| 7°C Belfast

Albums of the week - from Dizzee Rascal to Elvis Costello


Dizzee Rascal's latest album

Dizzee Rascal's latest album

Press Association Images

Dizzee Rascal's latest album

Dizzee Rascal - E3 AF

Covid-19 may have disrupted the music business in 2020 but Dizzee Rascal has been busy, delivering food parcels in his home area during the pandemic and being made an MBE for services to music.

He steps up the pace again with seventh studio album E3 AF, referring to his east London upbringing and African heritage, staying true to his roots while taking on the world.

Since his first, the 2003 Mercury-nominated Boy In Da Corner, the grime pioneer has seen the genre go mainstream, while he enjoyed huge success fuelled by number one singles like Bonkers and Dance Wiv Me.

From opener God Knows, the pace never drops until reflective closer Be Incredible, with 100mph raps and clattering beats keeping the energy high.

Dylan Mills might live partly in Miami these days, but this is his first album in 13 years completely written, recorded and produced in the UK.

It shows in namechecks for Matthew Kelly and Gino Ginelli ice cream on Eastside and rhyming Danny Dyer with papaya on Born Loose, while elsewhere there are mentions of Happy Shopper and Arsenal's "Wrighty, Merson and Dennis".

Guests include Kano and Ghetts, P Money and Rob Jones from Essex mod band Missing Andy, with Alicai Harley's vocals making Energies + Powers one of the most immediate of the 10 tracks, and Ocean Wisdom trading speed of light raps on the NSFW Don't Be Dumb.

The album deftly combines Dizzee Rascal's leftfield early experimentation and later pop success, putting him firmly back in the game.

8/10 Review by Matthew George

Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface

His first solo album since 2010's National Ransom certainly delivers on Elvis Costello's stated aim to produce something "vivid, whether... loud and jagged or intimate and beautiful".

The eclectic tone is set from the start and incorporates scat singing on the title track and I Can't Say Her Name and a variety of brass and woodwind flourishes from the trio of Parisian musicians involved - alongside Costello's long-time collaborator Steve Nieve - in the two-day session which produced the bulk of the album.

The single We're All Cowards Now is a standout moment along with Hetty O'Hara Confidential, about the rise and fall of a fearsome gossip columnist, and the Tom Waits-esque What Is It That I Need That I Don't Already Have?

It may not rank alongside his classic albums but Hey Clockface is an interesting and worthwhile addition to the catalogue.

7/10 Tom White

Amy Macdonald - The Human Demands

Amy Macdonald delves deep into the spirit of Americana on The Human Demands.

The Scottish singer-songwriter (33) looks inward on a record that tackles aging, depression and the pitfalls of love.

Macdonald teamed up with indie producer Jim Abbiss (the man behind early records by Artic Monkeys and Kasabian) and the result is an album that feels fresh and light.

As the name suggests, The Human Demands tackles the challenges of adult life with a playfulness lacking in Macdonald's recent albums.

Her themes are universal and delivered with a deft turn of phrase - "Do you ever really feel like you're all alone / And you're surrounded by the people that you love the most," she sings on the title track.

Statues recalls the jangling riffs and storytelling of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, while The Hudson is Springsteen-esque in its tuneful delivery and considered pacing.

It's an album that combines vulnerability with unabashed rockiness, with pleasing results.

7/10 Alex Green

Jane McDonald - Cruising with Jane McDonald Vol 2

It is more than 20 years since Jane McDonald became a household name on the BBC show The Cruise.

Her bubbly character made her a popular regular on ITV chat show Loose Women and she went on to host a number of Channel 5 shows.

Her latest album is like listening to McDonald in cabaret with strong covers of Elvis Presley's It's Now Or Never and Brenda Russell's Get Here.

Another Suitcase In Another Hall, from Evita, also suits McDonald's voice and she does decent versions of Kylie Minogue's Spinning Around and Madonna's Ray Of Light.

This is McDonald's ninth album and she has made some brave song choices to keep things interesting.

But Billy Joel's The River Of Dreams, Glenn Frey's The Heat Is On and INXS's New Sensation suit her voice less well and Men At Work's Down Under just seems an odd choice except as a bit of amusing nostalgia.

6/10 Beverley Rouse

Belfast Telegraph