1. The Very Best feat. Ezra Koenig – Warm Heart Of Africa
Not content letting bandmate Rostam rock the side-project look, Ezra Koenig has stapled his name to 2009’s best chance at afro-pop crossover. Franco-Swedish production duo Radioclit met Malawian Esau Mwamwaya when he sold them a bike in their local junk shop; together they became The Very Best.
Filtering Eurodance production techniques through a span of African genres from kwaito to kuduro, their album’s lead track features Ezra (in English) and Esau (in Chichewa) trading verses over a joyous, loping beat, while hi-life guitars plink and plonk behind. The favour’s already been returned: Esau recorded a version of ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’.
2. Air – Do The Joy
Just what we need in the sultry dog days: a cool blast of Gallic synth sophistication. Sounding darker and more bewitching than we’ve heard them in a while, this opening taster of Air’s forthcoming album ‘Love 2’ recalls the beautifully zonked-out soundtrack they did to ‘The Virgin Suicides’ with the addition of dirty rock guitars, fuzzed-out keys and celestial piano all whirling round in a slow vortex. Stoned love.
3.Ellie Goulding – Starry Eyed
Welsh songstress Ellie Goulding’s ‘Starry Eyed’ is so perfectly crafted that, even if your name was Sir Genius Pop, you’d still have to ask how she does it. She bestows a genre-hopping innocence that has Frankmusik handling the synths on ‘Wish I Stayed’ and she’s even covered Bon Iver’s ‘The Wolves’. The result of this 21-year-old dabbling in folk, pop and electronica sounds like Frou Frou making fairy cakes using Laura Marling as a whisk. Dig in, and tell your dentist to piss off.
4. Les Cox (Sportifs) – The Hand And The Heed
Sometimes a record drops through our letterbox that is so perfect we can’t stop blabbing about it. Taken from their new EP, ‘Total Straightness’, ‘The Hand…’ is a mind-melting combo of everything amazing and awful about the ’80s in one razor-sharp scramble for attention. The guitar strings sound like rusty barbed wire, the bassline makes your stomach tremble and the weird kid lyrics are delivered with the sort of Scottish croon that melts hearts. The coolest escapism we ever heard.
5. Cymbals Eat Guitars – And The Hazy Sea
If this Staten Island four-piece have as much trouble with omnivorous instruments as their name suggests, this rock game’s going to be an expensive business for them. It would be worth the cost, though, as this achingly epic track ably demonstrates. With all the grandeur of British Sea Power, it’s lent a delicious detail in the fluid guitar work, reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha.
6. The Kills – Willow Weep For Me
NME recently found by chance a badge reading ‘It’s Sinatra’s world: we just live in it’. iTunes know this to be true and, even if their tribute collection ‘His Way, Our Way’ features dubious homages by The Kooks and Maroon 5, Ol’ Blue Eyes would surely have twinkled to hear this classy take on a jazz standard he made his own. Jamie Hince’s surprisingly rich croon and Alison Mosshart’s refreshingly un-try-hard sweetness are backed only by an acoustic guitar.
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7. Sugababes – Get Sexy
We lost them for a while to the ‘mum’s birthday present’ market, but Sugababes were never going to be able to resist the dancefloor for long. Their comeback single knocks memories of the woeful ‘Girls’ out of the way with its ridiculous, banging aggression, like being mauled by a techno cougar on heat. RedOne, producer to Little Boots and Lady Gaga, sets a steel-eyed intent behind Keisha’s playful “When I’m walking down the street, they say, ‘Hey sexy’” and Amelle’s brilliantly hard-faced boast “I’m too sexy for this club”.
8. Fever Ray – Triangle Walks (Rex The Dog Remix)
Our slavish devotion to shamaness of the northern wastes Karin Dreijer Andersson grows apace. The Knife songstress’ strange and beautiful solo album hasn’t been far from our grasp in the past months, and the remixes have only furthered our obsession. Here, dance producer Rex The Dog takes the chiming Tantric techno of the original and turns it into a no-less-satisfying quick one-two.
9. Portugal. The Man – Lovers In Love
Why is nobody paying attention to this band? The second best thing to come out of Wasilla since comedy cannon fodder Sarah Palin have thrown everything at this latest in a bid for recognition: bongos, wah-wah, strings’n’synths, the depths of their souls… Go forth and do them justice.
10. The Ruling Class – Marian Shrine
Woah! Did we drop through a wormhole into late-’80s Manchester? Because this bowl-cutted London five-piece are baggier than a rhino’s granny knickers. Devoid of Kasabian’s bluster, their stoned groove also weaves in elements of shoegaze to create something very special indeed. Get your maracas out.