Albums of the week: From Wild Beasts to David West
Indie kids Blossoms present their debut, rockers Wild Beasts return with Boy King, and theatre fans can enjoy the original cast of Funny Girl - including Sheridan Smith - on the soundtrack to the musical. We round up the best of this week’s CD releases.
WILD BEASTS — BOY KING
Wild Beasts are relatively prolific. In 2008 they released debut Limbo, Panto. Now the Cumbrian four-piece are giving us album number five. Boy King continues their exploration of more electronic, synthy sounds. Limbo, Panto was a gloriously extravagant, jaunty indie masterpiece, but since then the band have continuously evolved. Hayden Thorpe’s instantly recognisable high vocal range remains, supported as always by the deep, dulcet tones of Tom Fleming, but on Boy King Wild Beasts are a very different animal to that on their early work.
This is infectious, toe-tapping, body-moving electro-rock featuring flavours of Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem and Yeasayer. It’s brilliant. Boy King cements Wild Beasts’ place as one of Britain’s very best, always evolving, always pushing themselves. Long may they reign.
ASYLUMS — KILLER BRAIN WAVES
Asylums’ full-length debut roars out of the blocks at full speed and barely lets up to bring a massive hit of melodic guitar-driven rock that fizzes with energy. The Southend band are the latest to do it all themselves, releasing Killer Brain Waves on their own Cool Thing Records, having previously won the backing of indie radio legend Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music. The influences are more in the US rock scene than those of the UK — you can hear hints of bands like Weezer among others.
What they do especially well is marry a clear love for crunching guitars and socially-aware lyrics with pop sensibilities, to avoid becoming too heavy. The result is 12 often blistering three-minute tracks in 35 minutes. Highlights include opener Second Class Sex and Necessary Appliances.
FUNNY GIRL (ORIGINAL LONDON CAST RECORDING) — ORIGINAL LONDON CAST & SHERIDAN SMITH
From the moment the Overture begins on the London cast recording of Funny Girl the musical, be prepared to be whisked away to theatre land to hear a captivating story of fame, love and heartbreak. Those lucky enough to have seen this run of the show at London’s Savoy Theatre — whether starring the endlessly talented Sheridan Smith or remarkable understudy Natasha Barnes as Fanny Brice — will be transported back to its dazzling glory through showstoppers including People, I’m The Greatest Star and of course, Don’t Rain On My Parade. Smith’s witty delivery combined with the incredible voice she first unleashed, in addition to her brilliant acting skills, as Cilla Black in ITV’s Cilla, is a breath of fresh air to the original 1964 Broadway musical. Darius Campbell’s dreamy tones as Nick Arnstein in songs including You Are A Woman, I Am Man, may also have musical fans weak at the knees.
Those who haven’t had the privilege of seeing the stellar cast perform live will be scrambling for tickets after listening to this. Just make sure you save the standing ovation for the theatre and not when caught in the moment, eyes closed on the morning commute.
BLOSSOMS — BLOSSOMS
Hailing from Stockport, this five-piece have been slowly building up a fanbase on the gig circuit since forming in 2013, notching up festival appearances and supporting big names such as The Charlatans. Their debut album bounces along from the summery first notes of opener Charlemagne — a radio-friendly earworm — to the sing-a-long chorus of Blow, slowing down for Honey Sweet and the moody, electro Smashed Pianos. Even the slower tracks, such a closer Deep Grass, have an edge with guitar and synth flourishes, so Blossoms’ style is solid pop rock that acknowledges Manchester’s musical heritage without being a New Order tribute. There’s an Arctic Monkeys sound and Getaway is even mildly reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams — plenty to enjoy.
DAVID WEST — PEACE OR LOVE
New York-based Australian David West clearly has a lot on his mind, judging by this predominantly moody debut solo offering. West, who first established himself in his native country with various Australian up-and-coming outfits, is still a member of American guitar band Rat Columns, but on Peace Or Love, his musical musings are much more low-key.
Opening with Untitled, which segues into the title track, the album is a slow grower which reveals its charms gradually, although West’s mumbled vocals can be an acquired taste. Nevertheless, the centre piece, a trilogy of songs entitled Darkness In My Heart, Darkness In My Heart, Pt 2, and Darkness In My Heart, Pt 3, the latter which closes the album, are engaging and quite possibly autobiographical. An assured debut then, but not an immediate attention-grabber.