Album of the Year? NAO’s “Grappling Hooks”

I know it’s early into 2010, but I received North Atlantic Oscillations debut album, Grappling Hooks,  a few days ago direct from the UK (what did we do before the web?). It has taken complete possession of my cd player, iPod, and car stereo. It begins with a two-minute track (Marrow) that sounds like it’s going to be a boring, drawn-out intro until some heavy drums kick in, and suddenly everything is blasting at once – drums, bass, guitar, synths, and an irresistible vocal hook. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it’s over. What follows are 10 songs that alternate between soft, Floyd-like passages, and full-bore synth & guitar aggression. The final track (Ritual) is a 7-minute epic that begins with chaotic mishmash of noise that gradually takes shape until it settles into a beautiful piano & vocal melody that inexorably builds into a pounding crescendo. There is a hidden 45-second track to close that is reminiscent of Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s mid-80’s work. All in all, a near-perfect album.