Proof of Life
On this debut album, Bristol's Katey Brooks proves why comparisons to Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading and Toni Childs (and, in reference to her style, probably, John Martyn) have accompanied live reviews so far.
Having enjoyed a rapid rise to attention locally, and with guest appearances aplenty and a spot on the Children in Need single, she is clearly a singer on the rise. Here, 10 songs tell the story wonderfully, from the deeper and more reflective to the rockier (This Old Skin, Hunger). Where her star really shines, though, is on two of the more interesting sidebars - Lines is a remarkable song, self-expressive in the way Edie Brickell's Circles was. The album closes on Michael Row The Boat Ashore, where her voice - capable of raw, emotional power, is given its lovely head.
ACE rating 8/10
Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
Sparklehorse main man Mark Linkous had a pretty traumatic ride until he took his own life this year. On Dreamt For Light Years, he returned to the mesmerising form of Vivadixesubmarinetransmissionplot, bolstered by the talents of guests like Tom Waits, Dangermouse and The Flaming Lips' Stephen Drodz. Here, Linkous' quiet voice and unusual choices of melody almost always come off, recalling bands like dEUS more than other spacey acts like The Flaming Lips. This is a proper muso album, almost firmly in the adult end of the spectrum, but altogether accessible for anyone who leans towards rock. Revisited after such a sad ending, it is easy to wonder why you didn't recognise its classic status immediately. It could have been made at any point from Sergeant Pepper or Dark Side Of The Moon onwards, so spacey and psych-y is it. It doesn't hit bullseyes throughout, but it never goes further than the 25.
ACE rating 9/10
WOR/ Skies Over Cairo
This is your chance to get in on the ground level. Still remaining independent, Scottish/ East London band Django Django follow up last year's remarkable EP Storm/ Love's Dart with this Beta Band-like piece of brilliance. Already vying for single of the year so far, WOR is a song that channels Peter Gunn guitar with 2010 rhythms and oh-so-clever harmonies - it has turnarounds, interplay and most of all it gets better the louder you turn it up. The UK has always had a knack for turning out bands that stimulate heart and head, and Django Django look like being one of those bands you should hook onto now.
ACE rating 8/10