A number month for new music with plenty of new music to consider.
Album of the Month – Richard Hawley Hollow Meadows
Its been over 3 years since we last heard from Sheffield’s finest, 3 years whilst he had to recover from serious injury and 3 years since the psychedelic and wonder Standing at the Sky’s Edge where he took his music in a whole new direction. Well the familiar sounding Hawley has returned and arguably with his finest record yet. Opening with the simply beautiful I Still Want You, a song that begins with the line ‘Sorry I’ve been away so long’ before moving beautifully onto its glorious chorus. The quality never lets up from there, Which Way sounds like it could be a cover from a classic ’50s track. But it is the more gentle efforts for which Hawley triumphs. Serenade of Blue, Nothing Like a Friend and on the exceptional closer What Love Means remind us all that despite the change last time round, that there is always something warm and comforting about Richard Hawley, like a winter’s night in from of the roaring log fire. This is absolutely essential listening to anyone who owns a pair of ears.
This month, more than most this year, there seems to be an endless stream of people from way back making their latest comeback. It is safe to say this meets with very mixed results. Firstly New Order who are back with a slightly new look, a new Bass Player following the acrimonious split with Peter Hook and, arguably, their best album in 20 years. Calling your new record Music Complete is a risk. But luckily in this case a risk worth taking. Opening with a clear intent and Restless this is New Order doing what they do best, wonderful tracks to a beat. Echoes of their early work come to the fore in tracks such as Plastic, whose beat could echo Donna Summer. Plenty of guest vocals too, Iggy Pop lends his droll to the proceedings before it all ends with a little help from Brandon Flowers. Peter Hook may decide otherwise but this is a New Order set to run and whilst its not Music Complete it certainly is a triumph all round.
Triumph is not a word, however, to describe the latest effort from Duran Duran, in fact the best word to describe Paper Gods is woeful. A truly dreadful record from start to finish. You know its going to be rubbish when the opening track has them attempting some sort of weird chanting. It really doesn’t get better. Avoid at all costs.
If there is one band on this planet who are impossible to review then that band is probably Iron Maiden who are back with more of what they do in their first Double Album release Book of Souls. Coming in at around 4 days, this record does seem to be more of the same but with tracks lasting anything up to 3 hours a go. In fact at one point I listened to one song and wasn’t too sure, the next one seemed much better – until I realised it was the same song! This is not going to convince anyone new to get into the band, but I am sure that they and their millions of die hard fans really don’t care. For them its probably excellent fare – and trust me on this, its loads better than Duran Duran.
Speaking of bands doing what they do and never changing much, there is another new Stereophonics album out. Keep the Village Alive is certainly an ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ effort. It certainly is not awful and whilst they will never match the Manic Street Preachers or Super Furry Animals for quality, what they do well is provide that song you need between contestants on Ken Bruce’s Popmaster.
After a huge acrimonious split, going their separate ways until they returned live last year this month saw the latest efforts from The Libertines. Whilst they may not be the darlings they once were, a surprise Glastonbury set and headlining at Reading suggests they are as big as ever. on Anthems for Doomed Youth there is a lot to like, lead out track Gunga Din is a welcome introduction and throughout both Doherty and Barat are doing all they can to, perhaps, keep the band going longer than the last time out. Lets hope this time its a success.
One album that really caught my attention was Poison Season by Canadian Destroyer. His second album and this time around he really invokes the spirit of many of his influences. On Dream Lover, you’d be mistaken for thinking you’re about to listen to a Born To Run era Springsteen and it doesn’t really stop there, he clearly is influenced by the likes of Cat Stevens or Van Morrison too. Its certainly worth a listen.
2 years ago Chvrches appeared with their debut and took us on a journey that could have been taken there by an early Depeche Mode. Well they are back and on the difficult second album Every Open Eye they manage to better the debut. Whilst it may not have the stand out tracks like We Sink it certainly is more consistent and thoroughly enjoyable collection of great pop songs, perhaps more Erasure than the Mode this time thoug. If you liked their debut, then you will love this one too.
One band that have been given some exposure on the ever brilliant 6 Music are Hooten Tennis Club whose first album Highest Point in Cliff Town includes the much heard P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L. P.I.E.R.R.E. there are elements of Stone Roses amongst others it certainly hints of something more to come as they move through their careers.
Brooding melancholic slackers Low are now into their 11th studio album with Ones and Sixes and thy have stuck to what they know, its perfectly ok all round but What Part of Me is an absolute triumph and worth listening too on its own if the rest doesn’t float your boat.
Having seen him perform on Later… I was somewhat expectant of hearing more from Nathaniel Rateliff and I was right to do so. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats is a wonderful shot of old fashioned Soul music. Its a joyful piece to listen to and on S.O.B. it has its highlight. Again its always worth not fast forwarding through the lesser acts on Later as you may just miss something this interesting.
Last year’s wonderful War on Drugs record, album of the year 2014, meant that I wanted more. I was rewarded by discovering that one time collaborator and band member Kurt Vile had his own works and there was plenty to discover and enjoy. Thankfully there is even more as his latest album B’lieve I’m Going Down came out to little fanfare. But it should well get a fanfare once people really listen to it. From opening track Pretty Pimpin, you know that this is something very good indeed. It twists and turns perfectly over a constant solo beat and means that the rest has a lot to live up to. And live up it does. Much like Richard Hawley, this is one to be appreciated over a relaxing evening as the dark settles in. Especially the quite brilliant All in A Daze Work. On any other month this would be album of the month but it certainly will feature high in my favourites of the year.