Elbow The Seldom Seen Kid

Dedicated to Bryan Glancy, the titular "seldom seen kid” and friend of the band who died in 2006, that tragedy permeates the best album these Manchester, UK natives have ever produced. Producing, recording and mixing their record with no outside help seems to have done the trick, as this is a wonderfully cohesive, mature and lush album that keeps surprising. "Starlings” makes great use of the dynamic contrast between the hushed vocals and the sudden brassy blasts, while "Mirrorball” and its sweeping strings might be the loveliest thing they’ve ever recorded. A slight anomaly from the measured pace of this album is the stomper single, "Grounds for Divorce,” but since it’s so much fun it’s not right to gripe too much. For a band who have made their career ruminating on loneliness and alienation, a song like "The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver” should feel like a retread but it’s not. Singer Guy Garvey’s voice is as deep and heartfelt as ever and the abundant instrumentation is absolutely heartbreaking. With a tone that is consistent and expertly composed, the lyrics may deal with the seldom seen kid but this definitely should be heard. (Polydor)