RATING: 4 out of 5

One of the biggest bands in the world releases one of the most anticipated albums of the year this month, amid many questions around whether they’ve still got it, and whether they can continue to deliver 30 years into an extremely distinguished career.

Horizon is the twelfth album of U2’s career, as well as their seventh with producer Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.

In a first for the group, they allowed the production pairing of Eno and Lanois to be fully involved in the songwriting of the record, and the result seems to be a modern, dance-pop feel, that works at times, but completely misfires at others.

Fear not, however. For every moment of Eno-influenced pop on “Moment of Surrender” or “White as Snow”, there are a dozen moments where the group head back to their proven guitar-based formula, like on first single “Get On Your Boots” or second track “Magnificent”, one of the highlights on the record.

Between the familiar stylings of The Edge and Bono, it’s hard to mistake a U2 album for anything other than a U2 album, and No Line on the Horizon is no exception. Is it among their best? No. But it’s still pretty damn good.

RATING: 4 out of 5

One has to wonder about the sense in a band releasing a retrospective titled Love Songs, when arguably everything they’ve ever written seems to have been based around the idea of love anyway.

Nonetheless, the Birmingham-based reggae band named for an unemployment benefit application form issued by the British Department of Health and Social Security, who announced the departure of unmistakeable lead singer Ali Campbell in January 2008, have enough tracks to fill up a dozen retrospectives.

As you might expect, Love Songs shows off a selection of the best tracks by the group with singer Campbell, from 1985 hit single “I Got You Babe” with Chrissie Hynde (a famed cover of the Sonny and Cher classic) to 2005’s “Kiss and Say Goodbye”, covering off everything in between.

Fantastic tracks like “Homely Girl”, “Come Back Darling”, “Breakfast in Bed”, “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”, and even the Robert Palmer led single “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”, rounded out nicely with the gorgeous 1989 single “I Would Do For You”.

UB40 are extremely popular in this country, and this album succeeds in showing the legacy of a group who are among the most memorable acts in the reggae movement.

ARTIST: This Theory of Static
RATING: 4.5 out of 5

One of the most electrifying (pun intended) new releases of the month come from a little known Auckland-based act signed to a little known Auckland-based independent label.

This Theory of Static started life as the solo project of singer Dean Young, but expanded to a full 4-piece band in recent times, resulting in Electricity, the first album made together, but third album overall.

Starting off with brilliant opener “Set the Controls”, Electricity is 12 tracks of some of the more innovative music you’ll hear from a Kiwi band this year, or any year for that matter.

While the groups sound does touch on a wide range of influences, it never imitates, instead relying on the guitar work of Jerome Buckleigh and singer Young, and a tight rhythm section, to really give the record personality.

Sure, theres a guitar lick or a vocal line reminiscent of A Perfect Circle, Deftones or even U2 here and there, but it never gets stuck in that mold. First single “In Absentia” is testament, with Young’s vocal work melting over a gentle, yet intense, guitar riff before closing out with a powerful chorus. Rock fans, this is one album you won’t want to miss.