Belfast Telegraph

Album Reviews

Reviewed by John Meagher, Steve Kerr, Shereen Low

Dan Black - UN (Polydor) The Paris-based Londoner has clearly been swotting up on 1980s electro-pop.

Black seems unsure whether he wants to be Justin Timberlake or a leftfield underground experimentalist. This lack of focus, combined with vocals as bland as the wallpaper in a two-star hotel, results in an album that feels over-produced, yet under-imagined.

There are moments that suggest genuine innovation — not least his Notorious BIG tribute, Symphonies, which opens the album in the most encouraging fashion. But elsewhere Black's half-baked tracks make even Calvin Harris look outré and cutting edge.

Bill Frisell - Disfarmer (Nonesuch)

Veteran avant-jazz guitarist Bill Frisell prepared this set as a celebration of the work of Depression-era Arkansas portrait photographer Mike Disfarmer.

With a band consisting of stand-up bass, steel guitar and fiddle, for the most part Frisell plays it pretty straight.

The best tracks, such as Little Girl, have a ragged, haunting edge to them, coming over like a genteel, dinner party-friendly version of The Dirty Three.

He also throws in covers of Hank Williams's Lovesick Blues and Elvis's That's All Right Mama.

In some ways these old country blues tunes are the musical equivalent of Disfarmer's portraits: works which began life as poor vernacular that over time have been elevated to classic, near mystical levels.

Jordin Sparks - Battlefield (Sony Music)

Hopes are high for the 2007 American Idol's follow-up to her self-titled debut, and she doesn't disappoint with Battlefield.

As well as sticking to radio-friendly songs such as the title track (produced and co-written by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder), Don't Let It Go To Your Head and Let It Rain, the 19-year-old also tries to break away from the conventional pop fare with Emergency (911) and SOS (Let The Music Play), which are more Rihanna-esque or Kylie-influenced.

Jordin's strong voice carries the tracks well, especially on ballads like the Leona Lewis-esque Walking On Snow and Faith.

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