Belfast Telegraph

Albums of the week: a round-up of the latest releases

Take That are back with Wonderland, Jamiroquaipresent Automaton, and Goldfrapp bring out Silver Eye. We round up the best of this week’s releases.

TAKE THAT — WONDERLAND

“We are giants, I can’t believe it,” sing Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen on Giants, the lead single of their eighth album Wonderland. And they are right — more than 25 years since Take That hit the UK charts with It Only Takes A Minute, there is no other UK boyband-turned-manband who have hit the  heady heights and are still going strong. For Wonderland, their second record as a trio without former bandmates Jason Orange and Robbie Williams, following 2014’s III, the remaining members have created a kaleidoscope of music that will satisfy fans old and new. The title track, Lucky Stars and Superstar (with Mark taking lead vocals), see them serving up slices of electro pop, while Giants, Every Revolution (with Howard in the forefront) and River (also led by Mark), are jaunty pop tunes, before ballads It’s All For You and Hope leave a lingering sweet taste. There is nobody else like Take That, and they are making sure of it.

Shereen Low: 8/10

AIMEE MANN — MENTAL ILLNESS

American Aimee Mann remains one of the most talented and enduring singer-songwriters around, yet for some reason her considerable achievements still remain somewhat under the radar. Now 56, she first found fame with rockers ’Til Tuesday in the Eighties before branching out on her own, and has released a series of accomplished solo albums in the ensuing years, with the songs she recorded for the Tom Cruise film Magnolia giving her a brief spell in the spotlight. But the quality of her music has never wavered, and Mental Illness is yet another outstanding addition. The album opens with the lilting yet strangely named Goose Snow Cone, but it is on the heartbreaking You Never Loved Me that her wonderful vocals and brilliant songwriting really shine through. This is an almost flawless album, with Rollercoasters and Good For Me equally captivating. In short, it’s a triumph.

Kim Mayo: 9/10

TALL SHIPS — IMPRESSIONS

Tall Ships are a band not on a meteoric rise, but slowly and steadily growing and honing their sound. The result of their hard work is Impressions, a pristine LP that defies the so-called second album syndrome. It ebbs and flows between the manic and the tranquil, and if this doesn’t become an award-winning album, then I’m a giraffe. Five years has passed since the release of their debut, Everything Touching, but the wait was worth it. Thematically Impressions is heavy, Petrichor tackles social anxiety, Home delves into the perils of love, and Sea Of Blood deals with death and grieving (“Float through our hearts over and over again in the sea of blood that flows through our veins”). Despite all this, Tall Ships manage to avoid being gloomy. It’s there, in places, but so is their spark and the tempo and energy that comes across in the rhythms and layering of sounds. The joy in this band is that their music sounds so big and all-encompassing. There’s nothing normal about Tall Ships. They are extraordinary, inspirational, thought-provoking and they deserve a lot more attention.

Liam Sheasby: 9/10

JAMIROQUAI — AUTOMATON

Why change a winning formula? Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay enjoyed huge success in the Nineties and early Noughties with his winning hybrid of funk and soul. Huge hits such as Cosmic Girl and Virtual Insanity brought fame and notoriety in almost equal measure as Kay became a regular feature in the tabloids, a fact that often overshadowed his achievements as one of the UK’s finest songwriters and most engaging live performers. But now, at 47, he is back with this extremely welcome new album, the first since 2010’s somewhat underwhelming Rock Dust Light Star. Fears that he may have lost his mojo prove to be unfounded as this is his finest work in years. The songs are big and bold with the title track setting the template. Dance beats dominate throughout with Shake It On, Superfresh and We Can Do It proving conclusively he is back with a bang. Great stuff.

Kim Mayo: 8/10

GOLDFRAPP — SILVER EYE

One of those electro acts who are instantly aurally recognisable, but as a consequence occasionally rest too heavily on their laurels (see also Bjork, PJ Harvey, et al) Goldfrapp — consisting of singer and synth player Alison Goldfrapp and fellow synther Will Gregory — have been responsible for some seriously genre-defying, stand-out records: Black Cherry and Felt Mountain, to name but two. Granted, Silver Eye doesn’t quite reach the heights attained by these records, but it does mark something of a return to form following Tales Of Us, the duo’s last, lacklustre offering. On that album’s launch in 2013, many fans yearned for something genuinely new from the pair; here, they are given hope. Goldfrapp have not exactly repainted their house, but Silver Eye makes for a compelling mood board.

Rob Lavender: 7/10

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