Editor's Pick of New Releases, February 2010
There's really no need to drag this introductory paragraph out beyond a very simple outlining of what follows: a recap of last month's finest new albums, as heard and subsequently assessed by the BBC's vastly experienced team of critics. Many have also received the thumbs up from DJs across our radio networks - do check out our recommendations page for the latest tips from airwaves tastemakers.
(Like last month, I'm not restricting myself to a limited number of picks - all of these albums are worthy of investigation.)
"The Sea, produced as per the debut by Steve Brown and Steve Chrisanthou, is no self-indulgent lack of tunes-fest. Even at its bleakest - Closer, say, or Love's on Its Way, where there is "blood on the streets" - the music and melodies draw you in, and even when they follow their own lushly orchestrated circuitous path, they seem to dare you to drift away. What's going on? This is."
Nils Frahm - The Bells
(Erased Tapes, released 1 February)
"Frahm's innate gift and creative approach differs from most of his contemporaries - Max Richter, Goldmund and Sylvain Chauveau - in its reliance on instinct, allowing his evident poise, touch and imagination to awaken these sorrowful passages from their slumber. This album will expose him to a wider audience, a demographic with a seemingly insatiable appetite for more prime neo-classicism."
The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack
(Heavenly, released 1 February)
"It might not hang around, the debut long-player from San Diego's The Soft Pack, but it doesn't need much time to leave a lasting impression. Ostensibly garage rock - carried by surf-savvy guitars, underpinned by echoes of psychedelia and boisterous of primal percussion - the constituent pieces don't seem all that special. But the whole far surpasses the sum of its parts."
"Midlake won't ever be a 'cool' name to drop. They're the kind of band who'll prompt your parents to tell you about all the fun they had in the 60s, and dig out their Fairport Convention LPs because 'If you like this, you'll love that'. It doesn't matter, of course: The Courage of Others is a lovely, lovely record that doesn't sound like it belongs in this age at all. It's all the better for it."
"It seems like Los Campesinos! are limbering up for a shot at, if not the stadiums, then a couple of the smaller arenas. Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State is all very serious, and young, and tormented in a Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes way; There Are Listed Buildings, meanwhile, is a good old-fashioned romp in the style of Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted."
"Massive Attack spent their first 12 years as breathtaking pioneers, while 99.9% of their rivals might manage ten minutes of such inspiration. They may never be as original again, but as long as they make albums as rich, textured and seductive as Heligoland they will remain one of our most fascinating, extraordinary bands."
"It's been a long, hard road to redemption for Gil Scott-Heron, the influential musician, poet and author, whose last full-length album, Spirits, was released 16 years ago. I'm New Here is an unlikely but triumphant return, packed full of sadness, experience and an underlying feeling of someone making peace with their mistakes and regrets."
"One website has proclaimed Odd Blood its Most Anticipated Album of 2010. The band's new sound features a dense, Dave Fridmann-like production: pumping, parping, squelching sounds familiar to those from The Flaming Lips, or MGMT. What comes next, who can say?"
Pantha du Prince - Black Noise
(Rough Trade, released 8 February)
"Hendrik Weber, aka Pantha du Prince, might have ascended during the minimal era but was clearly never attached to its coattails. His gift for generating heavily melodic mazes of sound, which remains intact on Black Noise, makes that certain. But the new album offers a different kind of experience to its predecessor, This Bliss."
Field Music - Field Music (Measure)
(Memphis Industries, released 15 February)
6 Music album of the Day
"(Measure) is a sturdily made piece that sprawls, yet always surprises. You sense the love and energy taken in the Field Music enterprise, and it nods to a proud craftsmanship. Across its many and varied pieces, this collection proves that Field Music truly are a gem of a band."
Efterklang - Magic Chairs
(4AD, released 22 February)
Recommended by Radcliffe & Maconie
"This makes for a superb introduction to one of the world's most uniquely-minded bands. Where other 'indie' acts stick a violin atop a standard-issue rock-stomper and call it an anthem, Efterklang assemble their arrangements from classical-forged fragments. Across Magic Chairs they exhibit a singular classiness, their composure and patience immensely admirable."
Eluvium - Similes
(Temporary Residence, released 23 February)
"Similes is blessed with moments, with movements, of impossibly diaphanous, distinctly delicate elegance. Cooper's occasional vocals are part-Stuart Staples, part-Matt Berninger, imperfect yet all the more engaging for their roughness. Glorious, albeit predictably so, Similes is a delight to be distracted by."