The latest from those neglected geniuses of the English north-west, I Am Kloot, feels as though it takes place in the vastness of the upper atmosphere.
I Am Kloot: Sky at Night
It's funny how history can repeat itself. For years, the Manchester band Elbow were the Cinderellas of British indie - long suffering and filled with promise, but denied the status they truly deserved. In 2008, however, they were finally allowed to go to the ball - by winning the coveted Mercury Prize for their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid. Two years later and the region's other neglected geniuses, I Am Kloot, have just been nominated for this year's prize. What's more, their fifth record was produced by two members of...Elbow. As the title suggests, the record feels like it's taking place in the vastness of Earth's upper atmosphere. The band's frontman John Bramwell writes songs that are fragile and tinged with sorrow - The Moon Is a Blind Eye, I Still Do and To the Brink - but the record is too elegant and complex to feel gloomy. There are celebratory moments, too. Lately directly references The Beatles with sudden bursts of harmonised vocals and horns, while Northern Skies sees Bramwell tread a similar emotional territory to Neil Young on his 2005 album, Prairie Wind. In fact many of the influences here seem to come from across the Atlantic, including Bob Dylan at his most romantic and Mercury Rev at their most mysterious. Many in the music world have (predictably) begun asking whether Sky at Night is good enough to earn I Am Kloot the recognition they truly deserve. The answer? Quite possibly.
The Black Crowes
(Silver Arrow) Twenty years after the release of their debut Shake Your Money Maker, the multi-platinum selling album that made the Atlanta, Georgia band the coolest purveyors of strutting, long-haired rawk in years, the Black Crowes have announced they are embarking on "indefinite hiatus", signing off with this two-CD acoustic retrospective. According to the band's frontman Chris Robinson (or as he's known in gossip mag circles, the former Mr Kate Hudson) it's a nod in the direction of Led Zeppelin III as well as an antidote to all their years of self-indulgence, and while such a mild offering may not be the most obvious farewell for a band one critic succinctly called "the Aerosmith it was OK to like", with 20 tracks (including JealousAgain and Remedy) lovingly stripped back and given new life for the price of a single album (as a thank you to their fans), this is a surefire Crowe crowd-pleaser.