Doesn't this always happen? Just as you've decided on your festive ten along come two releases that compete for top slot.
the first I was expecting. it's the five track EP by the wonderful Smoke Fairies - two girls from Sussex whose English folk sound is filtered through Nashville and the Mississippi Delta - Frozen Heart. Just five tracks (download only as far as I can tell) but each one beautifully played with shimmering vocals. Well worth checking out at less that £3.50.
The other came via the Word's best music of the decade free CD. It's the Decemberists' The Hazards of Love. Shock horror, it's a concept album or at least a suite of songs about a love affair with lots of finely honed musing on the nature of love. The band boasts one of the best rhythm sections I've heard in a good while - languid bass (both upright and electric) with inventive brushed and sticked percussion that keeps the time signatures beautifully fluid.
Song writer, Colin Meloy, is full of pastoral lyricism and wonderful tunes. With vocals shared by him and - I assume - keyboardist Jenny Conlee, this is a sweet confection indeed, if an album boasting a storming murder ballad (The Rake's Song) and such foreboding about the doom as well as the ecstasy of love, can be called a confection. Available everywhere for a song! Check it out.