Album Reviews: Adele's still got it

Adele 21

****

Her debut, 19, garnered critical acclaim. Now, three years on, Adele returns with 21. Considering her first album, which spawned singles Chasing Pavements and Make You Feel My Love, it would be easy for the Londoner to feel under pressure with the follow up. Yet if the singer is feeling the nerves she hides it well on this highly accomplished LP. Rolling In The Deep launches the album and the driving garage soul number picks up where 19 left off - her powerful bluesy vocals instantly warming the soul. It's followed up with the catchy Rumour Has It – a tune which will be a festival favourite. Ballad He Won't Go could easily be sung by an R&B diva and it's this song which acts as a turning point for the album. The guitars of the previous tracks are left behind for soul-inspired songs such as the piano-led Take It All and the up-tempo I'll Be Waiting. Finally Adele closes the album with the beautiful Someone Like You. This album may lack the rough-diamond feel of 19, but its strong direction more than makes up for it.

Iron and Wine

Kiss Each Other Clean

****

Having become a folk favourite, Iron and Wine (AKA Samuel Beam) uses this LP to blend his distinctive sound with electro blips and funk for a wonderful fourth album. Those expecting an album in the mould of Our Endless Numbered Days will get quite the surprise. From the distorted vocals on opener Walking Far From Home, to the saxophone on Big Burned Hand and the World-music influenced Rabbit Will Run, the South Carolina-born musician manages to mix genres throughout the album, yet all the while keep his trademark vocal style firmly in place to stop the sound becoming disjointed. It makes for an exciting listen.

Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings

****

Eleven tracks played fast and loose, barely a few of which cross the three-minute barrier. That should tell you all you need to know about the lo-fi indie racket contained in this debut album from 18-year-old Cleveland kid Dylan Baldi. The noisy, frenetic pop-rock of single Should Have brings to mind the loose-riffing assaults of Jay Reatard and dreamy slacker-punk sounds of No Age, while the likes of Nothing's Wrong show off Baldi's ear for a pure pop melody. Pulling off the balancing act between raw power and catchy accessibility with aplomb, this is a brilliant effort from a hot young talent.

Emily Smith

Traiveller's Joy

***

Scottish folk singer Emily Smith has built up a solid fanbase in her native country. Her latest release, however, could garner her a far wider audience. Traiveller's Joy is an excellent, cohesive, folk album which showcases her outstanding vocal talents. The title track is a prime example of her crystal-clear voice, accompanied by a band which includes her husband, the New Zealand-born guitarist Jamie McClennan. Smith has been nominated for numerous folk awards and quite rightly so. Highlights include Sweet Lover Of Mine and Richard Thompson's Waltzings For Dreamers, but in truth there is not a duff track throughout: Well worth investigating.