- Palme – Ólöf Arnalds
The second fully English-language album from this Icelandic superstar, its luscious mixture of Reykjavik kaffihús style folk and Folk Rock arrangements creates one of the most intimate listens you’re going to find in contemporary music, just has her previous, exceptional albums have done. With a voice that evokes the ancient song traditions of her Viking past and also as confrontationally post-modern as early Björk, Arnalds is perhaps the world’s least known yet most captivating artists.
- Mini World – Indila
When you think that Indila was 30 years old before she became well-known, you wonder what the hell you were listening to for the last three decades. Mini World tells the story of modern France – one of lost glory, despair and retrospection, in the guise of impeccably crafted love songs that both lull and bang. Boasting heritage from Egypt, Camodia, India and Algeria, Indila fuses the many musical traditions of her lineage in a way that gives hope for a multi-cultural France in the 21st century. If you can think of any fusions of Pop and ‘World’ music to sell over 500,000 copies in the English-speaking world this year, let me know. When it comes to the face of ethnic diversity in mainstream music, France is still leading the way, and Indila is the queen.
- The Way I’m Livin’ – Lee Ann Womack
When Lee Ann Womack releases an album you don’t always know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be real. The Way I’m Livin’ is the album Womack always wanted to make, so it’s telling that so much of it deals with loss, being lost and losing your way. With this album though, you get the sense of an artist that has finally found herself. The arrangements are crisp, tender and in ‘Tomorrow Night In Baltimore’ quite simply kick-ass, but the theme throughout is the passionate, intensely authentic delivery of Lee Ann Womack’s vocals. Hailed by many as the best singer in Country music, lets hope that her new record deal with Sugar Hill will see her gain greater exposure outside of North America just as fellow label-mate Sara Jarosz has through the same outfit. If this album does one thing, it proves that Lee Ann Womack deserves it.
- Chaleur Humaine – Christine and The Queens
No, not a group, just one visionary singer-songwriter with an imaginery back up band that acts like both the devil and the angel on her shoulders. With themes covering gender-reassignment, escaping a crumbling town and the warmth of the human spirit, this half-English, half-French offering is one of the most intellectually and spiritually rewarding listens for many, many years.
- American Middle Class – Angaleena Presley
If you look for insight, humour and unforgettable melodies in your music purchases then Presley’s debut solo album has them all and knocks them out of the park. Channeling Loretta Lynn, George Strait and Rickie Lee Jones in equal measure, the songs here have textures, they have colours and they have soul. And if it’s a slice of human truth you’re after then be prepared to be upset, because the cutting realism in Presley’s set might give you more of those than you’re ready for.
- Platinum – Miranda Lambert
Whereas Revolution was Miranda Lambert’s torch song album, Platinum is the collection where this artist realises she’s got what she was looking for. You can tell this is an album by someone who has recently turned thirty, because gone are those angsty offerings like ‘Kerosene’ or ‘Only Prettier’, in favour of the re-assuredness of ‘All That’s Left (for you to do is leave)’ and the title track ‘Platinum’ (‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you blonder/and my heels and my hotels they just got taller/the thing about platinum irrefutably/ is it looks as good on records as it does on me.’) That pretty much says it all.