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Alternative & Indie - Released September 9, 2013 | Domino Recording Co

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Hi-Res Audio - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Electronic - Released June 3, 2013 | Domino Recording Co

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Hi-Res Audio - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Between Insides and its follow-up Immunity, Jon Hopkins worked with King Creosote on the charming Diamond Mine, which set the Scottish singer/songwriter's ruminations to backdrops that were half rustic folk and half evocative washes of sound. Immunity isn't nearly as acoustic as that collaboration was, but its gently breezy feel lingers on several of these songs: "Breathe This Air" expands from a pounding house rhythm into a roomy piano meditation that recalls Max Richter as much as Diamond Mine, while the title track -- which happens to feature King Creosote's vocals -- closes the album on a whispery note. This feeling extends to the rest of the album in less obvious ways; Immunity is often a more blended, and more expansive-sounding work than Insides, particularly on songs like the Brian Eno-esque "Abandon Window" and "Form by Firelight," which offers a playful study in contrasts in the way it bunches into glitches and then unspools a peaceful piano melody. Some of Immunity's most impressive moments expand on the blend of rhythm and atmosphere Hopkins emphasized on Insides: "Collider" uses sighing vocals courtesy of Dark Horses' Lisa Elle as punctuation for almost imperceptibly shifting beats and a heavy bassline that helps the track build into a moody, elegant whole; meanwhile, the aptly named "Sun Harmonics" turns Elle's sighs into something angelic over the course of 12 serene minutes. Despite these highlights, the album still reflects how Hopkins' polished approach is something of a blessing and a curse. Immunity shows how he's grown, in his subtle, accomplished way, as a composer and producer, yet its tracks occasionally feel like the surroundings for a focal point that never arrives. Even if it doesn't always demand listeners' attention, Immunity is never less than thoughtfully crafted. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2013 | Matador

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Rock - Released March 8, 2013 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions 3F de Télérama - 5 étoiles Rock and Folk - 5/6 de Magic - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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R&B - Released March 1, 2013 | RCA Records Label

Distinctions 5/6 de Magic - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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R&B - Released March 1, 2013 | RCA Records Label

Distinctions 5/6 de Magic - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 24, 2013 | Accidental Records Ltd

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Dance - Released February 22, 2013 | Asylum

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 31, 2013 | Warner Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
While there are lots of bands dealing in either danceable rock or navel-gazing pop, few bands combine the two quite like Foals. On Holy Fire, the third album from the English band, the post-punk revival is given a newfound sense of depth, creating songs that are rhythmic enough to draw listeners, but hypnotic enough to leave listeners lost in their wide-open spaces. This combination of atmosphere and momentum find Foals growing out of the shadows of titans like the Talking Heads and into a spaced-out, dance-punk niche that's all their own. Though a lot of the band's charm comes from the delicate interplay between the guitars and keyboards, the real star of the album comes by way of the massive, stadium-ready "Inhaler," which takes the sparkling, slow build used throughout the album and turns it on its ear with an eruption of massively fuzzy, Muse-esque guitars (and, to some extent, their bombast), creating one of the albums biggest and most rousing moments. Now that they're three albums deep, it feels as if Foals have found a nice middle ground between funk and feeling, making Holy Fire an album that is just as likely to get a room moving as it is to send its inhabitants into a fit of introspective conversation. This kind of duality is something that's hard to find, and it's a quality that could take Foals a long way if they're able to hold onto it. © Gregory Heaney /TiVo
CD£15.49

Alternative & Indie - Released January 31, 2013 | Warner Records

Videos Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
While there are lots of bands dealing in either danceable rock or navel-gazing pop, few bands combine the two quite like Foals. On Holy Fire, the third album from the English band, the post-punk revival is given a newfound sense of depth, creating songs that are rhythmic enough to draw listeners, but hypnotic enough to leave listeners lost in their wide-open spaces. This combination of atmosphere and momentum find Foals growing out of the shadows of titans like the Talking Heads and into a spaced-out, dance-punk niche that's all their own. Though a lot of the band's charm comes from the delicate interplay between the guitars and keyboards, the real star of the album comes by way of the massive, stadium-ready "Inhaler," which takes the sparkling, slow build used throughout the album and turns it on its ear with an eruption of massively fuzzy, Muse-esque guitars (and, to some extent, their bombast), creating one of the albums biggest and most rousing moments. Now that they're three albums deep, it feels as if Foals have found a nice middle ground between funk and feeling, making Holy Fire an album that is just as likely to get a room moving as it is to send its inhabitants into a fit of introspective conversation. This kind of duality is something that's hard to find, and it's a quality that could take Foals a long way if they're able to hold onto it. © Gregory Heaney /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 14, 2013 | Domino Recording Co

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 14, 2013 | Domino Recording Co

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2013 | Virgin Records Ltd

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Once I Was an Eagle, the fourth long-player from Laura Marling, finds the spectral folk singer relocating to Los Angeles, abandoning her backing band, and delivering a cumbersome yet remarkably confident 16-track, 63-minute collection of alternately intimate and grandiose pre-, present, and post-relationship songs that more or less obliterate her reputation as a stage fright-ridden, pale English flower. The first four tracks, which begin with the languid "Take the Night Off" ("You should be gone beast/be gone from me/be gone from my mind at least/let a little lady be") essentially form a suite, seamlessly flowing in and out of each other like an impromptu, post-breakfast, tobacco smoke-filled rehearsal that just happened to occur amidst a sea of expensive microphones. Marling's reinvention as a Californian will do little to quell all of the Joni Mitchell comparisons which, let's face it, are pretty apt, but songs like "Breathe," "Master Hunter," "Pray for Me," and the quasi-mystical title cut introduce Indian ragas, open tunings, and cathartic, tabla-fueled breakdowns into the mix, suggesting a steady diet of Led Zeppelin III, Pink Floyd's Meddle, and Pentangle as well, which adds to the album's dusty, Laurel Canyon patina. Elsewhere, Marling wanders into Gillian Welch territory on the dark and bluesy, fingerpicked "Undine," and the propulsive "Devil's Resting Place" and sweet and soulful "Where Can I Go?" harken back to the youthful whimsy of 2010's I Speak Because I Can, but Once I Was an Eagle is neither whimsical nor particularly youthful, despite the fact that its creator was only 23 at the time of its conjuring. Marling is an old soul through and through, and her remarkably timeless voice, idiosyncratic lyrics, and increasingly impressive guitar chops help to elevate the album's less immediate moments, and while some may argue that her increasingly Americanized, Pacific coast folk-pop can feel a little like fan fiction, it doesn't make it any less enjoyable to sink your toes into. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
CD£11.49

Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
One of the best U.K. debuts of the '90s, Life Thru a Lens is an uninhibited joyride through all manner of British music, from glam to alternative to soft-rock to dance-pop. Beginning with the joyous "Lazy Days," the album continually betrays overt influences from Oasis and other Britpop stars, but triumphs nevertheless due to gorgeous production, Williams' irresistible personality, and the overall flavor of outrageous, utterly enjoyable pop music. Whether he's romping through aggressive burners like "Ego A Go Go" and "South of the Border," crooning on the ballad "Angels," or offering a slice of life -- working-class style -- on the title track and "Lazy Days," Williams is a pop star through and through. For those who appreciate great pop with plenty of cheek, Life Thru a Lens is an excellent album. © John Bush /TiVo
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Electronic - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Cunning if not particularly novel synthesists, Surrey's Guy and Howard Lawrence draw from several styles and sub-styles of dance music -- house, garage, dubstep, bass -- and add pop appeal on Settle, their first album. The Lawrences began humbly with MySpace uploads of scruffy, sampling-enhanced dubstep tracks, but they quickly accelerated to making lustrous, impeccably assembled tracks with varied vocalists. Between October 2012 and April 2013, the duo released a trio of singles that fared no worse than number 11 on the U.K. pop chart: the soaring shuffle-tech of "Latch" (with a bursting, almost overdone lead from Sam Smith), the undeniable crossover house track "White Noise" (a perfectly timed partnership with upcoming duo AlunaGeorge), and the rush-inducing so-called future garage of "You & Me" (featuring Eliza Doolittle, something of a sequel to their fine remix of Jessie Ware's "Running"). Those hits appear here. Without them, the album would still be generous. Few tracks, however, will appease those who bemoaned the duo's departure from relying on sampled and treated vocals. The sluggish "Second Chance," where a downcast Kelis line dissolves into mush, and the rattling "Grab Her!" -- its refrain pinched from Slum Village -- are no match for past sample-heavy delights like "Carnival," "Flow," or "What's in Your Head." The new vocal cuts are either near the level of the hits or are merely pleasant. Howard Lawrence's lead turn on "F for You" approaches the sweetness of Scritti Politti's Green Gartside. Teenaged Sasha Keable sounds wise beyond her years on "Voices," one of the album's deeper house tracks ("I tried to dismiss what you taught me"). London Grammar's Hannah Reid has the unenviable task of following Doolittle, Jamie Woon, and Jessie Ware but delivers one of the most heartrending leads on "Help Me Lose My Mind." Like the closing songs on the first three Basement Jaxx albums, the song initially comes across as an insignificant finale but gradually bubbles to the top as a discreet highlight. Considering all the shrewd alliances and its polished attack, Settle seems like it was designed to be 2013's acceptable dance album. That said, any purist who denies its abundance of pleasures is a crank. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
CD£5.49

Electronic - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Cunning if not particularly novel synthesists, Surrey's Guy and Howard Lawrence draw from several styles and sub-styles of dance music -- house, garage, dubstep, bass -- and add pop appeal on Settle, their first album. The Lawrences began humbly with MySpace uploads of scruffy, sampling-enhanced dubstep tracks, but they quickly accelerated to making lustrous, impeccably assembled tracks with varied vocalists. Between October 2012 and April 2013, the duo released a trio of singles that fared no worse than number 11 on the U.K. pop chart: the soaring shuffle-tech of "Latch" (with a bursting, almost overdone lead from Sam Smith), the undeniable crossover house track "White Noise" (a perfectly timed partnership with upcoming duo AlunaGeorge), and the rush-inducing so-called future garage of "You & Me" (featuring Eliza Doolittle, something of a sequel to their fine remix of Jessie Ware's "Running"). Those hits appear here. Without them, the album would still be generous. Few tracks, however, will appease those who bemoaned the duo's departure from relying on sampled and treated vocals. The sluggish "Second Chance," where a downcast Kelis line dissolves into mush, and the rattling "Grab Her!" -- its refrain pinched from Slum Village -- are no match for past sample-heavy delights like "Carnival," "Flow," or "What's in Your Head." The new vocal cuts are either near the level of the hits or are merely pleasant. Howard Lawrence's lead turn on "F for You" approaches the sweetness of Scritti Politti's Green Gartside. Teenaged Sasha Keable sounds wise beyond her years on "Voices," one of the album's deeper house tracks ("I tried to dismiss what you taught me"). London Grammar's Hannah Reid has the unenviable task of following Doolittle, Jamie Woon, and Jessie Ware but delivers one of the most heartrending leads on "Help Me Lose My Mind." Like the closing songs on the first three Basement Jaxx albums, the song initially comes across as an insignificant finale but gradually bubbles to the top as a discreet highlight. Considering all the shrewd alliances and its polished attack, Settle seems like it was designed to be 2013's acceptable dance album. That said, any purist who denies its abundance of pleasures is a crank. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
CD£11.49

Alternative & Indie - Released October 22, 2012 | Infectious

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Named after the Mac command also used as a mathematical equation to show change, formed while studying fine art at university, and prone to throwing in the odd geometric reference within their lyrics, there are signs that Cambridge-based quartet Alt-J might be a little bit too clever for their own good. Produced by Charlie Andrew (the Laurel Collective), their debut album, An Awesome Wave, is occasionally guilty of pretentiousness, particularly the irritating a cappella vocal warmup of the interlude "(The Ripe & Ruin)." But for the most part, its 13 tracks do for nu-folk what Everything Everything's equally ambitious debut did for indie rock, breathing new life into the genre with an intriguing but accessible series of art rock twists and turns. Indeed, other than frontman Joe Newman's impassioned -- if occasionally bordering on parody -- vocal style, there's little here in common with the tweeness of Mumford & Sons. "Tessellate" combines the glitchy electronica of Thom Yorke's solo career with the wistful wintry harmonies of Fleet Foxes; "Fitzpleasure" fizzes along with its dubstep-lite beats and acidic basslines before it's interrupted, first by a burst of jangly post-rock and second by the kind of shimmering guitar twangs you'd expect from a Tarantino soundtrack; while "Taro" somehow melds together the unlikely bedfellows of Americana and bhangra to produce a fittingly oddball but enthralling finale. It's to Andrew's credit that these eclectic arrays of sound are woven together in a manner so effortlessly that the results never feel forced or contrived. There are a few more straightforward moments such as "Matilda," a gentle acoustic folk ode to Natalie Portman's troubled character in Léon, and the sparse, haunting "Ms." But Alt-J's wave is far more awesome when it's at its most schizophrenic. © Jon O'Brien /TiVo
CD£13.99

Rap - Released July 20, 2012 | Atlantic Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Having spent a couple years supporting his successful 2010 effort The Defamation of Strickland Banks, Ben "Plan B" Drew had to strike while the iron was hot, seizing the day with enough clout and financial backing to fund his directorial debut, the feature film Ill Manors. As such, this soundtrack was a bit delayed, with some tracks recorded after the film's completion, but if ever a recording deserved that "music from and inspired by the film" tag, it's this one. Ill Manors, the soundtrack, is a thematically sound album with the dour life of the U.K.'s lower-class youth always in focus. Their dreams, hopes, victories, and inevitable defeats fuel these songs, all of it tied together by dialog from the film along with spoken word from performance poet John Cooper Clarke, his dark humor making him the album's wise and wise-cracking "Watcher." Like Drew's leap into the director's chair, it's an ambitious move, but any thought that he's in over his hoodie is wiped away quickly by the opening title track, which invites "Let's all go on an urban safari/We might see some illegal migrants" as cellos and dirty beats lay underneath, because this is not only a full-bodied, string-instrument soundtrack, but a grimy soundtrack too. Drew's turns of phrase are in check here, and while he's still good in an Eminem style with shocking punch lines, his writing is simpler and more earnest than previously, leaving the metaphorical stuff up to Clarke and the dialog samples. "Drug Dealer" could have fallen out of the late '80s with its boom-bap beat and slice-of-hood-life lyrics, and even if dubstep, grime, and an ultra-fast delivery all point to rap that's post-millennial, Drew's throwback, keep-it-simple style is a welcome contrast. Hearing about kids who don't make it to their teens or parents who are doomed to inflict their pain on the next generation in such raw and certain terms is designed to snap listeners out of their jaded mindset, and it works, especially when surrounded by music that is either rich and seductive or immediate and flashy. Solid, purposeful, and crafted in a manner that betrays both Drew's age and the album's hurried road to release, Ill Manors makes heavy-hitter number three for the rapper, suggesting that Plan B doesn't issue albums, just milestones. © David Jeffries /TiVo
CD£8.99

Rock - Released April 9, 2012 | Parlophone UK

Booklet Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
The cover of Richard Hawley's Standing at the Sky's Edge reveals that something very different is afoot. Given the string-laden, heart-wrenching balladry of Truelove's Gutter, and the orchestrated, tender cibachrome glimpses of a simpler life in and around his native Sheffield on Ladysbridge and Cole's Corner, this is a kick in the head. Hawley has brought his guitar and a basic rock band setup back to the fore here, and his references come from the late '60s. Its production is highly textured, expansive, and aggressive. Opener "She Brings the Sunshine" begins slowly with a tamboura, a bluesy, distant guitar solo, a sitar, and even a violin. But a thudding bassline and the drum kit come crashing in less than a minute later and it becomes a cacophonous throb. It's pure psychedelia with all manner of sonics blurring in the mix (he calls them "rocket sounds"). Hawley offers a squalling guitar break in the middle (one of many fine ones).The title cut commences with an organ, acoustic resonator guitar, a simple bassline, and hypnotic tom-toms. As the track builds, Hawley adds a lilting hook in the refrain of a simple melody. His gorgeous baritone is right up front; his poignant lyrics offer three narratives about biblically named characters -- Joseph, Mary, and Jacob -- who respond to insurmountable difficulties) are made more so by the forceful, dramatic accompaniment -- Dr. John's "I Walk On Gilded Splinters" is referenced in the last third. Hawley uses psychedelia in much the same way Paul Weller did on Heavy Soul: as an extension of his songwriting, pushing his basic rock & roll chops to create songs with a sense of urgency. He gets downright raw on "Down in the Woods," openly copping the riff from the Stooges' "1969" with guitars and bass blazing, surrounded by washed sonics and frenetic drums. But there are other moments here: "Seek It," a love song, carries more familiar Hawley melodic touchstones and an infectious chorus. "The Wood Collier's Grave" is an allegorical folk ballad about individual isolation as a consequence of catharsis. The scorching closer "Leave Your Body Behind You" addresses the necessity of finding a way through crisis and dissolution while in the midst of it. Truth is, SATSE is a political album, albeit one free of clichéd sloganeering and/or self-righteousness. Hawley's protagonists are downtrodden, broken, or near despair; they're very human. As a songwriter, he never sacrifices the voices of his subjects for the sake of sound. By employing hard-rocking, often spacey psychedelia to express the anger he feels at watching hard-won gains of history being damaged and destroyed, Hawley delivers an essential listen. His aesthetic is certainly apropos of the current era; possibly even a brilliant summation of it. [The American version of the album contains the bonus track "You Haunt Me."] © Thom Jurek /TiVo
CD£5.59

Alternative & Indie - Released January 30, 2012 | Because Music Ltd.

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Three years after their double A-side single "Storm"/"Love's Dart" prompted claims that they were the saviors of the guitar band scene, London-based Edinburgh four-piece Django Django finally commit their quirky brand of intelligent art rock to a full-length album. While the group risked missing the boat with such a lengthy wait, the recent success of fellow avant-garde purveyors Everything Everything and Metronomy suggests their refusal to rush has worked in their favor. Indeed, with indie audiences now eschewing the usual ramshackle "meat and two veg" outfits in favor of something a little more stimulating, its timing couldn't have been better. They'll certainly find plenty of intrigue here, as frontman Vincent Neff's sun-soaked harmonies weave their way around an array of jerky rhythms, spacy electronic bleeps, and acoustic folk-pop riffs on 13 tracks that sound like Franz Ferdinand, the Beach Boys, and the Beta Band (whose keyboardist John is drummer David's brother) have collided in one almighty experimental jam session. Initially, it's a thrilling listen, with the jangly surf-pop of "Hail Bop," the video-game funk of "Zumm Zumm," and the glitchy jazz-blues of "Firewater," the latter the only time they venture anywhere near the same territory as the legendary guitarist who inspired their moniker, all proving the band's hyperactive nature doesn't get in the way of an infectious melody. But halfway through, the band seem to run out of ideas, with several uninspired Wild West pastiches (the Tarantino-ish foot-stomper "WOR," the twangy Americana of "Life's a Beach") and a meandering instrumental ("Skies Over Cairo") that borders on the gimmicky. Django Django may be just a bit too obtuse to repeat the success of their Mercury-nominated labelmates, but while it doesn't quite live up to their early hype, it's still an encouraging first offering, suggesting that they might do with album number two. © Jon O'Brien /TiVo