Albums of the week - from Friendly Fires to Frank Turner
British indie rockers Friendly Fires end an eight-year wait for their third album with Inflorescent, while Frank Turner and Babybird also release new records.
BABYBIRD - PHOTOSYNTHESIS
If what you remember of Stephen Jones' back catalogue is You're Gorgeous, leave your expectations on the floor and step into a whole new world of sounds.
Babybird, from his bedsit start, was lyrically dark, breaking into the mainstream with a very pop-sounding record. Photosynthesis is a step back to those demo days. Think of stark, dark lyrics and emotions set against a laid-back swirling track.
The rampant drums used as punctuation during the waves of despondency in Too Late, the dirty country twang of October and the Cafe del Mar-esque Beach Grave... it has to be said there is no single sound to this record.
What there is, though, is a journey. A Black Friday Jesus Tuesday is a heartbeat that fades in and out, up until the delicate strains of Yeah, I'm in Hollywood, a grown man lost in today's insta-perfect society.
Photosynthesis is pure poetry - perfect for when the party is over.
FRIENDLY FIRES - INFLORESCENT
If you want an idea of the direction Friendly Fires have taken since the release of their last album Pala back in 2011, look no further than their recent cover of Lack of Love.
The St Albans three-piece smothered the classic house track by Adonis - now some 20 years old - with shuffling bongos and a nasty acid synth line. Their choice and treatment spoke volumes.
Long-promised third album Inflorescent is more dance-floor ready than either their self-titled debut or Pala's expansive groove-laden odyssey.
But it's more than that. It sounds sophisticated while feeling deeply hedonistic.
The Chicago house-inspired Sleeptalking sizzles and bites before breaking into a chorus straight out of the great pop songbook. The Disclosure-produced Heaven Let Me In, a sensual house chugger, sees lead singer Ed Macfarlane channelling George Michael.
For the first time they truly indulge their influences: the minimal techno of Cologne's Kompakt label and the earworm artistry of the late Prince. Long gone is the raw electro of their debut. What remains is a talent for elevating simple melodies to high art.
FRANK TURNER - NO MAN'S LAND
The folk-punk singer and self-confessed "history nerd" uses his new album - and accompanying podcast - to explore the oft-overlooked tales of women, ranging from the likes of Mata Hari and 'Hall of Fame' singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Jinny Bingham, a landlady accused of murder and witchcraft, serial killer Nannie Doss and murdered vaudeville star Dora Hand.
Turner goes beyond telling the women's stories to sometimes incorporating their work in his - words and Byzantine melodies from the original Hymn(s) Of Kassiani and guitar lines from Sister Rosetta, which Turner quipped proved "challenging, because she's a way better guitar player".
While marking a shift from his usual more personal songwriting, Turner finds room in the collection for an influential woman in his own life - his mother, Rosemary Jane. The fascinating and witty podcast, Tales From No Man's Land, digs deeper into the stories behind each song in the company of relevant - and mostly female - historians.
MODERN NATURE - HOW TO LIVE
Daring is the band that aims at the brain as keenly as the heart, but the debut album from indie three-piece Modern Nature has an unapologetic intellectual bent that will surely endear it to loftier fans of innovative indie music.
Lead single Peradam, for instance, references French surrealist Rene Daumal and avant-garde film director Alejandro Jodorowsky, and there are frequent formal experiments, such as the staccato rhythmic innovations of Seance or the unsettling backwards recording techniques of Nightmare.
Nevertheless, a dreamy and melodic pop sensibility underpins the sudden bursts of discordant noise. It may take a few listens for the genuine beauty of How To Live to become properly apparent to the casual listener, but this is a compelling album that rewards perseverance.