The best albums of August 2011
BBC Album Reviews editor Mike Diver selects his favourites of August 2011.
After a slow start, August picked up to deliver some truly excellent albums in its second half. Here are 10 worthy highlights from the month that was.
My album of the month
(I'm cheating slightly, as this is an EP, but I've played it more than any other release of August, so here it is, at its rightful place atop the pile - MD)
"Hudson Mohawke's second EP for Warp, and his first new material for the esteemed electro label following 2009's debut LP Butter, is a five-tracker that leaves the listener immediately keen for more. In the slick synths and crystal keys of All Your Love and the hypnotic sparkle of opener Octan there's the suggestion that this man's second LP will be some progression from said debut album. This is the sound of pigeonhole-free ambition slowly being realised, and it's sounding great."
The best of the rest
"This album is louche and intoxicating. The sweet and honeyed tones of the vocalists belie their gender, though anyone who's caught the quartet live, when the singers can be seen in heels and wigs, know their aesthetic is not dictated by chromosomes... Matching sweat-glistening action with a dark, fruity class, Azari & III is one of the finest electronic pop records you're likely to hear in 2011."
"There's an obvious brotherly connection, and Kanye rhymes with the zeal of a younger sibling looking to topple his older relative once and for all. At times, Watch the Throne is triumphant and celebratory: No Church in the Wild is a moody gospel stomp with primal screams and an insistent guitar riff, while Lift Off finds Kanye trying to match Beyoncé's soulful moans with Auto-Tuned verses of prosperity."
Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves
(Domino, released 8 August)
Recommended by: Nick Grimshaw
"Scenester, shape-shifter: is Dev Hynes - now appearing as Blood Orange - a Zelig-like chancer or a gifted chameleon? If the jury remained divided over his output with art-noisers Test Icicles, it should leap up and whoop now. Coastal Grooves is fabulous. Slinky, noir, 80s-influenced dance-pop, it makes all the right decisions, by accident or design. It's better at being Metronomy than Metronomy are."
"Thursday is a great mood piece, and Tesfay's frail vocals are oddly affecting when compared to the usual hip hop approach of uncompromising braggadocio. Some may find his effects-laden style grating, but the same could be said of anyone from Kanye West to Madonna. And, on the evidence presented so far, few would say with certainty that Tesfay couldn't one day attain a comparable level of commercial success. File him beside Frank Ocean as an RnB star set to climb to new heights in 2012."
Read the full review
Watch the semi-official video to The Birds (Part 1) (external YouTube link - contains language which may offend)
"In a bold and brave move, this album begins with a bang, Best Night immediately satisfying. No pre-amble, no fade in; just high-tempo krautrock. As a whole this album may be more confused than your average reality show star at a Mensa meeting, but it's full of decent songs with a lot of heart. Give it a listen before the global economy truly collapses and you have to sell your stereo."
"An update of Soul II Soul's Club Classics Vol. One, Watch Me Dance is an unfashionable record. It won't fit snugly into either pop or urban radio schedules. It refuses to play the niche game. And Club Classics Vol. One defined its times because people got to hear it. It would be a crying shame if a record so accomplished, relevant and unifying never gets to be heard. Because, right now, this album is necessary."
Read the full review
Watch the official video to Watch Me Dance (feat. Roots Manuva) (external YouTube link)
"For his fifth album, representing something of a new chapter for Young following his best-of set, he has teamed up with super-producer Richard X. And it works: Echoes is a fantastic, perfectly crafted adult pop album for people who've long wondered if such a thing existed anymore. It deserves to be reasonably enormous. Bravo, Will."
"Even an average Lil Wayne album still outshines the efforts of many a contemporary, and at its best this set is a riveting listen. If you thought him too weird for your tastes previously, Tha Carter IV is the album to introduce you to the never boring world of an artist whose importance remains so significant that, should he finally collapse like the star he is, he's likely to take half the rap game with him."
"Tamer Animals is the Oklahoma quintet's second album, following 2009's eponymous album and, back in 2006, the debut under former alias Kunek. Neither matches this watermark of quiet grandeur or strikes the same balance between lavishness and restraint. If band lynchpin Jesse Tabish's choruses don't instantly lasso like, say, Adele or a Simon Cowell prodigy, his tunes appear to swoon through the air and might haunt your deep sleep. This is the most uniquely sublime, meticulous and heroic 40 minutes of 2011."