“Expressing your emotions isn’t a weakness but a real strength, I think with this album there’s less hiding,” says singer Elena Tonra by way of explanation for the lifting of her lyrical veil on the follow-up to Daughter’s silver-selling first album If You Leave.
“I’ve been trying to stay out but there’s something in you I can’t be without,” she sighs in Not To Disappear’s opening track New Ways. “I feel numb in this kingdom,” she adds in Numbers. The startling first single Doing The Right Thing confronts fears of dementia, not a subject often discussed in pop songs but here addressed sympathetically.
Alone/With You deals with loneliness, another key theme of modern times. “Me and I are not friends,” Tonra sings. “She is only an acquaintance.”
This marriage of Portishead-like lyrical honesty with programmed electronics and swirling atmospherics is a notable progression for the London-based trio, that resonates long after Not To Disappear has finished.
Daughter play at Leeds Beckett University on January 26.
A collaboration between Leeds-based composer Matthew Bourne and French sound artist Franck Vigroux with visuals by installation specialist Antoine Schmitt, Radioland last year toured with their reimagining of the Kraftwerk album Radio-Activity, to mark its 40th anniversary.
An important part of the Ralf Hutter/Flortian Schneider back catalogue that’s sometimes overshadowed by Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express and The Man Machine, Radio-Activity is a visionary electronic work that, as Vigroux says in the notes for this limited-edition release, is “a great pop concept album about this idea of ‘radio-activitat’ – not just the atomic power but the idea of communication”.
Here Vigroux and Bourne keep the songs’ basic melodies but treat them in “more of a jazz way”, extemporising and adding shades of R&B and hip-hop (both of which Kraftwerk influenced) as well as distortion and Stockhausen-like contemplatative pauses.
An eerie, spectral work.
Spanish four-piece Hinds have already caused a stir with their singles Garden and Chili Town. Their debut album Leave Me Alone reveals the full extent of their ramshackle charm.
Guitars jangle like it’s 1986, production is defiantly lo-fi and call-and-response vocals tumble over each other with a pleasingly carefree abandon.
Yes, it could all be slicker; yes, the time-keeping could be tighter; and yes, the bass could be clearer in the mix. But all these things might diminish the playful urgency of what is an enjoyable record.
Hinds play at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on February 22.
David Bowie’s passing two days after the release of his 25th studio album inevitably makes this record his most poignant.
Created, according to longtime ally Tony Visconti, as his “parting gift” to the world, its reflections on mortality are mature, sober and profound.
In his determination to work with a jazz band led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, he makes his intention to avoid rock’n’roll sentimentality clear. And in so doing challenges his most loyal of audiences to the last.
There are moments of considerable beauty, such as when the claustrophobic beats and Arabic drones of the title track give way to a dreamlike melody; the angry, bruised protagonist of Tis a Pity She Was a Whore; the heart in the mouth moment in Lazarus when he croons “You know I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird”.
Blackstar is a record that offers no safe conclusions – as Bowie concludes: “I can’t give everything away.”
It’s that honesty that elevates this album to a considerable work of art.
What a parting gift.
Tokyo-born, London-based electronic artist Masaaki Yoshida was acclaimed for his 2011 debut album Chapters, which fused clean, minimalist synthesiser melodies with 70s-style African polyrhythms.
Ceremonial follows a two-year rethink back in Japan, where Yoshida sought new inspirations and developed his sound. The result is a celebration of numerous worldly influences, both traditional and contemporary. Tribal beats mingle with Japanese percussion, Javanese gamelan, spaghetti-western guitar and chiming programmed melodies.
It’s multi-layered and an immersive listening experience that’s probably best experienced late at night through noise blocking headphones.
Shearwater’s second original full-length album for US label Sub Pop has been grandly described as “career-defining”. Frontman Jonathan Meiburg considers it a protest record – an assertion borne out by its second song, Quiet Americans, which questions his homeland’s “dimmed conscience” towards the rest of the world.
A Long Time Away addresses turmoil in the Middle East: “And in a rush to the scene you are one of the millions/In a dirty old town that some killing made holy”. Night is a constant theme, as is a sense of returning and travelling down roads.
Sometimes Meiburg gets caught up in wordiness – “You’re so tired of the country/Its poptones and its pale kings”; “You smoulder now/Coals and embers/Under the frost of indolence”; “And you are shaking like a new slave/In an ultraviolet sun”. Backchannels is surely the only pop song ever to use the word “nacreous”.
The alt-rock tunes are confident and open-hearted and are likely to be warmly embraced by exisiting fans. Whether they’re quite big enough to win over a larger constituency of music lovers is open to debate.
Shearwater play at Brudenell Social Club on February 19.