The Sub Pop label is some handy shorthand for high expectations from a debut album, and this album does not disappoint. Avi Buffalo is the adopted name of 19-year-old Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, and the music they make (appropriately for Long Beach, Californians, perhaps) is summery, wistful pop, but the kind that you'd hope The Shins would make if they took some time to just hang out. Fashionably-enough, the music also features the kind of ecstatic mass choruses and hand claps that seem essential all of a sudden. But that doesn't diminish the feel-good factor from what is a throw-back to a 70s Buffalo Springfield reminder, brought bang up to date. No song on the album matches the lead single, What's In It For, but, like Band of Horses, the feel becomes the idea, and all of a sudden you're out the other side, blessed out and hitting repeat.
ACE rating 8/10
The Morning Benders
The Morning Benders' Talking Through Tin Cans was an epic debut, introducing us to a band whose harmonies were 'the way music used to be' - easy, gently gorgeous. Fortunately, now that they are a big deal, the band have stepped up and produced something significant. Big Echo is the sound of a band properly on its feet.
Opening with the frankly astonishingly great Excuses, a song which must be in contention for single of 2010, the record then goes on to run through 10 could-be singles, and a great bonus track. Clearly, like Delta Spirit, this is a band that finds it hard not to make music (they released a fantastic Bedroom Covers album for free in 2009, running through wonderful cover versions, seemingly for fun). Another band that alludes to the Shins, but here it's to mix them with some later-period Beatles and some Beach Boys. Big Echo is a have-to-have.
ACE rating 9/10
Close-Up Vol 1: Love Songs
All the way back in 1985 (yup, 25 years ago), Suzanne Vega's honest, poetic debut album shocked many, as a reminder of how remarkable simple, largely acoustic music could be. After a period where Vega has drifted into electronica and rock, Close Up is a return to her back catalogue, with selections re-recorded acoustically. With a more mature voice, songs like Marlene On The Wall, Gypsy, and Small Blue Thing are reflected in their perfect essence. There is a deeply affecting energy shining through each song - the sense that these are old, loved friends. Almost the best way to come at this album would be as a Suzanne Vega novice - discovering these songs fresh would surely put this among the contenders for album of the year.
ACE rating 9/10