[STANDFIRST – This week’s new offerings come from Paul Weller, Carrie Underwood and Orbial]
ORBITAL – MONSTERS EXIST
It has been a long six years since the Hartnoll brothers have released an album. Paul and Phil are now elder statesmen from the 90s rave generation, masters at what they do and create. Monsters Exist is a masterful soundscape, each track is a social comment on life today, starting with a dark, gloomy tone and raising with hopeful crescendo to an almost euphoric pitch.
It amongst this is the gem of P.H.U.K. a collection of video-game chiming beeps and pips, that mellows, as much as an Orbital track can mellow, into an ambient journey of optimism. There is life after the video game ends, and that life will be beautiful however the rat race keeps running.
Monsters Exist is definitely a political statement, a kick against everything that is happening around us today, in There Will Come A Time featuring Professor Brian Cox puts life and everyone’s certain death in perspective, in a way only Cox can. There is hope, and we are all on a journey to the end. Do what you can while we are all still here.
This is an album with meaning. We all matter and life is there to be lived with heart.
(Review by Rachel Howdle)
PAUL WELLER – TRUE MEANINGS
From the punk rock of The Jam to the soul of The Style Council, Paul Weller has produced an eclectic body of work. He is revered for a forward-looking approach to his craft.
On his 14th solo album The Modfather appears to have entered a period of his career where, for once, he is momentarily looking back.
This collection of intimate, acoustic-driven songs, complete with lush orchestration, strikes a reflective tone in its lyrics and instrumentation.
Weller’s timeless voice lends a comforting, warm quality to dreamy songs like Wishing Well and Books. The latter is wonderfully infused with sitar, indicative of Weller’s varied sonic palate.
The song Bowie offers a tribute to the late singer as well as a wider message about loss and acceptance.
Mayfly starts life as a 12-bar blues shuffle before subtle brass blows through an air of relaxed contemplation that characterises this record as a whole.
(Review by Andrew Arthur)
CARRIE UNDERWOOD – CRY PRETTY
Carrie Underwood won American Idol in 2005 and unlike other reality TV music stars often do, she has not faded into the background. In fact, she’s cemented herself a place as one of the industry’s top female vocalists. And her latest album, Cry Pretty, is likely to blaze her music trail further.
It’s her first album since her accident last year that saw her having to have more than 40 stitches in her face after she fell at home. The title track has already been released and topped iTunes charts in no less than 12 countries.
The rest of the album is filled with everything from wistful longing to upbeat, tap your feet rhythms. Tracks like Backsliding remind you that Carrie knows her way well around a big, powerful ballad. One thing’s for sure: Carrie won’t be crying about this one, rather she’ll be laughing her way up all the music charts.
(Review by Deidre Reid)
DAWN LANDES – MEET ME AT THE RIVER
There are few American musicians who can resist the lure of the Country record; Dawn Landes is only the latest of any number of quirky singer-songwriters to exchange the sophistication of their previous work for an album of old-fashioned hoedowns.
As anyone familiar with Landes would expect, Meet Me at the River is an effortlessly virtuoso affair. Tracks such as Why They Named Whiskey After Men and Southern Girl are fit to stand alongside anything heard on the Grand Ole Opry, while veteran producer Fred Foster ensures that every keening slide guitar and hay-barn harmonica break sounds authentic.
But while this demonstrates a characteristic attention to detail, Meet Me at the River also has the sound of somebody hemmed in by strict genre conventions, and it’s only on the gospel-inflected What Will I Do? that the album drifts away from pastiche and really comes alive.
(Review by James Robinson)
THRICE – PALMS
Thrice – Palms
The album title seeks to capture an inclusive attitude – open palms rather than closed fists – and the Orange County hardcore quartet set their stall early as Only Us proclaims “there’s no them, there is only us”, and single The Grey adds “I’ve had enough of black and white”.
Production and mixing by the aptly-named Eric Palmquist and John Congleton opens up a lighter sonic palette than much of the band’s past work, serving to make the ferocious late one-two punch of A Branch In The River and Hold Up A Light stand out all the more.
This is Thrice’s 10th studio album, and second since reforming in 2015, and an outstanding set – with the plaintive Blood On Blood maybe best of all – deserves to build on the relative commercial success of 2016’s comeback To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere.
(Review by Tom White)