1. Anna Calvi – ‘Suzanne And I’
Way back in March, Arctic Monkeys threw a party to give ‘Humbug’ the sending off it deserved at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. The atmosphere was rambunctious. However, before the Monkeys took to the stage, something else not only silenced, but seduced the boisterous crowd. That something was Anna Calvi. Alex and co clearly knew what they were doing when they invited her to join them. Even though she’d only played shoebox-sized venues prior to then, the ruby-lipped prima donna beguiled even those at the back of the cavernous hall into a state of rapture with her flamboyantly sensual torch songs.
Remarkably, as this first number from her debut album proves, Calvi has become even more stunning in the interim. Boasting the doomy glamour of a Bond theme, yet propelled by Calvi’s own edgy yet delicate guitar playing, ‘Suzanne And I’ is an all-enveloping, sense-tingling experience. It’s a dazzling display of vocal gymnastics, Calvi sashaying with ease from intimate verses to hurricane-force choruses that could square up to Piaf in the melodrama stakes. The perfect teaser for the magic contained within Calvi’s self-titled debut, out in January, ‘Suzanne And I’ confirms that the singer’s act of Monkey-taming was no fluke. Soon we’ll all be enraptured.
[Paul Stokes, Associate Editor]
2. Iron & Wine – ‘Walking Far From Home’
Sam Beam’s latest ain’t Christmassy per se, but feels festive. With lines like, “I saw sinners making music and I’ve dreamt of that sound” atop Low-style darkness and warbling keys, prepare to weep harder than the cast of EastEnders on Christmas morn.
[Laura Snapes, Assistant Reviews Editor]
3. The Death Set ft. Diplo – ‘Yo David Chase, You POV Shot Me In The Head’
Just in time for Christmas, the snottiest, rowdiest, don’t-give-a-fuckiest punks of 2008 are back, and crikey, if this is anything to go by, they’re just as snotty, rowdy and don’t-give-a-fucky as ever. Better still, Diplo’s all over it, and it namechecks David Chase.
[Mike Williams, Features Editor]
4. Films – ‘Breezeblocks’
They call it jump-folk, but these Leeds boys’ warm mix of hip-hop rhythms and lo-fi stylings is anything but nervy. Jack Newman’s voice bears some comparing to the comic/tragic warbles of Hayden Thorpe, while his band have the cross-genre funkiness of White Denim at their best. Pick of the bricks.
[Emily Mackay, Reviews Editor]
5. Bright Light Bright Light – ‘Falling’
Twin Peaks has long fascinated songwriters, and it’s easy to see why its theme tune would appeal to today’s dreamy nostalgists. Welsh electro bloke Rod Thomas’ voice is no match for Julee Cruise’s croon, but he invests this cover with enough charm and personality to make it enchanting nonetheless.
[Luke Lewis, Deputy Editor, NME.COM]
6. OFF! – ‘I Don’t Belong’
Fresh fruits from Keith ‘Black Flag’ Morris’ new hardcore supergroup outfit, this comes from the ace ‘First Four EPs’. Amazingly, seeing as Morris has kind of done sod all for two decades and is now 55 (!), it’s right up there with his best.
[Matt Wilkinson, News Reporter]
7. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – ‘The One’
Rather than using B-sides to meander into new dubstep dimensions, TPOBPAH are keeping things Teenage Fanclub on the flipside to their forthcoming single. It’s whimsical but jolly, it’s a bit Christmassy – it’s your friendly uncle in a Rudolph-red sweater.
[Jamie Fullerton, News Editor]
8. Noah & The Whale – ‘Wild Thing’
This taster from their brilliant third album (out March) is actually a red herring: all the other songs on ‘Last Night On Earth’ are joyous, polished, three-minute pop wonders, whereas this is a downbeat tale of paranoia. Still a gorgeous return, mind…
[Hamish MacBain, Assistant Editor]
9. PJ Harvey – ‘Written On The Forehead’
After the ghostly ‘White Chalk’, this taster for the forthcoming ‘Let England Shake’ sees Polly getting trippier. Intoning over drones, she references the “tangerine trees” of ‘Lucy In The Sky…’, but chants of “Let it burn” show this is no hippy shit. Wonderfully odd.
[Martin Robinson, Deputy Editor]
10. Atlas Sound – ‘How To Pass The Time’
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox fell prey to the music industry last month when Sony took four sets of his bedroom recordings off the internet – despite not owning them. Now they’re all back up, including this harmonica-filled treat. Atlas – 1. The Man – 0.
[Tim Chester, Assistant Editor, NME.COM]