The Guardian Indie

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  1. (Anti-)

    Jeff Tweedy’s band Wilco have become synonymous with experimentalism and sonic adventures. However, this first instalment in a planned series of acoustic sessions continues the more stripped-down trajectory which began with 2014 solo debut, Sukierae. This time, Tweedy revisits his own labyrinthine back catalogue for 11 songs spanning occasional projects Loose Fur and Golden Smog as well as Wilco. Delivering them with just guitar and harmonica, Neil Young style, really exposes their vivid imagery and inner beauty. Laminated Cat is completely transformed from a bluesy jam into a wistful gem in which Tweedy sings of “love left over from lovers leaving” and books that are “not worth reading”. Tweedy also finds more intimate delights in Muzzle of Bees and In a Future Age. The unplugged format can get samey, but his delicate guitar playing is a joy and Via Chicago’s presumably metaphorical opening line, “I dreamed about killing you again last night”, never sounded more lovely.

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  2. OK Computer offered an eerily clairvoyant vision of digital angst and alienation. Twenty years on, this reissue reveals just how unusual it was

    In 1996, during sessions for their third album, Radiohead recorded a track called Lift. Like much of their new material, it had first been performed during a disastrous American tour that same year, supporting Alanis Morissette. But unlike the other new songs Radiohead had played, Lift had gone down well. Listening to it on the 20th anniversary reissue of OK Computer, you can see why: it is blessed with an immense, air-punch-inducing chorus. The thing is, Lift is on the second disc, the one filled with B-sides and outtakes. Knowing they had a huge, self-evident hit on their hands, Radiohead deliberately left it off the album they were making.

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  3. (Wichita)

    For a genre that had shuffled out of the spotlight by the mid 90s, shoegaze is in remarkably rude health in 2017. Two months on from the well received return of Slowdive comes another assured effort from one of the genre’s big beasts, Ride, releasing their first album in 21 years.

    But where Slowdive’s new self-titled album felt like a meticulously preserved rendition of the feedback-swaddled sound the band were producing in their heyday, Weather Diaries sees Ride broaden their horizons. Producer Erol Alkan (he of Boyz Noise and legendary club night Trash fame) has buffed the band’s sound to an appealing sheen, bringing out a sense of melody that previously could only be glimpsed through the fuzz. The result is an album that strides confidently between garage rock (Lateral Alice), ambient (Integration Tape) and even prog (lead single Charm Assault). It’s all tidily done, and there’s barely a misstep, but it’s notable that the album’s two best tracks – the woozy jangle of Cali and the skyscraping closer White Sands – are the ones that trade on the band’s shoegazy past glories. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

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  4. (Virgin EMI)

    In a world of received-pronunciation indie, wispy club-track warbling and London Grammar, it’s great to have Beth Ditto back, with her decibels to rival Aretha Franklin and flotilla of sequinned sizzle. Her first solo album since the Gossip split retells her familiar story of Arkansas gal-done-good, running the gamut of classic 1970s and 80s pop – Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, Suicide, Paul Simon – alongside the odd angular stomper that nods to the Soulwax remixes of her former band.

    Brilliantly, some songs have the effect of Trentemøller’s electro-rockabilly with Ditto as Tarantino heroine, while elsewhere Stevie Nicks dominates, especially on the title track, which coolly updates Mac with a Balearic house beat. There’s even a rock ballad moment on Lover, as if Ditto is alone on a saloon stage until the backdrop falls away to reveal the stadium.

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  5. (Warner Bros)

    The only guitar band on the BBC’s Sounds of 2014 list, the Brighton drums and bass (as opposed to drum’n’ bass) duo Royal Blood hit No 1 with their debut album and acquired a celeb fan in Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Repeating the feat hasn’t been easy: this is an archetypal difficult second album. Hard riffola, cannon fire drumming and glam preening again ignite songs pitched somewhere between Queens of the Stone Age and Muse.

    The duo hurl everything at them – harmonies, killer bass sounds, presumably the studio’s kitchen sink – but the tunes aren’t nearly as strong as, say, the first album’s Ten Tonne Skeleton. Although delivered with intensity, the most banal lyrics read like limericks: “She drags me by one finger, to her lips, hook line and sinker.” At less than 35 minutes, How Did We Get So Dark? lasts longer than the Ramones’ debut – and indeed Royal Blood’s own – but this time out they seem worryingly short on new ideas.

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