Number two in the series features Finn Scott-Delany, a music critic who writes for Drowned in Sound and Alternative Ulster. He also plays a mean guitar and occasionally, sports a killer quiff.
Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
A steady fixture on album of the year lists in 2006, the drip-drop of critical praise eventually led me to buy Yellow House. An enveloping mood piece, it has been part-relegated by the excellent, chirpier follow-up Veckamist. But to my mind this edges it as one of the most unlikely great albums to get lost in, the abstract and fantastical sonic imagery making it a rare album that commands intensive listening alone. The intro to ‘Reprise’ seems to suck back inside itself before emerging in all its dawn chorus glory.
Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
Surely the best modern dance-based album, this also works as an indie crossover because it doesn’t compromise on either. Song-based but mix-led, In Ghost Colours ebbs, pulsates and swoons, a collection of expertly compiled pop songs that knows when to make you dance and when to stand hands aloft. The climax arrives when the driving clatter of ‘So Haunted’ bottlenecks into the set-up for the euphoric ‘Heart on Fire’. In thrall to 80s aesthetics but undeniably fresh.
Common – Be
Kanye West might have made my personal top-5, but since Be is his greatest effort behind the desk, it will do just fine. Spoiling us with a rich palette of deep soul and retooled funk and jazz, Be works as a loving tribute to the black musical canon. Standing proud among his best efforts, Common is streaming with a mature, laidback wisdom. A master class in rhythmic en Pointe delivery, ‘The Corner’ is Common at his most expressive.
The Streets – Original Pirate Material
Being a middle-class kid was no barrier to revelling in the (sub)urban witticisms of Mike Skinner. With too many great lines to quote, this “day in the life of a geezer” was set to homemade two-step beats, normalising a much-pilloried sub-genre. A real memory-jerker, Skinner articulated modern culture on Original Pirate Material in a way he hasn’t done since, ‘Weak Become Heroes’ a poignant celebration of a misspent youth: “But this ain’t tomorrow and for now I still love ya”.
Radiohead – Amnesiac
The second release from the Kid A sessions, Amnesiac has all the progressiveness of its predecessor, but is less bogged down in the post-Ok Computer landscape. As a teenage Radiohead devotee, I would have lapped up almost any release, but this stands out handsomely. ‘Pyramid Song’ is archetypical Radiohead with its discordant piano chords, cut-up time signatures and swirling Thom Yorke vocal.
Choice Cut Video: Cut Copy – Hearts on Fire