Kesha returns with her long-awaited Rainbow album, while former Mansun lead vocalist Paul Draper and genre-blending newcomer Rat Boy also look to impress
KESHA — RAINBOW
Probably one of the most anticipated releases of the year, Kesha’s latest album, Rainbow, does not disappoint.
It’s her first solo music released since becoming entangled in a legal battle with former music producer Dr Luke, and the message is very clear: Kesha is back. And, in my opinion, she’s produced an album packed with her best work yet.
A few tunes, like Woman and Learn To Let Go have already been released. But there are gems galore still to be unleashed, like the album’s title track, which you can bet you’ll see topping singles charts. The lyrics to a lot of the songs scream raw honesty and you really get the sense this is a new Kesha we’re meeting through her music. She definitely doesn’t hold back in the language stakes, and there is no shortage of swearing to pack an extra lyrical punch.
There are plenty of other treats on Rainbow, like the Dolly Parton collaboration on Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You), which shows Kesha’s musical talent knows no end.
MARTINE MCCUTCHEON — LOST AND FOUND
Martine McCutcheon is back after a 17-year musical break with Lost And Found, an unapologetic pop piece that reminds you that, yes, she really can sing and that she’s more than just Tiffany from EastEnders and Hugh Grant’s feisty love interest in Love Actually.
McCutcheon takes you on a comfortably familiar journey with her ballad-heavy record, her musical style and vocals straight out of the late Nineties — fixed in time, but pleasingly so.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not the most avant-garde or daring record, and it’s pretty clear this is not a collection aimed at the younger generation, but McCutcheon provides a welcome break from the current chart fodder of heavily produced tracks laced with same-y electro-beats.
The 10-song album gets a bit saccharine a few numbers in, the slow tempo wearing thin. Her duet with husband Jack McManus, Stay With Me, sounds like it belongs on a Disney film soundtrack. But McCutcheon pulls it back with the commanding, anthemic Paradise, and the upbeat, Natalie Imbruglia-esque Archive. A pared-back and haunting cover of Every Breath You Take shows the power of simplicity, something that is unfortunately too rare these days.
PAUL DRAPER — SPOOKY ACTION
Fourteen years after Mansun went up in flames, former lead singer and voice of a generation Paul Draper returns with his debut solo album, Spooky Action.
Since making his name with the iconic band, Draper’s vocals have never left the airwaves. But can he step away from the band’s radio-friendly sounds and beat his own path. Spooky Action has a dark line of pop running all the way through it like the lettering in a stick of rock.
Don’t Poke the Bear is a spaced-out psychedelic introduction, as the familiar strains of Draper’s rich tones layer over a tangle of guitars. This a little jarring as it’s what you recognise as the sound of Mansun — with a new, even more experimental direction.
Grey House’s opening melody is reminiscent of I Can Only Disappoint You, with a dirtier edge, soon turning into a more Depeche Mode-style dark pop. Feeling My Heart Run Slow, first performed live in 2014, feels like he has come home.
RAT BOY — SCUM
Two years after whispers were first heard of an impressive Essex teenage musician who went by the name of Rat Boy, a debut album — boasting a mammoth 25 tracks — has finally arrived. After such a long build-up, Scum sees the 21-year-old, real name Jordan Cardy, explode 24 months of work out at once.
Much like a toddler who has just learned how to walk, Cardy refuses to sit still and ditches any intention of straddling one or two genres as he noisily flicks from cheeky Jamie T-esque social commentary to some less convincing MCing and plenty more in between. More impressive are the punkier sounds, notably on Knock Knock and the ear-crashing title track.
Its length is explained through the presence of imaginary underground radio station Scum Radio, which offers links every few tracks. Voiced by Grand Theft Auto voice actor Lloyd Floyd, the station pokes fun at Donald Trump but, novelties and opportunistic political comments aside, the album is best when it crashes at the ears with swagger.
ELVIS PRESLEY — THE 50 GREATEST HITS
It has been nearly 40 years since the death of Elvis Presley, but there is a reason his most famous tracks are still dug out for every Christmas party, karaoke night and road trip.
Marking the anniversary, this 50-track compilation guarantees a wave of nostalgia and will certainly have listeners singing along to the best-known hits, including classics Jailhouse Rock, Return To Sender and Suspicious Minds.
For the ultimate fan, there is little on offer in the way of early career hits and his many movie tracks. This album is definitely an ode to Elvis the rocker, rather than the crooner, country and gospel singer — but if the aim is to recruit new fans, or to just get everybody involved in a car singalong, this record is an absolute essential.