Albums of the week: Beyonce, Katy B, Kylie Craft, Brian Eno and Luh
Beyonce drops surprise new album, Lemonade, Katy B returns with Honey featuring several top-flight mates, including Craig David and Major Lazer, while Brian Eno gets experimental on The Ship. Here we round up the best of this week’s new releases.
BEYONCE — LEMONADE
The thing about Beyonce is that she makes you feel strong. Whether it’s through her videos, her clothes, her Instagram, her music, marching on the Superbowl — whatever the medium, she manages to transmit power, an all-consuming mightiness that drugs you on beauty, talent, hard graft and the blazing spectacle of what she is capable of.
And Lemonade, the surprise ‘visual’ album she dropped on Saturday night, previewed by a special HBO one-off, exposes her perhaps more violently and sinuously than ever before.
She scrimps on nothing: not honesty, pain or rage, opening with Pray You Catch Me, a track that swims with accusation and adultery (“What are you doing my love?”).
There’s almost a viciousness to Lemonade at times — particularly the shrieking, gravelly Don’t Hurt Yourself featuring Jack White.
Daddy Lessons is too plucky, too countrified, twanging with New Orleans street music, while Love Drought is a languid low point, but Freedom, featuring Kendrick Lamar, anthemically stomps and kicks, the beat slapping like feet on concrete, snares applauding as it pummels and probes your brain.
Sandcastles tremors with delicate piano and, at one minute 19 seconds, Forward, featuring James Blake, is a beautiful, softly furled snapshot of a song that ought to be extended into a 20-minute swamp of fizzing base and whispered lyrics. Magnificent.
KATY B — HONEY
If there’s one artist you should be tuning into in 2016, it’s Katy B.
She’s back at it again six years since her smash hit of a debut, On A Mission, and 2014’s Little Red, with her unique mix of dance and pop, although this time she’s brought a plethora of big-name artists along with her on collaborative-heavy album, Honey.
Each track features contributions from a different helping hand, from KAYTRANADA on glittering opening track Honey, to Geeneus and Novelist closing the album on Honey (Outro).
Contributions from Four Tet and Floating Points can be heard on silky club-tastic number Calm Down, while the prince of garage himself, Craig David, teams up with Major Lazer on Who Am I. While Honey might not be the most cohesive album, it’s a minor flaw to forgive in exchange for a set of excellent tracks that are bound to make up this summer’s soundtrack.
KYLE CRAFT — DOLLS OF HIGHLAND
American singer-songwriter Kyle Craft clearly fancies himself as the next Bob Dylan, but Dolls Of Highland, his first album for trendy record label, Sub Pop, is certainly not the next Blood On The Tracks.
Craft’s vocal style is a bit like Marmite, you will either love it or hate it, but the mannered style of his delivery begins to jar over the course of 12 tracks without much change in tempo. That is not to say Craft is without talent, although anyone looking for something a bit different from the plethora of alt country/Americana shtick that has been pedalled so successfully over the past decade or two is in for a disappointment.
The album was apparently primarily home recorded and the largely acoustic and piano-driven songs certainly conjure up images of a log fire burning in a rural shack as the snow buckets down outside, but not always to winning effect. The best song is the lovely and plaintively sung Lady Of The Ark, while opening track Eye Of A Hurricane, again with piano to the fore, finds the listener reaching for the repeat button.
But far too many songs meander along without purpose, such as Trinidad Beach (Before I Ride) and Black Mary.
BRIAN ENO — THE SHIP
Words like “musical genius” can be thrown around too easily, but Brian Eno remains one of the few who can get away with that label.
The Ship isn’t the most listener-friendly album and it’d be easy to dismiss its mix of low atonal sounds, slow repetition and mystifying lyrics as “plinky plonky pretentiousness”, but if you let its 20-minute long songs in, it’s transformational.
The lyrics are weak, trying a bit too hard to be poetic, but in ways hard to pinpoint, it gets in. You do feel like you’ve been on a journey come the end.
Plus, after slogging through some weird, but beautiful 40-odd minutes, Eno pulls out an amazingly radio-friendly pop song in Fickle Sun (iii) — somewhat smugly subtitled I’m Set Free.
Maybe Eno’s not a genius, but on The Ship he shows a justified and enjoyable confidence in his ability to make great, if odd, music.
LUH — SPIRITUAL SONGS FOR LOVERS TO SING
Previously of enigmatic indie saviours WU LYF, Ellery James Roberts and girlfriend Ebony Hoorn return under the guise of a new acronym (LUH stands for Lost Under Heaven) with a dozen new songs that, while not exactly spiritual, are certainly spirited.
Most of them consist of heavy drums, atonal synths and Roberts’ gravel-throated shouting, which at first is quite arresting, but quickly becomes a little samey.
When the cacophony calms down, however, and especially when the less hysterical Hoorn takes over on vocals, the tracks have an appealingly mesmeric quality: Future Blues and Loyalty in particular offer a welcome oasis of subtlety amidst the mayhem.
It’s all a bit overwrought and monotonous to merit a concentrated listen, although left in the background it could make ideal driving music for romantics prone to road rage.