7:00am Saturday 31st August 2013
Watford wonder Shahid Khan releases his debut album through his Naughty Boy moniker, while Travis return to the limelight with their long-awaited seventh record. Shereen Low has a listen.
Album of the week
Naughty Boy - Hotel Cabana
If you thought Shahid Khan aka Naughty Boy has simply burst onto the music scene out of nowhere, his debut album might teach you otherwise. The British-born Pakistani singer-producer has been creating top ten records since 2005, after a Deal Or No Deal win allowed him to set up his own studio. His experience shines through on Hotel Cabana - an accomplished and polished album featuring a who's who of today's fresh and charting artists, including Emile Sande, Ed Sheeran and Bastille. The resulting sound is varied, and makes for an interesting listen. Catchy No 1 single, La La La, and a Get Lucky cover with Tanika are stand-outs, but a collaboration with Bastille, No One's Here To Sleep, also proves to be a beautiful and moving addition. A gloriously fun pop album.
(Review by Nicole Gallagher)
The Fisherman's Friends - One And All
The latest release from Cornish shanty group The Fisherman's Friends is something rather special. The last album to feature all ten members of the band, it was recorded shortly before the death of member Trevor Grills following a tragic accident earlier in the year. Capturing a warm spirit, One And All is an accomplished set of traditional tunes and songs of the sea. Stand-outs include the tender and rousing single Mary Anne, which sees Grills take centre stage with lead vocals. A fitting tribute that should ensure a lasting legacy.
(Review by Nathania Hartley)
Travis - Where You Stand
'Coldplay-lite' was an overused and somewhat unfair label for this Scottish quartet as their career took a decidedly modest path away from the anthemic stadium-fillers. Despite this, right up until their disappearance five years ago, Travis's ear for melody was usually strong enough to overcome the middle-of-the-road slurs. Where You Stand sees the group, fronted by Fran Healy, sadly lose this knack, with 11 offerings bleeding listlessly into each other. Even as they attempt to explore with electronic flourishes (Mother) and the occasional drum machine (Boxes), the lack of a decent hook and general over-sentimentality is too noticeable to ignore. Lead single Moving may deliver a rare shot of vigour in typical soft-rock fist-pumping fashion, but elsewhere there's very little here to satisfy even the biggest Travis devotee.
(Review by Robert Penney)
Pantaleimon - The Butterfly Ate The Pearl
Pantaleimon is the multi-talented Andria Degens, augmented by guest musicians of the highest calibre. It is the first release by Degens in five years and proves to be well worth the wait. The album's rich, psychedelic, cinematic soundscapes do not strike an immediate chord, but repeated plays certainly reward the listener, with bass and sound loops becoming increasingly evident, along with the spooky vocals. Degens has recruited some top musicians to work on this album, including Will Oldham, better known as Bonnie Prince Billy, Otto Hauser of Vetiver and Alabama 3's Steve Finnerty. Degens contributes guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonium and vocals to a heady mix with opener Ember and Elevation Of A Dream as the highlights.
(Review by Kim Mayo)
Bastardgeist - Infinite Lives
Bastardgeist - the work of Chicago music-maker Joel Midden - immediately surprise, as Infinite Lives is full of delicate but dense compositions with eerie, chanted vocals and crooked beats. The songs often feel like they're going to fall apart, with Afternoon having a drum break which sounds like the instrument falling down a flight of stairs. But from the chaos are drawn moments of real beauty and repeated listens fascinate as more of these episodes reveal themselves. Last Evening is a mesmeric and gorgeously spare mix of cello and two-finger piano refrain overlaid with archive spoken word samples. Elsewhere, Invisible Life is propelled by house beats and finger clicks, while album opener Shift employs the machine-stretched soprano vocals of Animal Collective or M83. Infinite Lives is a banquet of the bizarre and the beautiful. Enjoy.
(Review by Mark Edwards)
Hjaltalin - Enter 4
What's considered 'pop' in Iceland is a bit more eclectic than our own chart offerings, as this Reykjavik-based musical collective's third album deftly demonstrates. The group, led by vocalists Sigriour Thorlacius and Hogni Egilsson but featuring a wealth of talent courtesy of a seemingly ever-expanding line-up, have as their stock-in-trade a fine line in baroque-ish, mature chamber-pop. Notes of soul, rock, classical and indie are present in their work, but on the whole Hjaltalin stride across genres like one traverses paving slabs on their walk to work - they are definitely present, yet ultimately insignificant to the journey. Fans of alt pop acts from Camera Obscura to Bon Iver to Bjork will find the group, and this eclectic album, hard to resist.
(Review by Rob Lavender)
Newton Faulkner - Studio Zoo
A year on from his last offering Write It On Your Skin, Surrey singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner releases his fourth album, Studio Zoo. Having streamed the entire recording process 24/7 for five weeks from his home studio, die-hard fans may already know what to expect from the acoustic folk-rock musician, slaying any chances of anticipation. Where To Start and Just Outside are reminiscent of Bon Iver's debut LP, with melancholy vocals balanced over Faulkner's finger-pick method of guitar-playing, which lends itself well to this stripped-back style. Unfortunately, this leaves tracks such as Indecisive and At The Seams sounding hollow, and overly acoustic for a studio album. Losing Ground is a real highlight with a more passionate vocal than the rest, giving the album a positive, albeit vanilla, feeling.
(Review by Holly McKenzie)
The Jar Family - Jarmalade
Times have been hard for Hartlepool six-piece The Jar Family - which can be gleaned from their lyrics - but on the evidence of second album Jarmalade, a bright future lies ahead. Describing their sound as 'industrial-folk', the North East collective, comprising of Max Bianco, Dali, Al Devon, Richie Docherty, Chris Hooks and Keith Wilkinson, have a pact that if you wrote the song, you get to sing it. This brings diversity to the album, but also the feeling that you are listening to a compilation. Don't be fooled by the Kasabian-sounding intro of lead single Machine and the baggy Charlatans feel of Enough's Enough, The Jar Family's influences are more Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan. Laid-back tracks such as Tears We Cried and Footsteps are where the band excel.
(Review by Andrew Carless)
Scud Mountain Boys - Do You Love The Sun
Seventeen years after their last release, Massachusetts in 1996, cult alternative country band Scud Mountain Boys are back with their fourth album. In that time, mainstay Joe Pernice has released a string of records under various guises including Chappaquiddick Skyline and The Pernice Brothers. The names may have changed over the years, only for the original line-up of Joe Pernice, Stephen Desaulniers, Bruce Tull and Tom Shea to reunite, but the sound has remained broadly the same and this latest record is the usual mix of laid-back vocals, catchy pop melodies and lyrics full of black humour, while steel guitars chime in the background. Stand-out songs include the title track which, in a better world, would be a perfect lazy summer surprise hit and You're Mine, which turns the country feel up and could have been written for Pernice's hero Johnny Cash.
(Review by Robert Dex)
Meav - The Calling
With such an enchanting voice, it's no surprise Meav Ni Mhaolchatha performed on the soundtrack for Disney's Tinker Bell And The Lost Treasure in 2009. The multi-million selling traditional Irish singer from Donnybrook, County Dublin, had success around the world as a soloist for the Irish choir Anuna - with whom she sang with talented musicians including Elvis Costello - and later, as a founding member of Celtic Woman. Her solo career began in 2010 when she performed with the New York Pops Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Her latest album, The Calling, includes a touching cover of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and other folk songs. Her velvety smooth voice is divine throughout, reminiscent of the late, great Eva Cassidy. A perfect relaxing treat.
(Review by Eleanor Lees)
On the road
:: Calvin Harris is teaming up with fellow DJ Tiesto (Tijs Michiel Verwest) for a Greater Than tour in December. The five-date tour kicks off in Belfast on December 18, before stopping off at Dublin, London, Manchester and Glasgow. Tickets go on sale from 10am on August 23 - see www.GreaterThan.com.
:: Newton Faulkner has announced details of a 20-date tour in February 2014. The Brit-nominated singer will kick off in Belfast on February 9 before heading to Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and London among other cities. Tickets are available from 9am on August 23 via www.gigsandtours.com or gigsinscotland.co.uk, with the presale starting now on www.myplaydirect.com/newton-faulkner.
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