Albums of the week: From Paloma Faith to Morrissey
Paloma Faith returns with fourth album The Architect, featuring a collaboration with John Legend, and Britain’s Got Talent winner Tokio Myers drops his debut record.
TOKIO MYERS — OUR GENERATION
Just occasionally TV talent shows uncover a genuine previously unknown sensation. This is what has happened with Britain’s Got Talent champion Tokio Myers.
From delicate piano constructs so fragile they barely hold together to full-on electronic sculptures, this album has them all. Whether a Myers original or a cover, his performance is consistently astounding. The vocals, where used, complement the sound without taking over completely, leaving the music itself to shine through.
The title track comes over as a contemporary classical piece after the manner of Gorecki, with its ebb and flow of mixed instrumentation and voice. The single Bloodstream, on the other hand, shows his grasp of pop sensibilities.
This album is just the start of what will, in all likelihood, be a stellar career. Tokio Myers is here and now.
PALOMA FAITH — THE ARCHITECT
One of the most recognisable voices in modern pop music has something to say, and Paloma Faith is saying it loudly from her soapbox while backed with her trademark retro soul meets disco style, complete with some goosebump-inducing gospel.
Faith’s fourth album, her first since becoming a mother, sees her tackle meatier topics than she has previously, with the Brexit vote, the refugee crisis and the inequality of wealth all finding a place on the record, which also features plenty of intriguing collaborations.
Sometimes her political statements are overshadowed by the pop stylings — Faith’s tracks don’t sound typically politically charged — but it’s always there, simmering away.
Title track The Architect is one heck of an opening statement, complete with a Samuel L Jackson narration, and I’ll Be Gentle with John Legend is truly beautiful, their voices working in joyous harmony together.
MORRISSEY — LOW IN HIGH SCHOOL
Some 35 years after Steven Patrick Morrissey burst on to the scene as one-quarter of prolific yet criminally short-lived indie darlings The Smiths, the bequiffed song-writer continues to find new ways of peddling his unique brand of melancholy.
On Low In High School, his 11th solo release, this son of rainy Manchester sticks to a handful of treasured themes: anti-establishment rallying in Who Will Protect Us From The Police?, the customary seven-minute middle-album meander through his mind with I Bury The Living, and the power to provoke with Israel.
Morrissey will forever be blessed and cursed by comparisons with his pace-setting early work. On Low In High School, he acknowledges both his past and post-‘exit’ future. Impressive.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG — REST
Rest is Charlotte Gainsbourg’s first studio album since 2010. Whispered melodies ooze out of her as naturally as breathing, flitting between English and French seamlessly. Rest stands above what has become Nouvelle Vague, the plinky plonk tones of a John Lewis Christmas.
After previously collaborating with the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Beck, Rest is the first record fully penned by Gainsbourg. The title track has music by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (better known as one half of Daft Punk), but instead of being upbeat electro-pop, there is something almost ethereal about the pairing. Lying With You includes a tribute to her late father Serge.
What Charlotte Gainsbourg has made is a gentle and often soothing collection of stories.
MAVIS STAPLES — IF ALL I WAS WAS BLACK
Long established as a master of her craft, Mavis Staples releases another outstanding album that offers steady guidance to a deeply divided nation. With a misquotable title that draws from the well of protest culture (Am I Not A Man; If I Had A Hammer), If All I Was Was Black has quiet potency of an old Odetta record.
Produced and penned by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, Staples’ album offers a blend of soul and country that is, for the most part, very endearing and that is always steered true by Staples’ rich voice and Tweedy’s tight production.
The album shines brightest when it harks back to Mavis’ Staples Singers roots, with the gospel charge of Peaceful Dream and the lilting groove of the title track outperforming the slight discomfort tracks like Ain’t No Doubt About It.