Mabel, Little Boots and Chance the Rapper album reviews
Rising star Mabel proves her worth on excellent debut album High Expectations. There are also new offerings this week from Little Boots and Chance the Rapper
Mabel - High Expectations
Mabel is finally dropping her debut album, having been a regular on the music scene for the past four years. The R&B and pop star, who enjoyed a breakthrough in 2017 with hit single Finders Keepers, has taken her time with her first full collection, but it truly is worth the wait.
From the opening bars in an intro bearing the album's name, it's obvious Mabel has the makings of a genuine superstar.
The 23-year-old singer-songwriter combines club-friendly tracks such as Bad Behaviour and FML with songs where she pours her heart out, such as the poignant OK (Anxiety Anthem) and I Belong To Me, a chilled melodic R&B track that gives this young female force a voice, encouraging self-love after a bad break-up.
Little Boots - Jump EP
The latest EP from prolific electropop songwriter and DJ Little Boots features four coolly ethereal tracks perfectly suited for the summer party season.
The artist describes the theme of this collection as being about "rediscovering your inner strength and identity", although a casual listener would be forgiven for hearing the same inscrutable-yet-vaguely-suggestive lyrics that are standard for pop music everywhere. Secrets, in particular, veers dangerously close to Lady Gaga territory.
Collaborations with seriously hip DJs Cyril Hahn and Kiddy Smile prevent her from following the road too far in that direction, however. Besides, the lyrics are secondary to the pulsating beats: this sort of music is aimed at the hips rather than the head, and Little Boots proves adept at creating music guaranteed to sound as good on the average car stereo as it will in its natural habitat of blissed-out Ibiza beach parties.
Volbeat - Rewind, Replay, Rebound
Heavy metal isn't meant to be fun. It's meant to be deadly serious. But Copenhagen four-piece Volbeat didn't get the memo.
Now on album seven, their fusion of metal and rockabilly has consistently propelled them to the top of the international charts. Maybe it's their virtuoso musicianship. Or it could be frontman Michael Poulsen's clear and catchy vocals. But most likely it's that Volbeat deliver music that's simultaneously hard-rocking and fun.
Rewind The Exit nails this combination. Poulsen's voice floats, melancholic, as guitarist Rob Caggiano shreds below. The band's roots in metal, the heaviest of rock's myriad sub-genres, show most clearly in tracks like Cheapside Sloggers and Leviathan.
Their pedigree, forged in a flurry of small-time metal bands, shines through in both the musicianship and their ear for a solo.
Nerija - Blume
As far as debut jazz albums go, Nerija have put together an impressive smorgasbord with Blume. The contemporary jazz septet show off their range of skills and varying tones in the 11-track album.
Nascence is a gentle ease into what is on offer musically, and from then onwards each track offers shades of light and dark.
Lengthwise, you're not short of listening time with each track, with the shorter offerings of Blume and Blume II. The album makes for easy listening, with some innovative and exciting new sounds from a talented group.
Chance The Rapper - The Big Day
Given the truly stellar nature of his three previous mixtapes, it's hard not to feel a little disappointed in The Big Day. Chance the Rapper's first album proper might be his most thoughtful work yet - but also his least cohesive.
The Chicago rapper's trilogy of acclaimed mixtapes, which included the sublime Coloring Book, were tight, joyful and spiritual. He tackled the bigger things in life with such a deft hand it became easy to forget Chance was only a young man.
On The Big Day, he dives deep into his transition out into manhood - and his recent marriage to long-time partner Kirsten Corley. There's his trademark joy and a host of famous names including Nicki Minaj, John Legend, Shawn Mendes and Randy Newman. But his lyrical inventiveness is set against a backdrop that at times feels muddled and flat.
Over 22 tracks, we get a picture of Chance's mindset - but the brush strokes are broad and fail to convey the same dynamism of his early work.