Friday 31 August 2012, 14:04
The music industry's summertime release schedule is rarely graced by excellence - but the 10 albums below are well worth spending a little time with.
Album of the Month…
Jessie Ware - Devotion
(Island/PMR; released 20 August)
"Ware never stretches for an out-of-reach note; she never gives her songs over to hyperbole or bombast. Throughout, there is a well-measured, well-mannered elegance that engages with more efficiency than many an artist dressing their material up as The Next Big Thing. There's nothing 'next' about Ware: she's here, now, and superb."
- - -
The best of the rest…
Matthew Dear - Beams
(Ghostly International; released 27 August)
"Dear's years as a dance producer have given him the facility to take one riff or bassline on a four- or five-minute journey which, due to clever dynamics and Dear's gift for melodic vocal chants, ends up sounding like a pop song. He's a hipster with immaculate taste and enormous talent, who always seems to be quietly laughing at himself in the corner of some artfully sleazy New York nightclub."
- - -
JJ DOOM - Key to the Kuffs
(Lex Records; released 20 August)
"Key to the Kuffs may in fact be JJ's finest hour. He sources an array of samples from TV shows featuring stereotypically-accented cockneys; he unleashes creepily creaky beats that could have graced the first Wu-Tang album, while DOOM drops Anglophilia on tracks called Guv'nor and Rhymin' Slang."
- - -
Holy Other - Held
(Tri Angle; released 27 August)
Recommended by: Rob da Bank
"Held is uniformly sorrowful. These are bass ballads for clubs where everyone sits around wearing headphones luxuriating in their own private misery. The tracks are instrumental but there are voices everywhere, cut up and tweaked or stretched out, leaving echoes of silence. It sounds like Michael Jackson slowed down to 18bpm, or R. Kelly in Hell."
- - -
Bloc Party - Four
(French Kiss; released 20 August)
"From the moment So He Begins to Lie tears out of the speakers, it's obvious that Bloc Party have dodged expectations again. Lissack's fantastically crunchy riff, Okereke's echoing vocal and Matthew Tong's feverish drum rolls forcefully prove that Bloc Party are a real band again, and a rock band at that. Four may be 2012's most exciting guitar album, and who would have predicted that?"
- - -
OMBRE - Believe You Me
(Asthmatic Kitty Records; released 27 August)
Recommended by: Tom Ravenscroft
"Julianna Barwick's vocals are weightless, near-indiscernible things that colour the acoustic strums of Helado Negro. They slow-dance their way around the light percussion of the divine Cara Falsa and Dawning's sun-dappled drones. Sultry summer nights following somnolent summer days, you've just found your new soundtrack."
- - -
Bill Fay - Life Is People
(Dead Oceans; released 20 August)
"Some careers are hard-fought; some are just hard. And some are as lonely as the long-distance runner. Bill Fay's happens to be all three. His first album for 41 years, Life Is People is hugely moving. Sad, too, but a comforting Nick Drake-style sad, so you wouldn't want it any other way. It represents the return of a prodigal son you never knew existed."
- - -
Roller Trio - Roller Trio
(F-IRE; released 6 August)
"The trio plays sharp, taut lines, unleashing a sizeable energy rush through volleys of needling four-, six- and three-note phrases that relentlessly and seamlessly shift position as pieces unfold. Roller Trio feels like a group that could evolve into a significant force in contemporary jazz - the grooves have hip hop, funk and rock resonances that suggest an interest in what's happening outside of improvised music."
- - -
Chilly Gonzales - Solo Piano II
(Gentle Threat; released 27 August)
Recommended by: Cerys Matthews
"Often compared to Erik Satie, Gonzales' compositions provide a welcome respite from everyday noise, showing a sophisticated ear for melody despite their initial emergence from improvisation. A welcome throwback to simpler, gentler times, Solo Piano II breaks no rules; but these days, coming from a star of so-called 'alternative' music, this is arguably as revolutionary as it gets."
- - -
Karine Polwart - Traces
(Hegri Music; released 13 August)
"Traces reveals Polwart's talents as a writer, above all. Rather than sounding like a simple collection of songs, it plays like a book of short stories set to music. The musical landscape behind her is also broader and more inventive than before, with wheezing Indian harmonium, floor percussion and field recordings adding new levels of atmosphere. It all adds up to an album that will live long, an album to live with, and live in."