Katy B's second album, Little Red, has something for everyone, while Bombay Bicycle Club aim to impress with their fourth record, So Long, See You Tomorrow.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
KATY B - LITTLE RED
The radio-conquering crossover star Katy B, full name Kathleen Brien, returns with a more confident and refined take on the bass-smudged electropop that characterised her debut LP, On A Mission. Featuring club-ready tracks like 5 AM, Aaliyah (featuring Jessie Ware) and Next Thing, as well as lush electronic ballads Sapphire Blue and the recent single Crying For No Reason, her second album Little Red blends pop, dubstep and funky to delirious effect. With close collaborator and Rinse FM co-founder Geeneus on production duties and notable cameos from fellow rising stars Ware and Sampha, there's an awful lot of talent packed into this album, but it's the 24-year-old leading lady who shines brightest of all.
(Review by Simon Harker)
GLENN TILBROOK - HAPPY ENDING
Former Squeeze man Glenn Tilbrook may be 56 and a father-of-four, but he certainly hasn't lost his mojo. Indeed, he may well just have made the best album of his long and illustrious career. Tilbrook is in fine voice throughout, but it is his lyrics which deserve equal billing, especially as, during the Squeeze years, it was Chris Difford who played an equal role in that band's outstanding output. On his own, Tilbrook has matured magnificently as a songwriter while the musicianship, as you would expect given his pedigree, is exemplary. Opening track Ray, the touching Persephone, fourth track Rupert and witty closer Ice Cream showcase him on highest form. Great stuff.
(Review by Kim Mayo)
BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW
'Polished' is the word to describe Bombay Bicycle Club's fourth album, which embraces the London quartet's dalliance with electronica. The record was mostly written while frontman Jack Steadman went travelling and Bollywood provides an exotic influence for the rousing opener Overdone, highlighted again in Feel, without becoming overpowering or parodying.
Discordant stomper Carry Me proves as gritty as the 'indie rock' band gets, but the chilled, breathy Home By Now fits more into a beach-trance vibe continued on It's Alright Now. The jubilant Luna could even be a summer hit while the title track is a careful, piano-led construction that leads into a sampled mix. So Long, See You Tomorrow is a slow burner, but is a pleasure to listen to, and keeps getting better.
(Review by Natalie Bowen)
LET'S WRESTLE - LET'S WRESTLE
With their self-titled third album, Hackney band Let's Wrestle will turn heads with their maturity from rambunctious teenage rock and roll dreamers into winsome mid-20s pop cats. Formed in 2005, frontman Wesley Patrick Gonzalez led a combo so chaotic, especially when live, they looked to be coming undone at the seams.
Somehow the frayed stitching stayed in place, and with time the frenetic nature of Let's Wrestle's songwriting fell away to reveal a genial disposition hooked on west-coast US psychedelia and the closer-to-home neo 'Glasgow School' of Orange Juice and The Pastels. Former Hefner man Darren Hayman and Roxanne Clifford of Veronica Falls are guests on the Gonzalez-penned disc that tugs on the heartstrings early, notably on the arm-in-arm jaded lovers' stroll of Codeine And Marshmallows, and climaxes with the sweetly cooed closer Watching Over You.
(Review by John Skilbeck)
KEEL HER - KEEL HER
The debut album from Brighton's Keel Her - Rose Keeler-Schaffeler and Andrew Barnes - is an intriguing mix of 18 tracks crammed into 43 minutes, like tapas in music form. Some - such as You Think You're So Rock & Roll and Overtime - sound like ideas for future songs that need some fleshing out, lasting just a few seconds long. But with its nice garagey guitar sounds, the album could be mistaken for The Pixies' Kim Deal messing about in the studio.
Its experimental approach means it doesn't always work, but when it's good, it's great. The two singles - Don't Look At Me and Roswell - don't really stand out among the huge amount of diversity on offer unlike Go, with its simple guitar line and vocals. Overall, Keel Her is a highly engaging album, especially with a track titled Only Geeks Come Bearing Gifs!
(Review by Steve Crancher)
NINA PERSSON - ANIMAL HEART
Almost 20 years have passed since The Cardigans burrowed their way into the public consciousness with the impossibly addictive Lovefool, and lead singer Nina Persson has spent much of that time attempting not to become the pop star she might easily have been. Diversions and low-key side projects have been plentiful, but this self-titled release seems like her most direct attempt at recapturing some of the commercial centre ground.
It's sleek, contemporary and polished, particularly on Jungle, Clip Your Wings and Forgot To Tell You, but the synth-heavy arrangements can feel slightly weightless when stacked back to back.
(Review by Rory Dollard)
TEMPLES - SUN STRUCTURES
Noel Gallagher claimed the future of music depended on Temples' first album in 2012, while Johnny Marr has declared the group is one of the best things he has heard. This accomplished self-produced debut album from the Kettering-based four-piece is full of haunting psychedelia that wouldn't have sounded out of place in the UFO Club back in 1967.
That's not to say the psych rockers deal only in pastiche, however, because there's something special going on here. Awash with ethereal vocals, stomping drums and cosmic keyboards, on first listen, a lot of the songs may sound similar, but stick with it and Sun Structures becomes very rewarding, in particular Colours To Life. Gallagher can rest easy.
(Review by Rob Barker)
WITHIN TEMPTATION - HYDRA
Dutch symphonic heavy metal outfit Within Temptation have been going for 18 years. Their sound remains epic on their seventh album, Hydra, with singer Sharon den Adel's voice swooping over the band's driving riffs and orchestral flourishes.
As the album title suggests, they've drafted in a few extra heads on this one. Rapper Xzibit adds some gruff rhymes to And We Run, Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner shares vocals on album closer Whole World Is Watching and metalcore screamer Howard Jones, not to be mistaken for the 80s pop star, adds grit to the storming Dangerous. It's all alone though, on tracks such as the momentous Let Us Burn, that the band prove there's plenty more mileage in their instantly catchy blasts of melodic rock.
(Review by Mark Edwards)
VULKANO - LIVE WILD DIE FREE
Fresh from their ear-splitting support of Kate Nash, Vulkano unleash their debut album. Formed from the ashes of Those Dancing Days, the Swedish duo Lisa Pyk-Wirstrom and Cissi Efraimsson have cultured a harder edged thrill ride of pounding drums and bass.
It's the power of the rhythm section that first grabs you and while on first impressions, those elements seem a bit samey, by the second listen there is more than enough going on elsewhere to keep you entertained, with yodelling, heavy guitar riffs and lyrics of trolls, howling wolves and spiders only adding to the album's unique atmosphere. The songs may brood intensely but Vision Tricks and the borderline hilarious Jungle prove they have not lost their pop edge. A powerful yet fun rock record.
(Review by Michael Lee Bell)
SNOWBIRD - MOON
It's rare for a band's name to sum up their sound so well. Snowbird's debut album Moon is all delicate and soft, female vocals and light piano playing, this really convincing poetical sound of softly falling snow.
The problem with Moon hitting the snowy tone this well, is that once you've heard it, you've heard it. Despite some stunning music from duo Simon Raymonde and Stephanie Dosen, goosebump-filled Where Foxes Hide for example, it feels like you're better off listening to one song 10 times than the whole album.
And that's a shame because it's hard to do mystical as well as Snowbird does, but there's no adventure here. At its best, Moon caresses. At its worst, it's dreary background. Snow turning quietly into mush.
(Review by Tobias Chapple)
On The Road
:: New Kids On The Block - Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood - will perform five UK shows as part of An Intimate Evening With New Kids On The Block.
The tour includes two gigs at London's Eventim Apollo on May 27 and 28, Manchester O2 Apollo on the 30th, Birmingham NIA on the 31st and Glasgow Clyde Auditorium on June 1. Tickets go on sale at 9am on February 7 - see nkotb.com for details.
:: Lady Gaga has announced four dates as part of her 2014 worldwide artRave: The ARTPOP Ball tour. The singer will play Birmingham's NIA Arena on October 15, before heading to Glasgow, Manchester and London. Tickets are available from 9am on February 8 - visit www.ladygaga.com/tour for more information.