- Laura Marling: I Speak Because I Can. The highly rated London songstress released her second album in March of this year and it is a really special record. I never really got the whole Laura Marling love-in that erupted after her debut, but this album has totally changed my opinion. Gorgeous vocals and haunting imagery, the album is a subtle and beautiful work.
Laura Marling - "Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)"
- Hot Chip: One Life Stand. Released at the beginning of this year, this has grown on me since and is looking to become the soundtrack to my festival trek this summer with appearances at both Oxegen and the Picnic from the band. More consistent than any of their previous work, One Life Stand is essentially a love album at it's core but retains the pop-electronica that characterises Hot Chip's sound. The track below is the album opener and is my favourite song that the band have recorded to date.
Hot Chip - Thieves In the Night
- Cathy Davey: The Nameless. I have always been a fan of the fantastic Ms. Davey but was absolutely blown away by her chart-topping album. With heavy nods toward Kate Bush, the Nameless has attracted swarms of new fans and made me think twice about just how good Cathy is. Check it out if you have missed out already. Little Red is probably the best pop song I've heard all year, while the title track and the one streaming below are just phenomenal.
Army Of Tears
- The Black Keys: Brothers. I must say I have always been a huge fan of the Black Keys. The blues duo have gone from strength to strength in the last ten years, though this album really shows what they are capable of. An uplifting album that left me stunned by its sheer dynamism - it takes in blues, traditional rock 'n' roll and Motown. A magnificent release.
The Black Keys - Next Girl
There are a number of albums that fit the other end of the scale too, i.e. left me stunned as they were just no good. Every year there's a number of anticipated albums that fall flat and for me none eclipses MGMT's Congratulations in that respect so far this year. A shambles, it sounds as though it was inspired by the erroneous backing "music" that could be found on mid-90s N64 and Sega games fused with elevator music. Experimental? yes. Brave? A little. Self-indulgent and just boring? Without a doubt.
But let's finish this on a positive note. I can safely say that there have been more pleasant surprises than nasty ones so far this year. The above albums epitomise this - better than I expected, some taking on totally new directions and completely changing my opinion of the artists involved.