- Alas I Cannot Swim - Laura Marling
What We Said : Laura Marling's father, also a musician, would play her Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan albums during her formative years, pressing home the point that said artists made 'real' music. I listen to Laura Marling and think Richard Thompson, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Polly Harvey and Eliza Carthy. I listen to the way the strings just shine majestically to add suspense to 'Night Terror'. We may already have an album of the year then, and if we don't I really look forward to whatever albums turn out to be better.
- Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
What We Said : At a time when music becomes ever more meaningless and album artists a thing of the past, 'Fleet Foxes' arrive sounding like Brian Wilson meets David Crosby. Any band that tries to mix those two guys has to be applauded, really. Fleet Foxes seem somewhat out of time, they don't connect to anything the modern world has to give us, yet that’s a great thing to be able to do. Some sleighbells? Superb backing vocals? Mystery and earthiness, reconnecting the listener to a simpler past they never even knew they wanted.
- Matachin - Bellowhead
What We Said : Bellowhead have dug 'Fakenham Fair' out from somewhere and given it a sweet arrangement that brings out some beautiful melodies. If any Bellowhead tune so far could provide them with a crossover pop hit, this could be the one. Big words of praise by the way for the female vocals in the mix, they really do send chills through me when the harmonies come in.
- The Cross Eyed Rambler - Paul Heaton
What We Said : 'The Cross Eyed Rambler' is the best thing he's ever done. Now, i'm supposed to ensure my 'indie-cool' or my status as reviewing 'classic rock' for the purposes of pleasing a good proportion of my readership is maintained. Paul Heaton? Bollocks to everyone, this is a fantastic album and possibly the album i've played the most during 2008. It's not groundbreaking, then again, recent TV On The Radio albums are groundbreaking, but also the kind of albums you imagine former Krypton Factor host Gordon Burns might of made.
- Do It! - Clinic
What We Said : 'The Witch' has been released as a single and it's the best Clinic single since 'Walking With Thee'. It thumps, it's got a monster crazy sound and some of the coolest ‘non-backing’ vocals known to man. 'Shopping Bag' is one of the nosiest and more demented Clinic songs since their early EPs. The hits just keep on coming, 'High Coin' containing sinister sounding keyboard lines, all deliciously unwell. Good news then for all lapsed Clinic fans? Why yes. 'Do It!' can be said to be nothing less than a perfect compendium of everything Clinic have ever been good at. Hooray!
- New Amerykah Part 1 - Erykah Badu
What We Said : I'm not primarily known for my love of soul or hip-hop, although I have an awful lot of it. A few select albums, like 'Paid In Full' by Eric B And Rakim are legendary however and among the favourite music I have. Yet, that indie / alternative guitar millstone I still seem to have around my neck? It was 'Baduism' that personally transformed me ‘back when’ and 'New Amerikah' is just as vital a transmission.
- Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
What We Said : The entire world has contributed to the Vampire Weekend sound. We journey through Africa via England then across Europe, before popping into the home of Stephen Malkmus for a pot of tea. Just the opening tune is enough to indicate something different is going on. A rock band performing with some driving percussion aka Joe Meek, weird sounds abound and Randy Newman / Van Dyke Parks seemingly get involved in the lyrics and vocals. 'M79' is this weird medieval thing, only with funky bass lines and very silly, happy melodies. 'Oxford Comma' is almost normal, yet those glorious African guitar sounds shine through.
- Password 86 - Killer Bees Attack Tokyo
What We Said : Based in California, Killer Bees Attack Tokyo are one of the latest myspace acts to create a stir outside of myspace circles. Their brand of down-tempo Trip Hop is a perfect way to chill-out whilst remaining perfectly interesting throughout. Take 'Blue Morning' as an example. Beats give way to ambient, woodwind sounds are enough to transport you to the amazon and this really is a beautiful form of trip-hop/hip-hop instrumental music. Their album 'Password 86' has been released and is really a rather wonderful and unexpected thing.
- That Lucky Old Sun - Brian Wilson
What We Said : 'That Lucky Old Sun' sees witness to new Brian Wilson originals wrapped around his version of the nineteen forties standard, 'That Lucky Old Sun'. It's kind of a happier, sunnier, nostalgic adult-oriented pop version of 'Smile'. A 'Smile' without the drugs, if you will. Brian has been re-signed to Capitol Records for the release of this LP and if it happens that it's the last LP he makes, he can hold his head up high.
- For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
What We Said : The title track, 'For Emma' is impossibly lovely, lonesome, loving and liable to capture something within you. What may have been deeply personal is now oblique enough in terms of delivery at least that it's universal. It saddens me that the vast majority of Nickleback fans, let's say, will never know the likes of this exists. Bon Iver's 'For Emma, Forever Ago' is just so different to the hustle and bustle of the modern day world. It's every individual's own private personal escape.
- Only By The Night - Kings Of Leon
What We Said : Being an indie-snob possibly is a crime - there really isn't some magical thermometer that once it hits red and an act sell a couple of million that it's no longer 'cool' to like them. 'Revelery' is just a stone cold, Kings Of Leon classic and there you are. '17' is just great too and with some memorable bells, surely aiming for a spot in the Xmas charts? Unfair detractors of the world unite, Kings Of Leon have made yet another excellent album.
- My Mother's Children - Mary Hampton
What We Said : Here we have ten original compositions celebrating the land, the people, the air and the sea. Songs that sound so far removed from anything you might hear on radio, television, blaring out of coffee shops and bars that it may as well exist in another century altogether. Strangely timeless then - the sounds of dreams and nightmares and quiet times - moments of reflection. She can do these blindingly obvious moments of simplicity that make you wonder why the hell anybody else hadn't done it before, eg, the wonder that is 'Because You're Young'.
- Intimacy - Bloc Party
What We Said : 'Intimacy' closes with the six and a half minute 'Ion Square', as good a representation of the album as a whole as any. We've got beating beeps, human hearts and something to remember. Something distinctive. No, Bloc Party aren't the coolest band on earth. At times, I wonder if they are even perceived as being as cool as Shed Seven. Yet, they continue to plug away and 'Intimacy' is their greatest leap forwards so far.
- Electric Arguments - The Fireman
What We Said : The first eight songs really are the best McCartney i've heard, chronologically speaking oh, since 'Band On The Run'. We've got the fun and bouncy castle that is 'Light On Your Lighthouse', a tune just begging for a Ringo vocal!We've got 'Dance Til We're High', not a Christmas song at all, although it does have bells, chimes and mentions of snow. No sir, this is more of a wintry song as such and it's enhanced by a life-affirming chorus along with echoes of Spector and Motown.
- Red Letter Year - Ani Difranco
What We Said : Ani's trademark guitar runs are almost entirely absent from this LP, yet the acoustic based 'Way Tight' cuts right to the bone, a beautiful tune and again, Ani's vocals have a maturity and richness that simply wasn't there before. 'Red Letter Year' really is that wonderful thing, a top-notch Ani Difranco album. Although she does tend to release an album every single year, it's been a couple or three years now since we had an album this good from her. I'm so pleased, her music remains very important to myself and many, many others.
- Dreams Of Breathing Underwater - Eliza Carthy
What We Said : 'Dreams Of Breathing Underwater' sees Eliza find her feet as a songwriter, not that this slows down her eclectiscm. There are eleven songs here and very nearly eleven different styles of music. It's impressive then that the album still manages to retain cohesion.
- Everything Comes Together - Rosabella Gregory
What We Said : I said i'd come back to 'Let Her Tell Me' though, didn't I? Ah, I didn't? Well, I will do anyway, just briefly. The best song here, this has Kate Bush levels of ambition and doesn't sound so much composed as beamed magically into being. The album pleasingly has been well reviewed by the likes of The BBC and The Independant among other sources and now far more importantly ( ha! ) by me, too.
- Waited Up Til It Was Light - Johnny Foreigner
What We Said : The highlight of the songs that don't fall over each other in a rash? Well, 'Salt, Pepper And Spindarella' is the one - riding along on a soft electro pulsebeat with the vocalists creating the hooks. The highlight of the noisy songs is the magnificent 'The End And Everything After', a song previously issued on one of Johnny Foreigner's first few EPs. Johnny Foreigner create proper indie then, music your mother won't actually like, and that's how it should be.
- Imperial Wax Solvent - The Fall
What We Said : Some great two minute and something songs are on this album. 'Is This New' is glorious, absolutely brilliant. I was provoked! sings Mark E Smith. 'Taurig', oh my sweet, electronic, weird, amateurish yet great 'Taurig'. The wife ( his, not mine ) sings the lead on 'I've Been Duped'. It's so catchy, i'm expecting it to appear backing a series of hilarious home videos on 'You've Been Framed' hosted by Harry Hill very shortly.
- A Larum - Johnny Flynn
What We Said : Johnny Flynn is plainly a delight from the first few seconds you hear him. Even a song titled 'Wayne Rooney' manages to be a highlight, a haunting little melody and a vocal, 'i don't know better...' which makes you wish for a moment that all singer/songwriters were like Johnny Flynn. Humour, seriousness, top lyrics, little finger-picking, distinctive guitar melodies and what else? Isn't that enough?
- The Hungry Saw - Tindersticks
What We Said : The title track is another winner in our house and an example of how important the guitar sound is to The Tindersticks. It's makes you wonder though, does 'The Hungry Saw' LP. Where are all the new bands with even an ounce of Tindersticks quality? Well, they ain't there - Tindersticks have come back and boy do we need them.
- Exotic Creatures Of The Deep - Sparks
What We Said : 'Lighten Up Morrissey' is a lyrical highlight, the character in the song complaining that he can't get any action because he just doesn't live upto Morrissey in his girlfriend's eyes. A semi-hard ( ha! ) glam rock sound becomes the musical theme for this tune, quite appropriately, perhaps? Strong songs continue throughout, the humorous and daft lyrics of 'She Got Me Pregnant' married to the kind of swirling orchestral sound that works so well for 21st Century Sparks.
- Can't Stand Modern Music - The Cute Lepers
What We Said : formed in 2007 not 1977 but nobody appears to have told them that. They basically mix-up The Buzzcocks, Ramones, Undertones - those sort of bands. Every song is between 90 and 180 seconds and the whole album is good enough and short enough ( 11 songs running to twenty-six minutes ) to ensure that you'll never get bored with it.
- Romance At Short Notice - Dirty Pretty Things
What We Said : It's a Lennon and McCartney situation, isn't it? Barat and Doherty were better together than they are apart and it really is as simple as that. Take lead single 'Tired Of England'. Well, it's a decent, catchy enough Barat rock song with some melodic guitar lines yet surely it doesn't compare to the Doherty penned Libertines singles?
- Accelerate - REM
What We Said : According to Peter Buck, 'Up' was never finished, 'Reveal' was too slick and the band spent more than six months fiddling with, and consequently ruining, 'Around the Sun'. The first sounds you hear 'Accelerate' blast out are a rush of guitar and drums. You may find yourself slightly bemused that REM's new direction appears to be their old one.
- Twenty One - Mystery Jets
What We Said : Ah, Mystery Jets return, having sacked their father and gone eighties pop. They discover how to write cracking pop songs too, in the vein of Peter, Paul and John. Mystery Jets own 'Young Folks' then is 'Young Love', they even recruit a female singer, Laura Marling. Ah, ah! Laura Marling is a goddess, so we don't mind that. She sounds a little Debbie Harry in this context too, rather sexy.
- The Mande Variations - Tounami Diabate
What We Said : 'The Mandé Variations' is only the second purely solo record of Tounami Diabaté's career. It's a return to the traditional, yet also sees a couple of weaving inventions, particularly on his tribute to the late Ali Farka Toure. 'The Mande Variations' as a title refers to Mali's ancient Mandé empire, founded back in 1235. Tounami himself is said to be descended from some 70 generations of Kora players, so he should know what he's doing.
- Acedia - History Of Guns
What We Said : They've recorded this with improved production values, gone for a guitar heavy sound yet also taken elements of their trademark electronics. Good job too, the like of 'Killing Myself Until I Die' mixes both elements so very well. The better production values suits History Of Guns, and if anything, makes them even scarier sounding than before.
- Do You Like Rock Music? - British Sea Power
What We Said : From the lovely town of Brighton, these seafarer's third album once again bravely attempts to match expectations. Such expectations are raised every time they give us new music, it seems. 'Atom' and 'Down On The Ground' have already appeared on their marvellous 'Krankenhaus?' EP. In addition to those, we gain ten new songs although not without controversy.
- Social Vertigo - 3 Daft Monkeys
What We Said : They've influences ranging from folk, dance, punk, gypsy, calpyso, etc, etc. 'Social Vertigo' is their 2nd LP proper and put quite simply, it's superb. The musicianship is something to wallow in, particularly the fiddle sounds of classically trained Athene Roberts. Album highlight 'Human Nature' in particular is a virtuso performance from all three band members but it's the eastern flavoured, hypnotic and weaving fiddle playing that really spells out this bands strengths.
- Dig, Lazarus, Dig - Nick Cave
- Dig Out Your Soul - Oasis
- Off With Their Heads - Kaiser Chiefs
- Antidotes - The Foals
- Everything Is Borrowed - The Streets
- We Started Nothing - Ting Tings
- Chinese Democracy - Guns N Roses
- Hey Ma - James
- Viva La Vida - Coldplay
- Last Night - Moby
- At Our Tables - Eileen Rose
- Sunset Jam - Joseph
- Quaristice - Autechre
- Circular Sounds - Kelley Stoltz
- Rockferry - Duffy
- Svn Fngrs - Black Francis
- Liverpool 8 - Ringo Starr
- Chemical Chords - Stereolab
- Consolers Of The Lonely - Raconteurs
- Death Magnetic - Metallica