Voices

It came as a shock last weekend to discover that among my fellow punters at a folk concert back in November 2012 was David Cameron. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister slyly hinted at the hipness of his musical tastes by revealing how he and Samantha snuck into a First Aid Kit gig as the Shepherd Bush Empire. Until then, I had flattered myself that I had a cool and recherché appreciation of music, and that hopefully I had avoided the pretentious music so often accompanied by the word “recherché”.

Album: Tori Amos, Midwinter Graces (Universal/Island)

For a festive album with a difference, it's time to vote Tori

Yusuf, National Indoor Arena, Birmingham <br/>My Life Story, Koko, London

At 61, his voice can still break you to pieces, while a nearly band from the '90s are already ripe for revival

Album: Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More (Universal/Island)

Buzz aside, are M&S (and Noah & the Whale, for that matter) anything more than posh kids who've suddenly discovered, that, actually, folk music is, like, really good, actually?

Mumford &amp; Sons: There's nowt so cool as folk

"So is folk now, like, cool with the kids?", I heard someone ask on my way out of last night's astonishing Mumford & Sons show at Scala.

Album: Noah And The Whale, The First Days of Spring (Mercury)

Barely a week goes by these days without the appearance of yet another concept album about a failed love affair, with efforts from La Roux and Frankmusik followed here by Noah and the Whale's account of their frontman and songwriter Charlie Fink's break-up with Laura Marling.

The Word On... Wilco, Wilco (the album)

"Could be described as Wilco in meat-and-potatoes rock'n'roll mode ... But structurally, the album is cleanly cleaved between the sing-along Wilco and the freeform Wilco. When the former begins to overcome the latter, the album suffers." - Noel Murray, avclub.com

Album: Wilco, Wilco (The Album), (Nonesuch)

Wilco (The Album) opens with "Wilco (The Song)". So what, then, is Wilco (The Verdict)?

Album: Wilco, Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch)

With the magnificent Wilco (the album), Wilco (the band) reach the point that REM were at around the time of Automatic for the People: a group at the peak of its powers, offering hope and consolation in the face of growing discord, and an undimmed faith in the transformative power of rock'n'roll.

Album: Various Artists, Meet on the Ledge: an Island Records Folk-Rock Anthology (Island)

Rarely can a record label's 50th anniversary have been quite as lavishly celebrated as Island's, but then rarely has a record label actually merited such celebration as Island.

Album: Yusuf, Roadsinger (Island)

Just as he had to get past the songs on Mona Bone Jakon in order to get to the material for his major breakthrough with Tea For The Tillerman, explains Yusuf, so did he have to work through the songs on his comeback album An Other Cup in order to reach the more satisfying condition represented by Roadsinger.

Album: The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love (Capitol)

Sometimes, a good idea isn't quite enough. Always a fan of 1960s British folk-rock and prog, Decemberists songwriter Colin Meloy was inspired to create this concept album by hearing Anne Briggs's rare 1966 EP The Hazards Of Love.

Album: The Leisure Society, The Sleeper, (Willkommen Records)

Although it's 15 years since guitarist Nick Hemming and then-vocalist-now-film-maker Shane Meadows broke up their band, the pair still share a similarity of vision: unflinching clarity and a sense of longing for the kitchen-sink-real England and America of the recent past.

Album: The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love, (Rough Trade)

A 17-song folk-rock opera complete with overture, children's choir, reprises, motifs and mythic and mundane themes... just another record from Portland's finest, then.

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