Albums of the week - from Coldplay to Bing Crosby
It's a bumper week as there are new releases from the likes of Coldplay and Beck, and a Christmas album from the one and only Robbie Williams.
ROBBIE WILLIAMS - THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Like the big day itself, Robbie Williams's festive offering comes in two halves. A traditional Christmas album with all-time classics The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire), Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, and even Slade's party anthem Merry Xmas Everybody is given a jazz swing with Jamie Cullum along for the (sleigh) ride.
This is a very clever album, mixing just enough new with the classic songs of the season and peppering it with Williams's personality to freshen up the holidays.
COLDPLAY - EVERYDAY LIFE
Following years of arena-filling sunshine, Coldplay's latest release Everyday Life is a subdued and moody affair. The 16-track double album - one half Sunrise, the other Sunset - is remindful of 2005's X&Y rather than the exuberant A Head Full Of Dreams.
Church is the new album's most electronic offering, and an unmistakable stand-out. Chris Martin's atmospheric vocals and a stirringly beautiful Arabic verse sees romance entwined with religion. Faith is a thread running throughout the album - Martin going back and forth with a gospel choir in Broken - but it also delves into the current social and political unrest of "everyday life".
Full of feeling, Everyday Life demonstrates the UK band looking deeply at what they see around them. Not every experiment works - WOTW / POTP, for example - but overall a success for one of the biggest bands in the world.
BING CROSBY - BING AT CHRISTMAS
Is it Christmas without the smooth tones of the original Mr Christmas? Sorry Mr Buble, but Bing Crosby definitely got there first.
Astoundingly, Crosby's White Christmas - the world's best-selling single with sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide and, more recently, achieving more than 1.8 billion streams - has never hit the top of the UK charts.
Bing At Christmas is a magical remastering taking the best recordings in the Decca archives and mixing them with the outstanding arrangements performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
There is nothing surprising or shocking about this album, but let's be honest, that isn't what you want when wrapping your Christmas presents with a glass of mulled wine.
BECK - HYPERSPACE
In what has been an astonishing year for music, Beck has left his run for album of the year round-ups late. But it's worth the wait. Hyperspace will be fondly remembered.
The opener, Hyperlife - just 97 seconds long - sounds like a prog rock Beach Boys and leaves you wanting more. Uneventful Days is probably not the more you want, though. It sounds too much like its co-writer Pharrell Williams and not enough like Beck.
Things get back on track with Saw Lightning, another Williams co-write, but, with its mix of blues riffs and hip-hop beats, it sounds like something Beck could have released a quarter of a century ago, circa Loser. And that's a good thing.
Die Waiting has the feel of latter day U2, suggesting Beck was sticking around for the main act and taking notes when he supported the lads in 2017.
Stratosphere is the only track written solely by Hansen, but the guitar playing on it by regular foil Jason Falkner lifts it into, well, the stratosphere.
OMAR SOULEYMAN - SHLON
As far as crossover artists go, Omar Souleyman may well be king. Syrian wedding singer-turned-international dance music darling, Souleyman has worked with artists including Caribou and Bjork. He emerged in 2013 with his Four Tet-produced debut Wenu Wenu.
Though he has lived in Turkey since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Souleyman's music has taken him across the globe - and gifted him an international take on dance music.
Shlon - Arabic for "how" or literally "which colour" - is a more streamlined affair than Wenu Wenu.
For better or worse, there is little variation in the high-energy celebratory mood over Shlon's six tracks, as Souleyman sings love poetry written by his longtime collaborator Moussa Al Mardood.
These songs are perhaps his most dense and colourful so far - they are certainly the most joyful.