Sunday, 29 April 2012

Music Report - April 2012 Part 1

Orbital – Wonky

The brothers Hartnoll are back, and out of ‘retirement’, with new album Wonky; an eclectic mix of old and new Orbital with the only misjudged moment the inclusion of Lady Leshurr on the title track. The rest is excellent and right up there with the impressive first four albums from the light Straight Sun to the supreme Stringy Acid to the dark buzzing complex Beelzedub. This is not In Sides but Phil and Paul will never beat this. Wonky is worth coming out of retirement.

Top Tracks: Stringy Acid, Straight Sun and Beelzedub.

Seth Lakeman – Tales From The Barrel House

A predictable, yet brilliant, return from one of the best folk singers in the business right now. Seth Lakeman’s Tales From The Barrel House is much more traditional fare – focusing on the lives and trouble of miners, coopers, blacksmiths and the people who craft and toil – than previous album Hearts & Minds. As always Lakeman’s work brims with storytelling and striking rhythms, none more so than the wonderful Brother Of Penryn and dramatic closer The Artisan. Opener More Than Money was recorded in the George and Charlotte copper mine of Morwellham.

Top Tracks: Brother Of Penryn, The Artisan and More Than Money.

Yppah – Eighty One

The sixth album from Joe Corrales Jr. is a wonder – a bit of everything in a swirling electronic sea and four songs with Seattle-based singer Anomie Bell. Eight One hits the heights with the Moby-esque R. Mullen and the delicate fragmented yet majestic Never Mess With Sunday. Sadly Anomie Belle sounds a bit lost within the instrumentation but the ethereal Three Portraits is excellent.

Top Tracks: Never Mess With Sunday, Three Portraits and R. Mullen.

Lightships – Electric Cables

Lightships is Gerard Love from Teenage Fanclub and is a joy from start to finish. The delicious vocals and looping guitar-work add to the light and easy feel. Opener Two Lines is perfect with a gorgeous outro as is the beauty of Sweetness In Her Spark (“this old heart is beating for her…”). On Silver And Gold, Love does a very credible impression of Mark (E from Eels) Everett and produces another slice of falsetto magic. The pop sensibilities of his former life come back with the upbeat Stretching Out and closer Sunlight To The Dawn is six minutes of brilliance.

Top Tracks: Sweetness In Her Spark, Silver And Gold and Sunlight To The Dawn.

Gemma Hayes – Let It Break

The ever-wonderful Gemma Hayes, who simply does not make enough music, returns this month with Let It Break. And it does everything you would expect from a Gemma Hayes album: gorgeous voice, presence, engaging song writing and atmosphere. Much of Let It Break draws comparisons with the work of Lisa Hannigan but Hayes always shows her own personality. There’s Only Love moves from serene ballad to driving indie into the fourth minute and takes on a new life, before the slow melancholy of Sorrow Be Gone slows things down. The real strength of Hayes’ work is variation and constant surprise. The dark mysterious, electronic Ruin is another gem, the two-minute instrumental That Sky Again, with swirling piano and percussion, is mesmerising, while Fire proves that Hayes can blend everything in one song and still make it work.

Key Tracks: There’s Only Love, Fire and Ruin.

Sarah Donner – Fossil Of Girl

Sarah Donner is a singer on the verge of something huge. A voice that embodies several different instruments in one and never stays in the same place for long, Donner breathes freshness into a genre (Michelle Branch did the same). It all starts in style with The Pilot. Often playful but occasionally serious, the inward-looking title track is followed by the hit and miss All My Guns, likewise Signs Off Life is coupled with the country-mockery of Bitches You Can Steal My Shit. It all comes together with the vocal gymnastics of The Crane Song and the Garfunkel & Oats pop styling of Your Love Is My Drug.

Key Tracks: The Crane Song, The Pilot and Your Love Is My Drug.

De La Soul’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 – First Serve

Great ideas are few and far between in the modern music world, and great ideas that work are even rarer. But if any group is going to make it work it’s De La Soul… in this case Dave and Posdnous (aka Plug 1 and Plug 2) as First Serve (Deen and Jacob), a 90s hip-hop outfit trying to make it big. This is a concept album that manages to fuse humour, chaos and good tunes.  After the Opening Credits descends into a tirade from Deen’s mum, Pushin’ Aside, Pushin’ Along is masterful. Songs like The Work and We Made It are further proof that the boys who made Three Feet High And Rising in the late eighties, still have it. Late on as the story takes shape, The Book Of Life, the hard-hitting Clash Symphony and the cool laid-back Pop Life play homage and poke fun at the rap world. The disco-fuelled The Top Chefs steals the late show.

Top Tracks: Pushin’ Aside Pushin’ Along, Pop Life and Top Chefs.

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