Albums of the week: Tinie Tempah to British Sea Power
Tinie Tempah releases Youth; Postmodern Jukebox presents The Essentials, and Diet Cig share Swear I’m Good At This. We round up the best of this week’s releases.
TINIE TEMPAH — YOUTH
Tinie Tempah’s third album Youth finds the South London rapper with something to say. Seven years after he broke through with Pass Out, the UK music industry is in a very different place. Tinie shows his progress by taking us from the estate he grew up on, to his plush Hackney townhouse, keen to remind us of the role he’s had in making “urban” sounds more palatable to other audiences. Youth contains the hits you’d expect, notably previously released singles Girls Like and Not Letting Go, but those are seated alongside the kind of production that may not have made it onto his first two albums — released at a time when the UK mainstream was less comfortable with grime-like sonics. It’s an eclectic mix of songs, with the 17-track sequence likely to have skippable tracks for different listeners, but shows the 28-year-old as a musician worthy of the credit he gets.
DIET CIG — SWEAR I’M GOOD AT THIS
Kat Stratford, Julia Stiles’ jock-lacerating ‘shrew’ from the Shakespeare-riffing movie 10 Things I Hate About You, would adore Diet Cig. Because if Kat loved the pop-punk of Letters To Cleo as much as she made out, she’d be smitten by the all-gold debut LP from Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman. They’re no Bikini Kill or The Raincoats, but that’s hardly the premise. This is unashamedly a record that would sit as comfortably in a youth club as in a rock club. The Brooklyn-based duo tear through 12 songs in fewer than 30 minutes, supernova hooks at every turn. Luciano’s angst fuels the likes of Barf Day (“I just want to have ice cream for my birthday/Blow my candles out and wish all of my pain away”), and Sixteen, an evisceration of a tell-tale ex-boyfriend. The framing of these stories of growing into adulthood help to make this a terrific, uplifting record.
SCOTT BRADLEE’S POSTMODERN JUKEBOX — THE ESSENTIALS
It is perhaps fitting that the Postmodern Jukebox’s social media breakthrough came with a ragtime-style cover of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop — the song’s claim that: “I wear your grandad’s clothes, I look incredible,” could not be a better fit with PMJ’s ethos. Founder member Robyn Adele Anderson provides vocals there, having kicked off the album with Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop, while other vocalists are drawn from musical theatre, American Idol, and even outside music as Puddles the Clown takes on Lorde’s Royals. Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass is a relative dud and Stacy’s Mom, by Fountains Of Wayne, is a baffling inclusion, but Maiya Sykes’ extravagant vocal lifts the equally surprising I Believe In A Thing Called Love by the Darkness, which is among the album’s highlights. Mykal Kilgore’s ludicrous version of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On is even better, but PMJ’s style may be better suited to small doses than an 18-song album — even if it does come with a free cocktail menu.
THE SMITH STREET BAND — MORE SCARED OF YOU THAN YOU ARE OF ME
Australian rockers The Smith Street Band return with their fourth studio album, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me. The Melbourne indie/punk four-piece’s latest long-player (produced in California with long-term collaborator Jeff Rosenstock) is a solid collection of tracks and narratives sung and spun by Wil Wagner. Wagner is unafraid to sing in his Aussie accent, which transports the listener. There are some stand-out tracks such as Death To The Lads, Birthdays and Shine, the latter with an interesting choral backing track. Old fans won’t be disappointed and it would be worth newcomers giving this record a shot.
BRITISH SEA POWER — LET THE DANCERS INHERIT THE PARTY
The first album of new music from British Sea Power since 2013 was created as political divides tore through the UK. More specifically, and to use the band’s Martin Noble’s words, “To a background of politicians perfecting the art of unabashed lying.” Recorded after a successful crowdfunding campaign last year, melody is at the forefront on the album as the six-piece produce a record full of hope against “international lunacy.” International Space Station is the notable stand-out track, its excitable keyboard line zipping along while the album closes beautifully through the dreamy, hazy, sprawls of Alone Piano. Staring into the future, Let The Dancers Inherit The Party provides a message almost anyone can learn from; it is organisation and hope that will transport society forward, not despair.