Finisterre

More than 12 years deep into a career that initially suggested it wasn't meant to last longer than 12 minutes, Saint Etienne remain star-crossed idealists, rallying for international pop pluralism in an increasingly segregated culture that still refuses to make them the stars they should have become in 1990. Moments of stiff-backed defiance and melancholic resignation weave throughout Finisterre, their sixth long-player. "Action" reveals Sarah Cracknell cooing atop a deceptively upbeat club melody about the disappearance of like-minded friends and peers; between-song narrator Michael Jayston speaks of a "nostalgia for an age yet to come"; and the bleakly minimalist "The More You Know" invokes a faceless Euro-disco group possessed by the ghost of Joy Division. More so than any album since their debut, Foxbase Alpha, Finisterre is a travelogue of modern London life, only here the mood is of detachment and rain-soaked streets, rather than full-fledged engagement and the noonday sun. Like one of the other albums of the year, Comet Gain's brilliantly seething Réalistes, this is both a bitter indictment of a collective failure to embrace possibility - in music, in the mind - and a celebration of the ability to conjure a better reality simply by closing one's eyes and imagining. (Mantra)