Albums of the week - From Kitt Philippa to Elbow
It's a week of strong releases, with the hauntingly lovely debut from Northern Ireland's Kitt Philippa, plus Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Elbow seriously impressing.
KITT PHILIPPA - HUMAN
"I'm listening to an album that is so outrageously amazing, I feel a bit sick - in a good way." That was the message I sent to my partner when I listened to rising star Kitt Philippa's debut album Human for the first time.
The Northern Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist's transfixingly soothing vocals will catch you off guard from the opening track. Philippa was raised on classical music and it shows, although the classically-driven tracks are largely tainted with a mild urban, contemporary edge.
Aside from that, the artist's natural flair for connecting with an audience with poetic, emotional lyrics and even more emotional musicality is perhaps the most palpable factor of all.
Title track Human opens the album, a striking ode to humanity that bagged the Northern Irish Music Prize Single of the Year 2018. Lion starts calmly with clever, pared-back instrumentation, allowing Philippa's vibrant voice to take centre stage before it builds into mild euphoria. Following a hazy, dreamy few tracks, Fahrenheit is an experimental offering, with digital sounds layered over a jazzy keyboard, but Philippa's atmospheric voice is still the main event.
From start to finish, the collection shows Philippa's power to blend the old and the new while portraying the deepest of emotions in a digestible manner. An album free of bombast and overproduction, it is a must-listen for all.
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS - GHOSTEEN
In the first album recorded since the death of his 15-year-old son Arthur in 2015, Nick Cave continues a sort of public exorcism and produces a devastating, painfully beautiful work.
Ghosteen is an 11-track double album that flits between ruminations on family and explorations of the ethereal, always with the presence of Cave's "little white shape dancing at the end of the world". Rippling piano and Warren Ellis's expansive, shifting synths replace the usual rhythm section of drums and bass.
It is oh-so sad, even in the context of Cave's music, which has always been doom-laden and filled with sorrow. Bright Horses features some of Cave's finest lyricism while Waiting for You's simple refrain is all that is necessary to evoke the sadness in his heart.
FREDDIE MERCURY - NEVER BORING
It's hard to believe it is 28 years since Mercury's untimely death aged just 45 and this collection is a reminder that he sang just as he lived his life - with passion, joy and sadness.
Familiar tunes like The Great Pretender are mixed with recently discovered tracks like Time Waits for No One and Mercury sings with his heart on every one. The title is inspired by Mercury's quote "You can do anything with my work, but never make me boring" and the collection brings back memories of Mercury's captivating, strutting performances, dominating the stage and drawing every eye to him.
A collection to remind everyone what we have lost.
ELBOW - GIANTS OF ALL SIZES
Elbow have had consecutive number one albums, 2014's The Take Off And Landing Of Everything and 2017's Little Fictions, and four in a row in the top 10 - but only one top-10 single, the festival-pleasing bombast of One Day Like This (which is now 11 years old, though it peaked after the 2012 Olympics).
From the opening line "I don't know Jesus any more" to the drug references that litter White Noise White Heat and Doldrums and frequent hints towards the broader political turmoil in the world, Giants Of All Sizes is a self-professed "bleak" album but one which will continue to reward during repeat listens.
RICHARD DAWSON - 2020
Guitar-wielding male singer-songwriters are everywhere right now but in the kingdom of the bland, the man with 20/20 vision is king. So, meet avant-garde folk musician Richard Dawson, from Newcastle upon Tyne, whose excellent last album, 2017's Peasant, was set in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bryneich, obviously.
Now he's turned his gaze on contemporary Britain and he doesn't seem to much like what he sees. However, this unflinching examination of the state we're in isn't as bleak as it may sound though. Dawson has a dark sense of humour and an ear for a tune, with only the 50-second No-One truly uneasy.