1. Cold War Kids – Audience
If you reckoned these Kids were alright circa last year’s ‘Loyalty To Loyalty’, now they’ve got real soul to burn, as demonstrated on this lead cut of album addendum EP ‘Behave Yourself’. Taking in Vampire Weekend’s rhythmic shuffle among established Smiths/Radiohead markers, there are almost rays of native Californian sunshine peeking from the concreted melancholy. Almost. Another slow-burning Florence And The Machine cover-in-waiting?
2. Tanlines – Saw
This Brooklyn production pair’s moniker alone penetrates wintry depths like hot pokers through snowballs. On their side of a split seven-inch with countrymen Salem it’s as if 2009’s cold retro-electro predisposition blinked into the New Year and decided it’s about bloody time for a holiday (then a tour supporting Julian Casablancas). Half the group once graced fiddly Battles forerunners Don Caballero; this is as far removed from math-rock as aviators from itchy beards.
3. Everybody Was In The French Resistance – Girlfrien (You Know I’ve Got A)
Although resembling a lost Avid Merrion sketch if he worshipped Luke Haines instead of W-list celebs, Eddie Argos’ somewhat belated response to Avril Lavigne’s monogamy-challenging ‘Girlfriend’ is an unashamed British comic victory. A timely retort from the Art Brut chap, too, now the Sk8r Girl is supposedly back on the market after splitting with the goblin-faced fella from Sum 41. One for the shambling, middle-aged indie kid in all of us…
4. Lupe Fiasco – Solar Midnite
A generation of mall teenagers now dress like Cure fans thanks to Twilight, but New Moon did offset baffling social/mental damage with a swanky soundtrack. Lupe’s contribution to the expanded version usurps almost everything the web-loving MC has dribbled out between k3yb0ard h3r0 tirades recently, forcing his flow around muscular alt.rock backing. Dude has a punk project as well, y’know. You have been warned.
5. Portishead– Chase The Tear
Continuing a fascinating latter-day drive along krautrock’s autobahn (accelerated by Geoff Barrow’s smart side-concern BEAK>), beautiful straightforwardness propels a gently oscillating heart here, lending a pop ear to Stereolab/Broadcast-worthy loops. Beth Gibbons resumes where ‘Third’ left off, as a beguiling cog in the machine where once she was an overpowering force. That it’s in aid of the ever-worthy Amnesty simply seals the deal.
6. Broken Bells –The High Road
This first single from James ‘The Shins’ Mercer and Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton is a curio and no mistake. The former betrays British indie influences, at points – and here is a mercifully rare sentence – skating perilously close to, er, The Charlatans. DM, meanwhile, lends playful arcade game production twirls and burbles that suggest if no Amiga consoles were harmed during the recording, several were at least mildly aroused.
7. Magik – Future Predator
Joy Orbison? Whatever, grandad. Burial? So past it. You might have been a a formidable skateboard hero or a demon with the conkers, but no matter how much of a badass you were at the tender age of 10, you weren’t conjuring sub-rattling dubstep and jungle laced with distinct individuality. Ergo, you weren’t as cool as angelic blond Bristol tyke Magik is RIGHT NOW. Queen of the underground and Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs agrees, having played this little gem on her show. So do we. If this is what he can do pre-secondary school, all other producers may as well hang up their plug-ins by the time he can legally hit the clubs. Terrifying.
8. Scout Niblett – The Calcination of Scout Niblett
Sensible move from Nottingham to west coast America aside, Emma Louise Niblett is madder than voting Tory. Not only does the astrology-indebted madam wield a blowtorch on the cover to her new album, she is also flogging 100 different recordings of this title track. A USP indeed. Which would mean little if it weren’t wonderfully deranged, the sort of downcast blues Cat Power should get back to wibbling out.
9. The Knife– Colouring Of Pigeons
Returning to her day job after indulging in Fever Ray perhaps logically demands a ridiculously grandiose concept to hold Karin Dreijer Andersson’s attention. An opera soundtrack based on Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species should nail it. Judging by this superlative 11-minute teaser, the performance itself might actually dissolve Creationist brains. Better still: long odds on walking human yawn José González bastardising this one. Huzzah!
10. Factory Floor– Lying
Imagine Giorgio Morodor in the employ of a dystopian regime, constructing precision-engineered five-minute pop bangers for a nightly dose of compulsory raving in a room made entirely out of titanium. That is the sound of Factory Floor, who combine a bleak aesthetic – Nik Void intoning “five in a room, six in a room” like the black-clad doorgirl of our stern nightspot – with tank-like mechanic drums and arpeggiator noise. Never before has disco been so beautifully cruel.