James Spearing: Chris Lorenzo & The Streets – ‘Take Me As I Am’ – I feel that PBs has been lacking some bass so here is a bassline for you. Mike Skinner doesn’t quite reach ‘Blinded by the Lights’ levels on this track but it’s still a nice dose of his unique insight into nightlife. If you know, you know. I can also relax slightly now that my secret(ish) love for commercial drum and bass is out in the open.
Matt Paul: Jamie T – ‘Salvador’ – I was sitting in a bar in New Jersey when a very familiar and unexpected song came on: ‘Salvador’ by Jamie T. His first two albums were integral to my university experience and one of the artists that fellow Picky Bastard Fran and I bonded over most when we met. I was not expecting to hear his not-so dulcet tones 12 years later, and it has sent me on a nostalgia-filled deep dive this month.
Kirsten Loach: The Tallest Man on Earth – The best thing I heard this month was by no means new to me, but watching The Tallest Man on Earth perform at the Albert Hall in Manchester was without a doubt my auditory highlight of the last few weeks. A folk artist playing a lone set on a Saturday night might seem like a slightly strange set-up. Even Kristian himself remarked that he was not sure he’d be able to live up to the expectations of such a lively crowd, however, his seemingly endless stream of energy as he strutted around the stage belting out favourites from The Wild Hunt and changing between his many, many guitars was just spellbinding.
Lisa Whiteman: Mogwai – Rave Tapes and FKA Twigs – Magdalene – This month I have been mostly listening to Mogwai’s epic noisefest Rave Tapes because it is splendid.
I thought I’d nurture my Ghosteen-ruined soul with FKA Twigs’ Magdalene. That was a gorgeous mistake and probably a late entry into my top ten of the year.
Pete Wild: Vetiver – Up on High and Clairo – Immunity – The new Vetiver album Up on High is that kind of record that you play on a Sunday morning that has you gazing lazily out of the window and (for maybe forty five minutes) thinking the world isn’t so bad after all (it is – but sometimes you need albums like Up on High to suspend you in amber for a bit just to stop you going on a killing rampage, am I right? … Guys? … Are you with me? … No?). Also listening to Clairo and her debut album Immunity, who I got turned on to by the Song Exploder podcast. I can’t decide if she resonates with the 13 year old me still locked inside like something pustulent out of Rick & Morty or if she just has a nice voice and does interesting things with it. Either way, I keep coming back to it like the proverbial dog to its vomit…
Tom Burrows: FKA twigs – Magdalene – After hearing Magdalene in its full form, it’s hard for me to think that I wasn’t actually that excited about it at the start of the month. Though Twigs is one of my favourite artists, the bland, by-the-numbers R&B of lead single ‘Holy Terrain’ had my expectations significantly lowered for her first release in four years. Part of me thinks she did it for effect though, because most of her second album is up there with her best work. From the gently rising and falling opener ‘Thousand Eyes’, to stunning centrepiece ‘Mary Magdalene’, to the aching atmosphere of ‘Daybed’, it’s another triumph from an uncompromisingly brilliant talent. And a special credit to her taste in collaborators – particularly Nicolas Jaar, a kindred spirit whose influence can be felt on some of the finest moments.
Kathy Halliday: Lisa Hannigan – At Swim – ‘Hide your horses, hold your tongue. Hang the rich and spare the young…’
Perhaps best known for lending her soaring, bird-like vocals to Damien Rice’s O, Lisa Hannigan has come into her own in recent years. And rightly so – the haunting quality of her voice is impossible to resist, none more so than on her stellar 2016 album, At Swim. Hannigan brings a sense of calm before the storm, and I have fallen back in love with her this month. There is just something about the raw power of her harmonies on a dark walk home that really resonates with me at this time of year.
Mike Hull: Avalanche Party – 24 Carat Diamond Trephine – I’ve been enjoying the debut full-length from feisty Yorkshire garage-rockers Avalanche Party, 24 Carat Diamond Trephine. It’s a record of urgency that mixes up raucous indie rock, post punk, and full throttle garage. Tending to be dark and dirty but with regular doses of warmth, and glamesque charm rising through the noise, it never feels like a one trick pony. With a ton of transparent influences and nods to the likes of The Birthday Party, Iggy Pop and BRMC, it’s a record that’s unafraid of experimentalism as it is pop and can be as hauntingly beautiful as much as a drunken, dance about garage banger.
Fran Slater: Big Thief – ‘Shoulders’ – Okay. I know. I’ve been banging on about them again and again in this monthly feature. I’m not even sorry. If you haven’t listened to Big Thief yet, stop what you’re doing right now and go and listen to ‘Shoulders’ from their latest album Two Hands. A swirling crescendo, mesmerising lyrics, and a striking contrast between the verses and the chorus – it’s the perfect example of everything Big Thief excel at. It might be the best song of their career so far.