The Best Albums of February 2012
BBC Album Reviews Editor Mike Diver picks the best of a fantastic bunch of new albums released in February
Album of the Month
Gang Colours - The Keychain Collection
(Brownswood; released 27 February)
Recommended by: Lauren Laverne
"The music made under this could-be-confrontational moniker is striking in its economy, its language refined and concise. It does enough to cast a spell on the listener throughout; but, when it strikes seams of gold, jaws hit floors. Not dancefloors, granted - but producer Will Ozanne has here delivered one of the most perfect after-party collections in recent memory, and one which is likely to soundtrack quiet hours of solitude for the foreseeable."
The Best of the Rest
"Glasper is a musician rooted in traditional jazz standards but brazen enough to push the limits of his sound, no matter how peculiar the outcome. Black Radio surpasses the excellence of his previous Experiment, Double Booked - while that was a segregated look into Glasper's conventional and outlandish affinities, Black Radio blends those ideals into one coherent set."
"Put Your Back N 2 It exists in a bleakly beautiful twilight zone of Mike Hadreas' own making. Indicative of this is No Tear, with his tremulous vocal (a touch Sufjan Stevens) on the chorus echoed by a creepy (as in Twin Peaks creepy) slowed-down vocal counterpart. But then Hadreas' way of dragging you in to his sadness and confusion (and mirroring your own in the process) is a most bizarrely comforting feeling once you're alone with him."
School of Seven Bells - Ghostory
(Full Time Hobby; released 27 February)
Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day
"Stadiums and the rockers that fill them might be an unexpected new influence, but like every good band SVIIB make these currents of inspiration their own to control. After all, similar stylistic traits haven't damaged the widespread appeal of Florence + the Machine. For a band that once threatened to run out of ideas, Ghostory is a staggeringly beautiful success. This is true trance music."
John Talabot - ƒin
(Permanent Vacation; released 13 February)
Recommended by: Huw Stephens
"Barcelona's John Talabot has here nailed his sublime colours to 2012's electro mast in no little style. While his focus is consistently on everything but what might qualify as a banger in 2012, there's no doubting that he's a master of dance's forever-changing language. File him beside The Field and Nicolas Jaar as a producer who stays ahead of the game by adhering exclusively to his own set of rules."
"Whereas Editors seem to ape the tortured soul of Joy Division, here it's the real deal. The song titles imply as much: Dead City, Don't Move, Not Sleeping, Kill It in the Morning. These are more than ostentatious angst; they're doors onto shadowy, eerie scenes. Many of the songs start with ghostly rumours, like the stirring of troubling memories."
"Recorded in the garage studio of The National's Aaron Dessner, Tramp continues the trajectory that got underway with Van Etten's debut LP Because I Was in Love in 2009, broadening her sound and exhibiting greater confidence while markedly ramping up the volume. Its 12 songs blur into each other at first, hallucinatory and shapeless, further listening revealing moments of standalone fury and beauty of the kind that has always been present in her work."
Hooray for Earth - True Loves
(Memphis Industries; released 27 February)
Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day
"With firm foundations built across several years of touring and recording, Hooray for Earth arrive for their UK breakthrough as a remarkably fully-formed outfit, radio-ready and - if there's any justice - with academy-sized sell-outs in their near future. True Loves delivers on the fantastic promise of its title-track, comprising a commendable listen for those demanding defined individuality from their chosen songsmiths."
"This suburban, provincial sweetness - a tasty concoction far removed from the fashion-focussed silliness of London in both geography and intent - is eminently loveable. Not that the Mackem minstrels can't go glitzy. Listen to A New Town. It sounds like a Justin Timberlake track. That alone is a boggling but brilliant statement of intent, wouldn't you say?"
"Porter's voice is a marvel: a warm, assured tenor with precise, impeccable intonation, completely at home in classy originals that - like all good jazz - seem to bathe in timeless familiarity. There's a sense of sumptuous comfort about much of the album - and not just in the arrangements. Porter's lyrics, too, seem to come from a place of great emotional strength. Yeah, Gregory Porter is the real deal."