The XX by The XX. This is one heck of an album: minimal without being bland, tuneful without being vacuously poppy, atmospheric without disappearing up its own bum. ‘Basic Space’ is a cracker (that’s two bum references in one paragraph), as is ‘Crystalised’. Robert Smith must be listening with considerable interest. You can only hope this band has enough juice in it for more than one album (though things aren’t looking good: a guitarist has already done a runner).
Scars by Basement Jaxx. This is just so full of ideas it’s hard not to get lost in the balls of it all, and even the weaker songs, the ballads, are a joy. I loved ‘Raindrops’ the first time I heard it on the radio and a month or so later I still can’t get enough of it. Sure Scars might sound like your music collection shoved into a blender, but who cares when it’s as good as this.
Riceboy Sleeps by Jonsi and Alex. I must admit to being a complete and utter Sigur Ros obsessive (though that band’s latest album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, had some great moments as well as the most shlockingly Hollywood-soundtrack thing they’ve ever done), so when I saw this in my record-shop I snapped it up immediately. And it’s a beauty: sure, it’s gentle and ambient but, according to the boys, no synths were used in its creation, and that approach brings an almost overwhelming warmth to the music. That said, it’s not all sweetness and light: ‘Sleeping Giant’ could well end up appearing in a David Lynch film.
Blood Bank by Bon Iver. For Emma, for Ever Ago is a modern-day classic in my book – it’s one of those albums that I love listening to on vinyl – and whilst nothing on this EP is as good as what’s on the main collection, there’s a lot to like here. ‘Blood Bank’ is a slow-burner of a song and ‘Woods’, a multi-layered, heavily treated a capella piece, hits its mark bang on.
The Resistance by Muse. Sure, Muse are getting more and more ridiculous (and, as everyone says, Queen-lite) as their career goes stratospheric, but this album, for me, is a guilty pleasure. ‘Unnatural Selection’ is one of the best things they’ve done, much better than the often-lauded three-part ‘Exogenesis’, which closes the album. Strap on the air guitar, slip into a pair of Freddie Mercury hot-pants and rock out with your…windows shut.