|PJ Harvey - Let England Shake|
Universal/Island (14 February)
20 years into a career categorised by wilful eccentricity, flashes of genius and intermittent flirtations with a popular adoration about which she never seemed comfortable, Harvey’s eighth long-player joins the dots of her talent to reveal a bona fide masterpiece. Lyrically, the walls remain up – the thematic fulcrum of bloody war and the burden of empire is often too literal to signify personal epiphanies – but the stirring folk jangle and a new gentle intensity to Harvey’s voice convey a heart bleeding sadness and disillusion. Anger, too.
Choice Cuts: The Last Living Rose, England
|Wye Oak - Civilian|
City Slang (7 March)
The freak-psych self-indulgence and fastidious over-production of two previous efforts vanquished, this time Baltimore duo Wye Oak signify with songs. The hoarse beauty of Jenn Wassner’s voice is promoted to centre-stage, providing a focal point for shoegazey alt-rock played loud (‘Dogs Eyes’), quiet (‘Two Small Deaths’) and, best of all, loud-quiet-loud (‘Holy Holy’).
Choice Cuts: Holy Holy, Dogs Eyes
|Cage The Elephant - Thank You Happy Birthday|
Cage The Elephant - Thank You Happy Birthday
Virgin (21 March)
Replacing the middle-ranking garage-rock of their debut with derivative post-Pixies alt-rock initially came across as a shamelessly disingenuous attempt to subjugate the angst – and 10 bucks per record – of a million US teens. That Thank You, Happy Birthday doles out blow after blow of smart, thrusting hooks delivered in Matt Schultz’ Kentucky fried howl more than makes up for the platinum pitch. And if ‘Indy Kidz’ isn’t a nudge-wink recognition of their own ruse, I’ll eat my skinny jeans and designer quiff.
Choice Cuts: Aberdeen, Around My Head
|The Strokes - Angles|
Rough Trade (21 March)
Nowhere near as tired as the yarn spun by band and critics alike would suggest, The Strokes’ fourth long player is their brightest and easiest to digest since Is This It? If ‘It’ always was garage-rock insouciance, fine hooks and Tom Petty, then Angles proves they have chops enough not to labour on the words – neither should you.
Choice Cuts: Under Cover of Darkness, Taken For a Fool
|Black Francis - The Golem|
Black Francis - The Golem
The Bureau (14 March)
A musical director’s cut of the twisted surficana sprawl Francis’ delivered to soundtrack 1920s German silent film The Golem: How He Came Into The World. The croak is heartier, but the music still whispers gothic menace.
Choice Cuts: Bad News, Makanujo
Think we're backing all the wrong horses? Let us know what you think below. And don't forget to check out Part 1