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The best albums of October 2011

BBC Album Reviews editor Mike Diver selects his favourite LPs of October 2011...

October's always been a great month for new albums, and 2011's crop is another really rather brilliant one. So much so that I'm extending this round-up from 10 releases to 15, to accommodate a handful of extra treats for the listening gear.

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My album of the month...

Björk - Biophilia
(One Little Indian; released 10 October)
Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Jo Whiley, Radcliffe & Maconie, Lauren Laverne

"Biophilia is a mesmerising album which confirms that Björk can weave dumfounding wonders from Silly String - whatever's placed before her, she can turn to her advantage, taking her audience on a trip the likes of which no other contemporary artist is capable of planning, let alone embarking on. In a word: amazing. Again."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Crystalline (external YouTube link)

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The best of the rest...

Emika - Emika
(Ninja Tune; released 3 October)
Recommended by: Tom Robinson

"Though she's strongly influenced by dubstep, a movement the Anglo-Czech musician watched develop while living in Bristol, Emika's music doesn't require an intimate knowledge of underground dance culture, owing as much to the atmospheric experiments of another of Bristol's finest exports, Portishead. Mysterious and provocative, this album leaves you wanting more, even though you know it's sometimes rather troubling."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Professional Loving (external YouTube link)

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9th Wonder - The Wonder Years
(It's a Wonderful World Music Group; released 10 October)
Recommended by: Semtex

"Charting his rise from the early days of jamming to Public Enemy at high school, to being picked up by Jay-Z, to winning a Grammy with Mary J Blige, to producing for Erykah Badu and Common, each rung of the ladder is reinforced by his sumptuous trademark soul samples and self-propelled loops. It's not simply a retrospective affair, but a calling card illustrating why this beat-maker wears a crown on his album cover."

Read the full BBC review
Watch a trailer for the documentary The Wonder Year, following a year in the life of 9th Wonder (external YouTube link; contains language which may offend)

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Modeselektor - Monkeytown
(Monkeytown; released 3 October)
Recommended by: Tom Ravenscroft

"Modeselektor, in this writer's rave-ravaged opinion, forge the most intelligent, progressive, well-constructed dance music in the contemporary scene. Few dance albums can keep their soul for the duration, but with tracks featuring this many facets, ideas, genres and tempos, the duo romps home. Monkeytown is the sound of two men working in harmony, perfectly in control of their machines. And it may just be one of the albums of the year."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Shipwreck (featuring Thom Yorke) (external YouTube link)

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New Look - New Look
(!K7; released 3 October)
Recommended by: Nick Grimshaw

"New Look's debut album is rare in how natural and effortless it sounds. Its structure is immaculate - its order so that influences are reimagined as a dream. Clipped beats and pop hooks come together with heart-wrenching power. This is an essential record made by two people with astonishing control, skill and knowledge; one which makes us proud of what music has done in the past 20 years, and just what it can now create."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Nap on the Bow (external YouTube link)

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Wild Flag - Wild Flag
(Wichita; released 10 October)
Recommended by: Lauren Laverne

"Wild Flag's craft - honed and perfected during a spate of well received club shows - and the magic of this long-time-coming collaboration (the band's members have known each other for well over a decade) is here for all to hear. All of these tracks were captured live, except for the vocals, and the unabashed joy Timony, Brownstein, Weiss and Cole clearly experienced when finally playing together really comes across in the recordings. They practically sizzle when played."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Romance (external YouTube link)

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Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
(Parlophone; released 24 October)
Recommended by: Radio 2 Album of the Week, 6 Music Album of the Day, Greg James

"A brilliant, shiny and emphatic reinstatement of the euphoric hooks and cuddly ballads that have served the band so well. Case in point: Paradise, where melting strings and church organ feed into a brilliant chorus line that equal parts Fix You and Viva la Vida's title-track. But the main vocal chorus doesn't arrive until over two minutes in, building the tension; the pay-off is both simple and devastating. It's the equal of Yellow, and when Coldplay return to Glastonbury it will take the roof off the sky."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Paradise (external YouTube link)

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Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation
(Lefse Records; released 24 October)

"Youth Lagoon is Trevor Powers' outlet for explaining aspects of life he otherwise has a hard time discussing. So, typical problems to befall the confused and curious arise; the anxieties of a man not long out of childhood manifest in solid beats and crunching production. It's full of motifs that catch one off guard, which halt the progress of fingers on keys and steps on a street alike; lyrics that float like a knee-high mist around bare-bones arrangements of crackling delicacy."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Montana (external YouTube link)

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Summer Camp - Welcome to Condale
(Apricot; released 31 October)
Recommended by: Rob da Bank, 6 Music Album of the Day

"With Pulp's Steve Mackey on production, Welcome to Condale has a stern bite, all bristling synths and ramped up, classic guitar licks soundtracking the artists' own world of twisted youth. And there's no doubting the intent that blazes through the individual songs on the record. The pair acts out power struggles between characters, dominating and demeaning, breaking up and getting back together with the cavalier flamboyance that fades in adult relationships. A debut that marks a sincere, wryly appealing turning point in the art of romanticised retrospection."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Better Off Without You (external YouTube link)

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Real Estate - Days
(Domino; released 17 October)
Recommended by: Tom Ravenscroft, Huw Stephens, 6 Music Album of the Day

"This is a yearning, winsome thing, drenched in autumnal colour and a sweet, almost blissful nostalgia; a sonic leap forward from their homespun self-titled debut. It is the kind of record that might drift by unassumingly lest you lend it a careful ear, but really: the second you do, it rewards unequivocally. Occasionally a lyric or an image jumps out at you - a frozen sea, the frequency of an internal debate, mountains of maple leaves. Days somehow manages to reflect on growing up with startling clarity while exhibiting youthful innocence and exuberance in spades."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for It's Real (external YouTube link)

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Lisa Hannigan - Passenger
(PIAS; released 10 October)
Recommended by: The Late Show with Stuart Bailie, Dermot O'Leary

"For all its deft arrangements and catchy chorus hook lines, Passenger feels unforced, spontaneous and timeless; indeed, such is its unaffected delivery that it might have been recorded 30 years ago or last month. Like all good actresses, Hannigan is not just telling stories here, she's mapping the absurd, mischievous, troubling but always potentially transcendent landscape of human emotion in which we are all journeying."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Knots (external YouTube link)

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Rustie - Glass Swords
(Warp; released 10 October)
Recommended by: Vic Galloway

"Glass Swords is undeniably self-indulgent. Effectively the sound of Web 2.0 information overload set to music, it finds Russell Whyte categorically refusing to reduce the breadth of his tastes into a manageable, coherent vision. Instead he simply piles everything on top of each other, often jamming five or six recognisable influences into a single four-minute track. But it shows just the right amount of restraint to prevent total disarray. Even if the album weren't half as much fun as it is, that feat would be worthy of celebration in itself."

Read the full BBC review
Watch a preview of Glass Swords (external YouTube link)

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Nils Frahm - Felt
(Erased Tapes; released 10 October)
Recommended by: Tom Ravenscroft

"It's not just the soft, warm clunks of piano keys against strings that give this sense of having fallen inside Frahm's instrument in a bucolic daze. There's the quiet ambient hiss throughout, the rattle of the piano's movement, the squeal of what sounds like fingers along metal strings in Kind, the odd flick and knock from elsewhere in the room. This is a transportative album, a balm for troubled minds."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Unter (external YouTube link)

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Kuedo - Serverant
(Planet Mu; released 17 October)
Recommended by: Rob da Bank

"With a wealth of feeling and shimmering soul running throughout, Kuedo's music cannot be pigeonholed as mere intelligent dance music; it's more emotionally intelligent dance music. While it won't please those expecting a selection of aggressive dubstep workouts, Severant is a stunning debut that gives up more secrets with every listen."

Read the full BBC review
(No official videos available)

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Magazine - No Thyself
(Wire-Sound; released 24 October)
Recommended by: Jarvis Cocker, Marc Riley, 6 Music Album of the Day

"No Thyself is less about Howard Devoto refusing to grow old gracefully, and more about the unsung genius asking darkly comic questions about what that cliché means. The surprise excellence of the songs and the music makes this the long-overdue fourth great Magazine album. Thirty years ago, Devoto sang of wanting to burn again. And here he is, doing exactly that."

Read the full BBC review
Watch a trailer for No Thyself (external YouTube link)



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