Albums of the week: a round-up of the latest releases
Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro return to the fray with Ellipsis, Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes, presents concept album The Bride and Michele Stodart shares her second solo album, Pieces. We round up the best of this week’s releases.
BAT FOR LASHES — THE BRIDE
Don’t be put off by Natasha Khan — aka the ethereal Bat For Lashes — calling The Bride a ‘concept’ album. The soundtrack for what will become a full-length feature film (at some point), it tells the story of a bride whose groom is killed on his way to the church.
The rest, in typical Khan fashion, is tragic and haunting, the loss and pain stacked up in delicate, gossamer layers of spectral music that borders on the ceremonial. Never Forgive The Angels softly lulls, while I Will Love Again beats with hope, strings pushing back against the grief in the songs around it.
And even if you listen to no other fragment of the record than Joe’s Dream, it’d be worth it. Hymn-like, it rises and falls, looped with whispers and Khan’s voice slicing through to the bone. Beautifully wrought, if a little spooky.
Ella Walker: 8/10
BLINK-182 — CALIFORNIA
Blink-182 define a new age for pop punk with their latest release California. The addition of vocalist Matt Skiba, after founder member Tom DeLonge’s departure, has provided a catalyst for Blink to take their foot off the break and push the band to unexplored heights.
The 16 songs as a collective verge on progressive pop punk while the band maintain their roots in adolescent debauchery. The lyrical content from Skiba and fellow singer Mark Hoppus continues to be fuelled by the angst of youth which has created catchy anthems for a new generation to hold onto, as seen in the title track California and Los Angeles.
It appears that Blink are finally back with an ambitiously destructive cry for a party that will keep you listening over and over.
Lewis Matthews: 8/10
SHURA — NOTHING’S REAL
There is no shortage of female singer/songwriters doing the Eighties synth pop sound these days, so to stand out, you’ve got to have something special.
Shura emerged in early 2014 with first single Touch, which garnered her first taste of positive attention.
That year ended with a nomination on the longlist of the BBC Sound Of 2015 poll, so her debut has been a while in coming and although some of the songs — such as Indecision, 2Shy and White Light — have been in the public consciousness for some time, they sound as fresh as newer tracks.
Shura captures the fragility of love dying and never having had the chance to blossom.
The title track is spacey Eighties Eurodisco while What’s It Gonna Be? bounces along like Cyndi Lauper circa 1983 and New York-era Madonna.
There are cute excerpts of what sounds like a junior Shura giving this album a warmth and relatability, too.
This is a debut that comes across as a labour of love and is packed with real heart and melodies.
Lisa Allen: 8/10
BIFFY CLYRO — ELLIPSIS
Biffy Clyro’s new album, Ellipsis, is far from their best work. It’s an album full of decent pop-rock tunes that ambles along pleasantly enough, but without presenting anything unusual or unexpected.
Luckily for Biffy Clyro the ace up their sleeve will always be lead singer Simon Neil, one of the few vocalists out there capable of singing in a discernible accent.
His throaty Scottish notes raise otherwise average songs to a higher plain, so that they beg for a second listen. Epic opener Wolves Of Winter is a catchy anthem ready for the inevitable stadium tour, while among the ballads Re-arrange stands out.
This is not an album people will be talking about in 10 years time, but fans of Biffy, or indeed the Scottish accent, will find much to admire here.
Sam Priddy: 7/10
MICHELE STODART — PIECES
Four years have passed since The Magic Numbers’ Michele Stodart released her first solo album, Wide-Eyed Crossing. With her second instalment, Pieces, she’s likely to leave her listeners teary-eyed.
Combining sweeping melodies with poignant narrative, Stodart flaunts her qualities as a musician and a storyteller. “Taking the blame for what wasn’t the case/I keep changing myself for you” she sings on When Is It Over?, a song that covers the struggles of an ended abusive relationship. Just Anyone Won’t Do is another tender tale of how a long, loving relationship ends in grief (“The silence is all that you share/When you wake up and she’s no longer there”).
Pieces is an emotion-drenched, blues and folk hybrid, delivered with angst and honesty. Embellished with an ornate string arrangement, it’s proof that good things do come to those who wait.
Jared Tinslay: 7/10