table. The album rarely lets you have time to breathe, you get swept along in the sheer excitement of it all, clearly a great thing.
- Person Pitch - Panda Bear
What We Said : Phil Spector is in the hall, Brian Wilson in the bathroom and a voice is appearing coming in through the window. No one is quite sure whether it's birdsong but it sounds like a man in a mountain singing lullabies. It's Christmas somewhere but it's also summer. I did say the album was hard to explain. 'Good Girl/Carrots' works like musical poetry.
- Bluefinger - Black Francis
What We Said : 'Captain Pasty' immediately gets the juices flowing with a tasty, addictive and bendy guitar line, clattering drums and a rush of speedy vocals. We've a strong chorus and two and a half minutes of 'song'. Perfect. The five minute long 'Threshold Appreciation' is the most Pixies-like the man has been for some time, screaming and yelling, stop/starting and more besides.
- Because Of The Times - Kings Of Leon
What We Said : The first eight songs or so, just the first eight, you know, are all magnificent. So, not too bad? Bit of a mixed bag? Of course it's bloody not, it's another wonderful album from a band it's almost getting boring to say how great they actually are.
- Icky Thump - White Stripes
What We Said : The third song up reminds me both of Led Zeppelin and of Dylan circa 1965. Two great things to be reminded of, although neither influence anything new in White Stripes circles, of course. We don't need no innovation, we just need those primal drums and Jack White spraying everywhere with his guitar plugged in.
- White Chalk - PJ Harvey
What We Said : She plays Piano, not her normal instrument, in short repeating phrases. She croons and the space and air of deserted, open countryside is never far away from the mind. The title track in particular evokes the south-west of England and deserted lanes and fields. Her voice is way off in the distance, a single guitar softly strums nothing in particular. Half way through, harmonica, bass and drums arrive in no kind of hurry before the song switches back to beautiful minimalism.
- The Province Complains - Cats On Fire
What We Said : The guitars chime like it was 1986 again. It's such a pleasant sound to hear in the midst of the mire that currently is UK indie-guitar music. Prime melancholic indie music for those cold winter nights, indeed. The picture is complete when we add in a vocalist with a quiff and a penchant for sounding like a cross between Morrissey, Robert Smith and David Gedge. It's alledged that at least one member of Cats On Fire wears a cardigan. All of this is good so it's a relief that the music lives upto its potential.
- In Our Nature - Jose Gonzalez
What We Said : Jose Gonzalez continues with his ethos of less equals more with another collection of simple, stripped back minimal folk songs. If 'Veneer' reminded us of Nick Drake, here Gonzalez's tunings and strums take on a nature of their very own. Almost every song opens with a cyclical memorable guitar refrain, mantra-like. The arrangements leave spaces allowing the songs to breathe. As with 'Veneer' then, he resists the temptation to embellish his songs beyond the odd handclap here and there, a hand reaching across the frets, a mere breathe. These sounds become as much part of the music as the vocals and strikingly hummable melodies.
- Neon Bible - Arcade Fire
What We Said : Whatever they throw up has a measure to be, well, measured against for want to a better expression. Differences then? Well, one song sounds like Bruce Springsteen. One song sounds like Echo And The Bunnymen and another like a cross between The Beatles, ELO and outer-space.
- Roots And Echoes - The Coral
What We Said : One of the good things about The Coral is the fact they know how to construct an album as an album, not a random selection of loosely related songs. 'Roots And Echoes' is compiled and sequenced astutely, building upto a climax with the very impressive closing trio of tunes, amongst them some of the finest material The Coral have produced.
- Can Cladders - High Llamas
What We Said : We have hills and sailing and rain dotted around the album. Seaspray, snow and an english green. Acoustic guitar, piano, bass, drums and vibes, with those instruments joined by a string quartet, harp, banjo and a group of female vocalists. Thirteen songs ( including two brief instrumentals ) clock in at just under 40 minutes and because the album is so undemanding as to be almost background music, it's very easy to listen to over and over again. Detail in the instrumentation and the vocals keep you coming back for more.
- Grinderman - Grinderman
What We Said : Nick Cave is even looser than usual with his vocal and lyrical attack. These lyrics are appropriate for the project, harking back to his less literate ( although still great ) lyrics of The Birthday Party era. Indeed, Nick Cave hasn't brought the gutter and the blood and bile so successfully to an audience since 'Henry's Dream' or 'Tender Prey'.
- Memory Almost Full - Paul McCartney
What We Said : Indeed, 'Memory Almost Full' makes it two well produced McCartney albums in a row. At least half of these tunes were penned prior to 'Chaos And Creation' by the way with new songs making up the total. It's good, it's nearly all good stuff and I can't wait to hear these new songs played live.
- Reformation Post TLC - The Fall
What We Said : The first sound heard is Mark E Smith laughing in a rather sinister fashion. A bass riff soon begins and all is well. A seven year cycle begins every day sings Mark E, I think it's over now, I think it's beginning perhaps a comment on the daily line-up changes the band seem to suffer from these days. Whilst 'Over Over' sees The Fall in familiar territory, 'Reformation' is fairly stunning to these ears. Even more remarkable for the line-up being brand new, all new. A thunderous and exciting bass riff underpins everything, Mark E Smith spouts absolute nonsense poetry over the top, like a drunken tramp swaying in the streets of your local town.
- Graduation - Kanye West
What We Said : It's not without its faults but i'm prepared to overlook a lot of them. At 51 minutes the album is free from 'intro's' or annoying skits. Only a couple of tunes fall flat and that's not a bad ratio considering the start of the album in particularly is so very strong. I like it more than I expected to, given the hype and all the 50 cent nonsense. This is the winner for me.
- Release The Stars - Rufus Wainwright
What We Said : I like my string sections, even if i'm famously lukewarm about classical music as such. I stay out of those kind of arguments. I prefer orchestral pop to Beethoven and Rufus Wainwright does damn fine orchestral pop music with suitable crescendo's and everything else you could wish for.
- Untitled - Korn
What We Said : I applaude Korn's hard work. Despite serious line-up changes, they've rallied together to produce not a contract fulfilling affair ( which this actually is ) but a strong work. If this was their last album ever, as far as i'm concerned they could hold their heads up high. Quite simply, they've gone out with a bang.
- Probably Art - Day One
What We Said : So many indie-guitar bands fail to stay in the memory for very long at all. For the month or so i've had 'Probably Art', it's already made a big impact on me. Although, 'Day One' aren't exactly reinventing the wheel here, these types of bands that mix up their influences and display various disparate influences not only across a single album, but occasionally, a single song, are to be applauded.
- S/T - Good, The Bad And The Queen
What We Said : '80s Song' then? Well, it's a joy to behold. It's up there with 'Beetlebum', 'To The End' and whatever your favourite Albarn penned tune happens to be. It sounds like Joe Meek producing The Beatles in space. Gorgeous harmonies float in and the song adds additional 'bum bum bum...' harmonies too, one guy has a really low voice! It's cool, the entire song sends shivers through me. Believe
- Shotters Nation - Babyshambles
What We Said : Highlights here, and there are some, include 'You Talk' and 'French Dog Blues'. 'French Dog Blues' has some classy Pete moments, great lyrics and sweet guitar melodies alongside some more biting guitar and drums. 'Baddie's Boogie' contains harmonica. Pete's harmonica can always get a song of his into my heart and it's no different here. Rounding out the highlights is the closing track, the acoustic 'Lost Art Of Murder'. A quality composition that proves, as if proof were even needed, that Pete is a proper songwriter.
- Sound Of Silver - LCD Soundsystem
What We Said : From the sounds of this release, LCD Soundsystem are still happily fumbling in the darkness in search of what they are looking for. Although inconsistent, 'Sound Of Silver' does indeed provide us with a couple of apparently lucky moments of greatness. On top of this James Murphy provides us with more flashes of 1980's Manchester - the New Order theatrics of 'All My Friends' and the circa 1992 fall-esque 'Watch The Tapes'.
- A Weekend In The City - Bloc Party
What We Said : ‘The Prayer’ was released as the first single and a brave single it is, too. Nothing too obvious, yet increased listens ( around 10 should be enough ) makes you realise what a fantastic song it really is. It’s so far removed from The View, The Klaxons, Arctic Monkeys as to be ridiculous.
- Octopus - The Bees
What We Said : Arctic Monkeys get the praise, Kayne West gets the money and The Bees sit in Abbey Road studios wondering what microphone Paul McCartney used to record 'Rocky Raccoon'.
- Chrome Dreams II - Neil Young
What We Said : We've two songs on the LP that amount to nearly half of the overall running time. 'Ordinary People' is the more convincing of the two, so much so, that it becomes right up there with the Neil Young classics. It's an eighteen minute monster with good lyrics, great soloing from Neil, trumpets sweeping back and forth. It has a mantra like quality and demands to be as long as it is.
- Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters - The Twilight Sad
What We Said : Thrasing drums, a wall of noise. The singer rises in tone appropriately. Your red sky at night won't fool me now he sings, over and over, as if a mantra, whilst the melodic wall of shining and simmering guitars continue. Overall, it's nothing less than perhaps the most stunning album opener since 'Neighbourhood' on 'Funeral', yet I don't want to overplay those comparisons. Twilight Sad are firmly their own band.
- Funf - Clinic
What We Said : Clinic may have missed the chance that minor ad-assisted hit 'The Second Line' seemed to present to them, but they're still here presenting the weird and wonderful in turn. The oddly titled 'Funf' is 30 minutes of the groups b-sides and assorted strangeness that presents a succint overview of what the band are all about. Velvet Underground crossed with Sixties girl groups married with walls of white noise.
- Fur And Gold - Bat For Lashes
What We Said : Shakers and drums and the arrival of a new vocal talent. Natasha Khan has the kind of atmospheric and alluring voice not seen for many years. Her voice dominates this album, along with the often fairly minimal yet effective music, characterised by tribalesque soft drums and odd segments of percussion. I hear echoes of Siouxsie Sioux and of Bjork in these vocals. A song like 'What's A Girl To Do' for example opens with the Spector 'Be My Baby' drum pattern, then takes a left turn.