PJ Harvey: Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea

In addition to writing, performing and producing a mercury prize nominated album, Polly Jean Harvey has acted in a number of films, exhibited sculptures in art galleries and had her poetry published. "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" is Polly’s 6th Album since her 1992 debut "Dry" and her third album to be nominated for the mercury music prize. The album makes an explosive start with "Big Exit"; the high-energy guitars and piercing vocals captivate the listener from the start. "The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore" is perhaps the most abrasive track and more akin with her earlier work. Previous albums have included duets with the likes of Nick Cave, Bjork and Tricky. On "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" Polly includes a mesmeric duet with Thom Yorke who’s style and emotion fit perfectly with the overall feel of the album. Other standout tracks include "Good Fortune", "A Place Called Home" and "We Float". An unexpected sonic treat and highly recommended.

Goldfrapp: Felt Mountain

Alison Goldfrapp has previously worked with Tricky and Orbital before joining forces with Will Gregory in order to produce this debut album. The album was actually released at the end of last year, but too late for the 2000 awards. The snow covered forest on the inside cover of the album sleeve suggests the cold and crisp landscapes that can be easily conjured up in the mind whilst listening to the gentle and sometimes haunting music. The opening track "Lovely Head" will be recognisable to many since being used to advertise one2one. The album contains string and brass arrangements that could well have come from an early James Bond Soundtrack along with Portishead style scratches and samples. More suited to a sophisticated dinner party than a rowdy knees-up.

Super Furry Animals: Rings Around the World

"Rings Around the World" is the fifth studio release from this Welsh band, and contains a mixture of material. Although most tracks are quite extensively orchestrated, they vary from acoustic tunes to much heavier stuff, they also seems to have taken influences from different periods, some parts sound very modern and others have shades of the 60’s. Despite this variation the overall feel of the album is very "Pop". The title track is prime example of this bizarre concoction. Its starts with a rolling guitar and bass backdrop with heavy reverb making it sound a bit like Hawkwind, then the jolly Beach Boys style vocal kicks in. "(A) Touch Sensitive" is a more modern sounding piece with oscillating bass and violins giving it more of a Moby feel it. The first half of "No Symphony" sounds like a fairly normal acoustic track before going off at a complete tangent. I’m all for a bit of musical meandering, but this one seems to loose the plot a little. The album is being released on CD and DVD formats at the same time and is certainly worth investigating.

Radiohead: Amnesiac

Much of "Amnesiac" was already in place when last years "Kid-A" was released. At the time, "Amnesiac" was being promoted as more mainstream rock and less experimental than "Kid-A". After my first listen to "Amnesiac" I found it very hard to agree with this premise, but after several more listens it seems to have lost much of its weirdness, with the exception of "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" which I still can’t claim to understand. In addition to the excellent "Pyramid Song" and "Knives Out" the album contains the beautiful "You and Whose Army?" which is more than capable of provoking the emotional response experienced by many on "OK-Computer". "I Might Be Wrong" is an inspired toe tapping four and half minutes of guitar riffs and "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" is far catchier than its title suggests. Radiohead are still pushing the frontiers of rock but are now being courteous enough to allow the fans to catch up rather than leaving them scratching their heads with a curios expression on their face.

Turin Brakes: The Optimist LP

Another duo. Another debut. Another excellent album. Olly Knight and Gale Paridjanian from Balham, South London, met at primary school and have been writing and playing music together ever since. "The Optimist LP" is an uplifting, soft and very mature album of instantly palatable acoustic songs. The general formula used is a fervent acoustic rhythm with obvious chord changes overlaid with clear and precise lead or slide guitar and low punctuated bass notes. "Underdog (save me)" is a very upbeat example of this formula and "Emergency 72", the next single planned to be released on October 15th starts off slowly but builds up into a very similar rhythm before winding back down. An impressive debut, and if every thing goes to plan, should launch an exciting career. Any fans of Coldplay and Travis amongst us should not be pessimistic about buying this LP.

Basement Jaxx: Rooty

This London two piece certainly seem to have a high profile in the dance music scene after the success of their first album, "Remedy". Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe are eager to build on the success of their first record by making an album that appeals to both the mainstream dance clubs and the more diverse underground. The album is packed full with as many sound effects as they could cram in. It seems that because they have the technology available to produce whizzing, buzzing and beeping effects they had to stuff them all in somewhere. Although it is a very jolly album, the majority of the tracks are fairly uninspiring and don’t appear to have much depth. The opening track, "Romeo" featuring Kele Le Roc, is a good example of this lacklustre but happy format. However there are a couple of better tracks to be found. "Get Me Off" has a good solid dance beat and sexually provocative lyrics that are sure to go down well in the clubs. The highlight of the album for me was "Do Your Thing" which successfully mixes dance and jazz with its trumpets and synthesisers working in perfect harmony with each other. Unfortunately these good tracks are too few and far between and I’m unconvinced that this represents the best of what’s available in the dance genre.

Zero 7: SImple Things

Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker from North London both opted to study sound engineering and served their apprenticeships at RAK studios. A college friend of theirs was producing Radiohead’s "OK Computer" and gave them the opportunity to remix "Climbing up the Walls", which proved popular on Radio 1. Since then there’s not been much on offer other than a very hard to find EP and a few more remixes. "Simple Things" is their debut album and has allowed them to be recognised as much more than an English version of Air. The album should receive wide appeal with its subtle mix of soul, jazz, and funk, chill out instrumentals and heavily orchestrated themes. It’s hard to pick the standout tracks from a whole album of gems but perhaps the instrumental "Red Dust" with its indolent acoustic introduction leading us into an assortment of melodic synthesisers and strings deserves some special mention. An album wholly worthy of it nomination, and perhaps more.