Albums to watch

ADM 2010 The quarterly Report

ADM 2010: The quarterly Report

We may well be hurtling through an era of dizzyingly rapid technological innovation, but if our reflective glance back at the most highly-rated contemporary music of the first quarter of 2010 tells us anything, it is that acoustic, organic music, rooted in emotion and craftsmanship, holds sway.

Probably the only artist to feature in our top 10 of albums released since January 1 (ranked by our aggregated reviews system from approaching 50 respected sources) who could be said to represent music at the technological cutting edge, would be Four Tet (aka groundbreaking electronic producer Keiron Hebden).

Otherwise, 2010 so far has been a critical triumph for acoustic folk, acoustic world music and, perhaps most surprisingly, jazz.

If you'd suggested to us in the middle of the Noughties that the most significant album to appear at the start of the new decade would be a triple album from a hippy-dippy, harp-touting, shrill-soprano voiced, poetry-spouting 28-year-old Californian girl, we would have politely suggested that you check into the nearest health farm.
But the sums don't lie.

Of the raft of reviews, only a tiny handful suggest that Have One On Me is anything less than exceptional, and a sizeable minority boldly proclaim it a masterpiece unlikely to be bettered for many a year.

We confidently predict that when it comes to our annual chart assessment, Newsom will be up there at the top, such is the unprecedented number of 10/10s and 9/10s the album has garnered.

Laura Marling, at No.3, could be viewed as Newsom-lite: personal, literary, emotional indie-folk, with similar parallels between her and Joni Mitchell being drawn as with Newsom, but it is a moot point if she would ever attempt anything as ambitious as the Californian's triple-album epic.

We were not particularly taken aback to see Ali Farka Toure's final posthumous release, alongside fellow MalianToumani Diabate, up there - the guitar virtuoso has long been hailed as a genius of African music.

But we have to confess to some surprise at the level of widespread critical acclaim given to both jazz representatives in the top 10.

Admittedly, Polar Bear have been recipients of a Mercury Music Prize nomination, but their "experimental post-jazz' we expected to have a mainly specialist appeal. However their album has been generally lauded across both the upmarket heavyweight papers and the more cultish online review sites.

With Mulata Astatke, as this is a quite recent release, only time will tell if this is a blip or a genuine emergence into the mainstream for the father of Ethio-jazz. But there is no doubting the sincerity of the enthusiasm for both Astatke and Polar Bear from some fairly unlikely quarters.

On the rock front, it would appear that it's the more thoughtful side of the genre that's appealing to reviewers rather than the rabble-rousers.

The second These New Puritans album is unconventional  art-rock that is challenging, to say the least, and the debut from The Unwinding Hours is emotional post-rock that is unlikely to result in any broken limbs in the mosh-pit.

Interestingly, while our review sources are spread across the UK, US, Canada and Australia (albeit with a UK bias) the only presence for a rock act from across the Atlantic comes from The Besnard Lakes. And they're from Montreal.

 

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8.66

Joanna Newsom

Have One On Me

Have One On Me is suffused with space, invention and playfulness, even in the face of Newsom's sometimes unnerving intensity. It's also exceptionally beautiful.

Uncut

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8.43

Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate

Ali And Toumani

There is a sense of both immense space and telepathic closeness on this beautiful album, with the superb recording putting the listener right in the middle of the action

Daily Telegraph

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8.14

Laura Marling

I Speak Because I Can

Her first triumph: a collection of literary and emotional songs to have you whooping with joy or fighting off tears, with tunes that deliver new riches with each listen.

The Guardian

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8.00

The Unwinding Hours

The Unwinding Hours

Always sung with maximum passion and played with maximum intensity, this is an album that would, in a fair world, place The Unwinding Hours as stars in the vast alternative rock field.

Sputnik Music

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7.99

These New Puritans

Hidden

Showing clear progression and monumental ambition, TNP have crafted a stark and dense knockout performance.

Clash Music

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7.98

Four Tet

There Is Love In You

Even the most curmudgeonly critic will find it hard not to raise a smile or breathe a contented sigh, for this is a true antidote to January living as we know it.

music OMH

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7.94

Gorillaz

Plastic Beach

Oh, for more albums as strange, unpredictable and jaw-droppingly good as this.

The Times

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7.88

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Steps Ahead

You probably don't need to know much about Western (let alone Ethiopian) jazz in order to recognise and enjoy Astatke's genius, which is so proudly on display here.

music OMH

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7.83

Polar Bear

Peepers

Even at their most gesticulating or achingly smooth, their music is vivid - there's rarely a moment that goes by that doesn't goad you into thought, persuade you to continue on their journey, to their destination by their mode of transport.

Drowned In Sound

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7.82

The Besnard Lakes

The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night

This album is a blinding listen, interesting, deep and indeed beautiful to behold.

The Quietus

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