Albums of the week - from Beyonce to The Cranberries
Beyonce drops a surprise live recording of her much-celebrated 2018 Coachella show and there is also a new release from The Cranberries in the wake of the death of singer Dolores O'Riordan.
BEYONCE - HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM
Within the first few moments of this nearly two-hour long album from Beyonce - dropped in her signature surprise style along with a Netflix concert documentary - you know it's going to be one of the best musical releases of the year, if not the decade.
The singer-songwriter's groundbreaking 2018 Coachella performance overflows with richness, depth, powerful messaging and impeccable artistry.
It's impossible to overstate how incredible Homecoming is. The conceptual show, painstakingly crafted over an eight-month period, was inspired by America's historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and is a loving ode to African-American culture.
In terms of the music itself, Beyonce, joined by more than 200 musicians and dancers, revisited her extensive back catalogue and breathed new life into it. Miraculously she somehow managed to improve on her already flawless portfolio of hits.
The nuances that come with a live performance are outstanding, particularly on Formation, Bow Down, I Care and Deja Vu, thanks to the additions of the orchestra, the intoxicating drum beats, the brass band and clever combining of songs and sounds and special effects. To watch the concert as it was intended is one thing, but to hear it as a live album is a genuine treat.
KIEFER SUTHERLAND - RECKLESS & ME
Kiefer Sutherland, TV bad boy of American counter-intelligence drama 24, has served up an album of undeniably solid country. Reckless & Me, Sutherland's second album in three years, continues to mine a rich vein of country, blues and alternative rock.
Maybe this crossover thing could pay its dues. Talk of faded blue jeans, highways and whisky might make Brits baulk at something so wholesomely American. But persevere. This rattles through myriad genres at breakneck pace, doing each one justice with impressive musicianship and Sutherland's whisky-soaked voice.
Open Road is catchy and elegant while Agave, a love song to the Mexico border, is pure fun. You will want to dislike this record. But give it a chance. Jack Bauer plays the blues like Captain Jack Sparrow never could.
MARINA - LOVE + FEAR
Marina And The Diamonds, moniker for Marina Diamandis, is back - but not as you may know her. Love + Fear is the fourth album from the now mononymously known Marina, but she still has all the sparkle.
The 16-track album is split into halves, separating the two different emotions of love and fear.
Although an album inspired by the theory of a psychologist - in this case, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross - doesn't necessarily sound like the basis for a hit album, it is.
Four years from her last album, it feels like Diamandis knows exactly what she wants to say and how she wants to sound. Love + Fear is well worth the wait.
THE CRANBERRIES - IN THE END
The Irish indie favourites took their time to process the death of singer Dolores O'Riordan and talk to her family before proceeding with an emotional farewell album that serves as a fitting legacy. The remaining band members have confirmed this will be the final Cranberries album, guitarist Noel Hogan telling the Guardian in September: "There is no need to continue."
And while Hogan, his bassist brother Mike and drummer Fergal Lawler pack the required punch, O'Riordan's vocals are the focal point. The title of both the album and its closing track has an obvious poignancy, mirrored by the opening trio of All Over Now, Lost and Wake Me When It's Over.
BEAR'S DEN - SO THAT YOU MIGHT HEAR ME
Bear's Den hit the brakes on their touring schedule to focus on this their third album.
Kevin Jones and Andrew Davie have retained much of the sound that made their first two records so wonderfully distinct with banjo and electronic accompaniment, though each new track is soaked in themes of familial love, acceptance and the inability to reach out to what is no longer there.
It's orchestral, atmospheric and hauntingly relatable, particularly in songs Crow and Fuel On The Fire.