Sunday, December 25, 2011
And welcome to the final door of the 2011 Musical Advent Calendar...the overall top 10. Using our patented, multi-layered and highly sophisticated rating system (one point for a No. 24 nomination, 24 for a No. 1, and everything else in between), we've calculated what the panel rated as the best 10 albums of the year. You can see just how many points each one got under the album name.
Before we dive in, some facts and figures of note. This is our most diverse Advent Calendar to date. A total of 159 different albums got nominated, with no two people having the same number one, while Guy managed to find 24 albums that didn't appear on anybody else's list. The net result is that, while the National's High Violet required 150 points to top last year's overall top 10, this year's winner did enough with just 82.
Enough nattering. Here are the results:
1. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know (Virgin)
While almost unanimous in agreeing her third album deserved a place in any top 24 of the year, our panel couldn't quite figure out what to do with it as it finished anywhere between No. 24 and No. 2 on the lists. But sheer strength in numbers saw Laura take the prize.
Andy Welch - As before, Marling gives little of herself away here, and while detractors grumble this makes her music aloof, that enigma, coupled with her fierce, brooding delivery, is the most attractive thing about this sensational record.
Matt Collins - Laura Marling’s folk music is developing an extra level of maturity that makes her age (still 21) quite incredible. Officially indie folk’s elder stateswoman.
Ali Mason - After two albums heavily influenced respectively by Noah And The Whale and Mumford And Sons, it’s good to hear Marling developing a sound which feels more uniquely hers. My brain loves it – though, as ever with Marling, my heart isn’t quite so sure.
Ian Parker - If her debut Alas, I Cannot Swim carried the influence of backing band Noah & The Whale, and I Speak Because I Can was dominated by Mumford & Sons' stylings, A Creature I Don't Know might finally be showing us Marling's own distinct sound. If it is, great. If it's not, even better, because there's genuine excitement in seeing an artist so young already master so many different sounds.
Steve Pill - Whereas I found some of the earlier stuff a little too twee, try-hard or just affected, this record really caught me out.
Rory Dollard - Here her precocious songwriting is on an even bigger scale, with added passion and a spritely, organic flourish that makes good on all those Joni Mitchell comparisons.
Dom Farrell - Ragged Glories panellist picks Laura Marling. Thinks her songwriting is astonishing, her lyrics beguiling, her talent astounding. Wants to marry her a little bit. Standard.
2. = St Vincent - Strange Mercy (4AD)
Robbed of second spot outright by Dom's late re-jig of his list, Annie Clarke instead has to settle for a share. But she'll probably get over it. In time.
John Skilbeck - Gift-wrapped in ribbons of mini-Moog but still bearing flourishes of fuzzed-up guitar and shimmering keys, it told what could be interpreted as dark tales.
Pranam Mahavalli - Strange Mercy is filled with great hooks, memorable melodies and huge choruses; it’s just they don’t always come where you’d expect them. The songs are huge, occasionally melodramatic, and feature the kind of six-string pyrotechnics that make want to practice more guitar.
Ian Parker - I admit I've never really given St Vincent much time until this year, dipping in, deciding I was a bit confused (happens easily), and retreating. But Strange Mercy was thrust before me and how glad I am to have finally got my feet properly wet. It is never less than a thrill.
Rory Dollard - Clarke’s writing has taken a stellar leap in the last couple of years and her guitar work is as ferocious as her ear for a killer hook is sharp.
Dom Farrell - Third album Strange Mercy is bursting and brimming with a rare verve, from infectious hook-laden single 'Cruel' to plaintive closer 'Year of the Tiger', not to mention some of the year’s most inventive and idiosyncratic guitar work.
= Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
With stories of the recording process giving a different meaning to the notion of the 'difficult' second album, nobody was quite sure what to expect of Helplessness Blues. But clearly, what did arrive did not disappoint our panel.
Ali Mason - Hats off to Fleet Foxes – this is exactly what a second album should be: progression without losing what was so good about the debut.
Ian Parker - After wowing us with the timeless beauty of their debut album three years ago, the Fleet Foxes returned with a follow-up that barely strays from the wonderful formula they had already perfected.
Matt Collins - The delicately poised acoustic guitar lines, strong songwriting and harmonies are all there, with the echoing line about owning an orchard the thread that holds it together. Perfect, err, orchard owning album.
Rory Dollard - The element of surprise that greeted their arrival in 2008 has long since gone but both melodies and musicianship are as graceful as before.
Andy Welch - This is a simply mesmerising album; beautiful, timeless and worth every bit of suffering that went into it.
4. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Universal)
Dom Farrell - Let England Shake is a phenomenal achievement by a consistently phenomenal artist. Harvey tackles a heavy, complex subject matter melodically and accessibly, without either dumbing down or straying into holier than thou territory.
Pranam Mahavalli - I do miss the raggedness and dirt of her early records, but this is still at times a marvellously strange record that doesn’t deserve to be purely the preserve of the chattering classes.
Ian Parker - Polly Jean has broken out of her introspective (dis)comfort zone with a startling record about this country we call home.
Andy Welch - In some ways, for all the Mercury Prize-winner’s themes of war and conflict, this tells us more about the enigmatic artist than ever before.
Rory Dollard - "Yeah, but wouldn't it be higher on the list if it was a little less considered and a bit more raw?"
"Yes. Yes it would."
5. Radiohead - The King of Limbs (XL)
Steve Pill - It felt like this was the record they'd spent the last decade trying to make but were too uptight, conflicted or successful to be able to get across.
Andy Welch - Cynical gimmicks aside, it’s hard to argue with the quality of the music on The King Of Limbs. Just as In Rainbows is now among my favourite albums of all time after a sluggish start, TKOL (not Kings Of Leon, for clarity), to a lesser extent, has wormed its way into myhead with its hypnotic, eerie and sinister songs. Not a masterpiece, but the band’s consistency is staggering.
Dom Farrell - Restless beats and rhythms dazzle in the album’s first half, before haunting piano ballad “Codex” begins the ascent for air, completed by assured closer “Separator”. The monkey is back on Yorke’s shoulders and he’s feeding it loads of bananas.
Pranam Mahavalli - Is the general consensus on this album that it’s not up there with Radiohead’s best? Is this because at eight tracks its too short? Aren’t each of the individual tracks incredibly strong in themselves? Would you even go so far as to put 'Lotus Flower' as among their best songs? Since the release of OK Computer, do we now expect too much from a new Radiohead album? Is The King of Limbs a record that both reinvents the band and sidesteps expectations? Is that a good thing? Does it warrant a place in my top 24 merely because I’ve listened to it so many times? What merits a good album? What do we mean by ‘merits’? What is an ‘album’? What is held by the concept of ‘good’? Do some of us get too hung up about music nowadays? Do some of us not care enough? Do I need a nice sit down now and cup of tea? Do you?
6. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)
Matt Collins - Bon Iver is in fact a step above For Emma, Forever Ago, weaving electric guitars and walls of noise in epic, intricate melodies and that unmistakable falsetto. Simply beautiful.
Rory Dollard - Gone are the mournful acoustics, replaced with synthetic, gently manipulated soundscapes that bubble under beneath Vernon’s trademark double-tracked vocals.
Ian Parker - It's an absolutely beautiful, engrossing record that I enjoy more every time I hear it.
Pranam Mahavalli - A belting performance on Jools was all it took to make me revisit this record, which though bigger in scope than the debut, has the same level of ear-candiness and attention to detail that made his first so rewarding.
Steve Pill - Despite suffering in comparison to Justin Vernon’s debut, there are still some flat-out beautiful songs on here, not least the gently rousing 'Holocene'.
7. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (4AD)
Rory Dollard - At its best w h o k i l l threatens to break all boundaries in its path and create a whole new genre of politicised afrophile, scat-tastic, horn-blowing, gut-busting pop.
Pranam Mahavalli - Bold, brash, invigorating, and on tracks like Powa beautiful too, Garbus has created a record that shows there’s life in conceptual pop music yet. Life-affirming, inspirational and best served loud.
Ian Parker - w h o k i l l is a big bubbling monster of an album, impossible to define, impossible to contain, and impossible to ignore.
8. Wild Beasts - Smother (Domino)
Ali Mason - Undoubtedly the grower of 2011, Smother sees Wild Beasts embrace a quality never previously high on their agenda: restraint. Gone are the camp, the madness and the theatrics, replaced by something that throbs gently and invites you to use words like shimmering and ethereal.
Andy Welch - It’s hard to believe music as beautiful as this was written in a dingy room of an East-London towerblock. Clearly the Cumbrian band were thinking of home, as Smother is a sprawling, glacial-sounding record.
Dom Farrell - Endearing and unnerving in equal measure, Smother is an eloquent portrait of terminal relationship decline. Icy, atmospheric synths and throbbing bass provide a thrilling sonic foundation for intelligent flecks of guitar and piano, not to mention an easy resting place for singer Hayden Thorpe’s dramatic, occasionally preening, delivery.
9. Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute)
Rory Dollard - Pearson’s labyrinthine country-tinged laments are not for everyone - and with their lengthy, meandering style and a poetic wordplay that rewards repeat visits, they probably actively discourage the casual listener. But for those who are up for the idea of being immersed in a gloriously bittersweet torrent of self-loathing and lost love, all set to near-virtuoso fretplay, this is set to be a timeless classic.
Ian Parker - The heartbreaking beauty of this stark, bruised record will become apparent immediately. It's not an easy listen, for sure, but it's an entirely compelling one.
Dom Farrell - A few months ago I had an epiphany. The combination of doing about my 20th job application in 18 months and having David Cameron’s Tory conference speech on in the background as the record played created the combined feeling of anger, despair, loathing and anguish that poor old Mr Pearson seems to be getting at.
10. Wilco - The Whole Love (Anti)
Rory Dollard - The Whole Love is a beaut in its own right, calling in most of the tricks the bands have learned over 20 years. Fearless and experimental ('The Art of Almost'), singalong fun ('I Might'), heartfelt and emotional ('One Sunday Morning')...it's all here.
Dom Farrell - The haunting ‘Black Moon’ is a magnificent mid-album sandwich filling between the good-time guitar pop of ‘Dawned On Me’ and ‘Born Alone’, and when lilting epic ‘One Sunday Morning’ closes the show, it’s hard to shake the impression that this band is incapable of making bad records.
Matt Collins - They haven’t lost the chirpiness from 2009’s Wilco (The Album), and this collection of songs repeatedly brings Paul McCartney’s upbeat Beatles tracks to mind for me. In a good way.
Ian Parker - Every Wilco album now is a reinvention, and given the scale of the ambition on show on The Whole Love, maybe now they will all be reinventions of the wheel.
Andy Welch - There’s not a misguided note on The Whole Love, and Tweedy, in upbeat mood, sounds more focused than ever, yet the spirit of adventure never vanishes. A wonderful record, and easily Wilco’s best since the essential Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
And so the moment of truth - our number one albums of the year.
Have a Merry Christmas, and don't forget about tomorrow's bonus post, when we calculate our collective top 10 of 2011.
Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea (WooMe)
Coming from New Zealand, a country surrounded and divided by water, it’s perhaps no surprise Hollie Fulbrook is a little bit obsessed with the sea. It’s also unsurprising that to her the sea is not just the sea – it is a symbol of adventure, it is travel, it is newness. And it is this spirit of yearning and adventure which informs her debut album as Tiny Ruins. It would be easy to think there was nothing adventurous here musically – little more than a guitar, occasional piano and barely-there backing vocals in support of Fullbrook’s voice, a tremendous instrument which is occasionally tremulous but at the same time rich and thick. But such is the simplicity of the arrangements that a single note, a word or a pause out would be fatal. Fulbrook is a storyteller. Her characters, such as the residents of the ’Adelphi Apartments’, whose loneliness she expresses in heartbreaking detail (“At night she read Cannery Row before saying goodnight to the highway below”) are fully realised. As Tom Ravenscroft, on whose show I first came across Tiny Ruins, points out, she avoids the “applied angst” that can scupper many songwriters, and in doing so has created a debut of simple, devastating beauty.
The Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing (ADA Global)
I've often heard people talk about albums that seemed to 'speak' directly to them. I don't think I'd ever experienced this sensation until this third album from The Wonder Years. Okay, I might not be in a pop punk band from Pennsylvania, but there is so much in the lyrics here I can relate to. Anger at religious brainwashing, homophobia, sexism and racism are just a few of the topics tackled that set these guys apart from most of their contemporaries. Life-affirming stuff.
Middle Brother - Middle Brother (Partisan)
This one became something of an obsession of mine, to the point that giving number one to anything else would have been a lie. It might not be technically brilliant or groundbreaking, but the members of Deer Tick, Dawes and Delta Spirit that make up Middle Brother have stepped on to the dangerous ground of the side project and emerged with a record that outweighs the sum of its parts. Here is the playful spirit that was missing from Deer Tick’s last LP (having been so apparent on the first two), the edge that, by its absence, held back Dawes’ debut and that little extra craft that Delta Spirit have needed. Middle Brother might fall into the ‘supergroup’ category, but there is a wonderful intimacy here, the sound of three guys unwinding by letting rip on a record of good old-fashioned Americana.
The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar (Atlantic)
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, but in fact the hardest working band in rock of the last five years, the fiercely independent Joy Formidable’s major label debut is an, ahem, roaring success. The standout singles 'Whirring' and 'Austere' are the joyously chaotic rock tunes that brought them Foo Fighters support slots at Madison Square Garden, and they’ve made the step up from singles and mini-albums to real albums with real aplomb.
Wild Flag - Wild Flag (Wichita)
As Dom quite fairly pointed out on day 11, Wild Flag hardly reinvented the wheel with their debut album. But what they did achieve was to replace the worn-out nuts and bolts, upgrade the tyres, attach said wheels to a top-of-the-range convertible and hit the fast lane. Consisting of parts left over from defunct bands, most recognisably with Sleater-Kinney’s high-kicking Carrie Brownstein and tub-thumping Janet Weiss, all high hopes for Wild Flag were exceeded once their songs began to seep out, initially with a double-A-side single, then the live shows on YouTube and finally the finished LP. It’s been repeatedly said they performed with the vim of a band half their age, but bring me evidence of a group of 20-year-olds playing with such ferocity, energy and sheer satisfaction as this quartet did in London earlier in the month. I’ve checked; they don’t exist. Wild Flag rendered the competition, such as it was, obsolete.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
Fleet Foxes’ debut was pretty much perfect. Following it up was never going to be easy, but few, especially singer Robin Pecknold, could’ve imagined it would be as difficult as Helplessness Blues was. Seemingly driving him to the edge of madness, and the band to the brink of break-up, you can hear the struggle in the music. Not in a laboured sense – the album is anything but forced – but in each meticulous arrangement and lyric, which largely deal with the issues of mortality, responsibility and finding your place in the world. I’ve always loved bands who make music not because they want to, but have to, and Helplessness Blues, on which Pecknold longs for the utopia of Innisfree, where he can be left alone to live in peace, definitely falls into that category. This is a simply mesmerising album; beautiful, timeless and worth every bit of suffering that went into it.
Radiohead – “The King of Limbs” (XL)
Radiohead were everywhere and nowhere for me this year. Everywhere in that The King Of Limbs was a constant on my iPod and had either influenced or been influenced by almost every pre-2011 album I rediscovered this year, from Caribou and Junior Boys, to Talk Talk and Duke Ellington. And nowhere in the sense that they dropped the album with minimal fuss – no pay-what-you-like gimmicks, Q front covers or whatever else it is that bands of their stature are meant to do. All we got was a viral video of Thom dancing like an epileptic Charlie Chaplin. And yet this was exactly what this economic, far-from-immediate little album deserved. The mood is as experimental as we've come to expect from post-OK Computer albums, but this was something else entirely – in turns soulful and tender, funky and insidious, textured and sparse. The paranoia has all but gone too. It felt like this was the record they'd spent the last decade trying to make but were too uptight, conflicted or successful to be able to get across. And with respective solo albums seemingly having accounted for any excesses, this was leaner and more passionate too. It almost felt too stripped back at first, yet repeat listens revealed subtle personalities to each song: the rhythm of 'Lotus Flower', the yearning of 'Codex', the sense of humour in 'Morning Mr Magpie'. I grew up with Radiohead and I'm as surprised as anyone that this is my number one in 2011, but this album simultaneously moved my head, heart and feet.
Bjork – Biophilia (One Little Indian)
When I saw Bjork perform Biophilia in its entirety at the Manchester International Festival in July, I think I’d made my mind up it would be my album of the year. I had to wait a further three months to actually hear it, but thankfully when I did, I wasn’t disappointed. Much has been made of the apps that accompany it, and the bespoke instruments used to record it. But alleged gimmicks aside, and judged merely as a collection of tracks, this record ranks for me among Bjork’s best. Emotive, thrilling, melancholic and at times downright scary, this is ambitious, mind-expanding music, for both the heart and the head. Okay, so it’s not quite perfect (I continue to struggle with track 'Sacrifice'), but I’ve heard nothing else this year which matches it in terms of scope, vision and vitality.
Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute)
In a year I’d happily chalk up as one of the biggest and best in terms of music that has really grabbed me, I found it astonishingly easy to pick my number one. Pearson’s labyrinthine country-tinged laments are not for everyone - and with their lengthy, meandering style and a poetic wordplay that rewards repeat visits, they probably actively discourage the casual listener. But for those who are up for the idea of being immersed in a gloriously bittersweet torrent of self-loathing and lost love, all set to near-virtuoso fretplay, this is set to be a timeless classic. So essential did it become to the Dollard household this year that we overlooked its subject matter and made it the soundtrack to our honeymoon.
War on Drugs - Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
I fell head over heels for Slave Ambient on first listen, totally hooked as The War on Drugs meshed krautrock with psychedelia and Spiritualized with The Verve. You can imagine Dylan and Springsteen nodding their approval as Adam Granduciel drawls through his widescreen dreams of escapism. The highest of the high points comes as ‘Your Love Is Calling My Name’ hurtles into the sonic oblivion of ‘The Animator’ before ascending majestically with ‘Come To The City’. This year my band broke up. If I’m ever in another one, I want them to make a record like this.
Want a one-stop, at-a-glance guide to what everyone picked? No? Oh. Well, here it is anyway.
1. Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea (WooMe)
2. Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)
3. Left With Pictures – In Time (Organ Grinder)
4. Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now (Warner)
5. Sea of Bees – Songs For The Ravens (V2)
6. Grey Reverend – Of The Days (Motion Audio)
7. Zoey van Goey – Propeller Versus Wings (Chemikal Underground)
8. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
9. Dark Dark Dark – Wild Go (Supply & Demand)
10. Shimmering Stars – Violent Hearts (Almost Musique)
11. Emmy the Great – Virtue (Close Harbour)
12. Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell – Kite (Rabble Rouser)
13. Hannah Peel – Broken Wave (Static Caravan)
14. Jesca Hoop – Snowglobe (Republic of Music)
15. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead (Rough Trade)
16. Sparrow and the Workshop – Spitting Daggers (Republic of Music)
17. Peggy Sue – Acrobats (Wichita)
18. Alex Turner – Submarine (EP) (Domino)
19. Mechanical Bride – Living With Ants (V2)
20. Metronomy – The English Riviera (Because)
21. Fountains of Wayne – Sky Full Of Holes (Lojinx)
22. Cashier No. 9 – To The Death Of Fun (Bella Union)
23. Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials (Island)
24. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin)
1. The Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing (ADA Global)
2. Fucked Up - David Comes To Life (Matador)
3. Balance and Composure - Separation (No Sleep Records)
4. Thursday - No Devolucion (Epitaph)
5. Touche Amore - Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me (Deathwish Inc.)
6. Small Brown Bike - Fell & Found (No Idea)
7. Defeater - Empty Days and Sleepless Night (Bridge Nine)
8. Spraynard - Funtitled (Asian Man)
9. Dave Hause - Resolutions (Paper + Plastick)
10. Into It. Over It - Proper (No Sleep Records)
11. Thrice - Major/Minor (Vagrant)
12. Title Fight - Shed (SideOneDummy)
13. Red City Radio - The Dangers of Standing Still (Ginner)
14. La Dispute - Wildlife (No Sleep Records)
15. Joyce Manor - Joyce Manor (6131 Records)
16. Transit - Listen & Forgive (ADA Global)
17. Pianos Become The Teeth – The Lack Long After (Topshelf)
18. Letlive. - Fake History (Epitaph)
19. Rise Against - Endgame (Polydor)
20. New Found Glory - Radiosurgery (Epitaph)
21. City and Colour - Little Hell (Cooking Vinyl)
22. Mastodon - The Hunter (Roadrunner)
23. Rival Schools - Pedals (Atlantic)
24. Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys (Atlantic)
1. Middle Brother - Middle Brother (Partisan)
2. Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute)
3. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (4AD)
4. Dark Dark Dark - Wild Go (Supply and Demand)
5. Slow Club - Paradise (Moshi Moshi)
6. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)
7. St Vincent - Strange Mercy (4AD)
8. Other Lives – Tamer Animals (Play It Again Sam)
9. Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness (Wichita)
10. Yuck - Yuck (Mercury)
11. BOBBY - Bobby (Partisan)
12. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin)
13. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest (Warner)
14. WATERS - Out In The Light (City Slang)
15. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
16. Wilco – The Whole Love (Anti)
17. The Leisure Society - Into The Murky Water (Full Time Hobby)
18. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Universal)
19. Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots (Play It Again Sam)
20. The Secret Sisters - The Secret Sisters (Decca)
21. Sarabeth Tucek - Get Well Soon (Sonic Cathedral)
22. Wanda Jackson - The Party Ain’t Over (Third Man Records)
23. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome (Parlaphone)
24. Dark Captain - Dead Legs & Alibis (Loaf)
1. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar (Atlantic)
2. Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
3. Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys (Fiction)
4. Noah & The Whale - Last Night on Earth (Mercury)
5. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto (Parlaphone)
6. The Lesiure Society - Into the Murky Water (Full Time Hobby)
7. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (Sour Mash)
8. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)
9. This is the Kit - Where It Lives (Dreamboat)
10. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead (Rough Trade)
11. The Uglysuit - Aww Shucks (Quarterstick)
12. Beirut - The Rip Tide (Pompei)
13. Good Lovelies - Let the Rain Fall (ADA Global)
14. The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh (Bella Union)
15. The Spokes - The Spokes (Ninja Tune)
16. Dark Dark Dark - Wild Go (Supply And Demand)
17. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin)
18. Wilco - The Whole Love (Anti)
19. The Middle East - I Want that You Are Always Happy (Play It Again Sam)
20. Tinariwen - Tassili (V2)
21. I Break Horses - Hearts (Bella Union)
22. Baxter Drury - Happy Soup (EMI)
23. Driver Drive Faster - Open House (Akoustic Anarky)
24. Treefight for Sunlight - Treefight for Sunlight (V2)
1. Wild Flag - Wild Flag (Wichita)
2. Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi (Domino)
3. The Lovely Eggs - Cob Dominos (Cherryade)
4. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes (Polydor)
5. Comet Gain - Howl Of The Lonely Crowd (Fortuna Pop)
6. David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding (Brainlove)
7. Las Kellies - Kellies (Fire Records)
8. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Everything's Getting Older (Chemikal Underground)
9. Hunx & His Punx - Too Young To Be In Love (Hardly Art)
10. Ponytail - Do Whatever You Want All The Time (We Are Three)
11. St Vincent - Strange Mercy (4AD)
12. Vivian Girls - Share The Joy (Polyvinyl)
13. Dum Dum Girls - Always In Dreams (Sub Pop)
14. Laura Cantrell - Kitty Wells Dresses (Diesel Only)
15. The Dirtbombs - Party Store (In The Red)
16. The Field - Looping State Of Mind (Kompakt)
17. Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls (Bella Union)
18. Twilight Singers - Dynamite Steps (Sub Pop)
19. Sbtrkt - Sbtrkt (Young Turks)
20. Runaround Kids - Linked Arms (Philophobia)
21. Roll The Dice - In Dust (The Leaf Label)
22. Iceage - New Brigade (What's Your Rapture)
23. Widowspeak - Widowspeak (Captured Tracks)
24. Alex Turner - Submarine OST (Domino)
1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
2. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin)
3. Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)
4. Katy B – On A Mission (Columbia)
5. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Universal)
6. Noah & The Whale – Last Night On Earth (Mercury)
7. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome (EMI)
8. Washed Out – Within And Without (Weird World)
9. Yuck – Yuck (Mercury)
10. Real Estate – Days (Domino)
11. Sarabeth Tucek – Get Well Soon (Sonic Cathedral)
12. Emmy The Great – Virtue (Close Harbour)
13. The Horrors – Skying (XL)
14. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
15. Slow Club – Paradise (Moshi Moshi)
16. Wilco – The Whole Love (Anti)
17. Big Deal – Lights Out (Mute)
18. Feist – Metals (Polydor)
19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Fat Possum)
20. Radiohead – King Of Limbs (XL)
21. Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys! (Fiction)
22. Fionn Regan – 100 Acres Of Sycamore (Heavenly)
23. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi (Domino)
24. The Joy Formidable – Big Roar (Atlantic)
1. Radiohead – The King of Limbs (XL)
2. The Antlers - Burst Apart (V2)
3. Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa (Secretly Canadian)
4. Washed Out - Within and Without (Weird World)
5. Balam Acab - Wander/Wonder (Tri Angle)
6. Walls - Coracle (Kompakt)
7. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys! (Polydor)
8. Wye Oak - Civilian (City Slang)
9. Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
10. Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire on the Mountain (LYF Recordings)
11. Tom Waits – Bad As Me (Anti)
12. Toro Y Moi - Underneath the Pine (Carpark)
13. War On Drugs - Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
14. Neon Indian - Era Extraña (Co-Operative Music)
15. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Sub Pop)
16. I Break Horses – Hearts (Bella Union)
17. Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD)
18. The Horrors – Skying (XL)
19. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong (Play It Again Sam)
20. James Blake - James Blake (Polydor)
21. SBTRKT - SBTRKT (Young Turks)
22. Foster The People - Torches (Columbia)
23. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know (Virgin)
24. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)
1. Bjork – Biophilia (One Little Indian)
2. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l (4AD)
3. Radiohead – King of Limbs (XL)
4. James Blake – James Blake (Atlas)
5. Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica (Software)
6. Martyn – Ghost People (Brainfeeder)
7. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Universal)
8. St Vincent – Strange Mercy (4AD)
9. The Horrors – Skying (XL)
10. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest (Warner)
11. Feist – Metals (Polydor)
12. Justice – Audio, Video, Disco (Because)
13. Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs Evil (ATP Recordings)
14. Beirut – The Rip Tide (Pompei)
15. Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise (Circus Company)
16. Jali Nyonkding Kwyateh - Jali (Self-released)
17. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra (True Panther Sounds)
18. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain (Lyf Recordings)
19. Bon Iver – Bon Iver (4AD)
20. Panda Bear – Tomboy (Paw Tracks)
21. Moon Duo – Mazes (Souterrain Transmissions)
22. Tom Vek – Leisure Seizure (Island)
23. Atlas Sound – Parallax (4AD)
24. The Field – Looping State of Mind (Kompakt)
1. Josh T Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute)
2. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (4AD)
3. St Vincent - Strange Mercy (4AD)
4. Bjork - Biophilia (One Little Indian)
5. Emmy the Great - Virtue (Close Harbour)
6. James Blake - James Blake (Atlas)
7. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know (Virgin)
8. Lanterns On the Lake - Gracious Tide Take Me Home (Bella Union)
9. Tom Waits - Bad As Me (ANTI)
10. CANT - Dreams Come True (Warp)
11. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse (Drag City)
12. Beirut - The Rip Tide (Pompeii)
13. Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi (Domino)
14. Typhoon - A New Kind of House (Tender Loving Empire)
15. Wilco - The Whole Love (Dbpm)
16. Bright Eyes - The People's Key (Polydor)
17. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Island)
18. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine (Domino)
19. The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
20. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)
21. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
22. Starfucker - Reptilians (Polyvinyl)
23. Bombino - Agadez (Cumbancha)
24. Summer Camp - Welcome to Condale (Apricot Recording Company)
1. War on Drugs - Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)
3. Wilco - The Whole Love (Anti)
4. Radiohead - The King of Limbs (XL)
5. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Universal)
6. Wild Beasts - Smother (Domino)
7. Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo (Turnstile)
8. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know (Virgin)
9. Josh T Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute)
10. I Break Horses - Hearts (Bella Union)
11. Starfucker - Reptilians (Polyvinyl)
12. The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh (Bella Union)
13. Wye Oak - Civilian (City Slang)
14. Wild Flag - Wild Flag (Wichita)
15. Jamie XX Gil Scott Heron - We're New Here (XL)
16. The Horrors - Skying (XL)
17. Bright Eyes - The People's Key (Polydor)
18. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy (4AD)
19. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys! (Fiction)
20. Arctic Monkeys - Suck it and See (Domino)
21. Felice Brothers - Celebration, Florida (Loose)
22. Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong (Play It Again Sam)
23. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Turnstile)
24. Dangermouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome (EMI)
Friday, December 23, 2011
The penultimate day of the Musical Advent Calendar means first losers, chief runners-up, the number twos. I'm sure they'll all get over it.
Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)
Undoubtedly the grower of 2011, Smother sees Wild Beasts embrace a quality never previously high on their agenda: restraint. Gone are the camp, the madness and the theatrics, replaced by something that throbs gently and invites you to use words like shimmering and ethereal. From lyrics about going deeper, deeper to the orgasmic moans on ‘Bed Of Nails’, this is an album soaked in sex. The band use Thorpe’s famous falsetto and Tom Fleming’s more traditional, mournful delivery to suggest and imply and subvert – hetero or homo is a side issue here, it’s the sexual that’s important. Fans may pine for the grimy majesty of the Two Dancers, or the sheer jaw-dropping audacity of Limbo Panto but with every listen, the album’s own distinct rhythms and subtleties shine through.
Fucked Up - David Comes To Life (Matador)
An 18-track concept album from a hardcore band shouldn't work, but it really, really does. Absolutely rammed with hooks and melody, you still find yourself discovering something new every time you listen to it.
Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute)
It took me a while to crack this one. Or at least I thought it did. It turned out that, in what must have been something of a daze, I spent the first two weeks after I bought it listening instead to the bonus CD of alternate versions. Some of those, for the record, aren't that great. But listen to the album proper and the heartbreaking beauty of this stark, bruised record will become apparent immediately. It's not an easy listen, for sure, but it's an entirely compelling one.
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
Talk about long-awaited. Three years after their eponymous debut with harmonies and 70s-tinged folk, Fleet Foxes have wisely decided not to mess with a winning formula. The delicately poised acoustic guitar lines, strong songwriting and harmonies are all there, with the echoing line about owning an orchard the thread that holds it together. Perfect, err, orchard owning album.
Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi (Domino)
The album that kept me sane for the 17 days and nights of the World Snooker Championship, and truly it’s some achievement to remedy the rigor mortis-inducing play of Rory McLeod. Later in the summer I saw Anna Calvi perform in York and all the flamenco flair, the virtuoso vocals, the drama-drenched songs of the record translated across to the live show. Compared in some parts to the works of Buckley (Jeff rather than Tim) and Bellamy (Matt rather than David), the latest in a long line of self-titled LPs on my list perhaps shared grand ambitions with those artists but it was hardly derivative and more signalling the arrival of a major new talent.
Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin)
I Speak Because I Can, Laura Marling’s previous album, took my No. 1 spot on this blog last year. Back then I wrote about how it delivered on the promise hinted at on her innocent debut Alas, I Cannot Swim. Remarkably, this third album, A Creature I Don’t Know, makes similarly giant leaps forward. She’s gone electric for the first time, 'The Beast' being a swirling monster of a song Led Zeppelin could’ve easily recorded, while 'Sophia' comes over like a glorious, tragic hoedown. As before, Marling gives little of herself away here, and while detractors grumble this makes her music aloof, that enigma, coupled with her fierce, brooding delivery, is the most attractive thing about this sensational record.
The Antlers - Burst Apart (V2)
I know plenty of you on here were fans of 2009’s Hospice but I found it a little too unremittingly bleak – with my Mum passing away in the same year, a concept album based around a terminally-ill patient was a bit too much for me to put on repeat. Burst Apart was a revelation then: shot through with hope and some surprisingly punchy guitars, there was more of an interesting contrast to Peter Silberman’s broken soul vocals this time around. Oddly, something in the jazzy chords and elegant arrangements even reminded me a little of Coldplay’s Parachutes, an album I still have a soft spot for, even after all of the Rihanna-duetting, Paltrow-bonking madness that followed. This was even better and also spared me mental pictures of excruciatingly middle class dinner parties with Jay-Z, Beyonce and Gwyneth. Winner.
The Antlers - I Don't Want Love by Transgressive Records
tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l (4AD)
Neil Young, referenced in the title of this blog, has always appealed to me because he’s charted his own path. And while Merril Garbus under the moniker of tUne-yArDs sounds nothing like Neil, for me she has the same unique appeal of an artist ruthlessly following their own muse. Bold, brash, invigorating, and on tracks like Powa beautiful too, Garbus has created a record that shows there’s life in conceptual pop music yet. Life-affirming, inspirational and best served loud.
tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l (4AD)
Choosing between St Vincent and tUnE-yArDs for spots two and three was as easy as deciding who you’d rather have up front, Pele or Maradona. Or who you’d rather punch, Piers Morgan or Jeremy Clarkson. Both solo projects under lavish names, both staggeringly assured female artists with a sense of fun to go with a kitchen-sink musicality. At its best w h o k i l l threatens to break all boundaries in its path and create a whole new genre of politicised afrophile, scat-tastic, horn-blowing, gut-busting pop.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)
Given Justin Vernon’s previous incarnation as an incredibly talented, incredibly hairy man with a bruised Americana heart, the sonic ambition of Bon Iver is startling. From its intensely evocative opening guitar phrase to the stirring, brass-bursting finale, ‘Perth’ is a blinding way to kick things off. Thankfully, the quality is maintained – ‘Holocene’ and ‘Wash.’ possess a particularly beguiling and aching beauty. Well, it’s almost maintained. Closer ‘Beth/Rest’ sounds like something off the soundtrack of one-time Channel 5 daytime favourite Sunset Beach. It’s surely a gag.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
While Skillers quietly enjoys some "musical marmite", Pranam quietly suffers a meltdown.
Left With Pictures – In Time (Organ Grinder)
Coming out of a project which saw the band write, record and shoot a video for one song a month for the duration of 2010, In Time is a remarkably coherent album. At first glance not much has changed since their debut effort – 12 shiny chamber pop songs which draw on the band’s classical training and will have you singing along before you even know the words. But there’s an impressive widening of scope here, whether that be in the a capella of ‘October Waits’ or ‘June’, a jaunty pop song which makes use of the little heard 7/4 time signature. These, and other offbeat treats, come from the second of the band’s two frontmen Toby Knowles. But it is Stuart Barter, whose voice and songs have a more traditional beauty, who produces the crowning glory in 'River Avon', a tale of nostalgia and thwarted young love so heartbreakingly delicate you hesitate to listen to it too often for fear it may break.
Balance and Composure - Separation (No Sleep Records)
After two breathtakingly brilliant EPs, it's little wonder that Balance and Composure were capable of creating a full length that is every bit as dark and brooding as Brand New's masterpiece Deja Entendu. A classic.
tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (4AD)
w h o k i l l is a big bubbling monster of an album, impossible to define, impossible to contain, and impossible to ignore. Many, many words have been used to try and sum up the contents of this record, of which may favourite is rambunctious (this words should be used much more often in many walks of life) but adding to the list, or just borrowing from it, only serves little purpose. The best thing to do is listen. And watch too, cos this video is a riot.
Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys (Fiction)
The sickeningly happy title and the global smash of 'One Day Like This' meant there was always a danger Elbow would try to write 12 similar stadium songs, when in fact their strengths lie in the melancholy. 'Open Arms' aside, they do indeed stick to what they know. Jaggedy guitars, complex time signatures, and beautiful lyrics - a great follow up in their new era.
The Lovely Eggs - Cob Dominos (Cherryade)
Utter musical marmite from Lancaster’s Holly and David. Either you’ll love the scrambled textures of the Lovely Eggs, as I do, or you’ll hate them and everything they stand for. Having cast my eye over quite a few end-of-year lists, they’ve been nowhere in sight. PJ Harvey, the Kate Adie of alt.rock, is the towering presence, with no Eggs hatching in any charts. Shame that, and surely an oversight John Peel’s listeners would have rectified. I reckon my selected track, the lead single, was the most triumphant moment of their skittish second album but it faced competition from 'Panic Plants', which took a sensitive topic, OCD, and smeared gags all over it, and the call-and-response jest-fest of 'Why Don’t You Like Me?'.
Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)
It’s hard to believe music as beautiful as this was written in a dingy room of an East-London towerblock. Clearly the Cumbrian band were thinking of home, as Smother is a sprawling, glacial-sounding record. Much was made of the album’s sexiness when it was release, and indeed it’s a carnal-sounding record too, with slinky basslines and seductive, sweeping melodies and arpeggios lacing most of the songs. Lyrically, Hayden Thorpe is on fine form, somehow managing to be playful, mysterious and obtuse at once. Putting it simply, there isn’t a British band as interesting or idiosyncratic as Wild Beasts at the moment. On paper, they’re preposterous. In reality? Absolutely heavenly.
Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa (Secretly Canadian)
At their first UK gig at the Lexington in Kings Cross, this Santa Barbara four-piece bounded back on stage for an encore and promptly tore Gary Numan’s 'Cars' a new one. “We’ve always wanted to play this in England…” Seeing them live made more sense out of an album that was already a favourite this year. With touches of new wave and even glam rock, there was an edge and variety to the songwriting that belied the slick electro style production. 'Black Hills' throbbed like a sun-bleached Stooges, while 'Sunday Morning' even aped the Beatles, with its beautifully weary psychedelia. Only a slight tail off in the last couple of tracks and an over-use of that note-bending lever you get on the side of 1980s keyboards that Talking Heads used to do on every track stopped this being at number one.
Radiohead – The King of Limbs (XL)
Is the general consensus on this album that it’s not up there with Radiohead’s best? Is this because at eight tracks its too short? Aren’t each of the individual tracks incredibly strong in themselves? Would you even go so far as to put 'Lotus Flower' as among their best songs? Since the release of OK Computer, do we now expect too much from a new Radiohead album? Is The King of Limbs a record that both reinvents the band and sidesteps expectations? Is that a good thing? Does it warrant a place in my top 24 merely because I’ve listened to it so many times? What merits a good album? What do we mean by ‘merits’? What is an ‘album’? What is held by the concept of ‘good’? Do some of us get too hung up about music nowadays? Do some of us not care enough? Do I need a nice sit down now and cup of tea? Do you?
St Vincent - Strange Mercy (4AD)
Annie Clarke’s previous record as St Vincent, Actor, just missed the cut after the umming and the aahing was done on my 2009 Advent Calendar. This time it took a bucketload of umms and even more aahs to keep it out of the top two. Clarke’s writing has taken a stellar leap in the last couple of years and her guitar work is as ferocious as her ear for a killer hook is sharp. Lyrically, there’s stacks of mischief, double talk and the occasional filthy aside and in 'Cruel', she has my single of the year.
Wilco - The Whole Love (Anti)
Wilco begin their best album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by echoing its more claustrophobic moments in opener ‘Art of Almost’ - seven intricately woven minutes that Nels Cline blasts into the stratosphere with his thrilling guitar assault. From there on Cline’s new wave flair offsets Jeff Tweedy’s Abbey Road sensibilities. The haunting ‘Black Moon’ is a magnificent mid-album sandwich filling between the good-time guitar pop of ‘Dawned On Me’ and ‘Born Alone’, and when lilting epic ‘One Sunday Morning’ closes the show, it’s hard to shake the impression that this band is incapable of making bad records.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Important questions are raised by today's list, but none more important than the question as to where the yo-yo finally landed on Pranam's end-of-year chart.
Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now (Warner)
This is one of two albums I’ve picked this year which was also eligible for the 2010 list, which is a shame because, had the vote not been split, it might have had a better shot at the overall top 10. It’s great stuff though: Jenny (Lewis - Rilo Kiley) and boyfriend Johnny (Rice - who cares?) are young, pretty, funny and in love, and they’re positively bloody desperate to let you know how it feels. While I’ve lifted that description entirely from Rory’s review last year because it’s a great line, I can’t help feeling he’s slightly undersold the lyrical ambition of an album which includes lines like “If you lose your fear of God you are an animal at heart” and “You have to be patient, this new administration is doing the very best it can”. Nobody’s going to disagree about the scorching harmonies and perfect pop tunes, though, in a 35-minute offering which never once dips in quality.
Thursday - No Devolucion (Epitaph)
My favourite band of all time regrettably decided to call it quits in November, but after 13 years and six life-changing albums I can hardly complain. No Devolucion hinted at a new direction and was a fitting way for the finest post-hardcore band of all time to bow out.
Dark Dark Dark - Wild Go (Supply and Demand)
For some reason every time I think about Dark Dark Dark I get all hung up on their supposed genre, 'chamber folk', and what that might mean. I think this is part of a general thing I have about the seemingly endless list of different genres which are said to exist, to the point that every band might as well have their own genre, and then nobody will. I don't know why, but this band provoke these feelings in me more than most - perhaps because I've never read anything about them, now including this review, which doesn't mention the term. But once you get past semantics, you can very easily get lost in a very different, and wonderful, way with Dark Dark Dark. To fully immerse yourself in Wild Go is to live in world of bleak beauty. Their echoing pianos and pulsating rhythms create a haunting soundscape you won't want to leave. The tunes are too good for that.
Noah and the Whale - Last Night On Earth (Mercury)
Dubbed their worst album so far by the fun-haters, Last Night On Earth is in fact a great collection of tunes. Not sounding out of place on Radio 2 drivetime is in fact a virtue, particularly when bursting from the depths of despair of last album, First Days of Spring. An album for jumping up and down to, whether in the 80s or any other decade.
Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes (Polydor)
Side-projects shouldn’t trump the day job but the debut LP from Cat’s Eyes was an aural extravagance. News that Horrors head boy Faris Badwan (né Rotter) was working on a side-project with an opera singer, Italian-Canadian Rachel Zeffira, caused a ripple of interest, which became a stir when they apparently performed a track as a stunt inside the Vatican. The neo-gothic duo had chutzpah but they had the tunes too. Zeffira the debutante was a revelation, Badwan a first-class chaperone, their sultry, sun-down orchestral manoeuvres consistently hitting the mark.
Katy B – On A Mission (Sony)
While millions of people were watching Prince William marrying that ‘commoner’ Kate Middleton in April, I was interviewing Katy B. If any of the flag-waving tourists cheering on the Blue Bloods wanted a real depiction of modern Britain, they could’ve done a lot worse than look at Katy that day, standing in a café in Oxford ordering a falafel, and have a listen to her wonderful debut. As foreign as her influences are to me – dubstep, two-step and garage – I love On A Mission. Maybe that’s why I find it so fascinating. It sounds like club music made by someone who has actually been inside a club. The way Katy sings of getting lost in the music, flirting with strangers and over-indulging makes me think nightclubs might not be gateways to hell, but thrilling places to visit.
Washed Out - Within and Without (Weird World)
Having played 'Feel It All Around' endlessly last year (the Life of Leisure EP was my number six pick in 2010, fact fans), I had pretty high expectations for Within and Without, which were then crushed by walking into Rough Trade to find they had installed a promotional Washed Out double bed in the store, complete with branded duvet and listening posts. Thankfully after this twattishly misguided introduction, the album itself was a more simple seduction – shoegaze production values, inert rhythms and vocals with a strange, roller-rink sadness to them.
Washed Out - Amor Fati by DominoRecordCo
James Blake – James Blake (Atlas)
Like a yo-yo, this has bobbed all over my charts this year. It didn’t have the immediate appeal of Blake’s early EPs, but I kept returning to it, partly because it sounds so unlike anything else. It’s deep, heartfelt music that manages to innovate too, and in that sense reminds me the xx’s debut. I really look forward to see where Blake goes next.
Bjork - Biophilia (One Little Indian)
It seems pathetically reductive to sum up the genius of this album in a couple of paragraphs and an arbitrarily selected video clip, but let’s give it a shot while we’re here. If you want to divert yourself reading about the instruments she invented to give this album its distinctive palette, that’d be a good thing to do. Equally, you could research the conservationist/cosmological/philosophical treatise that underpin its themes. If none of that appeals, just take this at its face value: a set of dizzyingly creative, genre-splicing, batshit mental musical experimentation.
Radiohead - The King of Limbs (XL)
In making their 2009 masterpiece In Rainbows, Radiohead removed a monkey from their back. No longer did people hope idly for the next The Bends or OK Computer. It seems The King of Limbs has annoyed everybody again by not being the next In Rainbows. However, it must be remembered, Thom Yorke is a contrary bugger who never knowingly gives the people what they want unless you count playing “Creep” at the odd festival here and there. The King of Limbs is not as good as its predecessor, but there remains plenty to admire. Restless beats and rhythms dazzle in the album’s first half, before haunting piano ballad “Codex” begins the ascent for air, completed by assured closer “Separator”. The monkey is back on Yorke’s shoulders and he’s feeding it loads of bananas.