Albums of the week: Bjork to Anton Du Beke
Debuts come in the form of X Factor winner Matt Terry and Strictly Come Dancing mainstay Anton Du Beke, however, it’s Bjork who dominates this week’s reviews.
BJORK — UTOPIA
It’s been two years since Bjork released her heartbreak album Vulnicura to critical acclaim and her follow-up Utopia is equally sure to win over hearts, broken or otherwise. In a reversal of tone, Utopia re-appropriates Vulnicura’s imagery of closing wounds into a powerful declaration of renewed openness to the world. Bjork offers a mission statement of sorts in Loss, saying, “How we make up for (loss) defines who we are”, and, in Utopia, she offers tools of recovery in repetitions of her former expressions of sexuality and agoraphilia.
This combination of retrospection and optimism is the truest triumph of Utopia and it acts as a synthesis of Bjork’s eclectic musical history. From the pastoral flutes in the title track, which seem to hark back to Biophilia, to the feral passions of Body Memory, reminiscent of the enigmatically primal Submarine, the Icelandic star presents a consolidation of her life’s work in Utopia that is both familiar and ground-breaking, sensitive and blunt, and which demonstrates a complete command of the wide array of instruments and talents at her disposal.
NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS — WHO BUILT THE MOON?
A popular theory has it that culture operates on a 20-year repetitive cycle, and in the case of Sleeper and Shed Seven hoiking their mid-table Brit pop wares on the road recently, it rings true. Noel Gallagher’s Oasis annihilated sales records in late 1997 with their LP Be Here Now, as his beloved Manchester City were free-falling towards the third division.
Yet flash forward two decades and City are English football’s stylish standard-bearers and Gallagher has sunk a division or two from rock’s Premier League since a brutal burning of brotherly bridges.
On Who Built The Moon?, Noel and his High Flying Birds launch with Fort Knox, a hotpot of swirling Mancunian melody and everyman “Got to get yourself together” chant. David Holmes twiddles the knobs, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr make obligatory cameos, and the end product is not nearly as faded Nineties rockstar as seemed inevitable.
ANTON DU BEKE — FROM THE TOP
Nobody ever expected to utter these words, not in a million years... but Anton Du Beke’s cover of an Arctic Monkeys classic is pretty darn good. The Strictly stalwart’s old school swing, big band cover of the indie rock group’s I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor is one of the highlights on his startlingly refreshing debut album, From The Top. Think Hit The Road Jack meets Sheffield, with a little bit of Strictly stardust scattered over it.
Music snobs may roll their eyes, but Du Beke nimbly manages to inject his fun character into decades-worth of hits, proving he really is a modern version of his idol and former co-star, the late Sir Bruce Forsyth.
MATT TERRY — TROUBLE
Matt Terry won The X Factor and then seemed to fade into the background. But with the arrival of his debut album, Trouble, he will not go unnoticed for much longer.
The album really shows his voice off well, while offering a more mature sound than is possibly expected. The 14-strong track-listing includes Terry’s Spanish vocals on Enrique Iglesias’ Subeme La Radio, which also features Sean Paul. It’s an impressive collaboration for a first album. It’s also a smart one, and a move that exposes Terry to a wider fan base utilising his fluent Spanish.
For the rest — there’s a good variety, from super catchy Sucker For You to the smooth Got You.
THE STAVES AND YMUSIC — THE WAY IS READ
The Staves and yMusic have independently racked up some world-class collaborations in their time, from Bon Iver to Paul Simon, and yMusic, the sextet from New York, have had highly successful collaborations with singer/songwriters Ben Folds and Jose Gonzalez.
Perhaps it was these latter collaborations that encouraged them to team up with the folk singing sisters from Watford The Staves for The Way Is Read, a genreless album that looks foolproof on paper.
Indeed, when The Staves are on their home turf of simple beautiful songs, as in stand-out track All The Times You Prayed, they soar over a beautiful and sensitive accompaniment from yMusic’s delicate instrumentation, and the project earnestly assures the listener that these two bands, one of three voices and the other of six instruments, could be greater than the sum of their collective parts.