Albums of the week: From Mallory Knox to Alison Krauss
Stormzy shares Gang Signs & Prayer, Temples release Volcano and Grandaddy present their Last Place. We round up the best of this week’s releases.
STORMZY — GANG SIGNS & PRAYER
South London boy Stormzy — aka 23-year-old Michael Omari — is a rap juggernaut, bent on hauling grime out of the doldrums with his debut record Gang Signs & Prayer (#GSAP). He cites Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner as the LP that triggered the man — the voice — he’d become, but Stormzy is doing way more than tip-toeing enviously behind his inspiration. He’s smashing it. The Mobo award-winning artist’s 2015 single Shut Up is urgent, bright, pithy and lyrically taut; and the magnetism of those three minutes filters through the entire record, even when he veers into gawky fan boy territory (“You’re never too big for Adele,” he scolds on the breathless, racing Big For Your Boots). Omari also knows how to do delicate and soothing — namely on Velvet and the stunning Blinded By Your Grace Pt 2 feat MNEK. He even finds his lullaby range on Cigarettes & Cush, featuring Kehlani. The vocals are fearless, blazing with wit and pace, the delivery powerful and dextrous. Brilliant, heroic stuff.
GRANDADDY — LAST PLACE
Grandaddy split up in 2006, but, despite reforming in 2012, kept quiet until single Way We Won’t emerged late last year — and it felt like they’d never been away. Chunky riffs and Jason Lytle’s distinctive vocals were reassuringly familiar and the perfect way to reintroduce the band. That track opens Last Place, setting the tone for a collection of gorgeously offbeat, dishevelled lo-fi rock. Brush With The Wild chugs along with fuzzy guitars and strange electronic noises; Seventies-style keyboards and effects recur throughout. The Boat Is In The Barn veers between jaunty Sixties pop and tender lament effortlessly, Chek Injin rocks in and out, Jed The 4th is short, sweet and impossibly sad. Last Place is an album full of wit, invention and tunes The Beatles would be proud of. Don’t leave it another decade, Grandaddy.
MALLORY KNOX — WIRED
Fresh off the positive reaction to single, Giving It Up, this Cambridge alt-rock band announced the release of Wired — an album full of infectious choruses and nods to all kinds of genres of rock. The five-piece keep to their rock roots, with the occasional burst of Noughties pop-punk influence — particularly evident on Mother and Better Off Without You. Falling In Love keeps things varied with its Yellowcard-esque beginnings, soon turning into an angsty love anthem (as the title might suggest), whilst Lucky Me brings in the pure alt-rock sound we love MK for. All in all, Wired is a brilliantly diverse rock album that will maintain the attention of both music snobs and mainstream alt-rock/pop-punk fans alike. Well worth a listen... or 10.
ALISON KRAUSS — WINDY CITY
Phenomenally successful in the US, with 27 Grammys to her name, bluegrass singer Alison Krauss is usually heard with the band Union Station, but this solo effort — made up of all covers of relatively obscure country songs — is unlikely to set the UK charts alight. Possibly the most recognisable is Gentle On My Mind, which is a plaintive, tuneful, acoustic ballad about an absent lover that sounds lovely in Alison’s sing-song delivery. As is the title track, and opener Losing You. The honky-tonk treatment of It’s Goodbye And So Long You and Poison Love is a welcome break. The problem is that age-old criticism of the genre: all the tracks sound very, very similar, so it’s hard to play favourites, although they are all very sweet on the ear.
TEMPLES — VOLCANO
The Kettering-based psychedelic youngsters follow up their impressive debut with another self-produced effort. From the first few seconds of opening track, Certainty, it’s apparent that they’ve spent the time between recording Volcano and 2014’s Sun Structures learning a fair amount about recording, as the new songs are beefed up and full of swirls of sound, with the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows and much of Tame Impala’s discography seemingly used as a template. It makes for an interesting progression from the occasionally one-dimensional jangly sound of before, and brings the boys into the 21st century. However, it still feels as though they’re overreaching at times.