Albums of the week: From St Vincent to Dolly Parton
US musician St Vincent makes a monumental impact with new album Masseduction, while Queen of Country Dolly Parton releases her first ever children’s album, I Believe In You.
ST VINCENT — MASSEDUCTION
If David Bowie was the King of Odd Pop, then St Vincent is most definitely the Queen, and if the spectacular achievement that is Masseduction is anything to go by, then long may she reign.
Ten years ago she released her debut album, Marry Me. These days we’re greeted with sharp, snappy pop delights, but the trademark fuzzy guitar is still present and there are still few slow spells of malaise adding a poignancy to her offerings.
Singles New York and Los Ageless are a great indicator of what’s on offer, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.
“How could anybody have you and lose you and not lose their mind” is a prime example of how lyrics are where Annie Clark’s strength truly lies.
Her assessment of the digital age and consumerism gives the big picture, but the songs zoom in on specific situations and the human elements of existing in among these great influences.
St Vincent has made an album that is consistently great throughout, and no song feels out of place. It’s catchy, clever, honest, emotional, and you must buy it. You must.
PINK — BEAUTIFUL TRAUMA
Five years after the release of The Truth About Love, Pink has returned with Beautiful Trauma. There is no new sound here, it is very much a continuance of what came before. But then if it’s not broken, there’s nothing to fix.
The lead track is classic Pink — an up-tempo catchy pop song with strong and heartfelt lyrics. Revenge is a cookie-cutter, almost Afroman Because I Got High, pop song, but then the ballads begin. Pink is lyrically at her best on Barbies, the emotion dripping from her broken notes, evoking images of childhoods past and a longing for a simpler time.
What Pink has done is grow with her lyrical choices, but she’s still no-nonsense and cuts through the bull, especially on Better Life. Like her fans, she has matured but isn’t taking it easy, instead doing it her way. This is an album for the old faithfuls and those looking for chilled-out rich vocals with edgy ideas.
DOLLY PARTON — I BELIEVE IN YOU
She’s penned some of the biggest hits in the world and is famous enough to need only one moniker. You don’t even need to add the ‘Parton’ bit to Dolly, because everyone knows there’s only one Dolly, really.
Given that she’s been making music for more than 50 years, what could she possibly sing that she hasn’t sung? But that’s the magic of Dolly Parton.
Her latest venture is a children’s album, called I Believe In You, and all of the profits go to her non-profit charity the Imagination Library, which promotes childhood literacy.
The songs are catchy, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing I Am A Rainbow under your breath. They’re also educational and inspirational, if you listen closely to the knowledge Dolly’s imparting. There’s no doubt she’s about to win herself an entirely new legion of fans from the younger generation.
WRETCH 32 — F R 32
Wretch 32’s second album in as many years feels not too dissimilar to his previous release, Growing Over Life. The Tottenham artist wants fans to “feel free and learn from the music” — and if you’re able to take in every lyric on the 12-track album, there is certainly opportunity for that.
With Wretch, as usual, lyrically flexing — most noticeably on tracks like Power and DPMO — a couple of listens will not be enough to digest everything. From stories of his north London come-up to reflective, searching tracks like Time, concentration will be key. Consistent production across the album helps put Wretch’s words front and centre, while songs like the Whitney Houston-sampling Tell Me helps break things up.
F R 32 is easily one of Wretch’s most personal pieces of work and deserves its place alongside some of this year’s stand-out UK releases.
BECK — COLORS
In the wake of his sumptuous, brooding and frankly brilliant 2014 record Morning Phase, fans might have been forgiven for expecting a quieter Beck as he approaches his 50s.
Not so with Colors, which dives straight in with a pop stomper in the form of its title track and rarely drops its pace henceforth. There’s no doubting the fact this is a party album.
The problem is, it’s too often just that bit naff. First he takes on Phoenix-style indie — not awful, but teetering dangerously on landfill. But worst is the perplexing Wow, which sounds a bit like a white guy called Norman trying his hand at trap music.
Single Dear Life is a fairly charming McCartney-esque jaunt, and closer Fix Me has a slow-burning energy to it, but Colors is a forgettable effort that lacks the guile and wit many of us love Beck so much for.