Albums of the week: From John Legend to Peter Doherty
The Libertines’ Pete Doherty is back with Hamburg Demonstrations; The Weeknd presents Starboy, and Bruno Tonioli publishes An Italian Romance. We round up the best of this week’s releases.
JOHN LEGEND — DARKNESS AND LIGHT
On his first record since winning an Academy Award for Best song for Glory, with rapper Common in 2015, John Legend is on epic form. His voice rolls over you in rich, smooth waves, tonally beautiful, and his delivery silkily effortless with it. Love Me Now is an anthemic request for us to live in the moment, layered with backing vocals and strings that draw the song into a yearning crescendo that makes you want to grab the nearest person to you, kiss them and dance. What You Do To Me is angrier but still soulful, with electronic riffs lending the chorus a stealth so you find it whirring in your brain hours later. I Know Better is classic Legend; tender lyrics looped round deep piano notes that reverberate in your chest. There’s no darkness here, it’s all pure light.
PETER DOHERTY — HAMBURG DEMONSTRATIONS
Pete Doherty’s troubles have been well documented, but he’s still a musical force to be reckoned with. The opening track on his latest solo offering, Hamburg Demonstrations, Kolly Kibber is a Kinks-esque slice of jaunty pop, while Down For The Outing sounds like a more mellow Libertines, which is no bad thing. Flags From The Old Regime, Doherty’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, is tender, Doherty’s voice cracking as he sings “you made your fortune/but you’re broke inside”. Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven is his response to the Paris attacks of last November. There’s no doubt it’s heartfelt, but the serious subject matter and plinky-plonk arrangement seem ill-matched. Oily Boker is the stand-out track on the album, lush guitars and harmonica augmenting a toe-tapping tune. Doherty’s knack for literary, bittersweet storytelling is evident throughout Hamburg Demonstrations. It’s good to have him back.
THE WEEKND — STARBOY
Singles Can’t Feel My Face and The Hills have practically soundtracked the last two years, ever since The Weeknd — aka Canadian singer Abel Tesfaye — presented his second LP, Beauty Behind The Madness. Spouting perfect pop, bound up in catchy electronica, everything he’s done so far has been magnificent, and now he’s back with the Daft Punk-approved Starboy. It’s not a disappointment. The title track is laced with an urgent percussive patter that builds and builds, R&B-laden Party Monster unfurls slowly, hypnotically, while Sidewalks featuring Kendrick Lamar, swaggers with a funky sureness. It’s bold, explicit and addictive, with a lusciousness difficult to resist.
EVERY TIME I DIE — LOW TEENS
Buffalo New York metalcore band Every Time I Die release their eighth studio album upon the world. Thawed from the depths of a freezing winter in their hometown, the southern rock-inspired metal/hardcore group blast through each track with eviscerating urgency. The title references the chilly season that birthed the album, and presumably refers to Fahrenheit rather than Celsius temperatures. Perhaps milder weather would have produced a milder record, so we should be thankful for the frigid upstate New York winter that has given us these 13 (mostly) brutal tracks. Frontman Keith Buckley never falters; delivering sardonic, often intellectual lyrics in a manner that almost leaves you hoarse. The riff on opening track Fear And Trembling is unsettling and jarring. If you enjoy that, you’ll love the rest of this record too.
BRUNO TONIOLI — AN ITALIAN ROMANCE
Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has entertained audiences for 12 years, but he’s not showing off his vocal talents with this three-disc compilation album. As he puts it, he has curated 57 tracks of his “favourite Italian music, inspired by the romance of Italian culture”. The first disc plays like a cheesy wedding playlist: Mambo Italiano, That’s Amore and Quando Quando Quando all appear. Disc two is inspired by film and theatre — themes from The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, for example — while the third rounds up English-friendly operatic and classical music heavyweights in the vein of Nessun Dorma and Allegro. Ultimately, Tonioli’s chosen crowd-pleasers, so expect to see this album under a lot of older relatives’ Christmas trees.