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Atoms For Peace
Amok (XL)

Atoms For PeaceUnless you have been living under a stone for the past six months you will doubtless already be aware that Atoms For Peace are Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich and various muso buddies who take Yorke’s, some felt slightly stilted, laptop experiments from his solo album The Eraser a stage further by adding rather more in the way of a groove, and if all the Autechre-esque glitchy electronica is still present and correct the off-kilter skittering beats don’t ever derail the tunes, of which there are plenty. In fact the only moot point is that this could just as easily have been Radiohead’s follow up to King Of Limbs.
Ruby Palmer

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Viv Albertine
The Vermilion Border (Cadiz Music)

Viv Albertine Never heard of Viv Albertine? Wondering why Jack Bruce, Tina Weymouth, Dennis Bovell, Norman Watt Roy, Danny Thompson and Mick Jones all feature on this album? Well, for the uninitiated the drop dead gorgeous Ms Albertine was originally the guitarist for the Slits who moved into television work when the Slits, erm, split, in 1982 and only returned to music in 2009. Which brings us to this her rather fantastic debut album which, if you want a vague signpost, sounds not unlike The Velvet Undergound and Nico only with more humorous (and delightfully rude) lyrics. Let’s hope the wait for the next one isn’t so prolonged.
Ruby Palmer

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Anathema
Weather Systems (K Scope)

Anathema If ever a career arc was more mind boggling than Anathema’s stately progress from death metal into melodic prog-rock then this writer can’t recall it, and it’s hard to imagine fans of the grunting machine gun clatter of the former having anything but utter contempt for the latter. But their loss is certainly our gain as the band’s latest collection of beautiful soaring post rock is an absolute joy, Dave Stewart’s string arrangements once again building and intertwining with the walls of thunderous guitar and choral vocals to magnificent effect, in short this is what Coldplay wish they sounded like, and is Anathema’s finest release to date.
Ruby Palmer

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The Apples
Fly On It (Audio Montage)

The Apples Combining funk, jazz, samples, electronica, dub and the sort of mind melting arrangements last heard under the baleful glare of Frank Zappa Israeli post-funk nine-piece instrumental outfit The Apples are the biggest breath of fresh air to hit the jazz scene since Jaga Jazzist. And their latest album, Fly On It, boasts a positive smorgasbord of vibes from all over the world, with European, African and Middle Eastern influences all detectable but all brilliantly melded into far more than the sum of their parts, no sooner have you traced one thread to its source than another leads you somewhere totally different. Best album this year, hands down.
Paul Riley

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Animal Collective
Centipede HZ (Domino)

Animal CollectiveSo how do you follow up a critical smash like 2009’s end of year fave Merriweather Post Pavilion? Well why not make a complete u-turn and hark back to the earlier darker, more claustrophobic sounds, where Merriweather... was relaxed, warm and welcoming Centipede... is angular, spiky and in-yer-face, where Merriweather... seemed to have an overall coherence Centipede... is all over the bloody place. It is also, to these ears at least, a far better album as it does what Animal Collective do best, which is do their damndest to confound and intrigue. A science fiction soundtrack beamed in from the future.
Ruby Palmer

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Ian Anderson
Thick As A Brick 2 (EMI)

Ian Anderson Spiky bugger Ian Anderson, not one to suffer fools gladly or indeed afraid to speak his mind regardless of how unpopular the subject matter. He is however the brains behind some astonishingly accomplished progressive rock and this is his follow up to one such masterpiece Thick As A Brick (originally released in 1972). Sadly this isn’t a Jethro Tull outing - No Martin Barre – but, given that the history of rock is littered with duff sequels (yes, we're looking at you Bat Out Of Hell 2) it is a great deal better than many fans feared revisiting the main character Gerald Bostock, now fifty, with more than the odd nod to the back catalogue.
The Oracle

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Jon Amor Blues Group
Jon Amor Blues Group (Six Six Records)

Jon Amor Blues Group Jon Amor, formerly of The Hoax, has returned to his blues roots for this eponymous album. Opening with the gritty blues rock of 'Holy Water' the band then serves up Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters inspired blues in the shape of 'Juggernaut', 'Make It Your Trouble' and 'Repeat Offender', the latter of the three being a grungy pleasure. There are riffs overflowing on the R&B/Blues crossover of 'Sweetheart' and the rocker 'Angel In A Black Dress', but it’s the pared down gritty, slow blues of 'When Your Time Comes' that stands out. They close with a straight down the line rocker, 'You Know It’s Only Love'. I can’t wait for the next one!
David Blue

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Author
Author (Tectonic)

AuthorAs is often the case in dance music this link-up between Leeds-based dubstep producers Ryan ‘Jack Sparrow’ Gath and Dom ‘Ruckspin’ Howard is likely to last as long as the vibe they are riding continues to inspire them to create more, and in the fast moving dubstep scene this could just as easily be the only thing that ever surfaces under the Author moniker, which would be a crying shame as their eponymously titled debut is chock full of wonderfully atmospheric, moody cuts. Think Burial but far more widescreen, jazzy and less claustrophobically urban, possibly the dubstep release of 2011 in fact.
Drew Bass

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Agents Of Mercy
The Black Forest (Foxtrot)

Agents Of Mercy It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that this, decidedly old school, early Genesis styled prog-rock outing by Swedes Agents Of Mercy is on the Foxtrot Label. The brainchild of Flower Kings guitarist Roine Stolt - the Swedish Steven Wilson, with more side projects than the Indian god Kali – Agents Of Mercy make no apologies for looking to the past musically and judging by these results neither should they. If you feel your music world ground to an ignominious halt in the late seventies and bands like Genesis, Family, Yes and Jethro Tull had already delivered their masterpieces then this is definitely for you.
Ray Harper

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Anathema
Falling Deeper (Kscope)

AnathemaComing to this album with no preconceptions, I’ll admit right now to never having heard the band before (although Wikipedia tells me they began life as death metallers), all I know for sure is that this is an orchestral reworking of previous early songs now shorn of the doom laden vocal grunting and frankly it is genuinely a thing of rare beauty. It’s hard to imagine fans of their early output really ‘getting’ this but there’s a line to be drawn from Wagner to heavy metal and that line is now being drawn straight back to the sort of things only an orchestra can really do by bands like Anathema and artists like Peter Gabriel.
The Oracle

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Art Of Noise
Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise: Collector's Edition (Salvo/ZTT)

Art Of NoiseFor a band that has only managed five albums, reissues aside, in their (just short of) ten year career Art Of Noise have left a remarkably large footprint – for example they are the third most sampled act ever behind James Brown and Kraftwerk – and this is their masterwork, over twenty five years since its original release it still sounds astonishingly current a terrific marriage of of-the-wall ideas, top notch musicianship, and (what was then) the latest technology. If you don’t already own this album, and why the hell not? Then this is a great way to remedy that fact, the audio and visual extras a welcome inclusion.
Drew Bass

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Arctic Monkeys
Suck It And See (Domino)

Arctic MonkeysMany a band show huge promise, collating every good idea they've ever had onto their debut album only to die on their arse when they find the ideas-well bone dry on subsequent visits, not something that has thus-far concerned the Arctic Monkeys, and with Scott Walker style side projects and Josh Homme driven stoner rock desert session under Alex Turners belt fans have doubtless been wondering what the hell to expect next? Well, pretty much an amalgam of everything they have done to date, the emphasis on mid tempo songs with strong, ‘60s style, pop hooks, so nothing too dramatic but another confident step in a, doubtless, long career.
Ruby Palmer

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Art Of Noise
Into Battle With The… (Salvo)

Art Of NoiseRather amusingly Window Media Player decided that this version of Into Battle With The… is by Nazareth (it's hard to imagine a band less like the Art Of Noise), as even now much of the band’s extended debut EP still sounds remarkably futuristic and totally removed from what was being released around the same time. Now expanded to include what would have been their first album, entitled Worship, which was clearly a more experimental affair (although much of the bare bones of Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise, the band’s debut album proper can be found herein), a fascinating insight into the direction they might have taken.
Drew Bass

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Autechre
EPs 1991 – 2002 (Warp)

AutechreA fascinating 5 x CD collection of Autechre’s ‘EPs from, yup you’ve guessed it, 1991 to 2002’, 47 tracks ranging from the hard to find to the impossible to find and fascinating because you can follow the guys development from the reasonably accessible Aphex-ish clonking great early cuts like ‘Cavity Job’ and ‘Accelara 1&2’ right up to the entirely inaccessible glitched out likes of ‘Gelk’ and ‘Gantz Graf’. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but just be thankful someone is not content to simply recycle the past, and how can you not love a band when tracks entitled ‘Rpeg’, ‘Ccec’ and ‘Squeller’, sound pretty much exactly like their titles.
Drew Bass

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Gregg Allman
Low Country Blues (Rounder)

Gregg AllmanBoasting, arguably, the finest white blues voice ever Gregg Allman has certainly had his fair share of the blues over the years, not least during his years helming the accident prone Allman Brothers Band – he even had to put this release on hold so he could pop in and have his much abused liver renewed – and he attacks this collection of blues cover versions, his first release in 14 years, with a vim and vigour that belies his 63 hard livin’ years on planet rock. With Hammond and bottleneck in full effect Allman’s tributes to Skip James, Muddy Waters, BB King, Otis Rush, and Sleepy John Estes is an all round success story.
Ray Harper

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The Amorphous Androgynous
A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind Vol. 3 - The 3rd Ear (History Music)

The Amorphous AndrogynousHaving already produced what are probably the best two mix albums since the mighty Coldcut’s Journeys By DJ Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain (who are also the Future Sound Of London) had a lot to live up to on the third instalment of their excellent psychedelic crate digging exercise, and blow me down if they haven’t done it again, whether reminding us of great tracks we may already know (John Kongos' ‘Tokoloshe Man’) or introducing us to great tracks we perhaps don’t (Leon Russel’s take on ‘The Ballad Of Hollis Brown’ or the Golden Animals stomping ‘Hi/Lo’).
Drew Bass

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Jon Anderson & Rick Wakeman
The Living Tree (Gonzo/Voiceprint)

Jon Anderson & Rick WakemanFan of prog titans Yes will doubtless be thrilled to learn of the new collaboration between vocalist Jon Anderson and grumpy old keyboard man Rick Wakeman, the duo's debut studio release, featuring nine tracks of original new material (there was talk of some reinterpreted Yes tracks at one point but this didn’t happen). Obviously the chaps know each other very well and this album plays nicely to their strengths, i.e. Andersons mellifluous vocals and Wakeman’s classically driven knack for clever arrangements – and of course his keyboard skills. In fact this actually sounds not unlike Yes but without the prog-rock bombast.
Ray Harper

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Afro Celt Sound System
Capture (Real World)

Afro Celt Sound System Cherry picking tracks from the five albums released between 1995 and 2005 this double disc set – split into vocal and instrumental discs – is a fine introduction to the distinctive Afro/Irish outfit (this fusion arrived at by guitarist Simon Emmerson when, working with Baaba Maal, he noticed similarities in the traditional music’s of Africa and Ireland), and if that just sounds like so much hippie bullshit then you clearly haven’t seen the buggers play live, prompting even the most lumpen of beer boys to dance like monkey’s. If you want to get a real feel of the band you need to begin with the instrumental set, then chill with the vocals set.
Drew Bass

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Laurie Anderson
Homeland (Nonesuch)

Laurie AndersonExperimental musician and artist Laurie Anderson develops and refines her work in live performance, often over the course of many years. Homeland was no exception, and was finally brought to completion with the assistance of husband Lou Reed. An expansive and haunting meditation on the many sadnesses of the post-9/11 years which features some of Anderson’s strongest melodies and is forever startling the ear with breathtaking sonic details (check the electronic tangle of John Zorn-aided bird-flight sounds on ‘The Beginning of Memory’). Thrillingly alive with the possibilities of the new, Homeland is destined to be one of the year’s best.
David Davies

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Arandel
In D (Infine Music)

ArandelYes, all the tracks are indeed in D and the more left field musically literate amongst you may well pick up on the fact that it also nods knowingly towards Terry Riley’s In C, however most of us just want to know what it sounds like? To these ears the closest relation would be mid period Third Eye Foundation, but that really is a vague signpost as the nine tracks are built from drum machines, keyboards, stylophones, flutes, strings, brass and much more (all played by the mysterious Arandel), into often invigorating, sometimes unsettling and occasionally even confusing but never less than fascinating soundscapes.
Drew Bass

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Autechre
Oversteps (Warp)

AutechreIt’s often been easier to admire rather than love Autechre as they continued to push the skittering glitch-beat end of the IDM genre (they hate genres) in ever more convoluted and disconcerting directions, the phrase ‘dance music you can’t dance to’ was surely invented for Rob Brown and Sean Booth. But, whilst this could hardly be called accessible in any sane world, Oversteps is in fact an Autechre you can love as they have rediscovered the little nuggets of melody found on early albums like Tri Repetae to help balance out the more synapse frying brain clatter. They still name tracks things like ‘d-sho qub’, ‘krYlon’ and ‘Yuop’ mind.
Drew Bass

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Animal Collective
Campfire Songs (Paw Tracks)

Animal Collective Currently topping most major end of year polls with the excellent Merriweather Post Pavilion so the time is obviously ripe for re-releasing some earlier efforts, this one originally released in 2003 and an obvious departure from their 2001 ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach on Danse Manatee, and consequently as laid back as it’s possible to get without falling over and even includes ambient sounds intruding from outside the porch on which they recorded the sessions. Fans of their recent Beach Boys on acid approach may find this a little too stripped down but perseverance is rewarded and proves a worthy addition to the Animal’s collection.
Ruby Palmer

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Luther Allison
Songs From The Road (Ruf Records)

Luther AllisonIt’s hard to believe that Luther Allison died over 12 years ago now, but this CD & DVD set recorded for Canadian TV, highlights what a loss he was. From the storming ‘Cancel My Check’ Luther goes on to produce classy moments such as the energetic ‘What Have I Done Wrong’ and the fret burning ‘Will It Ever Change’. Swinging blues are added on ‘You Can, You Can’ and ‘There Comes A Time’, with Allison’s guitar reminiscent of BB King, but the best moments are saved until last with ‘(Watching You) Cherry Red Wine’, a big, powerful instrumental, Low Down & Dirty, written by his son, Bernard and the classic 'It Hurts Me Too'.
David Blue

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Dave Arcari
Got Me Electric (Buzz Records)

Dave ArcariScotland’s own Alt blues wild man, Dave Arcari, returns with his fifth solo CD (he is also part of the highly regarded Radiotones) and his best yet. Got Me Electric is a mix of old and new, the old coming from his own back catalogue and sources as diverse as the two Roberts (that'll be Johnson and BURNS sassenachs ) and the new via a batch of fresh tracks. Highlights of the country/punk blues archetype Arcari deals in include 'One More Heartbreak' and 'Journeytime Is Over'. Seasick Steve says of Arcari, “That boy bleeds for you – he is a real down deep player and a soul man”. Says it all really!
David Blue

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Art Brut
Art Brut vs. Satan (Cooking Vinyl)

Art Brut Having got that difficult second album (It’s A Bit Complicated) out of the way - and their previous label EMI - Art Brut return on, the increasingly excellent, Cooking Vinyl, produced by another CV regular Frank ‘Black Francis’ Black, so expect loads of visceral racket eh? Nope, just a slightly more muscular, stripped back take on the bands lyrically natty punk pop styling’s, main man Eddie Argos once again peppering proceedings with clever one-liners – not unlike early XTC – although quite what some listeners will make of the title track’s barbed ‘We can take them, The record buying public, we hate them’ remains to be seen.
Ruby Palmer

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Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)

Animal CollectiveImagine a world where the Beach Boys relocated to Germany in the 1970’s (Brian Wilson, having delivered Pet Sounds, had taken to his bed for four years). Upon arriving in Europe the Boys immediately begin checking out Kraftwerk, Can and the more wilful Krautrockers like Ash Ra Tempel, then head straight for the nearest studio with Conny Plank – after sacking the hideously self-satisfied Mike Love, who would obviously hate the new direction. The tapes then lay undiscovered for twenty five years until Panda Bear uncovers them (let’s say in a junk shop in Düsseldorf) and releases them as the brilliant new Animal Collective album.
Ruby Palmer

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AC/DC
Black Ice (SonyBMG)

AC/DCWith Brendan O'Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine and Pearl Jam) producing their first album in eight years - their longest layoff between albums - Black Ice has been a long time coming. But fear not the bare-boned blues swagger AC/DC laid claim to all those years back is in full effect and with titles like ‘Smash And Grab’, ‘Spoiling For Fight’, ‘Decibel’ and ‘Big Jack’ you know you're in unreconstructed, Aussie spit ‘n’ sawdust bar room boogie territory, from Angus’s crunching SG riffage to that scrotum clenching Brian Johnson squeal AC/DC remain as immovable as beachy head in a force ten gale.
Ray Harper

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Kevin Ayers
Songs For Insane Times (Harvest /EMI)

Kevin Ayers A 4xCD box set anthologising Ayers work for the Harvest label between 1969 and 1980 and an excellent introduction to those not au fait with the great mans back catalogue (which, given his penchant for regularly derailing his career, will likely be legion). A founding member of Soft Machine Ayers very English brand of song writing was as much an influence on the Brit psychedelic movement as Syd Barrett’s and this collection neatly captures the extraordinary stylistic arc of his first four albums and the better moments from his later work. Fans of old will be most excited by the inclusion of an unreleased live show from 1973.
Ray Harper

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Adem
Takes (Domino)

Adem Usually the last resort of the artistically bereft, or the contractually constricted, the covers album can occasionally throw up moments of genius (track down Cat Powers complete deconstruction of ‘Satisfaction’), but seldom makes for a satisfying whole until now, as this nu-folk strummer and one third of electronic mavericks Fridge, delivers twelve stripped down covers of tracks by (amongst others) Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, PJ Harvey, Bjork and, lord help us, the Aphex Twin. That he succeeds so admirably is entirely testament to his cracking taste in music and his remarkable musical ability, playing and producing absolutely everything.
Drew Bass

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Air
Moon Safari (Virgin)

AirAs the more established end of the music industry slowly grinds to an ignominious halt, nudged up against the internet like a glacier trying to push a mountain up a mountain, back catalogues have begun to take on a life of their own, meaning major labels are now only going back a decade (rather than the two and half or three hitherto deemed anniversary worthy) to find albums ripe for repackaging. That said if you don’t already have Air’s electronic take on easy listening Moon Safari then now is the time to remedy that as it now comes complete with another disc of remixes and a DVD documentary.
Drew Bass

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The Allman Brothers
Rock Legends (Mercury)

The Allman BrothersOn October 29th 1971 guitarist Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia then, just over a year later (November 11th, 1972), bass player Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident, only three blocks from the site of Duane's accident. Southern rockers the Allman Brothers history is littered with such tragedy and yet is also littered with life affirming music and everything you could want from an introduction to the band is here. From the extended jamming of ‘...Elizabeth Reed’ and ‘Stormy Monday’ to more instantly recognisable classics like ‘Whipping Post’, ‘Blue Sky’ and Top Gear theme tune ‘Jessica’.
Ray Harper

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Autechre
Quaristice (Warp)

Autechre Right there at the birth of what we now, irritatingly, call electronica – basically dance music you haven’t the faintest hope in hell of dancing to – Autechre have been making albums that sound like backfiring diesel engines lowered by rusty chains into flaming oil baths with the results recorded onto badly misfunctioning vari-speed tape players since 1987 and damn good at it they are too. This, their ninth album, continues the theme of turning left every time a right turn is called for and stopping at exactly the point everybody else would choose to go, delighting in confounding the listener at every possible turn.
Drew Bass

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American Music Club
The Golden Age (Cooking Vinyl)

American Music ClubThere’s no denying that this release has split the AMC faithful straight down the middle, and in truth it’s not as immediate than their last effort, 2004’s Love Songs For Patriots, and is altogether more approachable their benchmark 1993 recording Mercury. The truth is this is a seriously laid back affair, but that’s not to say there’s not some moments of stark beauty to be found herein and Mark Eitzel’s lyrical acuity is still present and correct, especially on album highlight 'The Windows Of The World' which addresses 9/11 in a thought provoking rather than heart-string tugging way and is all the better for it.
Ruby Palmer

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Kevin Ayers
The Unfairground (Lo-Max)

Kevin Ayers As recent interviews have illustrated, Kevin Ayers remains arguably the most enigmatic singer/songwriter to have emerged from the creatively fertile late ‘60s English underground scene. One might also add the word ‘reticent’ given that this 10-track, 34-minute opus is his first studio album since 1992’s equally concise Still Life With Guitar. But it’s quality that counts, and it’s in abundance on a selection of songs heavy with wise ruminations on ageing and its effects on love and friendship. Fine performances from a host of star guests – Phil Manzanera and Candie Payne among them – set the seal on a very welcome comeback.
David Davies

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amiina
Kurr (Ever)

amiinaFrom the beautiful, oversized and robustly tactile card cover (featuring Sólrún, Maria, Edda and Hildur knitting) and the gently ethereal opening bars of lead track ‘Sogg’, Kurr - by Icelandic string quartet amiina, better known as touring and recording foils for fellow islanders Sigur Rós – gradually reveals itself to be a thing of genuine beauty, and whilst strings certainly feature heavily the real icing on the cake here is the battery of Celtic harps, metalphones, cuadros, celests, tubas, saws and wine glasses (amongst numerous other instruments), which are utilised in the most, wonderful and beguiling but perverse and often unexpected ways.
Ruby Palmer

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All Our Good Friends
Promise (Mumbo)

All Our Good Friends Having made more than a few waves on its digital only release last year Johnny Daukes debut effort as All Our Good Friends now makes it onto round shiny plastic. Daukes - who also dabbles in comedy sketch writing and, erm is this right? Motorbike stunt riding? Can someone check that please? – sounds not unlike a folkie Roger Waters fronting Bends era Radiohead which looks horrible written down but is actually pretty effective. You do find yourself wishing he would let rip a bit more often as things get exponentially more invigorating when he brings the noise but on the whole this is an impressive debut.
Ray Harper

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Asobi Seksu
Asobi Seksu (One Little Indian)

Asobi SeksuHotly tipped New York four piece who, given the amount of shoegazing references to be found in their press to date, barely made it into the CD player. Which just goes to show, preconceptions can be a right bugger. Imagine Mogwai fronted by Ex-Cocteau Liz Frasier or Stereolab given a muscular Mary Chain style guitar injection and you’re in the general ballpark, but like all the best new music this is only a starting point as Asobi Seksu aren’t scared to dabble in pure pop (albeit feedback drenched pure pop), and they’re prolific buggers too as the follow up Citrus is due to follow in August.

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Arctic Monkeys
Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino)

Arctic MonkeysHow do you follow the fastest selling album in chart history – despite having already shifted bucketloads of the same material on MySpace - an album which landed a bushel of awards and more column inches than Jordan. Well with more of the same really, lyrically pithy (Alex Turner and Conor Oberst are the two finest lyricists to emerge in many a moon), musically punchy and even tighter than the pretty-damn-impressive playing on Whatever... But don’t imagine ‘more of the same’ means the Monkeys are treading water, simply consolidating, these boys are in for the long haul and we’re looking forward to the next one already.


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Alexkid
Caracol (F Communications)

AlexkidMoving away for the more overtly commercial Mint Paris born Alexkid’s third album is electronic through and through, mixing the clipped techno of Richie Hawtin, the wooby throb of Mr Oizo and the open minded eclecticism of his boss at F Comm Laurent Garnier. There are vocals to found here but it’s on instrumental tracks like the Detroit style ‘Basic’, the hard house-y ‘Mare Alta’ or the atmospheric seven minute title track that he really locks into some cracking grooves. Dance music may be dead in the UK but it’s very much alive in Europe and it seems France are currently holding the torch for us all.


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Aereogramme
My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go(Chemikal Underground)

AereogrammeSome four years since their last long player - the hiatus, at least in part, due to lead singer Craig B’s throat infection – sees the lads in slightly less cathartic throat shredding noise territory (Craig’s infection was so virulent it effectively rendered him mute for several weeks), but fear not there are still thunderous walls of guitar noise aplenty, only now they are backed by genuinely beautiful melodies, far more subtlety, and the realisation, hinted at in previous releases, that Mr B actually has a rather lovely voice. Think Coldplay with bollocks, think Mogwai meets Sigur Ros, think where the hell do I buy this wonderful album.


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Arbouretum
Rites of Uncovering (Thrill Jockey)

Arbouretum Until now generally found tinkering around with the likes of Bonnie Prince Billy and Papa M this is Dave Heumann’s first project with himself cast in the lead singing and songwriting role and a very creditable effort it is too. Heumann insists he is 'mostly concerned with trying to convey the emotional impact of an experience or state of mind to the listener [searching for] a sense of religiosity that is not tied down to a particular moral or ecclesiastical approach’, which may sound a touch high falutin’ but when married to a soundtrack which is sonically pitched somewhere between Crazy Horse and Sebadoah certainly pushes most of the right buttons.


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A Hawk And A Hacksaw
The Way The Wind Blows (Leaf)

A Hawk And A HacksawBuilt, in the main, around joyously upbeat accordion, violin and parping brass driven klezmer (a traditional Jewish music, kept alive in small eastern European pockets since WWII, making a comeback alongside the current trend for gypsy Balkan beats to be found in the hipper parts of Brixton), Jeremy Barnes – who is also a member of the Neutral Milk Hotel - and Heather Trost then up the ante by mixing psychedelic ragas, cyclical Nyman-esque classicism and quacking geese into an already overflowing musical melange, the result of which can probably best be described as world music played by people who would wince at the description.


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Dan Arborise
Around In Circles (Just Music)

Dan ArboriseNow here’s a singer/songwriter with an intriguing heritage. Born amidst the jungles of Borneo to Polish parents, Arborise has – not unsurprisingly – led a rather nomadic life since, finally fetching up in the Devon countryside to write his debut album. Indeed, there’s an unmistakably English air to much of Around In Circles, which dips its titfer to the likes of John Martyn on a series of reflective, wholly acoustic songs. The similarity of approach becomes a little wearying after 52 minutes, but there are several bucolic gems here, notably pulsing highlight ‘Everything That You’ve Been Taught to Love Is a Lie’.


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Lily Allen
Alright, Still (Parlophone/EMI)

Lily Allen OK, lets’ get past the avalanche of hype surrounding the divine Ms A. She’s Keith ‘lager lout’ Allen’s daughter, has appeared in just about every magazine on the shelves of W H Smith (with the possible exception of Radio Control Car Action), is the latest in a long line of performers to bypass the usual A&R routes by utilising the joys of MySpace and is also currently being touted as a sort of reggae-fied female Streets, which given her handy way with a lyric, is not too far wide of the mark. She also left a few of the older members of the office feeling rather perplexed, which would almost certainly cheer her up immensely.


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Carmine Appice Project
The Ultimate Guitar Zeus (Escapi)

Carmine Appice ProjectOstensibly the best tracks cherry picked from Mr A’s two Guitar Zeus projects (’96 & ’01), something you might question given it includes contributions from the execrable Ted Nugent, the tiresome John McEnroe and the plank like Steven Seagal, indeed you might imagine the words ‘body swerve’ and ‘give this’ would come into play but, ignoring the above, it also boasts excellent contributions from Brian May, Slash, Richie Sambora, Edgar Winter, Neal Schon, that Yngy bloke with no vowels in his name and of course one shit hot rhythm section – Mr Appice has hit things for Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart and Vanilla Fudge after all.


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Anti-Flag
For Blood And Empire (Columbia)

Anti-FlagWe’ve been a bit short of angry, polemic spouting noise merchants for some time now (RATM R.I.P.), so it’s great to see a new release on a major label chock full of virulently anti-corporate sloganeering and righteously angry anti-war statements like the splenetic ‘Project For A New American Century’ or the equally rabid ‘Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man’. What’s it sound like? Well what would you imagine it sounds like? Yup, it’s shouty muscular punk, with plenty of terrace friendly choruses to yell along with. We like bands who have something to say and Anti-Flag are just such a band, lend 'em and ear.


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About
Bongo (Cock Rock Disco)

AboutBongo is the brainchild of one Rutger Hoedemaeker and as a listening experience is akin to being loaded into a pinball machine and then sent careering around the table wildly changing direction, speed and (here the analogy breaks down somewhat), musical styles. In a world where originality is as rare and desirable as grey cells in US presidents About truly defies description. Imagine Squarepusher remixed by the Pet Shop Boys or Sparks deconstructed by the Residents, nope hold up, the Mike Flowers Pops meet Devo by way of Grandaddy, oh bugger it, forget labels we strongly suggest you listen to this as it’s fucking great.


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Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino)

Arctic MonkeysFirst up be aware that the perceived hype surrounding these young northern chancers is entirely fictitious (the media hate it when a band make it without their permission), as the Arctic Monkeys have made it this far entirely under their own steam using both MySpace web based demos and a word-of-mouth live reputation, lacing the lyrical dexterity of Half Man Half Biscuit with grim northern humour and a healthy dollop of hook laden punk ramalama, all delivered in Alex Turner’s refreshingly authentic Sheffy brogue. Is this a masterpiece? Nope, but it’s a bloody good start and the Arctic Monkeys can (and will), only get better.


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Richard Ashcroft
Keys To The World (Parlophone)

Richard AshcroftThe man with the most desirable cheekbones in rock kicks off 2006 with a new album (his third), a new label and, it appears, a more disillusioned worldview. Like everything Ashcroft has been involved with (including the Verve), Keys To The World is a patchy affair ranging from rather mundane moments like ‘Words Just Get In The Way’ and ‘Cry Till Morning’ to soaring goose-bump inducing moments like the religion bashing opener ‘Why Not Nothing’, recent single ‘Break The Night With Colour’ and the soaring title track. One day Ashcroft will release a complete masterpiece, until then this has enough high points to keep us listening.


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David Axelrod
The Edge of Music (EMI Stateside)

David AxelrodThe title could not be more apt for this 2CD compilation by an arranger, producer and composer who has managed to amass a remarkably extensive body of work despite a complete aversion to compromise. But just sample the stirring widescreen melody of ‘A Dream’, the extraordinary suite ‘Introit/Krystallnacht’ or the Bill Evans jamming with the Beach Boys feel of ‘Holy Thursday’, and you will be assured that his persistence was well and truly worth it. In fact, your musical world might just be turned upside down. By turns confounding, perverse and beautiful, these 27 pieces resoundingly give categorisation the finger.


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Aerosmith
Rockin’ The Joint (Columbia: DualDisc)

The first of this months newfangled DualDisc efforts featuring the Toxic Twins and Co., perhaps the best advert ever for a debauched lifestyle – all sexy boy thin toned bods, chiselled cheekbones and full heads of hair (let’s not forget Tyler and Perry are now well into their fifties) - captured at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel in 2002 doing what they do best, i.e. chart friendly Stones style rockers, and with no little panache. Of course they haven’t ever really enjoyed the same sort of infamy in the UK as they have in the US but perhaps that’s because we already have a group doing pretty good Stones style rockers already.

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Amorphous Androgynous
Alice In Ultraland (Harvest)

Amorphous AndrogynousThere’s something altogether ‘right’ about the Future Sound Of London’s psychedelic side project Amorphous Androgynous being on Harvest. Described by the band themselves as ‘a samplerdelic funkoid roktronic cosmic ambient oozescape’ Alice In Ultraland marries Syd Barrett kookiness with tranced out ambience, eastern wooziness, a sprinkling of squonky jazz some good old psychedelic rock and sits comfortably alongside albums by acts like Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers and of course the Madcap himself, during Harvest’s golden era. So, yes, we’re talking retro, but retro with an ear in the present and a foot in the future.


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Joseph Arthur
Our Shadows Will Remain (14th Floor Records)

Joseph ArthurIn a world awash with serious young tykes performing their own material - most simply a construct of record companies keen to develop several average songs into several albums worth of ‘contemporary classics’ - it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Falling squarely into the pile marked ‘wheat’ Joseph Arthur continues to build on the excellent work begun on Come To Where I’m From (2000) and Redemption’s Son (2002). Imagine a more melodically inclined Tom Waits who deals in everything from scuzzed up rock, acoustic ballads, soaring strings, beats, pieces and beyond. In another, saner, world this man is massive


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Audio Bullys
Generation (Source)

Audio BullysMany of you will doubtless already be aware of the Bullys deconstruction of ‘Shot You Down’ featuring the voice of Nancy Sinatra (just one of several guest spots on Generation, including a cracking link up with Roots Manuva and a rather less successful Suggs effort), the first fruits of their follow up to Ego War, and whilst much remains the same in camp Bully - house and garage, beats and bass-lines still rule the roost - much has also changed resulting in a generally accomplished, if occasionally baggy collection as Tom Dinsdale and Simon Franks push their Streets meets Daft Punk vibe even further out there.


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A.R.E. Weapons
Free In The Streets (Defend Music)

A.R.E. WeaponsDescribed elsewhere, rather aptly actually, as an unholy scuzzy amalgam of Suicide and the Stooges, we would only add to this peculiar melange a vocalist ordained at the Church of the sacred bleeding liver of Jim Morrison. Add all of this together and you have an oddly skewed mix of old and new, of guitars and electronics, of garage punk-clatter and parping synth-doodles, even more oddly perhaps it works. You certainly wouldn’t want to take A.R.E. Weapons home to see yer mum (hell I wouldn’t even let ‘em near my dead relatives), but who the hell wants house trained rock stars?


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The Allman Brothers
Leave My Blues At Home (Castle)

The Allman BrothersAn early 1970 live recording featuring the classic Allman, Allman, Betts, Oakley, Trucks and Jaimoe line up and recorded just around the time they were about to become one of the Fillmore East house bands (along with other classic acts of the era like Santana), this show – very nicely polished up from old ¼ inch tape - captures the Brothers doing what they do best, soulful blues rock, the like of which is sadly more or less absent from our charts nowadays. Those of you who have At Fillmore East will want this as a worthy addition to the AB’s live canon, newbies will find a band they will likely want to discover a lot more about


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Arizona Amp And Alternator
Arizona Amp And Alternator (Thrill Jockey)

Arizona Amp And Alternator Giant Sand main-man Howe Gelb doing his level best to throw everyone off the scent releasing an album which baldly states ‘official notice: this band has no members’ on the inner sleeve, little or no information on the outer sleeve and a who’s who of cool US indie types guesting (Grandaddy, Scout Niblett, M.Ward etc). Despite all the camouflage though this is resolutely Gelb-ian, lugubrious, mordant, witty and possessed of an almost nonchalant genius in places. This resolutely lo-fi approach will of course ensure that all but the most ardent Gelb-ite will miss out on this altogether, which is a great shame

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Keren Ann
Nolita (EMI)

Karen AnnSomething of a grower this one from Keren Ann Zeidal (mother Javanese-Dutch, father Russian-Israeli), initially wafting past your ears like air-born gossamer threads leaving little in their wake but a pleasant feeling and a strong desire to hit the play button again. Sung in both French and English in a gently melancholic folk style Nolita is partly Velvet Underground and Nico at their most melodic, partly Jane Birkin and Francoise Hardy at their most melancholic, partly Air at their most mellow and partly that indefinable extra something which marks out an artist as far more than the sum of their influences


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Autechre
Untilted (Warp)

AutechrePurveyors of premium quality squiggle and glitch, Autechre have been at this ‘dance music you can’t dance to’ lark for almost fifteen years now, but it would be a mistake to assume they trade entirely in cold computer generated noise. Sure, a fair old dollop of this sounds like amputee insects tap dancing to the sound of dueling tube trains, but there is an unsettling, wrong-footed beauty to the clattering, creaking and occasional molten torrent of clanking, as dramatic U-turns and vari-speed rhythms derail tracks, then haul themselves back into previously undreamt of directions. Oh, and you still can't dance to it.


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Alphabeat
Hours To Flowers (Prolifica)

AlphabeatThree years in the making; assembled by producer Daniel Parry, played – in the main – by Pierre Bastien on trumpet and his own invention the Mecanium (a Meccano and turntable driven instrument that, lord alone knows how, plays acoustic instruments like the violin, koto, lute and saron) and vocalised by Nina Miranda and Diane Charlemagne, Hours To Flowers marries loping beats, wilting strings, ethereal jazz and some gorgeous gossamer hued vocals resulting in what might quite possibly turn out to be THE laid-back jazz soundtrack to the summer. Best taken chilled on the beach with a cold glass of good Chardonnay


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Afro Celt Sound System
Pod (Real World)

Afro Celt Sound SystemOne of the most exciting live acts you're likely to encounter, the Afro's have nonetheless struggled to really break into the mainstream with their recorded output, which is a shame as they have created some genuinely tremendous genre mashing booty shakers during their ten year career, and this well segued mix of ACSS remixes - from the likes of Mass, Sister Bliss and Rollo, Masters At Work and Rae & Christian - would both soundtrack one hell of a beach party and should also have the faithful scurrying back to check out the glorius source material (and you get a second DVD disc to boot).


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Aïwa
Pod (Wikkid Records)

AïwaAnyone seduced by the beat heavy, dub-centric Arabic vibes found on early Transglobal Underground cuts will need little encouragement to jump in at the deep end of the Aïwa gene pool. Swinging from swoon-some middle eastern strings to Arrested Development style raps, via huge slabs of bass, woozy jazz, vari-speed break-beats, reggae chatting and glorious percussion led Afro chanting, if dance music is dead then someone forgot to tell Aïwa because this is a serious booty shaking, hands in the air, sweat drenched monster of a dance album. Genre mashing and border trashing for sure but a dance album nonetheless.

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Athlete
Tourist (Parlophone)

Athlete Chances are that if Travis, Coldplay, Keane - and indeed the recently revitalised Embrace - are the sort of chaps who float your boat you are going to be happily set a-bobbing by the equally big, sing-a-long-a white indie-soul-boy chorus stylings of Athlete. Guitars soar, slightly fey vocals start off husky and then swell, strings are artfully lobbed in, pianos are tinkled then thumped and everything rumbles along in a generally pleasing if occasionally derivative way. So not exactly groundbreaking then but there are enough slightly skewed moments here to suggest this is only the first step in a long journey.

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