Another week, another crop of new albums. Allow us to treat your ears this weekend.
Lana Del Rey – ‘Honeymoon’
Album of the Week
The risk-taking singer continues to impress with an album of polished but uncompromising new songs. Read our full review of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Honeymoon’.
Kwabs – ‘Love + War’
First things first, it’s pronounced ‘k-wor-bs’, so relax: you can stop scratching around inside your underpants. But if you’re a fan of soulful grooves, crackling synths or generally good music, you probably knew that already.
This 25-year old Londoner has been making waves for a couple of years now, and it’s not difficult to hear why. Kwabs can sing. I mean, really, really, sounds-a-bit-like-Luther-Vandross sing – and he makes sure you know it with a bunch of excellent pop bangers and the odd pulsating ballad on this debut LP. Head straight to delicate piano weepie ‘Perfect Ruin’ as an example of the latter.
There are one or two worrying moments, where things threaten to go a bit Mick Hucknall, but, frankly, Kwabs could be backed by the Teletubbies and this album would still be an impressive debut.
Battles – ‘La Di Da Di’
They may hate the tag, but avant-riffing three-piece Battles will forever be classed as ‘math rock’. Sounds geeky and boring, right? Geeky: absolutely. Boring: not a chance, as third album ‘La Di Da Di’ wholeheartedly proves.
Like your maths homework, you’ll need to give it your full attention. It’s not background music for a party, unless your parties involve sitting around a MacBook reading Pitchfork. You can’t really dance to ‘La Di Da Di’, sing or hum along with it, or even mosh to it, but listen – like, actually listen – to the numerous angular guitar walkabouts scattered throughout every track, the glitchy synth interruptions in ‘Dot Net’ and the card-counting rhythms of ‘FF Bada’, and you’ll uncover a weirdly funky and hugely satisfying tapestry of musicianship.
Ought – ‘Sun Coming Down’
Montreal’s Ought are the closet their city’s iconic Constellation Records has come to signing a ‘normal’ guitar band – but they share their label’s extravagant bloody-mindedness. Wildly-praised 2013 debut ‘Today More than Any Other Day’ and last year’s excellent ‘Once More with Feeling’ EP weren’t exactly easy listening, but Ought’s heavy, snarling take on post-punk contained moments of explosive exhilaration, and even the odd ballad.
‘Sun Coming Down’ offers no such olive branch: opener ‘Men for Miles’ sounds like Mark E Smith being bludgeoned to death with several very heavy guitars and there’s not much respite over the record’s eight sludgy songs. But give it time and patience and beauty emerges from the chaos.
Shimmeringly heavy centrepiece ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’ is a remarkable piece of music, like some sublime union of Talking Heads and Shellac, while Tim Beeler’s ferociously growled lyrics are endlessly fascinating. ‘This is the high watermark of civilization’ he snarls on ‘Never Better’, and I’m not going to be the one who argues with him.
Duran Duran – ‘Paper Gods’
Props to Duran Duran. They’ve scrupulously avoided the fate of many of their ’80s contemporaries: package tours of faded seaside venues, rehab, or ‘The Voice’. On their 14th album, the former yacht-hoppers are aided by a mixed bag of contemporaries – everyone from Mark Ronson to Kiesza and Janelle Monáe. Lindsay Lohan even delivers a spoken-word interlude on ‘Danceophobia’.
Despite pitching itself at the dancefloor and boasting Nile Rodgers as a guest, some of the best moments come when they swap disco for discordant – as on the bloody solo from ‘Butterfly Girl’. There’s even a hint of Kinks-esque nostalgia to ‘Sunset People’, and age-appropriate middle-aged griping on the title track, which comes over like a man phoning in to Radio 5Live for a little rant. In a good way.
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