by / June 14th, 2013 /

May album round-up

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John Blek & the RatsLeave Your Love at the Door (self-released)

John Blek and his Rats have crafted a perfectly diverting album of country and western numbers. There’s nothing on Leave Your Love at the Door that you or your parents haven’t heard before, but Blek and co. have a way with melody and mould such familiar elements to their advantage. Where there’s a heart broken, there’s a foot stomping, with a band of guitars, lap steels and drums to accompany Blek’s plaintive croon on these 12 tracks, so enjoy. It may be far from original, but Leave You Love at the Door is a nice soundtrack for whiling away the hours on a summer’s day. (George Morahan)

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Arts & CraftsX (Arts & Crafts)

Maybe not the go to hip label it was when it first launched Broken Social Scene onto the world, Arts & Crafts has still been quietly building a veritable empire over the past decade. This tenth anniversary celebrating collection is a perfect reflection, bringing together twenty-two of their acts. It’s a genuinely collaborative project too, pitting genre against genre with frequently stunning results. From the label’s big names (Broken Social Scene, Feist, Stars) to the more obscure, X‘s high quality serves as a fine testament to the label’s vision. (Phil Udell)

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StoosheLondon With The Lights On (Warners)

Given the manufactured nature of their formation (discovered via Topshop auditions) and protracted, difficult run up to its release, it wouldn’t be misplaced to expect Stooshe’s debut album to be a bit of a car crash. In fact London With The Lights On proves to be a spirited, engaging pop record. The trio may have been brought together by writer / manager Jo Perry yet they do manage to come across as a natural entity, although the frequent shout outs and forced ad libbing are a little naff. A lot of their songs are very strong though, imbued with a sense of soul that sets them apart from most of their competitors. They’re not perfect yet but Stooshe have certainly got more to offer. (PU)

John Murry - The Graceless Age
John MurryThe Graceless Age (Rubyworks)

If you hadn’t guessed from the title, John Murry isn’t best pleased with the times we live in, and the The Graceless Age harkens back to a bygone era. Choirs mingle with buzzing guitars, but Murry’s southern twang is the main allure amid the chaos. The lovely ‘Southern Sky’ speaks of co-dependence amid bouncing pianos and reverb-heavy guitars, as Murry duets with a female singer and the chimes of a xylophone. ‘California’ and ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ also number among the highlights of this sophomore effort, an album of thought, feeling and fine country-tinged rock standards. (GM)

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Sam AmidonBright Sunny South (Nonesuch)

Bright Sunny South, the seventh album from Sam Amidon, is an extremely quiet album and almost ambient in its naturalism. The Vermont singer-songwriter is forcefully restrained, accompanied only by a lone violin and an acoustic guitar for the most part, while his voice is barely even audible at times. The album is extremely comfortable and feels little need to strain beyond a lived-in sensibilities beyond the surprisingly raw and bombastic climax to ‘He’s Taken My Feet’. This is a singular record under no illusions, it is settled in its relaxed acoustic nonchalance and rarely tries to be anything more than amiable. (GM)

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Majical CloudzImpersonator (Matador)

On the surface, Majical Cloudz are nothing much, but their second album burrows deep under the skin. The songs are stark, usually amounting to little more than vocalist Devon Welsh and an unobtrusive musical backing, but simplicity proves key. Walsh’s voice is true but fraught with emotion, and it’s the audible imperfections that endow it with stunning power. Matthew Otto’s compositions know to keep their distance and let Walsh do the heavy lifting but ‘Bugs Don’t Buzz’, with its one-note piano riff and the sonic strangeness of its climax, makes for compelling listening in its own right. Impersonator sounds like Hurts done correctly. (GM)

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Noah and the WhaleHeart of Nowhere (Mercury)

It can be of no real shock that twee folk-pop outfit Noah and the Whale have evolved into soft rock wannabes on Heart of Nowehere; it was always in their DNA. Their eventual journey to the middle of the road is now complete, with Heart of Nowhere embracing string quartets, yacht rock dreams and lyrics built on phrases like ‘show a little faith in me’ and calls to ‘keep hanging on’. It’s all very sub-Fleetwood Mac, not even in an appearance by the ever-vital Anna Calvi can liven things up, but Noah and the Whale probably wouldn’t have wanted that. Oh, and singer Charlie Fink’s drawl still makes him sound a bit slow on the uptake. (GM)

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Dear GeorginaDear Georgina (Tummy Touch)

A southern singer relocated to Brooklyn, Lauren Balthrop’s debut as Dear Georgina is a sweet, sunny record that builds from country roots into something a little more worldly. The results are not unlike A Camp, with Balthrop’s vocals reminiscent of Nina Persson. Pedal steel, strings and brass flourishes add to the laid back feel and the results are enough to make the world a better place for a while. (PU)

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Various artists – Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film The Great Gatsby (Interscope)

Emeli Sandé does a jazzy version of Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy in Love’ for this Great Gatsby OST – a soundtrack “executive produced” by Ms Knowles’ husband Jay-Z – in one of the most masturbatory decisions made in relation to Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the Fitzgerald classic (3-D and 38-year-old DiCaprio as Gatsby aside). It’s a disconcerting cover on an album that already includes Beyoncé’s own Andre 3000-assisted, almost post-dubstep version of ‘Back to Black’ and Bryan Ferry’s cabaret take on former band Roxy Music’s ‘Love Is the Drug’.

While Lana Del Rey and Florence Welch set phasers to epic/generic on ‘Young and Beautiful’ and ‘Over the Love’ respectively, Black Eyed Peas will.i.am and Fergie shoehorn some 20s jazz beats into their otherwise tacky, faux-futuristic contributions. One can’t help but feel the jazz acknowledgements are a waste and that Luhrmann and Jay-Z would have been better off if they’d just used Watch the Throne – the contemporary definition of nouveau riche excess – instead, although that would have deprived us of the xx’s ‘Together’, which is altogether sterling. (GM)

Fire & Fortune

Josienne Clarke & Ben WalkerFire & Fortune (Navigator Records)

The male / female folk duo is hardly the rarest of beasts, yet the combination of vocalist Clarke and guitarist Walker still manages to offer a fresh perspective. It comes mainly from their classical background, especially in the Clarke’s voice – which steers away from the standard traditional singing style. Originals mix with old folk songs and, while it won’t reinvent the wheel, Fire & Fortune does enough to stand out from the crowd. (PU)

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