Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More ****
It's been a short two years since Mumford & Sons formed. Emerging from the West London folk scene, the band have rapidly transformed from ones to watch to genuine contenders for success. Their live shows, which evoke the euphoric mood of a riotous hoedown, have been key to this. They've captured that ebullience on Sigh No More. Production wizard Markus Dravs has done a fine job, giving the band the scale their initial EPs lacked. As a result, Winter Winds takes on a pounding, military-esque tone, and Roll Away Your Stone moves from genteel, traditional folk to rousing gospeltinged stomp. Album of the year so far, no question.
Air - Love 2 ***
THE fifth album to come from Air duo, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel bear all their familiar downbeat hallmarks: soaring synthetic sounds, a few TV advert-ready tracks and a limitless sense of space. Having taken their sounds back to basics, Air are on safe ground. And it's hard not to feel comfortable listening to their distinctive percussive instrumentation, 1970s-style simplicity and sweepingly confident style.
Cerys Matthews - Don't Look Down ****
IT is hard to reconcile the modern Ms Matthews with the tabloid's anti-hero of the late 1990s. Following another brush with fame via I'm A Celebrity..., Matthews has reinvented herself as the charming rookie host of a BBC 6Music afternoon show. Don't Look Down, released simultaneously in English and Welsh language versions, is her third solo album. Opener Arlington Way showcases her still-spectacular voice but the dreamier moments are where the magic is to be found.
Barbra Streisand - Love Is The Answer ****
SINGER-actress Barbra Streisand approaches her new album ever the professional. With help from jazz star Diana Krall, this is full of smoky jazz bar tunes. If You Go Away includes French lyrics which gives the song an altogether 40s soundtrack feel. The delicate instrumentation used on Where Do You Start is an album highlight and shows just how strong her vocals are. Fans will be altogether pleased with the release.