We’re half-way through the year, so here’s a quick run-down of my favourite albums so far (with a couple of EPs and other honourable mentions at the end). Here’s the full playlist, if you just want to watch that.
Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield
The first record I really enjoyed this year, and a really accomplished album.
Nervous Twitch – Don’t Take My TV
Yes the vocals are flat, but who cares? This record is enormous fun, and rewards a lot of listens – it’s much more smartly put together than the indie presentation suggests.
Basia Bulat – Good Advice
Produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, who found a distinctive and unusual way of showcasing these excellent songs that still sounds quite full and lush – this live rendition is a bit more orthodox than what you’ll find on the record, but still very recognisable.
Steven James Adams – Old Magick
Adams’ most considered, thoroughly produced record, and a consistently powerful and compelling listen all the way through.
Emmy the Great – Second Love
Superb tunes on this – lush-but-sparse seems to be the production mode du jour, and it’s used to great effect here.
TeenCanteen – Sister
This came out via PledgeMusic, and has a much more varied and polished sound than you’d expect if you were simply told TeenCanteen are a Scottish indie band. Belting.
Kate Jackson – British Road Movies
What a welcome return this is. There’s the odd place where I’m not sure the production serves the songs on this record, but mostly it’s a poised album that puts its songs across every bit as artfully as you’d expect.
Laura Cantrell at the BBC
A collection every bit as lovely ask you’d expect, though with two tracks sourced from off-air recordings because the BBC’s masters were ‘unavailable’ – I wonder why? (And no, the video’s not a track from the album, but it’s roughly contemporary with the version of the song on the record, I think).
Evans the Death – Vanilla
Full of angst and also a horn section. No prisoners taken on the mostly recorded-as-live album, that takes Evans the Death still darker and still heavier. (No official videos from this – the clip’s just audio.)
Garbage – Strange Little Birds
Garbage always mine the same seam, and they’ve done so successfully again here – it sounds like a Garbage album, and not just that, but one of the best Garbage albums.
Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis
I’m all in favour of indie country singers getting more adventurous with their production, but it sometimes goes awry and obscures the songs. Not so here – this is polished, pin-sharp and showcases the songs brilliantly. They range from charming to touching to emotionally devastating, and are top notch thoughout. A real achievement of an album.
Chris T-T – 9 Green Songs
A follow-up of sorts to 2005’s 9 Red Songs, although with a much more full band sound. It’s a shame the referendum has made this seem like it’s from another age, as it skewers Cameron-era politics incisively, but always tunefully.
GUMS! / The Just Joans / The Hector Collectors – Just Lovely EP
Long-awaited Scottish indie heroes split release, and every song is great. This track has more cult TV references than even I can keep up with.
Colour Me Wednesday – Anyone and Everyone EP
Yet another canny release from Colour Me Wednesday – this video doesn’t showcase it, but I love the crunchy guitar sound they always manage on record, which lots of bands seem to struggle to achieve without it sounding weedy.
MJ Hibbett and the Validators – Still Valid: the long-awaited new (non-dinosaur) Vlads album technically comes out in July (and more pertinently, the promo video isn’t online yet), but it’s GRATE!
Case / Lang / Veirs – Case / Lang / Veirs: I fully expect this is brilliant, I just haven’t listened to it properly yet! What I’ve heard has sounded grand, though.