Another month in the year of our lord 2009, another million records to choose from for this roundup. At the moment I'm sitting here with 17 tabs open in my browser, all of them records rated 8 or above from this month. Some of the 8s didn't even make it - that's how jam-packed this month has been with shining examples of music and art. Without any further ado, here's the top 10 (+1) from August. Every last one of these records is pure gold, and in The XX and Wild Beasts we have two very fine contenders for album of the year. Already.
Mariachi El Bronx - Mariachi El Bronx
Says Brad Barrett: "Do I like this because it’s the fucking Bronx in mariachi disguises and they can do barely any wrong? Am I enchanted by their utter disregard for other people’s opinions on what they’ve made here? Could I be swayed into thinking mariachi is worth investigating? You know what? Who cares? This album is enjoyable, amusing, sensitive, impressive and above all – because we’re all in the habit of forgetting this – FUN."
Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
Says Rob Webb: "Two Dancers, then, doesn't so much follow up their debut as announce Wild Beasts as one of our genuinely special bands, one that can compete - in terms of both musical and lyrical ingenuity as well as sheer pop nous - with any US act you've seen talked up in the music press this year. Sunset Rubdown! Dirty Projectors! Your records just took one hell of a beating. Of course, it's not really about that, but it is increasingly rare that fans of this sort of envelope-pushing pop can find satisfaction from records produced on these shores. And that's just not cricket."
Pissed Jeans - King Of Jeans
Says Phillip Bloomfield: "Korvette has improved his lyrics: he’s still able to make you feel stomach-churningly uncomfortable, but he’s augmented his bitterness and blunt depravity with the kind of things people can relate to: stress, work, tiredness, futile workplace crushes and age. It’s not completely unexpected – Hope For Men displayed similar tendencies – but what's shifted is how well he captures his subject matter. King Of Jeans has set the bar high not just for them, but for anything ‘heavy’ set to be released this year. And as Korvette bemoans the loss of his hair on closer 'Goodbye (Hair)', so I tend to bemoan the end of this album: “When I say goodbye/I’ll say it with a frown”. Thing is I can always put it back on; I’m not sure Matt will have the same luxury."
Sleeping States - In The Gardens Of The North
Says Sam Lewis: "Markland Starkie, the figurehead behind the Sleeping States moniker, deals in replication, his music full of conspicuous sonic doubles, layered vocals and harmonies and swooping guitar lines. Live, Sleeping States often comprise three guitarists, each individual riff mimicking and complimenting its counterpart’s."
Six Organs Of Admittance - Luminous Night
Says Him Tall: "This collection of eight songs is his best and most realised work since 2005's School Of The Flower, an album where his unique vision seemed to take a step forward in its application. At times hypnotic and otherworldly, it's a soothing, unsettling and challenging listen. At just 42 minutes and eight tracks long, it's an album of the old school, suited to listening in one sitting. Can you manage that? Chasny is heading further and further out there, deeper into the woods. We’re all playing catch up. Long may he run."
Dinosaur Pile-Up - The Most Powerful E.P In The Universe
Says Simon Jay Catling: "It would be harsh to call Dinosaur Pile-Up a straight up pastiche, but the debt they owe to Foo Fighters, Weezer et al is undeniable, and this is a reasonable enough justification for disliking The Most Powerful EP In The Universe!!. But for those of us who fancy a bit of a break from listening to perfect female vocals singing over Korgs and synthesised beats, or who fancy listening to something where you don’t have to work out whether you have to understand it as art to enjoy it Dinosaur Pile-Up are it. There is nothing to understand here, no memo to follow, just three chaps who enjoy making a damn good racket and would rather like you to get involved too.
The xx - XX
Says Thom Gibb: "This collection of miniature songs excels. They’re not magnificently written, with unspeakably beautiful melodies, and virtuoso instrumental performances, but they have an intangible spook. The XX know when to tense, when to relax. It’s instinctive. It could be because they’ve known each other for years, it could be luck that this combination of four people is somehow tuned to one another and can create something so clear, so fluent. It’s pointless speculating about it. It’s here and it’s almost perfect."
Mew - No More Stories
Says James Skinner: "Like Muse, Mew fly in the face of the zeitgeist, cultivating a devoted following all the while. It’s one that should be sated (and in an ideal world, expanded) no end by No More Stories. ‘Big’ in every sense of the word, if it doesn’t quite reach the impassioned heights of Kites in terms of sheer spectacle, it certainly comes close; that it sees them tread towards something warmer and intangibly more personal in its outlook more than compensates. Absolutely intoxicating."
Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Says Finn-Scott Delany: "Outspoken and even prone to some fairly loony conspiracy theorising, The Ecstatic thankfully does not become such a platform, and is a refined selection of strong tracks, which skilfully tread the balance between tight beats and forthright exclamations. Mos Def’s poetic, free flowing verses resist his activist tendencies, and keep the artist and observer, not the sermoniser, in the foreground."
Olafur Arnalds - Found Songs
Says Rory Gibb: "Much has been made of the idea that Iceland’s landscape intrinsically ‘finds its way’ into its native music. If there is any of his country in Arnalds’ music, it is felt most keenly in the permeating sense of tranquility and transience. This is music to be listened to on lone train journeys, landscape dashing past the window providing a strangely effective visual counterpoint to the slow, crystalline shadows of ‘Allt varð hljótt’ and the stately march of ‘Lost Song’. Perhaps unexpectedly, given the conditions in which it was conceived, in Found Songs Arnalds has sired his most beautiful and beguiling creature yet."
Nurses - Apple's Acre
Says Paul Brown: "The record is a patchwork of the most gorgeous type of euphoric but bruised pop. The most instantly recognisable thing about Nurses is Chapman’s voice, which flits back and forth between a strangled Joanna Newsom and Avey Tare at his most rasping. The swelling and soaring of the vocals regularly lift the songs to emotional highs. They also convey a real vulnerability which is at times at odds with the melodies chirruping away under the surface, most notably so on ‘Caterpillar Playground’."