Zoobombs - Dirty Bomb
By specialising in hyperactive, spazzy rock, with bursts of electronica, noise and J-pop liberally scattered throughout, Japan's Zoobombs have created a handful of incredibly exuberant, funky and unusual albums that are just a joy to rock out to, and Dirty Bomb would be my pick for their finest work. Like all their albums, this one is criminally underexposed, and fans of wild 'n' weird Japanese pop/rock groups like Polysics and Pizicato Five are likely to enjoy it. Favourite tracks on this release are "Born Wild Girl", "Some Gangs", "Winner's Ballad" and - one of my all-time favourite songs - "Doo Bee".
Jurassic 5 - Quality Control
Fantastic collective hip-hop that has that wonderful old-school party vibe running through it. The rapping is top-notch, although out of Jurassic 5's four emcees Chali 2na steals the show every time he shows up, thanks to his transfixing baritone delivery. Just check out his awesome first verse on the title track. The beats are tight and consistently attention-grabbing, and some playful sampling rounds the whole package out. Confident, never entirely serious and an absolute blast to listen to, Quality Control is one of those great albums that knows what it wants to be and then succeeds spectacularly in achieving that goal.
Cerberus Shoal - Crash My Moon Yacht
(experimental, post-rock, minimalist prog)
Cerberus Shoal's music is a mutation of post-rock which incorporates avant-garde minimalism, jazz, ambient and progressive-rock, a version of the genre that relies more on eerie, alien sound textures and moody atmospherics than the overwrought gravitas and crescendos for which it has become known. Creative, pretty and occasionally just a little unsettling, Crash My Moon Yacht is an otherworldly lullaby.
Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of Bewilderbeast
An exciting, lively and earnest collection of pop-tinged singer-songwriter tunes, combining to form an excellent debut that's full of (as it turned out, unfulfilled) promise. Damon Gough treads through a lot of stylistic ground on The Hour of Bewilderbeast, touching on unexpected genres, utilising creative instrumentation and playing around with song structures, and as a result the album has a really appealing, shambolic streak running through it. There's plenty of highlights, but "Once Around the Block", with its wah-wah guitar and jangly melodies, is a personal favourite.
Jedi Mind Tricks - Violent by Design
Jedi Mind Tricks are an unusual little outfit. True to its name, Violent by Design features some abrasive, guttural delivery and content which detours into the offensive with fair regularity, but combines these aspects with crisp beats, noirish production and a flair for surprisingly geeky sampling, pulling snippets from Pi, Stephen Hawking, Hulk Hogan, Latin music, cult film dialogue and old soundtracks (to name just a few sources of many). It's a strange fit, slightly reminiscent of Wu-Tang's combo of aggressive raps, kung-fu references and Eastern mysticism, but it does work, provided the album's more overtly disturbing moments don't bother you too much. I really didn't expect to like this album, but it won me over with surprising ease.