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SEPTEMBER ALBUMS | MUSIC REVIEW

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Music Review

AMADOU & MARIAM ****

La Confusion (Because)

Their first studio album since 2012 – the same year in which Mali erupted in an ongoing civil war – Amadou & Mariam’s La Confusion is generally more of the same for the blind Malian husband-and-wife duo: a linguistic melange and a musical blend of traditional Malian elements and electronic music. While there’s little if any evolution in sound, it’s still exactly what people love A&M for. The album starts as it means to go on with Bofou Safou, a pure celebration of music, joy, and love. LOB

THE CADILLAC THREE ***

Legacy (Big Machine)

These Nashville natives are slowly but surely making a dent in the UK rock scene.  Southern American through and through, the country trio have their genre down to a tee, even if I was a little disappointed with the number of slower tempo tracks. Nonetheless, this impressive, self-produced 11-track album boasts some belters, Dang If We Didn’t and American Slang standing out on their own. Can’t wait to hear the tracks in a live venue. OS

CRADLE OF FILTH ****

Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay (Nuclear Blast)

The 12th album of a staggering 26-year career sees Cradle Of Filth exploring “the clandestine underworld of late Victorian England,” as ever-present vocalist Dani Filth puts it. It contains all the elements you could possibly want to hear from a Cradle Of Filth album, but their second release on Nuclear Blast sees them sounding more potent than they have in recent years. Theatrical black metal at its best. CA

Music Review

EL GOODO ****

By Order Of The Moose (Strangetown)

Fans of Welsh band El Goodo will be wondering about their eight years as a lesser-spotted wildebeest. Allegedly, their third album, with title inspired by graffiti in Neath, was protracted due to recording studio changes and sabotage by order of Viz annual chortles and tuneless harmonies. Thanks to sending the offending band member away on an orange squash run, they have lovingly produced 12 gems of golden 60s countrypop inspired by the Beach Boys and the Beau Brummels at their hummable best. CS

Music Review

ENTER SHIKARI ****

The Spark (Ambush Reality)

Given recent political divisions, it comes as quite a surprise to hear Enter Shikari, a band whose last album featured a song calling the then-PM a “fucking spanner,” deliver a personal album filled with plenty of positivity. The band’s political flair shows at times (the Brexit-themed Take My Country Back), but with song topics ranging from mental health to atoms, The Spark is the sound of a band with a lot to say constantly finding new ways to say it. AE

FINERY ****

Finery (Bubblewrap)

The first time I came across Cardiff duo Finery was at an awesome live set they played in the natural history galleries at the National Museum Cardiff, as part of the Museums At Night celebrations. Their dystopian electropop was perfect for the eerie atmosphere of a museum after dark. Combining the lyrical and vocal prowess of Jemma Roper with the clout of Charlie Francis’ production, this album is beautifully dark, intense and beat-filled. GT

Music Review

THE HORRORS ****

V (Wolf Tone)

The Horrors have ditched their gnarly psychedelic soundscapes for their fifth album, and replaced them with a King Tubby-meets-Tubeway Army uptown sound that is quite frankly magnificent. There is a dark sense of anxiousness to the subject matter of many of the songs, but at the same time producer Paul Epworth has ensured that there is a pop sensibility throughout, without smoothing the rough edges. V is an album that the Horrors have clearly surpassed their peers with. DN

Music Review

IRON & WINE *****

Beast Epic (Sub Pop)

Having taken a backseat from solo songwriting in recent years, this sixth LP entry from South Carolinian Sam Beam sees the one-man folk act jettisoning the grandiose production values of Ghost On Ghost and returning to the placid alt-country tone of his earlier work. Beast Epic goes full circle in revisiting such frayed earthy charm that initially brought Beam kudos, unafraid to embrace the inherent warmth and potential of stripped-back Americana where contemporaries such as Bon Iver may proverbially jump shark. CHP

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM ****

American Dream (Columbia/DFA)

Doncha just hate those bands who make a big show of breaking up and then gouge you for the price of a comeback album a few years later? Sure, in principle, but I never had much use for LCD Soundsystem in their latter years; this fourth album of theirs, though, is stellar beyond expectation, brimming with socially savvy sarcasm and shimmering spiked synths and PiL-gone-spacerock bits and an endearingly outdated lyric about moving to Berlin. Tonite and 12-minute closer Black Screen are the peaks among peaks. NG

Music Review

MARC ALMOND *****

Shadows And Reflections (BMG)

The ex-Soft Cell frontman’s latest CD brings back the ‘60s sound’ with songs by artists such as The Yardbirds, The Herd, Bobby Darin and Julie Driscoll. Almond’s voice has matured well and his vocals are unwavering and polished; the accompanying orchestral music adds another dimension to the pop of yesteryear and the three original tracks fit in seamlessly. Almond’s choice of covers has never been clichéd, which makes him an interesting performer. Shadows… is a treat – and not just for fans. LN

MARY EPWORTH ***

Elytral (Sunday Best)

Fans of nominative determinism will be delighted to hear that there is a good EP’s worth of music on Mary Epworth’s second album. The British producer has crafted Elytral as darkly gleaming electronic pop, but it only really comes together when the shackles are off: Gone Rogue and Last Night flip between synth weight and wriggly sax skronking, while Bring Me The Fever condenses discoid wigging out into three minutes of aceness. Rip those bangers, and not the sub-Goldfrapp remainder. WS

Music Review

MOGWAI ****

Every Country’s Sun (Rock Action)

From the subtle build of Coolverine to the explosive closer of the title track, Mogwai still have plenty of ideas even after over 20 years on the post-rock scene. This new album shows some influences from their recent soundtrack work with less of a focus on electronics than 2014’s Rave Tapes. Although their newer music often lacks the emotional punch and unexpected turns of older releases, it’s nevertheless consistently enjoyable, even if it doesn’t stack up among their best material. ML

MOUNT KIMBIE ****

Love What Survives (Warp)

For their third record, Mount Kimbie deliver a mellow and often beautiful 40 minutes of electronica, studded with guests and alive with ideas. Despite being recorded on a minimal synth setup, songs such as Audition have a depth and diversity that will reward repeat listens. Recurrent collaborator King Krule’s drawling vocals bring life to Blue Train Lines and James Blake’s rich tones grace two tracks on the LP, with closer, mournful slow burner How We Got By, the superior of the two and a standout on an album replete with highlights. HR

NOTHING BUT THIEVES ****

Broken Machine (Sony)

The Essex boys are back with their brand new album Broken Machine, a collection of raw, honest anthems that radiate rock charm. Reflecting the front cover, this album oozes a beautifully destructive sound, hitting listeners with its electric pulse: soulful and reflective anthems that carry a rock edge. Hit single Amsterdam demonstrates a gritty, sincere echo over a catchy, head-bobbing tune; a theme throughout the album. What’s beautiful about Broken Machine is that each song stands alone, in its own right. AC

Music Review

PARADISE LOST *****

Medusa (Nuclear Blast)

Continuing their return to their doom metal roots, West Yorkshire’s masters of misery Paradise Lost have hit gold here with an album full of punishing doom harking back to the sound first heard on Gothic and Shades Of God. Vocalist Nick Holmes is on fine form, as are guitar duo Aaron Aedy and Greg Mackintosh, who provide the crushing grooves as well as a healthy dose of searing goth melody. The finest doom metal album so far this year. CA

Music Review

PVRIS ****

All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell (Rise)

After some last minute production tweaks and a slight release delay, the highly anticipated second album from Pvris is here – always a tricky act to follow when your debut release is a corker. Opener Heaven is a beauty, along with following track Half; Walk Alone is stunning, while No Mercy stands out a mile. Nobody likes the pressure of following up a successful album with another but, aided by the vocal strength of Lynn Gunn, Pvris do just that. OS

REVEREND & THE MAKERS *****

The Death Of A King (Cooking Vinyl)

The sixth CD from the Sheffield rockers goes from 1970s vibe to old Siam via psychedelia – and was that a hint of reggae? No two songs are similar and each track stands out in its own right. Vocals are shared between Joe Carnell and Eddie Cousins but Laura McClure’s delicate voice on the nine-minute Black Flowers – albeit the least successful song on the album – is refreshing. Reverend & The Makers are one of the most versatile bands on the scene. LN

SPARKS ****

Hippopotamus (BMG)

Sparks have enjoyed an aesthetically lavish and artistically triumphant career without much major label-defined ‘success’, save two enduring hit singles, so kudos to BMG for picking up America’s archest pop brothers for their 23rd album. It’s a consummate delight: bombastic synthesised rock steeped in disco, chanson and musical theatre. Unlike the beast of the title track – a perfect children’s song, except with grownup references – who mysteriously appears in the Mael siblings’ swimming pool, Hippopotamus treads very little water during 55 minutes that fair fly by. NG

STARSAILOR ***

All This Life (Cooking Vinyl)

The fourth album from this post-Britpop four piece lacks the edgy element of their previous releases – which makes them now more pop than indie rock. Listen To Your Heart – described as, “an energetic, emotional song’ – is the single and the opening song to what is a smooth if slightly subdued 11-song album. There’s no denying that the band can play and Walsh’s vocals, when not entering falsetto territory, are easy on the ear. All This Life will please a mainstream audience. LN

WOLF ALICE

Visions Of A Life (Dirty Hit)

St. Purple & Green’s collage of gospel choir, guitar riffs and minimalist verses makes a good metaphor for Wolf Alice’s diverse second album. There’s some fine execution across the funkier sounds of ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ through to ballads like After The Zero Hour. While grungier moments aren’t as hook-laden as their debut, there’s no doubting singer Ellie Roswell’s conviction throughout. Not quite their giant peach yet, but Visions… shows Wolf Alice covering a lot of musical ground, and largely succeeding. AE

Music Review

ZOLA JESUS ****

Okovi (Sacred Bones)

Okovi, which sees Zola Jesus aka Nika Roza Danilova returning to the reliably great Sacred Bones label, might be inspired by suicidal and terminally ill friends and an obsession with serial killers, but don’t go expecting sombre gothic siren songs. While Danilova undeniably has a taste for the orchestral and operatic, she’s also as likely to namecheck Lady Gaga and Britney as Throbbing Gristle, and on this LP she repeatedly succeeds in crafting bold, gargantuan pop out of brutal, abrasive electronica. BW

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