Launching his High Flying Birds in 2011, Noel Gallagher announced he already had a second album up his sleeve. What promised to be an intriguing psychedelic electronic record with Amorphous Androgynous may be forever destined to gather dust in a studio archive but instead, four years on, we have a more traditional collection of songs from Oasis’ guiding light.
Chasing Yesterday is a combination of pretty much all the things we’ve come to expect from Gallagher over the past 20 years – a strong ear for melody, a classic rock pose or two, the occasional psychedelic flourish and an often functional rhyming scheme (“Ready for take-off, warm inside/Cause I don’t wanna sail on the ocean wide”, “And I was told the streets were paved with gold/And there’d be no time for getting old”, “Maybe I believe in magic, love/Find it in the moon and stars above”).
The biggest surprise perhaps are the saxophone solos in Riverman and The Right Stuff – of which he has pleaded, tongue in cheek: “Please don’t think about the guy from Spandau Ballet” – but they’re no bad thing. And there are at least two Noel classics on this album – The Girl With X-Ray Eyes, a Sixties inflected paean to his wife Sara, and Ballad of the Mighty I, a beautifully layered call-and-response number featuring Johnny Marr, piano, strings and guitar arpeggios.
Stalwarts of the Leeds music scene for ten years now, Vessels have evolved from guitar-drive post-rock into widescreen electronica.
Dilate completes the process begun on their 2011 album Helioscope, taking the five-piece deep into pulsing programmed rhythms and mesmerising synthesiser loops.
The band’s in-house electronic DJ and producer Lee J Malcolm has given Vessels a dance floor polish. Isolde’s sleepy vocal in As You Are adds a touch of human warmth; recent single On Monos builds cleverly from serene beginnings to floor-filling euphoria.
All in all, Dilate is a pretty seamless transformation.
Public Service Broadcasting proved a hit supporting Kaiser Chiefs on their recent tour – so much so their second album entered the UK charts at Number 11.
The Race For Space, like its 2013 predecessor Inform – Educate – Entertain, features extensive samples from the British Film Institute archive, yet it’s grander-sounding record with its eyes trained to the skies.
Gagarin is a big, brassy, funky homage to the Soviet cosmonaut who in 1961 became the first man to orbit the Earth; Fire in the Cockpit remembers the sacrifice of the tragic crew of Apollo 1; Go! is a guitar-driven recreation of the moon landing speed trial. Sussex dream pop duo Smoke Fairies salute the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, in the ethereal Valentina.
The songs may not always develop as far as you’d like them to from promising beginnings but The Race For Space is an enjoyably quirky ride nonetheless.
Five years ago Marc Almond thought his days as a songwriter were spent and that Varieté would be his last album of original material. “I felt the songwriting muse had left me, possibly forever,” he explains in a press release. Fortunately, English-born, Los Angeles-based producer and tunesmith Chris Braide convinced him otherwise.
“I got goose bumps, I was blown away,” says former Leeds Art School student Almond of the instrumental tracks that the one-time Lana Del Ray, Beyonce and David Guetta collaborator emailed him.
In return Almond has turned in his best collection of songs in years. Zipped Black Leather Jacket is knowing, camp and funny (“I’m a shape-shifting changeling, so stop trying to assimilate me”), Scar is a heart-rending lament to a departed lover (“When you told me you would be around forever/You were already gone”) while Minotaur addresses inner turmoil (“All the cages in the world/Can’t contain my Minotaur”).
Arranged in three ‘acts’, with instrumental interludes, this is an outstanding work, full of drama, emotion, humour and sincerity.