CD reviews: From Ed Sheeran's Divide to Circa Waves and The Shins
Ed Sheeran releases Divide, Laura Marling presents Semper Femina, and Circa Waves share Different Creatures. We round up the best of this week’s releases.
ED SHEERAN — DIVIDE
You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to see that Ed Sheeran is sum-thing special. Fresh from the chart success of singles Castle On The Hill and Shape Of You — both of which he performed at the 2017 Brit Awards, the latter with Stormzy in a surprise collaboration — the 26-year-old returns with this third full-length album, following a two-year hiatus. Fans that missed his rapping will be excited by Sheeran dropping some rhymes and spitting verses in opening track Eraser. There’s so much on this LP, which comes three years after 2014’s x (Multiply) and six years after his 2011 debut + (Plus), to keep listeners happy. Ballad lovers will enjoy love songs Perfect, Dive and How Would You Feel (Paean), while those looking for up-tempo tunes will be thrilled by the socially relevant What Do I Know? and the craic-happy Galway Girl. Sheeran also relives his childhood and teenage memories in Castle On The Hill, a lively ode to his hometown of Framlingham, Suffolk. With catchy choruses and hummable melodies, Divide — which is already breaking records, and predicted to outsell Adele’s 25 and Oasis’ Here Right Now — would be the perfect conclusion to top off a trilogy, but with two more maths-themed albums planned, Sheeran has surely found the winning formula.
CIRCA WAVES — DIFFERENT CREATURES
It’s been a long two years without music from Liverpool indie rockers Circa Waves. The wait is over with the arrival of Different Creatures, and it is most definitely worth the wait. Led by singles Wake Up and Fire That Burns, this album is an 11-track masterpiece from start to end. Shorter than the debut Young Chasers, Circa Waves’ sound has matured and the tracks are heavier, but they still have that same pop-rock edge that saw the band shoot to fame with festival favourite T-Shirt Weather. Crying Shame and Without You are the pick of the bunch, but every track could be a standout in its own right for different reasons. The band’s upcoming UK tour with this record will be epic.
LAURA MARLING — SEMPER FEMINA
The sprightliness of Laura Marling’s debut, Alas, I Cannot Swim, is absent on this, her sixth record. Instead of spryness, on Semper Femina (meaning “always woman”, taken from poet Virgil’s Aeneid: “Woman is always fickle and changeable.”) a thoughtful mellowness pervades. Gentle, graceful and muted, it’s a slick of spare, yet highly crafted songs that disassemble and examine perspectives of women. Folk dissolves into country tones and fuzzy guitar on Nothing Not Nearly, the intimate, tender Nouel is raw and exposing, while Always This Way pitches and sways with lyrics that reverberate with questions. It’s an accomplished and touching record, but this is Laura Marling we’ve come to expect no less.
PULLED APART BY HORSES — THE HAZE
Pulled Apart By Horses: a brutal name for a brutal band. With face-melting rock power they are a force of nature. They’re raucous, they’re loud, and The Haze is a return to form — if not their best work to date. This is the band’s fourth studio album, their last release being 2014’s Blood. Their sound evolved from a rip-roaring assault on the senses to something deeper, but it felt like the PABH arsenal was depleted somewhat. The deeper crafting of their music has continued on this album and there are more prog rock vibes, but the sound feels dangerous again. This album is big and brash with punishing riffs and hoarse vocals, but the hypnotic melodies sink you into the sound, making it feel like an experience rather than a collection of individual songs. The title track is a frantic whirr of noise, followed by a sharp slap across the face from The Big What If, to bring you out of the daydream, and then Hotel Motivation takes the sting out of things to give you a moment’s respite. The rest... you’ll just have to listen. Spoiler alert: it gets even better.
THE SHINS — HEARTWORMS
Heartworms, The Shins’ fifth record opens with a jolt of pure sunshine. The indie rockers’ opening track, Name For You, jangles and shimmers with beachy vibes, before folding wackily into the stretched, buzzy Painting A Hole — a song from which Indian-style notes slowly emerge. Frontman James Mercer’s loose, keening vocals string the disparate sounds together so you’re left with a bundle of songs that skip into one another strangely harmoniously. These Albuquerque boys did good.