Albums of the week: From Izzy Bizu to The Scientists
Singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow fails to keep things funky, The Scientists concoct a blast from the past and Izzy Bizu shows why her soulful voice has the eyes of music world upon her. We round up this week’s releases.
IZZY BIZU — A MOMENT OF MADNESS
Izzy Bizu has been casting a spell of late, taking the festival circuit by storm and enchanting audiences nationwide with her wonderfully soulful voice. After months of successfully proving herself as a deserving Brit Critics Choice nominee, she’s finally sharing her eagerly anticipated debut record, A Moment Of Madness. Clearly inspired by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Amy Winehouse, it remains refreshing and doesn’t lack originality. First single White Tiger, a distinctly pop-soul track oozing with energy, has already clocked up over 27 million Spotify streams. From the hypnotizing piano ballad that is Mad Behaviour, to contrasting light and dark tones in Lost Paradise and the slow-building string instrumental in Adam & Eve, there’s a new gem to fold yourself into at every turn. Izzy Bizu combines commerciality with an undeniable raw talent. She’d be tough to not love.
JAMES VINCENT McMORROW — WE MOVE
Generally Irish singer James Vincent McMorrow does mellow, his haunting, folky musical forays are atmospheric and mildly depressing. Which makes We Move, his third album, something of a departure that is both glorious and disappointing in equal, frustrated measure. It starts brilliantly, with first single Rising Water. Laden with funky twangs and warm beats that thrum right through you, there’s restrained yearning in it lapping at muted synths before swinging into a chorus that ramps up. It’s likely as close as McMorrow will ever get to a pop hit. And then begins a slide into a run of indistinguishable tracks that simmer sweetly, but never boil over into greatness. On Killer Whales, echoes of James Blake come through, while Surreal belies a tentative interest in jazz and soul. Frankly, McMorrow needed to keep the funk going.
BAYSIDE — VACANCY
New York punk rock band Bayside return with their seventh album, Vacancy. Singer Anthony Raneri’s distinctive vocals, cheery on the surface, are full of simmering aggression and drive the record forward. He often competes with intricate guitar riffs, while at other times the two complement each other. However, the record is consistent throughout, which is unsurprising given their experience in the genre. At a push, I’ve Been Dead All Day, Pretty Vacant and Mary are the stand-outs, though from opener Two Letters through to closer It’s Not As Depressing As It Sounds, Vacancy rarely lets up the pace. It’s a blast from start to finish.
BANKS AND STEELZ — ANYTHING BUT WORDS
If you have an act that sounds like something out of a buddy police comedy (Paul Banks is from soft rock Interpol, RZA is from hard rap Wu-Tang Clan), their first album needs to be explosive for it to pass the sniff test. Both are enormously and clearly talented: RZA spits and snaps and, when he’s not rhyming ‘broccoli’ with ‘hot seat’, lines up the end of his verses and goes for it; while Banks creates the sparse and guitar-layered soundscapes you’d expect. But there’s rarely any fusion — RZA often just drops in. Opening track Giant shows the double act’s potential and there are some fast-paced highlights like Love And War and Conceal, but most of the album is stuck in second gear. If you’ve wondered what Interpol with more rapping would sound like, perfect, otherwise it’s an interesting experiment with too mixed results.
THE SCIENTISTS — A PLACE CALLED BAD
Four decades or so on from their debut single, The Scientists’ back catalogue is being re-released like an airborne bomb to punch a retro hole in your musical senses. You may not be overly familiar with the band, but some of your musical heroes might well have been. The Perth-born punk/rock outfit were together for about a decade from the late Seventies onwards and their influence has lived on. Now the Scientists are cramming everything into a four-CD behemoth packing in 80 songs. If you like your music raw, this is a diverting antidote to today’s vapid over-production.