City Vibes

 |  September 30, 2009

[left][/left]The xx are creating quite a storm with their eponymous album which drips with the influences of seminal acts the Cure, Joy Division and New Order. But this is very much a cutting edge release for 2009, a sophisticated, melodic album that reverberates with both melancholic urban flavour and effortless indie creativity. Tracks such as ‘Basic Space’ enchant with unorthodox structures, whilst ‘Islands’ absorbs with dexterous chords and ‘Crystalised’ pulsates with originality. The xx is one of those ‘firestarter’ moments when the purity of grassroots musicianship smashes through the barriers of formulaic conservatism, asks the paymasters to pay close attention and then flagrantly ignores their overtures.

[left][/left]The Arctic Monkeys are proving themselves to be one of the most exciting British acts of modern times. Their Mercury prize winning debut was an instant classic, a veritable panoply of exciting, youthful tracks that referenced furtive flirtations on sweaty dance floors and the gobby egotism of the alco-pop swilling braggart. Following the difficult second album, a less innovative affair, but an accomplished smack-in-the-mouth to critics eager for the Arctics to freeze, Humbug is a darker, more mature catalogue of finely crafted songs that out-shines its contemporaries with virtuoso rhythms and witty, observational lyrics, set loose on the listener by the enduringly brilliant vocalist Alex Turner.

[left][/left]Those with memories longer than that of a giant Mekong catfish will recall my salivation over Amadou and Mariam’s album Welcome to Mali earlier this year. It remains one of the most inspiring and uplifting musical treats to date, guaranteed to inject even the most jaded wingers into a spasm of tree-hugging ecstasy. The Magic Couple offers some well-needed context to A&M’s meteoric rise with a collection of the duo’s earlier tracks before they were rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chris (philanthropisstaker) Martin. This blissful retrospective bestows on the listener A&Ms trademark funk-soaked Malian rhythms, catchy harmonies and addictive percussion whilst demonstrating the subtle building blocks that expedite a talented band’s ascent to the summit of musical artistry.