- In Prism - Polvo
What We Said : All in all, strictly on paper this may not be the album of the year - in my heart it's definitely album of the year. The minor faults here and there just make the highpoints shine all the brighter. Not for Polvo ten tracks of well-produced mediocrity, or avant-garde experiments that lose sight of the listeners needs. No, Polvo are a band (although utterly unlike) to rank alongside Radiohead circa 'In Rainbows' in terms of achieving, seemingly easily, utter brilliance.
- Journal For Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers
What We Said : James Dean Bradfield said there would be something seriously amiss if they couldn't reconnect with lyrics Ritchey wrote just before he vanished. I mean, trying to write a sequel of sorts to your most critically acclaimed album some fifteen years later is an almost impossible task. It would be like The Smiths reforming and not only attempting a sequel to 'The Queen Is Dead' but actually pulling it off as well.
- Arc Light - Lau
What We Said : Where Lau go from here is a slight worry, if only because 'Arc Light' really is that good. Still, their mix of traditional and original folk tunes is something to cherish and 'Arc Light' is a contender for album of the year, no question.
- The Sleeper - The Leisure Society
What We Said : Do you remember Sarah Records, The Field Mice and the excellent Twee Pop of the 80s that John Peel would play? The Leisure Society are spot on with the same feeling, it just makes you happy and wipes away your worries. These guys really can write songs too. 'Short Weekend Begins With Longing' is a proper composition, it's not just a few chords and distorted guitars and a John Lennon poetry book all thrown together and produced by some idiot like Dave Eringa.
- The Hazards Of Love - The Decemberists
What We Said : 'The Wanting Comes In Waves' is arguably the finest thing Decemberists have done to date. This is a six minute plus, multi-segmented tune with intelligent lyrics, guitars, quiet bits and a tune to kill a pidgeon from thirty paces away. You know what it reminds me of, the creative spirit if not the sound? The Beatles 'White Album'. Now, that's high praise indeed.
- Jewellery - Micachu And The Shapes
What We Said : A couple of tunes then feature a vacumn cleaner as additional instrumentation. Other things like drills, electric shavers etc are quite possibly used. The guitar parts sound constantly out of tune yet still manage to captivate you due to the very simple and very catchy riffs they play out. Her vocals are mixed fairly low yet she also shouts on occasion about things like Calculators or Vampires. The opening cut doesn't have words that one is easily able to make out. Yet, combination of weird rhythm, weird vacumn cleaner, booming and discordant drums makes for one of the most thrilling tunes i've heard in many a year.
- The Duckworth Lewis Method - The Duckworth Lewis Method
What We Said : With or without the cricket references, 'The Duckworth Lewis Method' is quite simply wonderful and wonderful enough in a pop sense to deserve to produce a hit or three. It won't of course, unless the English win the ashes perhaps? Well, even then, I doubt we'll get much support from the pop stations in this country, all of whom seem to wish they were American.
- Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors
What We Said : 'Two Doves' is the entire solo career of Velvet Underground's 'Nico' in four minutes. The opening two numbers are a blaze of sound and ideas, more than many bands present in entire careers. 'Useful Chamber' is six minutes of distant vocals, electronics and much atmosphere. 'Remade Horizon' is now one of my top ten tunes of 2009. I know 2009 hasn't exactly been a vintage year for music, but Dirty Projectors have just made it interesting, at the very least.
- West Rider Pauper Lunatic Asylum - Kasabian
What We Said : The opening track sounds huge, massive drums boom out and Kasabian sound like they did before only better. Nothing too unexpected so far. A surprise arrives pretty soon though with 'Where Did All The Love Go?' - it's dance, it's soul, it's got vinyl type crackles in the background. In short, it's an absolute winner, one of those songs that goes round and round in circles - in a good way.
- Our Temperance Movement - Cats On Fire
What We Said : Yes, Cats On Fire are indie-jangle with dashes of subtle instrumental flourishes all of which fail to convince you they are particularly adept musicians, rather just adept enough. Yes, Cats On Fire are not as good as Felt, The Smiths, early Wedding Present or early Belle And Sebastian. Yet, they still rank as a band you can firmly call your own, have your own individual relationship with and feel happy that nothing else matters.
- Humbug - Arctic Monkeys
What We Said : Well, 'Humbug' doesn't present the same wild abandon of the first two LPs yet the ten tracks here are utterly cohesive and tight. Not tight as in Canadian progressive rock behemoths Rush rather tight compositionally and solid musically. The rhythm section sound particularly strong across the ten tracks here, although the addition of a keyboard/organ sound that invites comparisons with scouse band The Coral inevitably will attract criticism.
- The Master Alchemist - Invasion
What We Said : Invasion are a three-piece from London featuring a guitar player with a three-stringed guitar, a female drummer and an out-there soulstress for an unconventional twist on your usual kind of metal vocalist. Invasion have been often described as a hurried-up Black Sabbath in terms of guitar riffs - the drums are fairly primitive yet absolutely poundingly impressive and the wail of singer Chan Marshall is unique in this context. With lyrics about demons, goblins and magic, Invasion are a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale metal scene.
- Abnormally Attracted To Sin - Tori Amos
What We Said : The UK edition of 'Abnormally Attracted To Sin' has a brief moment of prettiness titled 'Oscars Theme' to close the album and that works well arriving after the album's epic, 'Lady In Blue'. 'Lady In Blue' is masterfully spooky and evocative, full of strange gothic synths and Tori's vocal turns this into the blues, turns this into weird supper-club jazz at a funeral parlour before rising upwards for a final crescendo.
- Libellus - Tallulah Rendall
What We Said : One of her early singles 'Lay Me Down' reveals hints of Jazz within both the music and vocal delivery. Suitably haunting and smoky, this is one for dark late nights with the headphones on. 'Only You' bursts out magnificently in faintly pyschedelic fashion half-way through before dipping back into the same kind of beautiful quiet it began. A little bit of a jaw-opener is 'Only You', an absolutely brilliant piece.
- Grace/Wastelands - Pete Doherty
What We Said : Well, Stephen Street produces and gets a bit of variety down with dubby sounds and makes makes sure the arrangements are tight. Half of the LP is almost entirely solo Doherty though and we get a good mix between fuller produced numbers and acoustic Doherty. We even get Doherty giving those pesky Arctic Monkeys guys a lesson with 'A Little Death Around The Eyes'.
- Backspacer - Pearl Jam
What We Said : Lead single 'The Fixer' sees Eddie Vedder in fine voice, stripping back the past decade to provide enthusiasm and genuine aggression. 'Gonna See My Friend' is quality aggressive rock unconcerned with the fall-out from the grunge wars, sounding more like Nirvana than Pearl Jam did back in the day. Well, either Nirvana or a particularly good Foo Fighters song, at any rate.
- Together Through Life - Bob Dylan
What We Said : Some of the better melodies here include 'I Feel A Change Comin On', a song that weaves deliciously with a soft, Spanish/Mexican feel and good Dylan lyrics and vocal melodies. The album opener 'Beyond Here Lies Nothin' has been used to advertise the album on TV and it's right up there with anything from 'Modern Times'. You know, it sounds like a beloved, rusty old kettle.
- Elvis Perkins In Dearland - Elvis Perkins
What We Said : Elvis Perkins is building up a good cult fanbase at the moment and 'Elvis Perkins In Dearland' is only likely to increase that fanbase. Not everything passes muster but then again, if it did, he'd hardly be human. A few songs tend to drag and forget to pack in a melody. Then again, there's always something like 'I Heard Your Voice In Dresden' to captivate you and such moments are plentiful enough for this listener, at least.
- La Roux - La Roux
What We Said : A number two single with 'In For The Kill', a number one single with 'Bulletproof' and now a number one debut album. It's fair to say La Roux has made quite an impression with her modern take on eighties synth-pop. Well, the songs are constructed in a modern way and the lyrics are modern. The music sounds all the world at times like Depeche Mode/Erasure/Yazoo man Vince Clarke has been involved, at least spiritually.
- Regardez, Ecoutex Et Repetez - MJ Hibbett
What We Said : A word about the physical CD product before I carry on. We get a standard plastic case but the CD itself contains some great multimedia. We get lyrics, sleevenotes, chords, a mini album of demos and a magazine. MJ Hibbett may not sell hundreds of thousands of albums but these extras are a message for major labels, give us some extra value for money in this modern digital age and we'll be more likely to part with our hard earned cash.
- Embryonic - Flaming Lips
What We Said : Perhaps that sums up 'Embryonic' best, something that shouldn't work but does. Something that you will admire more than actively enjoy but also something to be endlessly fascinated by.
- Further Complications - Jarvis Cocker
What We Said : 'Caucasian Blues' is an almost impossibly unlikely Jarvis Cocker song title yet he sounds like he's really enjoying himself. Jarvis is no Nick Cave but even the god of gloom Nick Cave would appreciate the effort and unpretentious groove here. It's like punk rock without the punk, if that makes sense? Jarvis's backing band sound pretty well drilled, you see. Anyway, for those of you that wanted an old style Jarvis tear-jerker 'I Never Said I Was Deep' is the one. Absolutely brilliant tune, right up their with pre-britpop Pulp's best. There, I said it.
- Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman - Sparks
What We Said : 'The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman' includes a church organ approximately 21 minutes in. Shortly after this, whilst Ingmar is trying to contact Sweden, the American receptionist/operator asks "Sweden, how do you spell that?"
'We've Got To Turn Him Round' and associated melodies are weirdly lovely. Almost a big opera dance number to close. Was it all merely a dream?
- Red Light Fever - Hot Leg
What We Said : Hot Leg are Justin from The Darkness plus musicians that are far better than The Darkness at playing their instruments. Unfortunately for all you that never liked The Darkness, this is still the overblown and hysterical man-rock of old albeit with extra playing 'ooomph' in places.
- The Grape And The Grain - Leo Abrahams
What We Said : Aww, i'd forgotten all about this guy but when I saw his new album was out, I had to pick it up. I heard a few tracks beforehand you see and knew 'The Grape And The Grain' was better than anything i'd heard from him previously. To put it simply, Leo Abrahams has crafted one of the most beautiful guitar instrumental albums I can ever recall hearing.
- A Woman, A Man Walked By - PJ Harvey
What We Said : In 1996, PJ Harvey recorded an album called 'Dance Hall At Louse Point'. John Parish wrote the music and PJ wrote the lyrics. Thirteen years later the duo repeat the collaboration in much the same way although with markedly different results. 'A Woman, A Man Walked By' is a much stronger release than 'Dance Hall' was and although John Parish plays most of the instruments Polly Harvey's presence drifts over everything.
- The Bridge - Grandmaster Flash
What We Said : 'We Speak Hip Hop' is absolutely stunning to a guy that's in his mid-thirties and somewhat despairing of modern rap. There's definitely an older mind at work here harking back to what made rap great in the first place. KRS One does a great spot on this one. Further decent tracks arrive pretty much throughout, yet if I have one critiscm of 'The Bridge' it's a little overlong running to twenty tracks overall.
- The E.N.D. - Black Eyed Peas
What We Said : Auto-tuned almost to within an inch of its life, this LP. 'Meet Me Halfway' is, in one sense, everything that's wrong with modern chart music. It does share a touch of the eighties though in a similar way to 'Alive'. It's the kind of pop music I thought had been forgotten about. Oh, I know that eighties nostalgia is everywhere yet it's rare that music is done right in such a fashion without sounding silly. Remarkably for a band I generally loath, Black Eyed Peas have got it right.
- Ready For The Weekend - Calvis Harris
What We Said : The trance sounds that permeate the rather weak single 'I'm Not Alone' irritate, 'Flashback' could also be a single, it's simple and dumb enough without being quite silly enough for my liking. In truth, Calvin Harris best work is where he sits in the background and acts as producer, hence the marvellous 'Dance Wiv Me' with the popular recording artist Dizzee Rascal.
- Live - Peatbog Faeries
What We Said : 'All About Windmills' closes this album, a slower tune, something very rare in Peatbog Faeries world, it seems. Everything it seems is all-out, two hundred miles an hour in a fast supercar. 'All About Windmills' is more of a country-stroll, yet we needed one. Opening cut 'The Anthropologist' has some satisfyingly melodic and funky bass parts and we needed those too.