25. Thinguma*jigsaw - (awakeinwhitechapel)
awakeinwhitechapel (which possibly breaks down as "A Wake In Whitechapel") is a vibrantly original album made in Ireland by a duo from Oslo, Norway, keeling under its own heady atmospherics and resplendent in its lyrical charm. There is lyricism a lot greater that which than the sloganeering brigades of Ireland generally possess in evidence, possibly due to a love of modernist literature both Joycean and otherwise. It's great to hear. They get more atmosphere with a flute, a banjo and a musical saw than a lot of bands could manage with an orchestra. It's pointless to point to influences here, because it sounds so shockingly original. Not physically shocking obviously, but there is a definite feeling that only comes when you first hear a band who you cannot immediately place in the sort of tapestry of post-Beatles music, and thinguma*jigsaw evoke that feeling very strongly.
An explanation of the album, whose concept (there seems to be one) you might otherwise miss. Not for the formalists among you.
MySpace - Serpentsapple gets especial recommendation.
24. Interpol - Our Love To Admire
If we're judging by the overall feeling of an album and its lyrical themes, this is the third time Interpol have made this album and the only difference is that this is the first time they've openly admitted that they're looking for the widest audience possible, That's not really a surprise to anyone who has heard both Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics though, so the move to a major from Matador and the ridiculously blatant single can be fairly easily overlooked. Being popular - and trying to be even more popular - doesn't stop Our Love To Admire being a good album. Pioneer To The Falls shares an aesthetic with the two previous album openers, but it is easily the best as a song, and there are various Interpol melodies and tricks that are perfected here. The bass and drums are turned down a little, and there is slightly less urgency, but sounding lazy is no bad thing sometimes, and Interpol have managed to stay pretty safely within the confines of being on-form. I await the next album with interest and a critical ear though. Only Oasis have tried to make the same album more than three times, and it wouldn't be nice to see Interpol go that way.
MySpace has a few songs off this and they have a decent website too if you have time to kill.
23. The White Stripes - Icky Thump
White Stripes albums sit on roaring singles generally, that's why they're so big in the mainstream. There's a single on each album that announces the mood of the album as a whole: Dead Leaves... on White Blood Cells, Seven Nation Army on Elephant, Blue Orchid or arguably My Doorbell on Get Behind Me Satan. Icky Thump is no different. While some of the tracks could fit easily on any of their albums or any blues rock album since 1969, Icky Thump the song tears new arseholes left, right and centre, hates White America more effectively than Eminem ever managed beside a Zeppelin-esque riff and deservedly lends its name to the album. Elsewhere, new ground is only occasionally tread, but the uneasy personal lyrics that pop up now and then and the usual White Stripes dynamics make this a worthy listen.
MySpace doesn't really advertise the best of Icky Thump, but Jack White multitasking on Jools should make up for that.
22. So Cow - These Truly Are End Times
Like Wilde, Shaw, Joyce and Beckett before him, Brian Kelly deserted his native land to seek fame and fortune in foreign climes. Not for him the bright lights of Manhattan, the avenues of Paris or the proud, cultured London streets. He went to Seoul. These Truly Are End Times is lo-fi partly due to circumstance and partly due to choice, and the hand-drawn cover will give a good idea of the kind of thing in question. There are some seriously catchy songs on it, the kind of thing that would have charted in an alternative universe, but either uncompromising indie principles or a frankly shocking lack of major label interest keeps These Truly Are End Times a well-kept secret. Only Hawaii, Arizona, certain bars in Korea, Deerhoof and Ireland seem to be aware of this album, so do not waste this opportunity. It's the best album by an Irish artist this year quite easily.
So Cow talks End Times on his site, and there are mp3s there too but go here for Moon Geun Young, Casablanca and some new tracks.
21. The Polyphonic Spree - The Fragile Army
If this album was a small, unrelated piece of cinematography, it would be the scene in Battle Royale in the classroom after they discover they've been drugged 'n' dragged, and Beat Takeshi plays them a video. The video has a ridiculously perky Japanese (duh) girl in a Battle Royale bodywarmer, if I recall, talking like an anime character about the brilliant adventure they're about to embark on. Takeshi claps enthusiastically. The class are fear-stricken. I don't know why The Fragile Army reminds me of that, but it does. Maybe Takeshi is Tim DeLaughter, ageing star rallying the troops from the front, and the class are the rest of the Spree. Or maybe some time earlier in the year I listened to TFA and watched Battle Royale on the same night. This is super-fidelity, super-sincere, super-twee, saccharine overdose stuff, like a mildly beefier version of previous Spree. There are some melodies borrowed from The Beginning Stages Of... and Together We're Heavy, but there are cracking new ones too and some heart-lifting pop music like no-one else can do.
Tim and his army keep a blog that could be worth reading, and their article-free MySpace has a mash-up of the album.
4 hours ago