Albums of the week - from The Night Cafe to Ezra Furman
Albums under inspection this week include the new record from R&B star Raphael Saadiq and the latest effort from veteran rockers New Model Army, as well as the debut from Liverpool rockers The Night Cafe
Raphael Saadiq - Jimmy Lee
Raphael Saadiq's many years as a leading light in the R&B world are evident on this, his long-awaited fifth solo studio album, his first in eight years.
Jimmy Lee is a remarkable collection, inspired in part by his brother's struggles with addiction, as well as his own journey of discovery.
Poignant in moments, the album errs towards positivity and showcases Saadiq's knack for constructing captivating tunes.
The record is epic yet light, nostalgic yet fresh. It's one of those rare finds where every track is a surprise and no two songs sound the same. In other words, it's a delight.
Saadiq's music feels authentic and Jimmy Lee is a masterclass in R&B. Fans will be hoping there won't be an eight-year wait for the next album.
CRX - PEEK
Los Angeles five-piece CRX are back two years after the release of New Skin. The band's inspirations drip out of the speakers from the opening bars of We're All Alone, which stars in a style becoming of Goldfrapp and has dark opinions about our lack of communication in the age of social media.
New Obsession, meanwhile, is essentially Talking Heads, and Get Close is an ear-bending loop of synth hooks.
This is an awesome record filled with rich vocals. It evokes memories and emotions from a time when David Bowie was an Absolute Beginner and ra-ra skirts were neon and cool.
The Night Cafe - 0151
Melodic indie charm abounds on this Liverpool band's debut.
The Night Cafe - four Scouse lads whose status has grown amongst their young fanbase since their debut single in 2015 - pay tribute to their home city's area code, 0151, with this collection of peppy, indie pop-rock tracks, which sound as if the band has future stadium gigs in mind.
From the opening bars of first track Finders Keepers (which follows a whirring techno-sounding intro), it's clear these boys have a sparkling career ahead of them.
They don't reinvent the wheel, instead keeping their sound confined inside the safer realm of easy-to-listen-to tunes, but there's an undercurrent of skill and ambition here.
A positive start for this bright young quartet. Hopefully they can let loose a bit more on album number two.
New Model Army - From Here
Veteran rock band New Model Army have famously always been difficult to place in a category, spanning genres including - but not limited to - punk, funk and soul. Their latest effort, From Here, continues this tradition.
The 12-track record takes listeners on an almost unrelentingly bleak journey, exploring themes of existence, introspection and change. It was recorded on a remote Norwegian island, and it shows.
New Model Army, based in Bradford, West Yorkshire, will celebrate their 40th anniversary next year.
While From Here is unlikely to woo any new converts, existing fans will find plenty to enjoy.
Ezra Furman - Twelve Nudes
Ezra Furman doesn't muck about. The US singer-songwriter and guitarist offers a no-holds-barred take on pure anarchic punk on his new album.
It's a little jarring to hear when reggaeton-infused pop tracks and Ed Sheeran collaborations dominate the charts.
Short but spunky opener Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone sets the pace for the rest of the record from Furman, who says the album was inspired by the "current state of human civilisation".
The album's message is obvious: he is angry but hopeful for a better future. As he says: "Desperate times make for desperate songs."
Having poured his heart and soul into the soundtrack to Netflix's popular comedy-drama Sex Education, Furman - whose career so far has seen him front a number of bands - set his pent-up energy free in Twelve Nudes, and it shows.
Highlights include the scuzzy romp Rated R Crusaders, which is reminiscent of Green Day's American Idiot era, and the anarchic, chest-thudding Trauma, a cacophony of gritty guitars with an emotive edge, inspired by the sexual assault charges against US Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh.