Frida Hyvonen - Silence is Wild (Secretly Canadian)
One can probably assume that Frida Hyvonen spent much of her formative years in Nowheresville, Sweden, listening to Kate Bush. Hyvonen's vocals may be Scandinavian-accented, but she's got oodles of Kate's otherworldliness about her — from the oddness of her subject matter to the way her voice can can make you sit up and take notice.
Besides the vocals, her piano is a primary instrument and her confessional songs boast a starkness familiar to fans of the superb Joan As Police Woman.
Dirty Dancing is a touching tune about childhood sweethearts that name-checks the aforementioned movie, Kylie and chimney sweeps, while December is a stark, plaintive and appositely titled number.
There's a fair amount of gloom here, but levity too. Scandinavian Blonde sends up the stereotype in darkly funny fashion.
Burn it: Dirty Dancing; Scandinavian Blonde
Will Merriman - The Light Of Which I Speak (Crayon Records)
The Harvest Ministers were one of the more interesting Irish bands to come to prominence at the end of the 1980s. It's good to see frontman Will Merriman still making music.
The Light Of Which I Speak is unquestionably an album with limited appeal. It's a soundtrack for an imaginary film, if you will, although the oddness of the project can be gleaned from the fact that each song was written to complement a painting from bandmate Padraig McCaul.
Pop it ain't, but Merriman's ability to write songs that linger is unstinted. Next Winter's Bride and
Broken Sleep (Part 1) are compositions that deserve to be heard by a wide audience.
A new Harvest Ministers album will apparently be released later in the year and on the strength of these thoughtful and finely crafted tunes, that's welcome news indeed.
Burn it: Next Winter's Bride
Spirit Of The Apollo - NASA (Anti)
Don't be fooled by the name of this project and the sci-fi album cover: NASA stands for North America South America, rather than the space-exploration people. It's the impressive debut collaboration of US DJ Speak E Clean and Brazilian DJ and skateboarding champ Zegon.
The pair aren't exactly household names, but they have managed to assemble an impressive and eclectic guest-list to take their north-meets-south party music project into captivating territory, including Tom Waits, MIA, David Byrne, Lovefoxxx, Kanye West, Santogold, Lykke Li and Chuck D.
The fusion of genres and styles produces impressive results. Who would have thought that Tom Waits and Kool Keith would produce such alchemy (Spacious Thoughts)?
Or that such disparate voices as Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard could possibly deliver something as compellingly out-there as Strange Enough?
Elsewhere, West, Li and Santo gold play to each others strengths on the marvellous Gifted, while Byrne — no stranger to the unexpected collaboration — has fun with Chuck D and Seu Jorge on Money.
Burn it: Spacious Thoughts; Strange Enough
The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die (Take Me to the Hospital)
As comeback albums go, this is a bit of a damp squib. In The Prodigy’s heyday, Liam Howlett was a genuinely innovative sonic sculptor.
But 20 years on, it’s not enough to twist a few samples around, squeeze out a few squealing siren-synth noises, and pile on the kind of old Big Beat drum grooves that The Chemical Brothers were running into the ground in the mid-Nineties, let alone apply the kind of interminable “are we there yet?” filter-sweeps that surely the most addled of ageing ravers must be sick of by now.
Liam Howlett’s cupboard of inspiration is now so bare he’s reduced to recycling the same drum programme he devised for the first Prodigy single, Charly, for Warriors Dance, plagiarising himself with inevitably diminishing returns.
There’s a certain dumb amusement to the outburst “Teeth! Rip! Razor Sharp! Bite like hell! Tear you apart!” in Piranha, but ultimately it’s all a fairly toothless exercise. This review by Andy Gill
Burn it: Piranha; Run with the Wolves.