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JUNE ALBUMS | MUSIC REVIEW

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Music Review

ALISON MOYET ****

Other (Cooking Vinyl)

Since Yazoo broke up in the early 1980s, Alison Moyet has gone on to sell millions of albums. Moyet has a voice that has a timeless appeal, with vulnerability that also packs a mighty bluesy punch – much like Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald at their best. Other is a slightly more experimental continuation from The Minutes album, that saw Moyet return to a synth-based sound. Good to have Alison Moyet back with yet another rather splendid album. DN

ALT-J **

Relaxer (Infectious)

With initial singles 3WW and In Cold Blood showing some promise, it’s sad to say that the rest of Relaxer doesn’t live up to the intrigue of those tracks. Surprisingly bland and forgettable, the experimental flourishes of the past are mostly absent. Ending a song with a cringeworthy call of rebellion and referencing Welsh mining drama How Green Was My Valley come off as uninspired. Give An Awesome Wave another spin and remember when Alt-J were actually exciting. ML

THE AMAZONS ****

The Amazons (Fiction)

The highly anticipated debut album from one of the most talked about up-and-coming bands in the UK – already included on the longlist for Radio 1’s Sound Of 2017 – doesn’t disappoint. Junk Food Forever is a fixture on radio stations at the moment and fair dos, it’s a beauty of a track. The grungy feel of Little Something is simply lovely, while frontman Matt Thomson is more than capable of an emotional touch on the reflective Raindrops. OS

ANATHEMA ***

The Optimist (Kscope)

Following on from 2014s triumphant Distant Satellites, Merseyside’s former doom rock champions turned indie rockers Anathema return with The Optimist, a new album which takes them further away from their original sound than ever. Taking inspiration from one of their own albums’ artwork, The Optimist is a semi-autobiographical collection of ambient rock, with an ever-present dark underbelly. The opening track gives you the co-ordinates of the beach in San Diego where the aforementioned photography was taken. Deep. CA 

ARVE HENRIKSEN ****

Towards Language (Rune Grammofon)

Henriksen, a Norwegian jazz trumpeter with a spoonably delicate tone and a truly rare skill for low-lit ambient compositions, links this album sonically to Places Of Worship – a 2013 album of his, and my personal introduction to him. While the comparison holds, the mood here is less eldritch dark than that release, more folk-informed. Henriksen’s two sidemen, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, providing melodic foil via guitar and electronics as miniature epics unfold and flesh out like timelapse footage of nature. NG

Music Review

BEACH FOSSILS ****

Somersault (Bayonet)

Along with contemporaries Real Estate, the Brookyln-based trio are one of the few standard-bearers remaining from an all-too-brief surf rock resurgence at the beginning of the decade. Somersault sees the outfit stand firm in this territory whilst embracing a breezy late-60s/early-70s Laurel Canyon vibe, with Saint Ivy and Social Jetlag proving particular standouts. Wistful use of a slide guitar on That’s All For Now further augments an expansive scope of style, which affirms the band’s capacity to transgress. CHP

THE CHARLATANS ****
Different Days (BMG)

The first Charlatans album not to feature the band’s late founding member and drummer Jon Brookes, Different Days sees the doors opened to some obvious collaborations (Johnny Marr, Paul Weller) and not so obvious (Sharon Horgan, Kurt Wagner). Percussion is provided for the most part by Stephen Morris and The Verve’s Pete Salisbury, and even with these inspired interlopers this is still very much a Charlatans record. As demonstrated here, they very rarely put a foot wrong. BG

Music Review

CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE & GRUMBLING FUR TIME MACHINE ORCHESTRA ***

Omminggg And Schlomminggg (Important)

Weighty collab action here, recorded in Denmark in 2015, between don of 20th century drone music, septuagenarian New Yorker Palestine, and young(er) British upstarts Grumbling Fur. In donning their Time Machine Orchestra hat, the latter duo cast aside their mannered 80s synthpop leanings for 50-plus minutes of powerful, earthmoving tonal tramsmissions. While Palestine’s piano and vocals are clear in the mix, GF’s instrumental approach – viola, harp, mandolin are all mentioned, melts all sounds into one, and does it with meditative grace. NG

DANIELE BALDELLI ****

Cosmic Temple – Chapters 1-6 (Mondo Groove)

Italy’s Daniele Baldelli has been throwing afro-funk, motorik, Brazilian grooves, and squelching synths together to create his unique cosmic disco for over 40 years now, and this extensive collection (18 tracks over six 12”s) is a good overview of the genre. Spaced-out disco and house rhythms overlaid with psychedelic vocals and African jazz create a heady brew. There’s little evolution from his earlier work here, but when the music is this good why bother changing it? DG

Music Review

DENAI MOORE ****

We Used to Bloom (Because)

Denai Moore has created an uncompromising album of impassioned music that credits its audience with a lot of intelligence. The backings are full of deconstructed r’n’b, hinting at grooves that rarely get going. This isn’t a bad thing. The subtle clicks and whistles over gentle sub-basslines highlight Moore’s strong vocals and melodic lines. Rich strings and gospel choirs are reminiscent of Björk and Mary J Blige, but make no mistake, this is pure Denai Moore, distilled. JPD

Music Review

HEY COLOSSUS *****

The Guillotine (Rocket)

Releasing two of the best albums of 2015 wasn’t enough for Hey Colossus: they’ve come along and released another absolute belter. Their third album on Rocket is loud, brooding and heavy with a hell of a lot of guitars. There’s also an awful lot of grace to this album as well. With lyrics that capture the crazy times we are living in and music so detailed you can but focus on it, this album shows that Hey Colossus are a cut above. GT

HOUSE AND LAND *****

House And Land (Thrill Jockey)

Lordy, this album is wonderful, more so for coming out of, apparently, nowhere. That isn’t literally true, obviously – House And Land, a duo with the wholesome names of Sarah Louise and Sally Anne, hail from North Carolina, and one of them was in the Jack Rose-affiliated Black Twig Pickers. As a debut release, though, it transfixes via Appalachian fiddle’n’banjo stylings, the heavenly country-fried vocal harmonies of the pair and an underlay of meditative Eternal Music drone. Probably the most distinctive Americana release of 2017; possibly the best, too. NG

LONDON GRAMMAR ****

Truth Is A Beautiful Thing (Metal & Dust)

London Grammar’s melancholic sound returns with this, their third studio album. Pre-released track Rooting For You is minimalistic, with a haunting vocal performance from Hannah Reid, while the likes of Wild Eyed and Hell To The Liars have deep emotional roots that benefit from subtle tempo changes. The natural progression is uplifting throughout as you find creeping elements of electronica, beginning with Bones of Ribbon. Altogether a surreal experience which requires you to be laying down with noise-cancelling headphones. CP

RICHARD DAWSON *****

Peasant (Weird World)

First album with a full band, or simply Richard Dawson’s logical ascension to pied piping, shamanistic cult leader? Peasant retains RD’s trademark mangled folk wanderings, wrought here as a series of medieval character sketches, but extra noises muscle in, as if from a creche or mental institution. Rattled drums, two-finger keyboard, whole choirs blasting through like mad sunshine: Peasant’s fusion of ancient and experimental is magical and moving throughout. Listen to Dawson’s gleeful hollering at the end of Ogre: he is free. WS

Music Review

SAINT ETIENNE ***
Home Counties (Heavenly)

As a Home Counties native, I’ll admit I’d never considered Surrey et al as obvious concept album inspo, but Saint Etienne have given it a go and it somehow kind of works. For long-term fans, Home Counties won’t disappoint; there is plenty of their trademark whimsy here, cut through with enough moody, sharper-edged moments (like lead single Heather) to stop it straying into twee. If you’re new to SE, think civilised, restrained indiepop for grown-ups. A bit like Surrey. MC

SIKTH *****

The Future In Whose Eyes? (Millennium Night)

As a newcomer to Sikth I was surprised and bewildered by this Morse code of metal. It takes some deciphering – there is much to unpick. But it’s an interesting journey and what at first might seem confusing and random is actually well planned and deliberate. Mikee Goodman’s demonic vocals are a little unnerving, but there are some great musical moments, and great theatre too in spoken tracks such as The Moon’s Been Gone For Hours. Quite strange but very exciting. LN

SWEET BABOO ****

Wild Imagination (Moshi Moshi)

As mechanisms for coping with contemporary life go, listening to Sweet Baboo’s new LP is one of the healthiest. Its gentle, childlike psych-pop – Gruff Rhys gone Brian Wilson – is full of escapist fantasy, envisioning a flight into the wild imagination of the title track or the wide-open airy expanse conjured up by ambient centrepiece Clear Blue Skies. And yet, as much as Stephen Black harbours dreams of getting away, he also hymns the simple pleasure of returning home to his three-year-old son’s smile (Hold On). BW

THE UNTHANKS *****

Diversions Vol. 4: The Songs And Poems Of Molly Drake (Rabblerouser)

Molly Drake (Nick’s mum) was also an artist and now you can hear her exceptional and exquisite work reinterpreted on one of the year’s best albums by The Unthanks. Breathtaking harmonies on What Can A Song Do To You? and I Remember, among others, with themes of remembering, loss, regret and sorrow but also of joy and hope. With thoughtful new arrangements and also poems read by actress/daughter Gabrielle, be prepared to have your heart broken and smile through tears from this amazing tribute. RLR

Music Review

VARIOUS ARTISTS ***

Pop Makossa – The Invasive Dance Beat Of Cameroon 1976–1984 (Analog Africa)

After plundering the musical archives of Nigeria and Ghana, African comps are venturing ever further for gold. As Analog Africa’s liner notes say here, “Long before football, makossa managed to unify the whole of Cameroon,” conjuring up the image of Roger Milla finessing his dance moves with an early 80s hairdo. Pop Makossa Invasion and Mussoloki hold up the funk end well, while Chic-y fluid basslines underpin cheeky synths on Ne Lambo, Ye Medjuie and M’ongele M’am. CS

WILD HONEY ****

Torres Blancas (Lovemonk)

Torres Blancas, the latest release from Madrileño Guillermo Farré, otherwise known by his pseudonym Wild Honey, is a soft and soothing record. A great artist to unwind to, the best way I can think of to describe Wild Honey’s sound is like a sleepy Belle & Sebastian, with Beatles-esque strings mixing with STRFKR synths giving it a somewhat surreal edge. With no potential hit single really standing out above the rest, the compositions work well together and complement each other perfectly. LOB

Music Review

ZERVAS & PEPPER ****
Wilderland (self-released)
This Cardiff duo once again give a cosy contemporary nod to the free and easy folk troubadours of 60s and 70s America.Adopting a more acoustic approach, the overall tone is noticeably lighter than much of their previous work. Input from acclaimed LA musician/producer James Raymond also adds a significant measure of ingenuity to their already burgeoning songwriting craft. One could only wish that there were a few more upbeat numbers, though the breezy celestial atmosphere still makes for a stellar record. CPI

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