Albums of the week - from Lighthouse Family to Julia Michaels
This week we've cast our ears over the fourth album from the returning Lighthouse Family, the new EP by American songwriting sensation Julia Michaels and Northern Irish singer-songwriter Pat Dam Smyth's second release
Lighthouse Family - Blue Sky In Your Head
It takes some big cojones to come back into the fray after 18 years away, but the Lighthouse Family have done exactly that, returning following a lengthy hiatus, with their easy listening-meets-anthemic pop style and trademark lofty-sounding song titles still intact.
Songwriter and producer Paul Tucker and singer Tunde Baiyewu admitted they wanted to make a classic Lighthouse Family album that worked for 2019 - and they may have actually done it.
From the title track to the enigmatic closer Immortal, it's obvious Tucker and Baiyewu have recaptured the magic of their glory days, their music oozing chilled-out charisma and occasional moments of singalong-friendly euphoria.
It's a strong effort and worth the wait. However, it remains to be seen if they can make the same impact with music fans as they managed with previous massive hits such as Ocean Drive, Lifted and High.
Pat Dam - The Last King
Seven years after his debut solo album, the Northern Irish singer-songwriter returns with an outstanding follow-up.
His smoke-stained vocals and songwriting knack conjure Leonard Cohen vibes, with lyrics drawn from the darkest places but wrangled into accessible and hook-laden shapes.
Ill-advised drug-fuelled episodes are referenced on Goodbye Berlin and Dancing and, while by no means a political album, the idea of a hopelessly lost last king ruling in confusion while his empire dwindles around him is unavoidably on the nose in current times.
One criticism could be that the album is a bit samey, making the rockier interludes a welcome change of pace.
Julia Michaels - Inner Monologue Part 2
Julia Michaels is having a bit of a moment. On the cusp of what promises to be a stellar career, the American singer-songwriter - who has collaborated with the likes of Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes, and written songs for Bieber, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Linkin Park and Little Mix, among many others - has released her new EP Inner Monologue Part 2, a follow-up to Part 1.
If ever there was proof that someone who cut their teeth as a pop songwriter can transfer those talents into their own work, this is it.
Michaels has poured her heart and soul into this collection of pop songs. Songs such as Falling For Boys and F***** up, Kinda will resonate with pretty much anybody who has ever been in a relationship of some kind, or anybody who at least has known somebody who has.
Olympia - Flamingo
Olympia - real name Olivia Bartley - returns with her second album following a successful debut release.
Opener Star City is a guitar-infused throwback, with her moody vocals giving the pop track a rockier edge, while everything is stripped back for Nervous Riders, continuing to build up to a climatic end that doesn't quite reach the heights it was intended to.
Although the album has a clear direction and sound, it lacks a distinctive standout track that really keeps the listener captivated.
You are definitely forgiven if you find yourself drifting away or have the urge to skip to the next track as you listen.
The Soft Cavalry - The Soft Cavalry
Despite her involvement, The Soft Cavalry is not the long-awaited debut solo album from Slowdive's Rachel Goswell.
The famous shoegaze singer and multi-instrumentalist might make up one half of the intriguingly named two-piece, but this is largely the work of her husband, Steve Clarke.
Introspective Eighties rock looms large and the longing of Talk Talk and REM is ever-present.
However, Goswell's reverb-heavy tendencies do get a look in: the album's fulcrum is the pair's domestic relationship - a year of marriage and rural life in Devon.
All these ideas fight for attention and, at times, the album feels busy, both in its sound and ideas.
However, it remains a joy to hear Clarke's potential put down on tape and, with the guidance of his wife, a second album could polish up the formula.