Albums of the week
Deaf Havana share All These Countless Nights; Loyle Carner presents Yesterday’s Gone, and Mark Eitzel returns with Hey Mr Ferryman. We round up the best of this week’s releases
Loyle Carner - Yesterday's Gone: Yesterday's Gone is emotional without being cloying, affecting and heartsick without being maudlin and mushy.
It’s a wobbly line that Loyle Carner — real name Benjamin Coyle-Larner — walks on his debut LP, blending grime, jazz, rap and spoken word (he previously toured with Kate Tempest). Opening with The Isle Of Arran, edged throatily by a skin-shivering gospel choir, Carner’s low, rumbling vocals scoop up painful topics — from abandonment to doubt — and lays them on you with feeling and nuance.
The 21-year-old was studying up until his stepfather’s death, a tragedy that propelled him back to music, and home to support his little brother and his mum, the latter of which appears on the boisterous Swear.
On the jazzy Ain’t Nothing Happens, laced with snare, he dissects ambition, while on Florence imagines making pancakes, set to warm, spare piano chords.
There’s depth and beauty here, and more to be found with every listen.
MARK EITZEL — HEY MR FERRYMAN
Former American Music Club frontman Eitzel’s 10th solo album is his first in three years and was recorded in London with ex-Suede man Bernard Butler who plays guitar, bass and keyboards.
It’s a fruitful collaboration between two musicians who made their name in the Eighties and Nineties on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
He brings heartfelt lyrics and memorable melodies, while Butler gives the music a lush, shimmering warmth. Eitzel’s tales of the marginalised and downtrodden are as affecting as ever.
The Road is a slow-burning tale of defiance in the face of disappointment, Nothing And Everything is a tender, haunting story of someone in a very troubled relationship, while La Llorona ups the pace and unleashes fuzzy guitars.
Wistful and bittersweet, this album shows Eitzel is still at the top of his game.
XANDRIA — THEATER OF DIMENSIONS
German symphonic metal band Xandria are a haunting, powerful rock spectacle, and new album Theatre Of Dimensions expresses their sound so much more creatively than the previous LP, Sacrificium. It’s a big step up, putting them in the ball park with bands like Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, and Within Temptation.
Dianne van Giersbergen’s vocals are perfect, whether reaching piercing top notes like on Ship Of Doom, with its dark Irish folk twist, or gentler tones like on the ballad Dark Night Of The Soul. Backing her are high tempo drums and typically brash metal guitar riffs, with a subtle layer of keyboard and strings mixed in for good measure.
It’s not surprising that by adding these you can make opera quite appealing, but instrumentally this band would be phenomenal to listen to. Theatre Of Dimensions is an album for anyone wanting to broaden their rock music horizons.
HORSE THIEF — TRIALS & TRUTHS
Oklahoma five-piece Horse Thief have a good pedigree. They hail from the same town as Midlake and are friends with The Flaming Lips who introduced them to label Bella Union.
This second album, the follow-up to 2014’s Fear In Bliss, confirms them as one of US rock’s brightest hopes with a collection of finely-honed tunes that encompass the epic and the intimate. Written while on the road, there’s a sense of a band getting their heads around what they’re about — but there’s some accomplished songwriting on show.
Another Youth is an upbeat reflection on getting old, but retaining your youthful spirit, while Drowsy is a frank look at how drugs can take over your life. Melancholy guitars accompany lyrics that take in love, longing, loneliness and depression, but the soaring melodies make this album an uplifting experience overall.
DEAF HAVANA — ALL THESE COUNTLESS NIGHTS
These Norfolk boys know how to do anthemic, emotional rock, with hoarse vocals and the odd scream, but they’ve got pace and inventiveness, too.
Trigger appears to have the blunt tapping of maracas in the background of frontman James Veck-Gilodi’s hungry vocals, while they’ve upped their reliance on synthy sounds. Guitars, guilt and darkness are still their samey staples, but Deaf Havana are not so intimidating as your usual heavy rockers; Ashes, Ashes and Like A Ghost are sweet even, melodic. All These Countless Nights won’t set you alight, but it’s solid stuff.