1. M. Ward - "Transfiguration Of Vincent": Following on from 2001’s brilliant “End Of Amnesia”, this beautiful, introspective album places Matt Ward at the forefront of new country’s miserabilists - lovely!
2. Calexico - "Feast Of Wire”: Calexico’s blistering live performance last December has ensured that this mariachi infused, border madness masterpiece is seldom off the Slow Boat stereo - a staff favourite!
3. Bonnie “Prince” Billy - "Master And Everyone”: Will Oldham is at his most musically accomplished on this low-key album. However, there is still plenty of Kentucky weirdness hidden in these lovely songs to please even the hardened ‘Palace’ fan - can’t wait for the new album in March!
4. Johnny Cash - "At Folsom Prison”: Lovingly reissued live performance from 1968, complete with rattling chains and guard announcements. This is Johnny at his very best, with the added bonus of extra tracks and great photographs - RIP The Man In Black.
5. Various Artists - "Young, Gifted And Black”: This latest repackaging of the Trojan ska/reggae catalogue is the best yet. This double disc is a fantastic selection of early reggae sounds featuring the best tracks from the best artists. A superb starting point for the uninitiated, yet still with enough rarities to whet the collector’s appetite.
1. Cody ChesnuTT - “The Headphone Masterpiece”: Monster 39 track double disc set of home 4 track recordings featuring the original ‘The Seed’ (as covered on The Roots ‘Phrenology’), and variously recalling Prince, Love, and Curtis Mayfield - contains SO much great music (along with some duff stuff and a lotta cussin’!) Raw but rewarding!
2. Magnet - “On Your Side”: Gorgeous, swooning, weightless, slide guitar-laden melancholia from Norwegian Even Johanssen. Sounds a bit like a-Ha (huge compliment!)
3. The Phoenix Foundation - “Horse Power”: If you haven’t done so yet, you really must get a copy of these young Wellingtonian’s excellent debut album. Great, mature songwriting (from a young band), a sense of playful adventure with arrangement, and a tantalizing hint as to what the future may hold…
4. Sun Kil Moon - “Ghosts Of The Great Highway”: Predictably, I think that the new album from Mark Kozelek (from one of my all time favourite bands, the Red House Painters) is rather superb. Gorgeous, plaintive melancholia, Neil Young-ish riffage, and Kozelek’s evocative words and voice - fabulous!
5. Ryan Adams - “Love Is Hell Pt 1”: Brilliantly sad-sack mini LP, reputedly rejected by Lost Highway (in favour of the fairly bad “Rock N Roll”, which I am now warming to…), before being granted a delayed release. Moody atmospherics (courtesy of co-producer John Porter), killer band (Ricky Fataar, Ian McLagen), and some of the best songs he’s written since “Heartbreaker”.