Radiohead – In Rainbows
There are seamless gear changes throughout In Rainbows that suggest a band less interested in excluding than including us in their magic. There is no dud track, no excessively clever-messy moment and no angst-heavy sentiment.
There is only mastery and beauty. Thom Yorke’s voice has never been more haunting nor more magnificently supported; Johnny Greenwood’s riffs in Weird Fishes/Arpeggi and Reckoner are inspired, Phil Selway’s percussion throughout is mesmerising.
The best of the Kid A/Amnesiac electro is still present, with strange twitches and clicks, hums and whirrs giving 15 Step and Jigsaw Falling Into Place a dark, fidgety magic. Elsewhere, on Nude and the closing track Videotape, Radiohead strip everything down and deliver two of their most breathtaking songs to date. It might be Radiohead’s most inexpensive album, but it may well also be their most valuable.
Bruce Springsteen – Magic
There are two Bruce Springsteens. There is the stonewashed jeans, open shirt, cowboy-boot-stomping, protesting Springsteen of old, and there’s the ponderous, weathered old uncle he’s become.
Reuniting with the E Street Band for the first time since The Rising, Springsteen turns from moody acoustics and songs about tramps and prostitutes to big, cheerful stadium shakers with a generous amount of na-na-nas for the crowds to sing along to.
The Boss has always had something more to offer than bread and butter rock, and Magic is no exception. Radio Nowhere, Livin’ In the Future and Long Walk Home are the brawn, while Gypsy Biker, Girls in Their Summer Clothes and Magic the brains.
What results is a rich collection of muscle and mood, strength and subtlety, showing at times not just the best of the musician Springsteen was, but of the refined crooner he has become. Springsteen might be one more album away from getting both Bruces to love each other fully, but Magic comes tantalisingly close.
The Hives – The Black and White Album
When The Hives arrived five years ago, dressed in matching suits and armed with one of the year’s most memorable songs, Hate To Say I Told You So, they were welcomed as saviours of punk rock. Then it all went a bit quiet.
The Hives wouldn’t have understood why; such is their immense confidence in their music that they titled their debut Your New Favourite Band.
So after a mediocre sophomore album it was crucial that number three was nothing short of the dog’s bollocks. They can relax; The Black and White Album is a fantastic record. Opener Tick Tick Boom will do on the charts what Hate to Say… did and with at least eight of the remaining 13 tracks right on the money, The Hives are once again (almost) as good as they think they are, which is very good indeed.