Just Jack - All Night Cinema (Mercury) Londoner Jack Allsopp remains a frustrating performer.
This third album boasts several touches of hip-hop-meets-pure-pop brilliance, but also a fair degree of uninspired songwriting as well.
First, the good stuff: 253 — named after a London bus route — recalls Mike Skinner of The Streets when he made music that was urgent and vital.
The Day I Died, meanwhile, finds the song's pen-pushing protagonist noting that “the day I died was the best day of my life/tell my friends and my kids and my wife that they'll be all right”. (The promo video — featuring the ubiquitous James Nesbitt — is well worth a look.)
Were Allsopp able to keep up this standard, All Night Cinema would be a contender for album of the year. But the weak songs are pitifully poor — Doctor Doctor, for instance, is Calvin Harris-bad, boasting some of the tackiest lyrics you'll ever hear.
Burn it: 253; Blood
Noah and the Whale - The First Days of Spring (Cherrytree)
With a name derived from that touching US indie film The Squid and the Whale and its director Noah Baumbach, these English folk scenesters have wasted little time in following up their much-admired 2008 debut album.
Once again, Charlie Fink's deadpan vocals recall those of Galway's Adrian Crowley, as his soothing, conversational singing entices the attentive listener into an absorbing collection of songs.
Much of it seems to have been inspired by Fink's former relationship with ex-bandmate Laura Marling. My Broken Heart certainly lives up to its title as Fink sings “I saw my world cave in”. It's a beautiful song — not nearly as maudlin as you might think. Ditto I Have Nothing, which has a choir humming to quite stunning effect. There's a sense of euphoria here too, especially on the choir-led Love of an Orchestra and on the widescreen epic, Instrumental #1.
Burn it: My Broken Heart; Love of an Orchestra
Florence Rawlings - A Fool in Love (Dramatico)
It seems cruel to get the knives out for a 20-year-old releasing her first album, but this truly is a wretched offering.
Londoner Rawlings is the latest young female to be developed by ex-Wombles man Mike Batt and foisted on an undeserving public before she's ready.
Like Batt's previous ‘creation' Katie Melua, Rawlings has no shortage of talent — both can sing, of that there's no doubt — but the songs, which are mostly written by Batt, are so utterly devoid of personality that they are forgotten in an instant.
Love is a Battlefield is especially egregious — pompous, overwrought, shrill and supermarket muzak-bland, it's really quite a shocker.
Her cover of Chuck Berry's You Can't Catch Me is similarly inane.
Mind you, this album is a veritable masterpiece when listened alongside the latest offering from Dolores O'Riordan but that’s another story.
Burn it: Hard to Get