Album Reviews Pages

Monday, September 22, 2014

Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone mainman Owen Ashworth possibly beats even Stuart Murdoch to the title of the indie-est man in the world. To date, the Portland, Oregon native has made three albums of downbeat lo-fi songs in his bedroom, using just a battered old Casiotone keyboard and vocals recorded on his answering machine. But he's obviously been going out more lately because, in comparison, ‘Etiquette’ is practically a wall of sound, featuring several guest vocalists, layers of synths and, on the beautiful ‘Nashville Parthenon’, a weeping pedal steel guitar. Some things never change, however, and for Ashworth every day is still like Sunday, as he dissects his 20 something malaise with a dry and eloquent wit like a K-Mart Morrissey.

Zero: A Martin Hannett Story 1977-1991 by Martin Hannett

Despite the fact that he died 15 years ago, Martin Hannett is responsible for a large proportion of your record collection. This is not to say that you only own records that were released on Factory or some early singles by U2, but that the mad Mancunian's unique production tecniques are still very influential today. Editors? They wouldn't have that cold, metallic echo without Joy Division's ‘Transmission’. The poetic, punk groove of Arctic Monkeys? Well, John Cooper Clarke's ‘I Don't Want To Be Nice’ always sounded good on the dancefloor. The Killers’ precision tooled anthems? They wouldn't have filled stadiums without ‘Pretty In Pink‘ by The Psychedelic Furs. Throw in some Happy Mondays and New Order too and this really is an indispensable collection.

Youth by Matisyahu

So, on the other side of the Atlantic, the bissest Sellins reggae artist at present is a 24 year old. 6ft 4in tall Hasidic Jew (you can tell this by his long beard and traditional garb). It's fair to say Matisyahu really doesn't look like your average chart topper and, unsurprisingly, he doesn't sound like one either. Blending the melodic majesty of Bob Marley, the slick production values of contemporary American R&B and hip-hop and rugged, almost Jamaican accented rhymes, Matisyahu's studio debut succeeds in being accessible, yet at the same time sounds unlike anything else on earth. The likes of ‘Fire Of Heaven/Altar Of Earth‘ may occasionally veer into over polished territory but, even forgetting the unique nature of its creator, ‘Youth’ is still a striking, articulate debut album.

A Challenge to the Cowards of Christendom by Knights of the New Crusade

Some of you heathens might be put off by the idea of a band who sport matching Knights Templar style chain mail armour and play Christian fundamentalist garage with lyrics attacking the rock establishment, recreational drug use, divorce, the military industrial complex and, oddly, bingo. Fortunately, though, the Knights’ sense of humour is as highly evolved as their needle in the red retro punk is rocking after all, their debut album was called ‘My God Is Alive. Sorry About Yours’. Don't just admire them for dressing like extras from The Da VinciCode, though they deserve a place in your prayers for playing such uruodly music while simultaneously finding a rhyme for ‘Leviticus’.

Yoyoyoyoyo by Spank Rock

There's less sonic and lyrical innovation around now than at any point in hip-hop's near 30 year history, with even old school stars like LL Cool J reduced to bouncing around with J.Lo. Spank Rock, a duo from Baltimore, are too weird and marginal to be the answer to this state of affairs, but at least they're providing an alternative. They specialise in a twisted take on the Baltimore booty bass sound music to strip to, but while on drugs. Weird sound effects come from all angles. arrangements incorporate everything from batacuda drums to acoustic guitars and there are great pop moments too, like the irresistible chorus of current single ‘Sweet Talk’. The lyrics don't stray too far from such hip-hop staples as ass, titties and cocaine. but compared to 50 Cent it's revolutionary.

Everything All the Time by Band of Horses

A band of horses would be rubbish, as their hooves would preclude any kind of subtlety on anything apart from percussive instruments, Despite the fact the humansin Band Of Horses are sometimes hamstrung by the same lack of subtlety, they ultimately make a rather lovely music: all widescreen swell and swoop and sweet, pained harmonies, with a Flaming Lips style skewed pop undertow. The standouts are ‘The Great Salt Lake’, a clattering, unshaven epic shot through with Brian Wilson levels of longing, and ‘Monsters’, a delightful, warm rocking chair lullaby, with the likes of the staccato rhythmed, reverb heavy ‘Our Swords’ and the tender show closer ‘St Augustine’ also high on the lovely side. Definitely not a load of old pony.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Types of Wood by Whirlwind Heat

In the current climate of recycling everything the '90s had to offer, it seems like there isn't a better time to give whirlwind Heat a reappraisal. If, previously, they were merely a Jack White endorsed threesome, flecked with the Moog scented stains of Devo, this follow up to 2004's ‘Flamingo Honey’ finds the Michigan trio finally discovering their own grunge-lite voice. While it sometimes goes self consciously ‘wacky’ (as on ‘Gene Pool Donation’). ‘Types Of Wood’ is rescued by the likes of ‘Reagan’  the succulent sequel to ‘Summer Babe’ that Pavement never recorded. The rest is so unashamedly beaming with the spirit of 1991 that it should be wearing a flannel shirt and a woozy expression.

Mountain Announces by Scatter

Now as far as I'm aware, there are no parts of Glasgow that, like some distant pygmy village in the heart of the Congo, have remained untouched by modernity for several hundred years. Consequently, we must hail Scatter's ‘The Mountain Announces’, as a magnificent work of the imagination. Seven tracks of shimmering drone folk spirited along on the whirlwind percussion of Alex Nielson, ‘She Moves Through The Fayre’ sounds like it's being played in a forest copse by a clan of chorusing fawns and satyrs. The Mountain Announces might be ignored now, but it'll be dusted down four decades later and hailed as a lost classic, Bang the drum for it now.

Dig Your Own Grave EP by Test Icicles

As Test lcicles reach their inevitable messy conclusion, Dev's new project ‘Naked Babes’ (with Tom Vek and two Semifinalists) shows his urge to create. He, like the other two, er, testes, might have ‘hated’ performing and the scene, but they couldn't bottle up the talent as this career ending compilation proves. There's plenty of questionable tracks (since when did adding B-movie sound effects to an unchanged song constitute a ‘remiX'?), including some early demos that offer the raw energy of the band but remain pretty unlistenable. However, the Chromehoof mix of ‘Circle Square Triangle‘ is sublime and unreleased track ‘Stuck In The Bend’ makes their premature demise more depressing. A “for collectors only” release, then, that lays bare the drawing board of the most creative and self destructive band we've seen in years.

We Shall Overcome: Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce's 21st studio album is a covers record. Fittingly for the ever ideological muso activist, Springsteen's muse is Pete Seeger, the legendary rally cryer who was involved in the civil rights movement and who penned the global uprising anthem ‘We Shall Overcome’. Seeger was also wanted by the FBI and once hilariously tried to pull the plug during a Bob Dylan electric set in 1965. Add that to the fact he was actually friends with Martin Luther King and you can see why he's worthy of revisiting. This is a folk gospel tribute album with harmony and backing vocals so powerful you'd think it was the population of New Jersey marching in Technicolor over the grey, polluted Hudson singing along. To see if Springsteen can repeat the trick, I like him to make a covers album of tracks by MOR rocker Bob Seger. Maybe that's just us.

Nightmare Of You by Nightmare of You

Knowing the past credentials of Long Island's Nightmare Of You (singer Brandon Reilly last rasped with punk rawk outfit The Movielife, drummer Sammy Siegler played drums in hardcore gods Glassjaw) it's bordering on the incredulous to hear the debut work of their new outfit. Like a pack of Dobermanns breaking into a ballet routine, or a battalion of ogres sharing tea and scones. it's something of a shock something thrillingly unlikely - to learn that the paring of their talents sounds not unlike Blur, Suede, even, in places, Shed Seven at their patchy, gonzo, guilty pleasure best. Consider ‘I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard ’, or opener ‘The Days Go By Oh So Slow’, these are melodic, masterful songs with the jingle jangle spirit of mid '90s Britain infused at their very heart. Punk rockers do Britpop? Bloody rubbish tattoos, bloody marvellous songs.

Write Your Own History by Field Music

A recent survey has revealed why call centres abound in the northeast: apparently people find the accent comforting. The tiniest burst of Field Music's second release a collection of B-sides and unreleased tracks is certainly testament to this. And from the hurnmed harmony of opener ‘You're Not Supposed To’ to the trippy drift of ‘Can You See Anything’, the ex Futureheads radiate immaculate pop, reminiscent of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or the more eccentric regions of your dad's record box. It's short and somewhat sugary, for sure, but then pop is supposed to be sweet. Anyway, it'd be churlish to resist such tempting fare.

Tired of Hanging Around by The Zutons

Why does everyone like The Zutons? Bands who dress up as zombies and summon up strange reference points like Dr John. Devo and Area Code 615 should not, after all, be popular. At all. Maybe the not knowing has got David McCabe feeling antsy ‘Tired Of Hanging Around’ is one seriously pissed off. paranoid, twitchy record. Anyone who has heard the single ‘Why Won't You Give Me Your Love?‘ will know what to expect as it's a great pop song, stuffed with threat. You can more or less lump everything here into two camps ‘feeling threatened’ and ‘being threatening’. The former camp houses the melodically gorgeous. explicitly paranoid ‘Someone Watching Over Me’, as flushed and swollen with musical warmth as it is with lyrical malevolence and neuroses; ‘Tired Of Hanging Around’, all Teardrop Explodes gallop and FM rock chums; the pained, anguished hangover blues of ‘It's The Little Things We Do’; and the thoroughly despondent ‘How Does It Feel?’. The other half, the ‘being threatening ones (you’ll be tested on this later) include ‘Oh Stacey’, a straight ahead slice of boogyirg stomp that appears to be about a girl who has driven her father to suicide, and the album's stand out. ‘You've Got A Friend In Me’, a fantastically sassy stalker/stalkee duet from his and her perspectives. The big question that one ends up asking is: Who Or What Pissed 0ff The Zutons So Much? Because we should all shake them by the hand immediately.

Yes Virginia by The Dresden Dolls

When you're the finest neo burlesque twosome in the business, and your thrillingly refreshing debut has failed to make the impact it deserved, what do you do next? Curl up your hoopy stoddnged toes and bed dwm in obscurity? Not bloody likely. You fight back with a bigger, braver and. er, brillianter album. Meet ‘Yes. Virginia...', the bastard lovechild of Tori Amos and an Eastem European touring circus. Armed with nothing but keys, skins and insane genius, white faced siren Amanda Palmer and virtuoso drummer Brian Viglione have fashioned an album of sensationally off kilter tracks. From the twisted showtune ‘Mandy Goes To Med School’to the chaos of‘Modern Moonlight’, it's quite a ride. Burlesque? Can you dig it?

Jacket Full Of Danger by Adam Green

A few years ago, Strokes pal Adam Green was in godawful New York lo-fi duo The Moldy Peaches. He dressed as an elf and sang charmless songs about turds. Three solo albums down the line, he's ditched the turds
and the elves and turned into a lounge lizard part old school Neil Diamond gloss, part the louche sleaze of veteran Lee Hazlewood. He'd be rakish if he wasn't so wasted. “How many drugs does it take to find something to do?", he clangs in the Vegas/Nashville mash up opener ‘Pay The Toll’. Stoned boredom is a theme that nuns through the album, which is hardly original. Yet it's driven by a brilliantly vulgar wit. cabaret strings that stay just the right side of kitsch and lyrics that in lesser hands would become boring and clunky. A twisted, mucky treat.

Elan Vital by Pretty Girls Make Graves

Since their explosive debut ‘Good Health’ in 2002, Seattle's most overlooked band have morphed from post riot grrrl to post punk to post rock. This latest sees them go to an unimaginable extreme: mellow. Guitars are fuzzy instead of scratchy, vocal echoes are turned up to 11, accordions and the whizz of fireworks replace punk angst. It's the sound of the band mutating from the exciting. mysterious person in the club to the partner you pee in front of and take shopping for carpets. But, the sublime ‘The Nocturnal House’ and ‘Domino’, with its handclaps, piano stabs and in denial chorus of. “No, no, no, no, no” show that, thankfully, PGMG don't give a damn.

Grab That Gun by The Organ

Nailing their colours (black, mostly) firmly to the mast, Vancouver miserablists The Organ have set sail aboard the Good Ship New Wave as it navigates the perilous ocean of 21st Century Indie. Sotnding remarkably like Interpol with PMT (a thought by no means as terrifying as it sounds), the all girl quintet deliver at mid pace and mid range, so you can dance convincingly without messing up your razor sharp hairdo. Ideal! Awash with spooky Hammond organ rolling under mournful tales of death and broken hearts, ‘Grab That Gun’ is no Prozac,but factoring in bursts of Blondie esque enthusiasm such as ‘Memorize The City’ and ‘Sinking Hearts‘, shiver me timbers if we don't have on our hands a vessel that's riding the crest of a (new) wave.

Alternately Deep by Roots Manuva

Another year, another Roots Manuva album, and this time, the bugger isn't even trying. with the exquisite introspection of 2005's ‘Awfully Deep’ still being pored over by virtually every would be Brit hopper in the hope that they might ingest the tiniest morsel of its magic, Rodney Smith has decided to completely empty out his musical drip tray by collecting together all of his outtakes, remixes and rarities from the ‘Awfully Deep’ sessions and put them into this stylistically varied, yet surprisingly cohesive sister album. The result is so infuriatingly good that when he is approached on the street, Manuva now runs a serious risk of being asked for his autograph and getting lamped by the same person. That much talent is awfully unfair on other prentenders to the UK hip hop throne.

New English Ep by Ambulance LTD

Bands usually have the decency to wait until they've been going a fair while before inflicting the B-sides/ live tracks collection (as in, not good enough for the proper album) on the world. This mini album from the transatlantic four piece strives to buck trends and rewrite rules by cashing in after only one album. So we get seven meandering tracks of mellow guitar pop that are dreamy and elegant. Like gossamer freefalling on to artful statues, with a similar musical impact. Plus, Ambulace Ltd's cover of Pink Floyd's ‘Fearless’ transfomis it into a dinner party strumalong which is practically sacrilegious. Nice and all that, but who wants to hear ‘the rest’ of their repertoire when we've not even heard ‘the best’ yet?

Chosen Lords by Aphex Twin AFX

In a galaxy far away somewhere near Elephant & Castle, in fact sits AFX, aka Aphex Twin. He makes music, as that is all he knows. There was a time. 15 years ago, when he was a prodigy, the techno pixie straight outta Cornwall with an ear for compelling, weird. usually wonderful beat driven music. You'd be forgiven for thinking he disappeared when the dance, or indeed analogue bath, bubble popped. But ‘Chosen Lords’ is proof of Aphex Twin's uncommonly rude health. artistically speaking. Gathered here are 10 of the tracks from last year's 11 volume vinyl only set sold on his website to fans. Each episode sold five figure quantities. On ‘Chosen Lords’. AFX glides between dark tedino, freakish deep house,
twisted electro and, on the snappily titled ‘PW Steal.Ldpinch.D' mini analogue symphonies. Aphex Twin: still king of the electronic castle and probably the elephant too.

Afterlife by Jody Wildgoose

Jody wildgoose is a man dedicated to music. He's supported Pulp at the age of 13 (in the appallingly named various Vegetables), busked in a Sheffield underpass for years and spent his 20s holed up in an attic with a four track learning every instrument under the sun. Such devotion to his art has rewarded him handsmoely with a quirky second album that combines Badly Drawn balladry, Beck-ettian instrumentation and Flaming Lips eccentricity. Unfortunately it's also left him approaching it as more of a science. He's prone to over egging his pudding and obsessing over every last detail, which makes it too studied. Lyrically it's just as introspective and academic (phrases like “rockmusic can set you free" and “pop music will swallow you” pepper the album). Wildgoose needs to cut down on the music theory or his pop might well go and eat itself.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

His Hands by Candi Staton

Before she was a disco diva with ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ or rave royalty with ‘You Got The Love’, Candi Staton wasthe finest Southern soul singer ever. Three years ago Honest Jons put out her previously rare as hens’ teeth late '60s and early '70s recordings and it's the most unimpeachable collection of heartbreak you'll ever hear. This new album is just as good. Produced by Lambchop's Mark Nevers and with musicians who played on her classic records helping out, it is Staton's first non religious collection in over 20 years and finds her bringing a wealth of emotional experience to songs by Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and, on the devastating tale of domestic violence that is the title track, Will Oldham. God's loss is our gain.

Balls by The Broken Family Band

From the rolling hills. sleazy saloon bars,
and cactus spotted desert plains of, erm, Cambridge, come The Broken Family Band, a C&W proposition as tasty as the Flying Burrito Brothers were 30 years ago, but as British as a cuppa with seven sugars. Not that you'd guess, as their sound is straight outta Nashville, a whiskey sodden, heartfelt trudge through the classic country topics of booze. drugs and damn women. The dreamy romance of ‘I See How You Are’ wouldn't seem out of place on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack and their joyous cover of Leonard Cohen's ‘Diamonds in The Min’ is sheer hillbilly perfection. Yee. and indeed, ha.

I'm Not Dead by Pink

Pink's not dead. And she's not conforming either.
Witness her grimacing “I'm so glad that I'll never fit in" shtick on recent single ‘Stupid Girls’, which paradoxically farts into our ears like the dross any number of Shakirastacia automatons could muster. whingeing about pop stars in videos with 50 Cent, while recruiting anonymous rappers to grunt ‘come on’s. we might term ironic, but, like Alanis we'd be wrong; apparently it's parody. Unit shifting parody that is. " Cynical individuality as  marketing tool smothers this album. from moaning about fame on ‘l Got Money Now’ to the title track, it's staggering that this is the same performer who gave us the pop classic ‘M!ssundaztood’. If the point of satire is to mimic your subject matter, Pink has succeeded. Unfortunately this latest effort sees her turn indistinguishable. She's not dead. but she is flatlining.

Garden Ruin by Calexico

So, a new Calexico album's on the way. That’ll be another slimming portion of gloomy lo-fi with a side order of trippy instrumentals, then. But hang on, what's this? A whopping, tune enriched hunk of musical meat with special South Western sauce? Blimey, order us a double helping.
There's always something heartwarming about a band discovering pop well into their career, especially when it sounds as good as this. A clear step forward from 2003's ‘Feast Of Wire’, the Arizonan outfit's fifth effort, ‘Garden Ruin’, boasts some cracking tracks in 'Bisbee Blue’ and ‘Deep Down’, as well as some healthy Bush baiting on ‘All Systems Red’. Indulge yourself - you  won't regret it.

Papercut Chronicles by Gym Class Heroes

Recent internet pictures of his penis notwithstanding, one must grudgingly admit that Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz has given the world some great things - Panic! At The Disco, and now, Gym Class Heroes, four kids from New York whose identity crisis as to whether they want to play to emo audiences, hip-hop crowds or some amalgam in between, makes for intriguing listening. Case in point: ‘Taxi Driver‘, a spectaculariy daft track that sees MC Schelprok namecheck a slew of third generation emo bands (including Fall Out Boy). As Petey puts it. “they're too rock for hip-hop, too hip-hop for rock".

Fake Chemical State by Skin

Filling this week's Where Are They Now? slot we have Skin: the bald shouty singer from that '90s kinetic punk via Top Of The Pops band Skunk Anansie. You know, the group weren't quite angsty enough to get into Placebo. So where is Skin now? Sadly, she's in a meaningless cycle of playing venues with names like the Fuggle & Firkin and releasing chronically average solo albums like ‘Fake Chemical State‘, which at best sounds like a Republica album being played in the background of a Sunday night suburban dinner party. Mind you, it's a marginally better draw than SA’s drummer got, he now keeps time for Feeder.

Karmacode by Lacuna Coil

Despite bearing a name that conjures images of a particularly medieval means of contraception. Italian goth-metal merchants Lacuna Coil are perhaps best known as the band that Evanescence purloined their unit shifting sound from back in 2003. Though they never reach the truly silly heights of opera-metal hobbit-lovers Nightwish, the Coil's fourth album 'Karmacode' provides solid proof that despite its multitudinous, hair-splitting sub- genres, metal still has areas that have trouble expressing anything beyond the traditionally low-minded sentiments of “l'm angry because I'm sad’ (or vice versa). Essential listening then, but only if you're of that particular breed of misfit who grills their comflakes before adding milk. in order to make breakfast that bit blacker an experience.

3121 by Prince

In a perfect world, Prince would be enjoying a Madonna style renaissance at the moment. The signs looked good just last month there was the Brits performance that reunited him with his Lennon & McCartney (Wendy and Lisa), while the likes of Basement Jaxx, Pharrell and Daft Punk have based entire careers around an obscure B-side he squeezed out in 1985. Sadly, ‘3121’ is not the ‘Confessions Of The Purple Sex Dwarf’ album we really, really want it to be. Seemingly nixing all the surreal insanity that made him such a genius in the first place, he's made an album that doesn't really sound like Prince at all. whether it's aping flaccid Jermaine Dupri/NERD/Ying Yang-style beats or meandering bossanova, world music bleetings, ‘3121’ is the sound of a millionaire who has spent too much time in his studio alone.

This New Day by Embrace

Embrace's new album is a bit like a bag of Revels. Chewy, toffee openers ‘New Use Crying' and 'Nature's Law' are the sound of Embrace Mk2 with a new found stadium aspiring confidence. There are some namby pamby soft-centred arm-waving orangey ones (“But I like namby-pamby soft-centred ones!" some people cry): ‘The End ls Near’ and ‘Exploding Machines’ are CoIdplay’s ‘Clocks' and ‘Talk’ with added underdog and, er. peanuts. And there's a couple of coffee creams, too. Of course. whether you still like Revels after all these years is the moot point. But ‘This New Day’ is, by Embrace's own standards, a triumphant album indeed.

Ten Silver Drops by Secret Machines

Prog is a four letter word. It's also the genre that started off with a bold adventurism but became mired in bass solos and music so long windedly dull that, in 1976, the punk explosion was a matter of life and death. Prog is what the Secret Machines get labelled. with big tunes and the sense that bountiful narcotics could enhance their gigs, the lineage is clear. However, while the Texan trio are progressive, they share nothing with the prog monkeys for whom music is little more than audio masturbation. Instead. their 2004 debut ‘Now Here ls Nowhere’ charmed its way into record collections as disparate as Noel Gallagher and David Bowie's. ‘Ten Silver Drops’ is likely to repeat the trick. as rather than wallow in indulgent proggy soundscapes. the wonderfully intense ‘Daddy's In The Doldrums' is commandingly suffocating, while the big skied, fresh pop moments of ‘Faded Lines’ and ‘Lightning Blue Eyes’ fill the record with heart-rushing, adrenalin-pumping joy. Lyrically. the record balances between inward contemplation and outward focus as meditations about “idle kids with idle hearts"jostie with street tales of drug deals gone wrong. while 'Ten Silver Drops’ lacks the power of its predecessor the pounding drums are muted in a radio friendly mix its vision is assuredly wide. Yes, the Secret Machines do prog, but vitally they do so much more. Come close, there is nothing to fear.

Sound Inside by Breaks Co-op

‘The Sound Inside‘ is a genuinely interesting album made by that polymath of indie, Zane Lowe. It is, perhaps, a little too interesting. It's an album by people who know their music intimately and know what makes a great record.
Now, It'd be crap, obviously. Even with Tim Jonze on maracas. Taking the non crap route The Zipper’s band flirts with samples, acoustic guitars, beats, spoken word and proper vocals like an indie DJ Shadow or a hip-hop Gomez. Some of it is beautiful like the trip-hop of ‘Too Easy’ or the acoustic ‘A Place For You’. Always tasteful, always just the right sound, but, despite this, at times it lapses into being curiously bloodless. That said. it's a record that you'll
warm to in the early hours of the morning. '

Golden Black by Guitar Wolf

Fittingly for a band who boasted song titles like ‘Murder By Rock!’ Guitar Wolf specialised in super-fast bursts of shocko-punkthat exhibited little regard for the dictates of good taste or decency. Following the sudden and tragic death last March of Hideaki Sekiguchi better known as Billy Bass wolf from a heart attack, this 26 track compilation rounds up the very best of the Tokyo
garage punk trio's 10 year plus career. Highlights include their blazing run through Eddie Cochran's ‘Summertime Blues’ and a token ballad, that frankly could be used to bring down ballistic missiles (‘I Love You, 0K?’). Time to stock up. if you have doubts bear in mind that these leather clad rockabillies’ CV include the world's (official!) loudest ever album, ‘Jet Generation’.

When the Going Gets Dark by Quasi

When not bludgeoning her drum set in the mighty Sleater-Kinney, Janet Weiss keeps her rhythmically primal needs in check with long time associate (and indeed ex-husband) Sam Coomes in Quasi. Forget any White Stripes comparisons because she can actually play. he doesn't need anger management classes and together they create the kind of vibrant indie-rock that's guaranteed to prick up the ears of long-time Flaming Lips fans. Although as tuneful as ever. tracks like ‘Alice The Goon’ and ‘Peace And Love’ reflect these tumultuous political times with a new and surprisingly vicious sonic edge that even they probably didn't think they could muster. when the going gets dark, Quasi get going.

Corinne Bailey Rae by Corinne Bailey Rae

With her recent single ‘Put Your Records On’ receiving significantly more airtime than Chantelle, Preston and the happy slapping phenomenon combined, West Yorkshirewoman Corinne Bailey Rae is already a big noise waiting to happen. Only, in reality she's actually quite a small noise a glorious mixture of subtle beats and soaring choruses that are shiny enough
to help your auntie start her day while resonant enough to help you end yours when the drugs have ceased to work. It might be that, for the gnarlier palate, this, Bailey Rae's debut album, is a bit glib, a bit la-di-Dido. But if you don't mind the odd reflective moment, the odd luscious production value, then this has plenty to offer. Both warm and wise.

The Graduate by MC Lars

What do you get when you combine a white collegiate rapper who hardly ever swears, some Supergrass samples and a lot of ‘insights’ about Myspace and (shudder) the ‘iGeneration'? This
album, which might as well be subtitled
‘Now That's what I Call Rap/Rock Novelty Hits 2006'. Not since The Bloodhound Gang's ‘The Bad Touch’ has someone been so unafraid of the cheesy. the geeky and the shameless. which is why MC Lars sometimes strays into the territory of mad genius (‘Moby Dick’, which retells Herman Melville's story to the strains of the ’Grass's ‘Moving’) and at others is so infuriating you want to take a pickaxe to the stereo. All Lars needs for ubiquity is one spin from Chris Moyles. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Best of 1996 - 2002 by Hefner

Formed in 1996, Hefner were always a band out of time. The London trio had an old school indie sound that made Belle & Sebastian sound like Motorhead. And they sang about things cinema, wine, politics, awkward sex. unknowable girls - that had gone out of fashion ten years earlier. Yet, still, Britain's “largest small band" were loved by Steve Lamacq and managed to amass a substantial cult following. Their ridkety songs - part Jonathan Ridiman, part Arctic Monkeys buzzed with choppy, poppy energy. while Darren Hayman’s lyrics were often painful and frequently hilarious. It's a timeless formula and the likes of ‘The Day That Thatcher Dies’ (“ We will dance and sing all night”), ‘I Took Her Love For Granted’ and ‘Hymn ForThe Cigarettes’ still
sound like minor classics.