Navigating our way through the towers of compact discs which pile their way to the ceiling of Esquire HQ is no enviable task. As such, even some of the biggest releases get overlooked in our quest to cover the best.
The first half of this year has been no exception, and whether due to misplaced first impressions or a simple lack of listening time, we've let a few gems slip through the net. In a bid to redeem ourselves, we’ve compiled a carefully edited list of the top five albums to make it back onto our iPods over the past few months. Enjoy.
Jamie Lidell - Compass
What Michael Winterbottom is to film, Jamie Lidell is to music: a mercurial innovator seemingly unhibited by notions of genre or audience expectation. With his third album, Compass, the Cambridge-born singer-songwriter returns to the pic'n'mix unpredictability that brought him such plaudits for his first, Multiply. And why not combine a sensuous slow jam ("She Needs Me") with the kind of jaunty soul number to which the Jackson Five might strut down Sesame Street ("Enough's Enough"), before throwing in a demonic dirge ("Big Drift") that sounds like Eddie Vedder wrestling with an angel (angelic vocals kindly provided by Feist)? Producers, Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and Beck have both invested their time in this excellent record, so you'd be in good company if you chose to do the same. Compass by Jamie Lidell (Warp) is out now
Four Tet – There Is Love In You
High-colour soundsmith, Four Tet (aka Mika-alike, Kieran Hebden) shook off his ‘folktronica’ moniker with the release of the rhythm-heavy Everything Ecstatic in 2005. Thankfully Hebden returned to form with the release of long player, There Is Love In You at the beginning of this year. Looping its way around the musical pool, it took a while to truly win us over, but tracks such as the soul-laced "Angel Echoes", and the rudimentary two-step of "Love Cry" stand out in their dedication to Hebden’s vision. "Circling", does what it says on the tin, but is nonetheless five minutes of electronic bliss. There Is Love In You by Four Tet (Domino) is out now
LCD Soundsytem – This Is Happening
Having, for obvious reasons, been immediately drawn to the single "Drunk Girls" and its shouty romp, it’s easy to let This is Happening glance over you on first listen. On repeat sittings however it becomes clear that, oddly, despite ticking all the right indie disco boxes this is the least impressive song on the album. From the Blondie-esque opener 'Dance Yrself Clean" and its "Heart of Glass" drumbeat, to the brilliantly cynical "You Wanted a Hit". The musical equivalent of a Rorshach print, revealing new secrets on each listen. Instantly satisfying but you will only realize its true intricacies and delights with a little perseverance. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem (DFA) is out now
Beach House - Teen Dream
In light of the past two – rather sparse - offerings from Baltimore indie-pop duo Beach House, it would be easy to overlook Teen Dream as more of the same. It only takes a single listen to reveal this isn't the case. From the jolting tonal slides of “Zebra” to the crackling opening wails of “Norway”, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s most recent long player conjures halcyon images of young summers aimlessly spent. Punctuated throughout by Legrand’s yearning chants, Teen Dream’s soaring bouts of choral pop demonstrate (somewhat ironically, given the title) a far more adult approach than with previous releases. Teen Dream by Beach House (Sub Pop) is out now
UNKLE - Where Did The Night Fall
In contrast to previous UNKLE albums, The lack of big name guests (there’s no Thom Yorke, Ian Brown or Brian Eno) and the fact that James Lavelle has been around for, like, forever allowed us to let UNKLE’s fifth album to slip by. Which was rather silly. The lack of personalities actually puts a singular personality into the perfectly crafted songs on offer here. Psychedelia and dance influences clash and collide as per usual but tend to coalesce more often than not into a perfectly formed whole. The battered growl of the one biggish guest - former Screaming Trees singer Mark Langegan - closes the album on a downbeat note, a weary, beautifully threadbare foil to the drama that’s gone before. Where Did The Night Fall by UNKLE (Surrender All) is out now