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The Boy Named If. Credit: Press Association Images

The Boy Named If. Credit: Press Association Images

Press Association Images

The Boy Named If. Credit: Press Association Images

ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS – THE BOY NAMED IF

Elvis Costello solidified his place as a national treasure during the pandemic with a dogged release schedule that included Hey Clockface, a sideways look at ageing and the relentless march of time.

The Boy Named If functions as a kind of sequel – a collection of songs about the juddering, hormonal transition from childhood to adulthood.

The album is based loosely on the idea of having an imaginary friend who “you blame for the hearts you break, including your own” – and is accompanied by a book containing illustrated short stories expanding on the songs.

In contrast to the apparently whimsical subject matter, Costello delivers a riotous collection – some of his fieriest music in years.

On tracks such as the Farewell, OK, he amps up the energy while retaining the melodic streak of Hey Clockface.

And his voice, coarsened by age, only makes his reflections on youth more poignant.

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This is most clear on Paint The Red Rose Blue, where he conjures up a bereaved couple over plaintive country rock.

In these songs, Costello is telling stories about people and places but it would be easy to draw parallels with his own transition into manhood – and stardom.

8/10, review by Alex Green

BONOBO – FRAGMENTS

Bonobo returns with his seventh studio album Fragments, which provides more upbeat tunes interwoven with his typical dose of pensive soundscaping.

The British musician, real name Simon Green, is known for his soothing electronic music and Fragments largely retains this tranquil air.

The album features collaborations from a range of up-and-coming artists including Jordan Rakei, US singer Jamila Woods and London-based producer O’Flynn.

Most of the tracks wash over the listener in waves with warm and gentle melodies, including Counterpart and the aptly titled Tides, on which Woods provides vocals.

Yet others such as Age Of Phase and Otomo (featuring O’Flynn) are underlaid with harsher, heavier beats and synthesised sounds.

Otomo is a standout track that flits between sequences of driving basslines and moments that are almost ethereal in nature, created by a choral sample. It was released by Green as part of a single earlier this year, which included the other collaborative tracks.

Another noteworthy track is Elysian, the use of slow strings and harp giving a more calming, whimsical and cathartic vibe.

The album is nicely curated – none of the song transitions are jarring, and listeners are guided smoothly through what is an overall excellent sonic experience.

8/10, review by Mike Bedigan

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – OLD DEAD YOUNG: B-SIDES & RARITIES

Broken Social Scene shouldn’t really work, a musical collective with as many as 19 members, all elaborate orchestration, experimental production and unpredictable song structures.

But over two decades, five studio albums and hundreds of gigs, founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, and associates such as Feist, Stars and Metric, have taken BSS from Toronto around the world.

Now as a bonus for fans comes a collection of 14 tracks, recorded between 2001 and 2016, and ranging from 75 seconds to over seven minutes.

While opening track Far Out is an eerie instrumental, Do The 95 is the band’s signature sound, five minutes of squally guitars, scrappy vocals and frantic drums, with a long fadeout.

Their self-proclaimed “explosive loud and soft jams” can sound sprawling and unfocused at first listen, but there’s always a tune or two hidden in there to keep you coming back.

This House Is On Fire, an unreleased track from the 2009 album Forgiveness Rock Record, which the band have played live a number of times, is perhaps the standout here.

Curse Your Fail features alternating vocals from four lead singers, while the gentle All My Friends dials back the baroque orchestration to just plaintive vocals and acoustic guitar.

More than just a stopgap until the next album, Old Dead Young is worthy of attention in its own right and is another lowkey triumph for Broken Social Scene.

7/10, review by Matthew George

WOMBATS – FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD

Yet again, the Wombats have smashed it. In their fifth album, Fix Yourself, Not The World, they have produced music that has their familiar punchy beats, but also a new twist.

Vaguely similar to some of the early 1975 records, several songs are more layered, and will definitely rile up any crowd.

The lyric ‘What a crazy pranged out year’ from one of the headline songs, Everything I Love Is Going To Die, represents the album perfectly.

Lyrically, this album feels somewhat more significant as it reads as a self-intrusive look into the pandemic, but it still holds some of the old ideas of drinking, partying, lust and love.

Hailing much more funky vibes, this album is a comment on youth, especially the song Ready For The High, which has a rather poignant comment about technology and phones.

What is beautiful is that the band still manage to leave you not quite knowing what they’re talking about half the time, while still enjoying yourself.

Overall, it’s another absolute win from the Liverpudlian band.

8/10, review by Gemma Bradley


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