Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul *****
The Linkous/Mouse collaboration effort finally sees an official release. There's a lot to be said for Danger Mouse - he really stamps his mark on any work he puts his name to. The ambient pop roots of his new project, Broken Bells, are quite blatant here; not least when James Mercer of The Shins makes an appearance. However, the sublime lyricism and sombre tone throughout can only be attributed to Linkous. Guest vocals from Gruff Rhys, The Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop add more credibility. The album sounds exactly as expected - good.
Janelle Monae - The ArchAndriod ****
FROM the classical strains of the opening track of Janelle Monae's debut studio album, you soon realise this US singer/songwriter is a maverick. Blending many influences to create a sparkling musical landscape, she displays a great vocal maturity and sensitivity. Feisty Janelle has remained in control, crafting an album that doesn't compromise on her style. Come Alive (War Of The Roses), with its shouty New Wave chorus, could become a Friday night anthem. Tightrope featuring Outkast's Big Boi is a retro-soul stomper.
Emilie Simon - The Big Machine ****
THE Big Machine is undoubtedly one of the music highlights of the year so far, with Simon's haunting vocals (sung in English) offering a glorious hybrid of Kate Bush and Alison Goldfrapp. The instrumentation in most cases is sparse-yet-beguiling electronica - which blends seamlessly with her voice. Opening track Rainbow starts in a straightforward fashion before Simon's voice really soars to demand immediate attention. There is not a duffer among the 12 tracks.
School Of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire ****
SOME people call School Of Seven Bells a shoegaze act, but others tag them as dream-pop. Having built on the lush electronic washes of 2008's Alpinisms, they can safely be filed under 'excellent'. Former Secret Machines man Benjamin Curtis provides the textured keys and filtered guitar lines, while the Dehezas are on hand with honey-rich harmonies that recall Brooklyn trendsetters. .....