Alpha Sky Is Mine

This year has seen a full-fledged revival of the once maligned trip-hop genre, with return engagements from Portishead and Morcheeba, as well as second tier acts like Alpha. Once signed to Massive Attack’s aptly named Melankolic label, they staged an earlier comeback of sorts with 2003’s Stargazing (and have dropped several instrumental albums along the way). Though they’ve since lost several members and now consist of producer Corin Dingley (who recently helmed the debut from the Heavy) and singer-songwriter Wendy Stubbs, with an assist from pianist Peter Wild. But for their fourth vocal-based full-length, they’ve managed to maintain their dusted beats, ’60s orchestral flourishes, soaring strings and breathy-yet-tortured torch vocals formula. The best tracks, like the slow burning, big exploding "Burn Me Again” and "For the Wages,” make you forget it’s a formula at all, roping you into the musical melodrama. The album, which winds up pretty dark as these things go, also includes a second disc of remixes and instrumental bonus tracks. Sky is not a particularly original album but it’s plenty good enough to drop into a down-tempo DJ set, background a dinner party or soundtrack a break-up and/or breakdown. (Cat'n Roof)