Valet - Nature (Kranky Records)
This quietly powerful album crept up on me but has ended up being one of my most listened-to new releases this summer. Honey Owens & co make extremely restrained, subtle but immersive music that I grudgingly suppose fits into a shoegaze-ish type of category; beautiful and haunting, fragile but never weak.
David Bowie - Young Americans (RCA)
My favourite Bowie album changes all the time; mostly it has been between Station to Station and Diamond Dogs, but recently it's been Young Americans. Notoriously a 'plastic soul' album, it has far more intense feeling hidden beneath its smooth surface than is usual in his 70s work, and he has arguably never sung better. It's somehow typical that possibly the best song on the album, Who Can I Be Now? is available only as a bonus track on the CD reissue. Possibly it felt too revealing to the wilfully enigmatic and chaotic Bowie of the mid 70s.
Myrkur - M (Relapse records)
Stupidly heralded by a pre-backlash, Myrkur's debut album can easily withstand the criticism (mostly not even music-related) thrown at it by her critics. Ulver-esque black metal, folk and classical influences and superb songwriting skills make for one of the black metal releases of the year. Look; if it's good enough for Garm (who produced it), it should be good enough for you. Unless you just don't like the music of course, which is fair enough.
Lee Brown Coye - Where Is Abby and Other Tales (Cadabra Records)
A genuine oddity, this album is a spoken word album of macabre stories by the American artist and writer Lee Brown Coye, whose writings have largely been overshadowed by the weird and expressive artwork he produced for pulp horror magazines. Both of these were only aspects of a large and fascinating talent though; hopefully more people will discover him through this release, which features readings by the great man's son.
Various Artists - Mongol Metal (Mongol Metal)
This compilation brings together the work of three folk-metal bands from Inner Mongolia and makes for an addictively familiar-yet-strange listening experience. The basic ingredients of folk metal - modern, mainly power metal with a pinch of extreme metal (blastbeats/raw vocals) plus elements of traditional folk music, in this case, Mongolian string and wind instruments and throat singing. It works surprisingly well, though, like all folk metal, it has a humorous aspect if not embraced as intended.
Horna - Hengen Tulet (World Terror Committee)
Horna have produced some of the best black metal of the last decade and their latest album is no exception. It hasn't replaced Sanojesi äärelle as my favourite Horna album, but then that is one of the greatest black metal albums ever; this one is still great though.
Alif - Aynama-Rtama (Nawa Recordings)
I didn't necessarily expect to like an album of unclassifiable music by Arabic musicians, but there is an addictive quality to the mix of unfamiliar (to me) sounds, sampling, funkiness, jazz and so forth.
Manierisme - フローリア (self release)
I LOVE Manierisme, but he/it is one those artists/bands who it is impossible to convince people to like. This demo is at once so noisy, so evocative, so extreme and so tuneful that it's kind of disorientating as well as immersive; it doesn't sound like anything else really; or rather it does; it sounds like Edwardian vaudeville music, WW2 broadcasts, martial marching music and extreme black metal all being played at the same time. Jekyll is some kind of genius to make it all work.
Le Butcherettes - A Raw Youth (Ipecac Recordings)
Le Butcherettes are always great; primal yet skilful Iggy-Birthday Party-Lunachicks type punk rock, when it works, is hard to beat, and when Le Butcherettes play it it always works; and that isn't all they play. And this time they actually got Iggy to croak along with Teri Gender Bender; what's not to like?
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Dress For Excess (EMI/Parlophone)
I have no excuses for loving SSS's second album; it's so 1988, so flimsy, Pete Waterman had a hand in it somehow; but I heard it at the time, liked it then and it still sounds like the future to me now. And it has a spurious kind of Blade Runner melancholy alongside all the recycled 50s riffs and pop-punk posing.
Chris Cornell - Higher Truth (Universal Music)
On the whole, Chris Cornell's solo career has been (to me at least) a patchy, hit & miss and sometimes pretty dull affair thus far. I've only been able to have a few listens but so far I love his new album; it's direct, moving, catchy, not bland and he sounds wide awake; great.
Now for the autumn...