Here are the 12 albums we’re tipping for the esteemed annual UK album award
Time Out London Music team
Trouble in Paradise – La Roux Against the odds, Trouble in Paradise in a total triumph. La Roux’s new sound, with its Chic-like guitar licks and balmy synth parts straight off early MTV, is instantly ingratiating and suits them – sorry, her – more than fans could have dared hope… And far from feeling forced and fussed over, these songs sound pretty effortless. The likes of ‘Tropical Chancer’ and ‘Kiss and Not Tell’ are brilliant pop tunes – albeit brilliant pop tunes with lyrics about strange and slightly offbeat relationships.
Everyday Robots – Damon Albarn In truth, this really isn’t the soul-baring sonic confessional it was hyped as. Many expected deep revelations from the Blur man’s first solo record, only to hear a few opaque references and a Macca-esque song about a baby elephant. What we did get, however, were melodies – big beautiful, elegant and affecting melodies – that sear the cerebellum after a few listens and gently remind us of Albarn’s status as one of Britain’s great songwriters. Soft and gentle in tenor, its lack of immediacy may put off those who like their Albarn with a bit more ‘oi!’. But between the swooping choruses of ‘Photographs’ and the transformation that takes place in ‘You and Me’, you have an album as golden as its writer’s front tooth. To use the parlance of Danny Dyer: this is definitely a grower, not a shower.
Luminous – The Horrors If there’s one thing The Horrors have always been good at, it’s surprising people. With their early singles and first album they did it by playing breakneck garage-punk and dousing audiences in black paint and feathers. With their second LP, they unpredictably turned into respectable sonic innovators – and with their third, they stormed the album chart and even the Radio 1 playlist. Now it’s time for album four, and they’ve done it again. Luminous is one of the biggest, tightest, most engrossing records we’ve heard from a British band in years.
Drone Logic – Daniel Avery Daniel Avery is a young DJ and producer living in London. He makes dance music – very good dance music. So far, so straightforward – but then it’s worth stating the obvious when it comes to Avery. In a scene in which the rules for electronic music are constantly being redefined, what sets him apart is just how loyally he sticks to the templates laid down by his predecessors. This is a debut album of pure four-to-the-floor virtuosity: one that pays its respects to everyone from Cajmere to The Chemical Brothers.
LP1 – FKA Twigs A collection of forward-thinking electro-R&B tracks packed with unexpected sonic details: an out-of-tune organ riff on ‘Lights On’; a beat that sounds like a child biting into a ripe apple on ‘Hours’. The lovely melodies on ‘Give Up’, ‘Number’ and ‘Pendulum’ have echoes of ’90s R&B, but this album is bewitching because Twigs mixes the pretty with the gritty.
In Each and Every One – Polar Bear The long-awaited follow-up to Polar Bear’s excellent 2010 album Peepers is an expansive record that covers the whole dynamic spectrum from delicate ambience to high-octane fuzz. For the first time, drummer Seb Rochford has produced and mixed the entire album, emphasising rhythmic drive and space with pushing bass grooves, enthralling horn lines and propelling electronics… A formidable addition to an already impressive legacy.
Ibibio Sound Machine – Ibibio Sound Machine ‘While this London-based eight piece stems from Ghana, Brazil, France, England and Australia, south-east Nigeria is the focus for this outstanding debut. Sung mostly in the regional dialect of Ibibio, this rollicking record combines the brassy flair of Afrofunk, the sass of Grace Jones and the machine groove of deep house. Is it world music, or the future sound of London? Who cares. As their lead single implores, ‘Let’s Dance’.
Total Strife Forever – East India Youth Songs like ‘Looking For Someone’ and ‘Heaven, How Long’ match folksily sweet choruses with the buzzy, krautrock-influenced churn, while ‘Dripping Down’ is a miserablist carnival – equal parts upbeat percussion and emotional pain… Total Strife Forever is dark and kind of depressing. It features long stretches of ambient noise, and some aggressively pounding beats. But it also has moments of acute sincerity to melt anyone’s wintry heart.
Jungle – Jungle The elevator pitch is that Jungle are an amalgam of every great white funk band. A backhanded compliment? Not at all – imagine Happy Mondays’ baggy stomp, the avant bits of Talking Heads, Steely Dan’s studio perfectionism and the Bee Gees’ falsetto, and you’re very warm indeed. From the space fanfare of summer anthem ‘Busy Earnin’ to the mesmerising soul of ‘Lucky I Got What I Want’, Jungle have done what Disclosure did so well last year – make electronic music with human heart, marry underground cool with main-stage appeal, and do it with vision and conviction.
In the Lonely Hour – Sam Smith This soulful 22-year-old first caught our ears singing on trendy pop-dance hits by Disclosure (‘Latch’) and Naughty Boy (‘La La La’), but on his debut album he’s a firmly middle-of-the-road proposition. To call Cambridgeshire-born Smith a male hybrid of Adele and Emeli Sandé would be reductive, but not entirely misleading. The frantic drums of recent UK chart topper ‘Money on My Mind’ are deceptive; elsewhere Smith trades in the sort of ballad where gently plucked acoustic guitars dovetail with soaring strings, and well-crafted melodies come as standard.
So Long, See You Tomorrow – Bombay Bicycle Club So Long, See You Tomorrow is an album of expanded horizons, which defies straight-up indie rock. ‘Feel’ loops samples from ’50s Bollywood films underneath Jack Steadman’s trademark shivering vocals, and there’s a grand piano in ‘Eyes Off You’ and a touch of R&B slow jam on ‘Home By Now’. The LP’s title track finishes with a shower of Tetris-like acid house blips that are a long way from the guitar-led shuffle of ‘A Different Kind of Fix’.
Everybody Down – Kate Tempest She may be a prodigious polymath (poet, playwright, writer, whatever), but the 27-year-old spoken word sensation returned to her rap roots in style on her debut for Ninja Tune-affiliate Big Dada. Full-fat beats and dirty guitar textures make the perfect sound bed for her stinging tales of the city and third-person narratives stuffed with strivers, lovers and fighters.