The latest releases reviewed

In Ghost Colours
Cut Copy's 2004 debut, Bright Like Neon Love, showcased a band rather boringly in thrall to French house. In Ghost Colours, by happy contrast, is nothing short of a masterclass in how to combine regulation dancefloor templates with indie ensemble spontaneity. Producer Tim Goldsworthy has clearly been worth his weight in, well, gold. Not alone has he emboldened the Australian trio to experiment with My Bloody Valentine-style randomness, thus taking them beyond the overly clinical ethos of their earlier work, he has also persuaded frontman Dan Whitford to go easy on the cheesy vox effects. Standout track Unforgettable Seasonis the most enchanting song this reviewer has heard since The Immediate's Let This Light Fill Your Eyes. Think an amalgam of New Order, ABC and Daft Punk, with Bob Geldof's French cousin on vocals and Kevin Shields on production. Yum.
Download tracks: Unforgettable Season, Lights & Music

Vantage Point

Before the Dewaele brothers shook things up, Deus were easily the most interesting Belgian musical export. The follow up to 2005's erratic Pocket Revolution, Vantage Pointis an even more obvious attempt at crowd-pleasing rock than its predecessor. Time has not been kind to Tom Barman's creative instincts. The vulnerable quirkiness that set his lyrics apart has been replaced with a contrived, grating machismo. Over-produced and under-written, the likes of When She Comes Downand The Architectare crying out for a definable melody. Guest appearances from Elbow's Guy Garvey and The Knife's Karin Dreijer Anderson fail to lift the album above mediocrity. With Barman and Klaas Janzoons the sole remaining original members and without Craig Ward's subtle touches or Stef Kamil Carlens manic influence, Deus have become the antithesis of everything their 1990's art-rock selves stood for.
Download Tracks: Slow, Smokers Reflect

Spectre and Crown

Pilatus Records
A piano chimes like a clock before a soundtrack typical of Nick Cave's westerns strikes up. Thus, The Jimmy Cake introduce their unforgettable third album. Line-up re-jigs and a half-decade hiatus have led to an extraordinary blossoming. Nine members plus a string quartet and brass section equals an orchestral ambush of multiple genres. Each track is built up steadily with gradients of sound to produce atmosphere in spades. What comes off most is the sheer elasticity of the group as musicians. There are intricate crests and troughs, instruments added and subtracted and the odd trademark crescendo. The Day The Arms Came Out of the Wallcelebrates its post-rockism and the repetitive piano of Haunted Candleis worthy of Steve Reich. Clarinets, pianos and strings billow out over 54 sublime minutes of what is their best work yet.
Download Tracks: Jetta's Place, The Art of Wrecking, Red Tony


French Kiss

It's all about the strum, and when DoDos guitarist Meirc Long goes hell-for-leather with his acoustic plucking, you really have to check that you've strapped yourself in. Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber are The DoDos, a San Francisco duo whose second album is an extravagant riot of kick-out-the-jams punky blues. Sure, they try out plenty of other styles for size - they take a liking to a gospel flourish here or set their hats at a countryish route there - but, like many inventive American musical explorers of late, they always come throbbing and thundering back to the blues. What's noticeable, too, is how their song-writing is already so coherent and rounded. Foolsand Jodiare ear-grabbing tunes whose melodies artfully flaunt their pop credentials. Yet the duo also have an experimental streak - tracks such as The Seasonand Godshow that the DoDos can also go deep and wide with the best of them.
Download tracks: Fools, The Season

The Tiny Pieces Left Behind

If there's a man who's been around the musical block, it's Joe Chester. Between Sunbear, Sound of Bells and Tenspeedracer, he has worked both sides of the recording desk. His 2005 debut was a quiet, acoustic affair, but here he has opted to fill those previously unplugged spaces, using broader strokes. Quite often, it works, as with the jangly harmonies of Something Is Better (Than Nothing At All)or the sub-Elliott Smith riffs and vocals of The Right Place. The double-tracked vocal of To Hold Onto Melting Loveonly reinforces the bittersweet message, and a handful of talented contributors (Ann Scott, Gemma Hayes) wander in and out adding flourishes. The Tiny Pieces Left Behindcan feel like an uneven journey, thanks to a tendency towards pedestrian guitars, but fans will be delighted.
Download Tracks: The Right Place, To Hold Onto Melting Love

For Emma, Forever Ago

Here's proof that all songwriters could benefit from spending a few winter months in a remote cabin in the wilds of Wisconsin. That's where Justin Vernon found himself after his previous band called it a day, and where he found the inspiration for this set of eerie, elegant and enigmatic songs. But those blurry, broken-hearted, scarred songs are only half the story - there's also Vernon's haunting, distinctive voice to take into account. His voice emphasises and underlines the emotions, sweeping in waves of intrigue on The Wolvesor shuttling you towards the more sinister side of ambience on Creature Fear. The songs themselves are masterly puzzles, crafted by Vernon to mirror just what was going through his mind during those cabin-bound months. You're unlikely to hear finer examples of introspective splendour for some time to come.
Download tracks: The Wolves, Creature Fear

Chameleon Blues

As befits the native of a seaside resort town, Rebecca Collins knows all about songs that stretch away towards the distant horizon. Helped by an excellent band (including Justin Carroll, Kate Ellis and Sean Carpio), the Tramore-born singer has produced a debut album that waltzes around moods, shades and shadows. Throughout this thoroughly likeable affair, the assembled musicians polish a series of dark, intricate and occasionally idiosyncratic songs into smart and approachable tunes. The problem, though, is that the songs are too often similar in tone and pitch to each other. There's an over-dependance on Collins's voice to carry the day, rather than letting some off-kilter arrangements or melodies state their case. (Listen to the title track for an example of how this is done). A more daring hand on the tiller might well have steered these songs into stranger waters.
Download tracks: Chameleon Blues, Ghost Inside