The festival season is grinding to a halt, and we're now sat waiting for the inevitable avalanche of albums released in the run-up to Christmas. And nestling in amongst the big names is a little gem that I think could well be the finest album of 2008.
The vocalist of the cult 'Brechtian Punk' act Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer may not be a household name, but her debut solo record Who Killed Amanda Palmer is the most extraordinary 53 minutes I've heard all year. There's been some cracking albums released during 2008 - Bon Iver, Portishead, and Guillemots all spring to mind - but, for me, this eclipses them all.
Produced by Ben Folds, and featuring guest spots including Annie Clark of St Vincent and East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys, each song fizzles with an emotional intensity that proves incredibly addictive. Think Regina Spektor at her deranged best (who appears on Folds' upcoming album, funnily enough), or Tori Amos at her most confessional, and you're about halfway there.
Whether it be the opening pound of Astronaut, the wistful waltz of Ampersand or even a showstopping cover of the Carousel standard What's The Use Of Wond'rin (which features Annie Clark on lead vocals with Palmer apparently softly weeping in the background), each song reaches through the speakers and grabs you by the scruff of the neck.
The lyrics too are intriguing - Runs In The Family talks of fear of a hereditary disease, Guitar Hero looks at the addictive nature of videogames, while Oasis sounds positively perky until you realise it's about a girl who becomes pregnant after a date-rape and a letter from the Mancunians of the title is the only thing that's keeping her upbeat.
The highlight though is Leeds United - a brass-band fuelled stomp with the glorious chorus of "who needs love when there's Law & Order, who needs love when there's Southern Comfort" - Palmer's rasping voice sounding almost at the point of collapse. Quite what the Elland Road team have to do with things is another matter entirely.
Some tracks are streaming at her MySpace page and a full review will obviously follow on the site, but this was the first album in a while that I've been genuinely excited to listen to. It's probably too quirky to be a big hit, but if you love the aforementioned Folds, Spektor or Clarke, it's well worth checking out.