McFLY: The Heart Never Lies A slow-burning build-up that finally ignites and catches fire – and when it does it sounds instantly familiar.
BEVERLEY KNIGHT: Queen Of Starting Over Sheer soul spendour that harkens back to Motown’s heyday. She puts everything into the performance as usual.
RICHARD HAWLEY: Serious A charming, incredibly soft rockabilly love song that should be fast-tracked into the charts it’s that good. The ethos behind the song is this. When you’re in love, life’s great and when you’re not, it’s not. The blue moon guitar washes suggest the second.
SUZANNE VEGA: Ludlow Street This is all about life in New York post 9/11 and the arrangements capture the sweeping rhythm of the place. It’s bittersweet with a dark, strangely compelling charm. Ludlow Street was where she went to a lot of parties – but in later years where she picked her brother up to take him to rehab. He later died.
AMY MACDONALD: LA Following up the phenomenal success of Mr Rock & Roll takes some doing, but she’s done it. After a slow start it suddenly bursts into life and becomes a melodic strummer hummer.
DAVID FORD: Songs For The Road There’s such a depth – lyrically, spiritually and musically – to this album with Ford casting a world-weary eye to subjects close to his heart. It starts off ultra-powerful Go To Hell that begins like a chamber orchestra and finishes with total self-flagellation. Ford is one of those songsmiths where the more you listen, the more you hear. The new single, Decimate, is a kind of love song – if the love’s going through a tough time. As the album goes along it takes on a more troubadouring – even folky – feel with the cracked, deeply introvert ballad I’m Alright Now and finishes with ... And So You Fell, a heartbreaking homage to a friend who committed suicide.
STEREOPHONICS: Pull The Pin The torchbearer for this was the shimmering, instant rock anthem It Means Nothing – one of the best songs of recent times – that hits the senses in waves. Don’t be fooled. The rest isn’t like it, more husky rock howls with even a punk and white guitar noise rearing their not-so-pretty heads. But they’ve not lost the gentle art of balladeering or their acoustic touch.
ALI CAMPBELL: Running Free The UB40 frontman teams up with rhythm masters Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare along with singers such as Lemar, Mick Hucknall, Katie Melua and Smokey Robinson to do a mix of originals and covers. For all that talent, you just don’t feel the sound ends up with that full-bodied depth that’ll blow your speakers.