Ten albums you cannot miss this month – May 2012
Long ridiculed in rock circles as the perfect band for people who find Coldplay a little too edgy, Keane have nonetheless gone about crafting a remarkably consistent discography and professional live show. Fourth album Strangeland builds upon the pure pop of Perfect Symmetry, with new single Silenced By The Night shamelessly strip-mining Tears For Fears’ more bombastic moments, and the Keane juggernaut looks set to roll relentlessly on. Coldplay should be looking nervously over their shoulders.
Standing At the Sky’s Edge – Richard Hawley
Former Pulp guitarist and Arctic Monkeys contemporary Richard Hawley has been delivering effortlessly gorgeous songs in a seductive Orbison-meets-Cash croon for some time now, but his last album Truelove’s Gutter was a very dark, subdued affair. Standing At The Sky’s Edge ramps up the angst and, more crucially, the guitars, and the result is a fantastic, stormy rock album unlike anything he has ever done before.
In The Belly of the Brazen Bull – The Cribs
The Cribs have transcended their bratty Wakefieldorigins to become one of the leading exponents of catchy yet ear-splitting British indie, collaborating with the likes of Lee Ranaldo and Johnny Marr along the way. The latest legend to join their ranks is producer Steve Albini, who stamps his distinctively raw sound all over the band’s fifth album – taster single Come On, Be a No One is a glorious Weezer-esque cacophony that will only expand their fan-base further.
Sultry Salfordchanteuse Ren Harvieu has the kind of timeless, powerful voice that is catnip to record execs in the wake of Florence & The Machine’s global success. This is no Duffy-esque, diminishing-returns situation, though – Harvieu’s début album is a genuinely endearing collection with yearning vocals and remarkably assured soul arrangements. Expect Open Up Your Arms and the exuberant title track to soundtrack every remotely emotional TV scene from here ‘til Christmas.
Garbage have already completed the entire Spinal Tap career arc, from their incongruous origins as a super-group to global stardom, via acrimonious break-ups, reformation and a Greatest Hits lap of honour back in 2008. So while their first new record in seven years comes free of expectations and major label pressure, the band will be anxious to ensure it’s not just a footnote in an already-impressive discography. Spiky, confident first single Blood For Poppies suggests that they aren’t just going through the motions this time.
Beach House’s 2010 album Teen Dream was such a perfect, memorable encapsulation of the Baltimore band’s hazy, dream-like ethos that it is difficult to see how they can progress on their new release. However, new tracks like Myth and Lazuli find lead singer Victoria Legrand in imperiously heart-melting form as ever, and as much as we crave musical progression and novelty, it seems almost churlish to ask for anything other than more of the same from these unique balladeers – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Guitar whiz-kid John Mayer has collaborated with everyone from Kanye West to Steve Jobs in recent years, but has had a hard time shaking comparisons with mind-numbingly MOR artists like Jack Johnson and latter-day Clapton. Although his new collection is unlikely to set pulses racing, the mellow, optimistic country ballads here are lent an unexpected and regrettable poignancy by Mayer’s recent “indefinite hiatus” from singing on medical grounds.
For a band whose glory days were 25 years ago, the Cult are very much an ongoing concern – their recent live shows have been well received and lead singer Ian Astbury has become something of a ‘cult’ figure following his collaborations with UNKLE and the MC5, among others. New album Choice Of Weapon comes shrouded in mystery, recorded “in the Californian desert” with uber-producer Bob Rock, and while clumsy first single Lucifer doesn’t bode well, it at least hints at a devil-may-care energy which made She Sells Sanctuary such a hit all those years ago.
Brilliant – Ultravox
How the original New Romantics’ new album will sound, after an 18-year break in recorded output, is anyone’s guess. But the title track certainly sounds promising, if a little short of “brilliant” (Midge Ure’s voice sounds a little worse for wear), and the band have enough touring experience and pop nous to know better than to defile their legacy. Expect bombast and melodic surprises from the Vienna hit-makers.
While Sigur Rós’ last album, released in 2008, took a significant detour from the band’s usual output with faster tempos and English lyrics, it seems like normal business has been resumed on their latest effort, described by the band as “floaty and minimal”. Except music this transcendental and beautiful is rarely “normal”, and we can be thankful that there is still life in the group’s trademark whale-noises-in-heaven sound, which has sound-tracked a thousand nature documentaries without getting tired. A perfect, ambient soundtrack to the summer months ahead.