Albums of the week - from Nick Waterhouse to David Gray
This week’s new albums include the latest efforts from US singer Nick Waterhouse and Britons David Gray and Jack Savoretti.
NICK WATERHOUSE — NICK WATERHOUSE
Old-school rock ‘n’ roll albums are now so common that ‘retro’ is a genre.
Nevertheless, some do it better than others, and Nick Waterhouse does it about as well as anyone outside of 1962.
Every track on the American singer-songwriter’s self-titled fourth album is as perfect a facsimile of late 50s/early 60s jukebox floor-fillers.
Inevitably this can sometimes leave songs verging close to pastiche, but the quality of the songwriting transcends the era-specific wrapping.
This is an album the heppest of hep-cats can dance to.
DAVID GRAY — GOLD IN A BRASS AGE
Since bursting into the mainstream with Babylon, David Gray has been an enduring but increasingly peripheral figure.
However, a more abstract approach to lyrics allows the 50-year-old to focus on producing a richer-sounding eleventh studio album that plays to his strengths and showcases new tricks.
Opener The Sapling sets the scene, with Gray’s trademark croon augmented by choral vocals. The title track and Watching The Waves stand out among a strong set, while Gray’s restlessness, in tandem with producer Ben de Vries, reaches its peak as Hurricane Season hits a thrilling climax.
JACK SAVORETTI — SINGING TO STRANGERS
With his windswept hair, Jack Savoretti is every inch the heart-throb, but he has a deep voice and melancholy bent that belies his cherubic appearance.
Many of the songs are bathed in melodramatic strings and take off into bombastic choruses. Candlelight is so thick with foreboding it should be considered for the next Bond theme.
He does lighten up on the disco-inflected Youth And Love, but for the most part this is music for tear-stained pillows.
Despite the no-nonsense song titles, such as Dying For Your Love, Better Off Without Me and Love Is On The Line, these tales of heartbreak have a lyrical depth.
He might just be the 21st century’s Tom Jones.
STEPHEN MALKMUS — GROOVE DENIED
For Pavement fans, the news that frontman Stephen Malkmus was planning an album of electronic music might have provoked panic. The truth, gladly, is far less frightening.
Some moments of Groove Denied will be unfamiliar territory for lovers of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or Slanted And Enchanted. Take the Eno-inspired Viktor Borgia, or A Bit Wilder, which sounds, almost unthinkably, like Malkmus doing a karaoke New Order.
But before long, the slacker style is back, not least on the excellent Come Get Me, which sounds more like Pavement than anything the Californian has produced since the band split nearly two decades ago.
While Malkmus’ ventures into electronica are somewhat primitive — he explains he wanted Groove Denied to feel “sonically pre-internet” — it is nonetheless thrilling to hear one of the greatest songwriters of the past 50 years try something totally new (to them, at least).
FOALS — EVERYTHING NOT SAVED WILL BE LOST PART 1
Foals have been many things. In 2008, they were a skittering math-rock band. A few years later, they were darlings of the NME, pioneers of seven-minute epics like the lush and grandiose Spanish Sahara. Then they broke America with a slew of punky numbers like Inhaler. But Oxford’s finest have always held loftier ambitions. With each new album, a reinvention.
Now, the inevitable: A concept album exploring post-climate change guilt and modern political apathy. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is the first of a pair of records, although frontman Yannis Philippakis was quick to rubbish delusions of grandeur, saying: “It’s not yin and yang or anything corny.”
There’s a smattering of new sounds on offer. Here a prog-rock breakdown, there a blissed-out synthesizer, although the pacing stays similar to previous works.
But while the album has been hyped as some kind of concept record, the motif never hits home. As Philippakis sings “Cities burn/We don’t give a damn/’Cause we got all our friends right here” on Sunday, it becomes apparent the album’s grand message has got lost in transit, displaced by stadium-size choruses.