Reviews of good albums we overlooked this year...
Emma Pollock spent a decade as singer and guitarist in the well-respected Scottish quartet the Delgados and released a modestly pleasing solo debut in 2007. But she raised the stakes considerably this March with "The Law of Large Numbers," a 12-song set that weaves influences from Ray Davies to Kate Bush to the Go-Betweens and makes for the perfect salve in a year when countless heavily reverbed girl groups clanged onto year-end best-of lists.
Arranged precisely around Pollock's tenderly keening vocals, the musical settings oscillate from indie pop ("Confessions," "Letters to Strangers") to sinewy folk rock ("Hug the Harbour," "Red Orange Green") to penetrating piano ballads ("House on the Hill").
The tug of Pollock's lyrics, the sweep of her choruses and the easy grace of her singing aren't easy to pick up at first. In fact, the songs are so well-arranged - not a stray note or straggly rhythm anywhere - that the emotional heft of a song such as "I Could Be a Saint" takes multiple plays to expose its gorgeous, heartbreaking lilt: "How you gonna make me pay/when I've given all I have away?" Pollock asks. And it isn't an idle boast. Every drop of her heart seems invested in this shimmering, hard-to-shake recording.