Albums of the week: Moby to UB40
Anna von Hausswolff - Dead Magic
Dead Magic, the fourth album by Swedish experimentalist Anna von Hausswolff, comes in at 47 minutes but comprises only five tracks and was mainly recorded on the 20th century organ at Copenhagen’s Marmorkirken, one of the largest churches in Scandinavia.
However, this shouldn’t put you off, because the result, augmented by fuzzy guitars and synthesisers, is actually very accessible. Despite the overt goth stylings, von Hausswolff has a voice and melodic sensibility not too far removed from Lana Del Rey, so the doominess and sheer length of the songs are offset by earworm-worthy tunes.
It might be dead magic, but it’s magic all the same.
UB40 FEATURING ALI, ASTRO AND MICKEY — A REAL LABOUR OF LOVE
Here’s an album with bite, although perhaps more for what it stands for than its sound, which is as smooth and nostalgic as one would expect.
The breakaway trio, including UB40 founding members Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue, has produced a continuation of their Labour of Love series, which included three albums released between 1983 and 1998, and completely ignores Labour Of Love IV, released in 2010 and fronted by Ali’s estranged brother, Duncan.
This new collection of covers includes classics such as Stevie Wonder’s A Place In The Sun and How Could I Leave by Dennis Brown, so there is little to not enjoy. Fans will appreciate Campbell’s distinct vocals and their unwavering light reggae style, which is as prevalent as ever after nearly 40 years.
While this effort may not produce a hit as big as Red Red Wine, from the first Labour Of Love album, it’s a strong compilation and apt homage to UB40’s defining era, the 1980s.
MOBY — EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL, AND NOTHING HURT
Moby’s follow-up to his 2017 album, More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse, may as well have been titled A Couple More Songs About The Apocalypse.
With song titles like A Dark Cloud is Coming, it seems clear that nihilistic topics are still on the New York singer-songwriter’s mind. The majority of the songs on this album wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to Trainspotting, with Like A Motherless Child echoing the 1990s trend of electronica covers of doleful classics (think Everlast’s cover of Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart).
Though Moby’s new songs are well put together and easy on the ear, there is little attempt to reach beyond his comfort zone.
But it is with the few, bolder tracks, like The Tired and The Hurt, that Moby hints at potential for reinvention, and not just an attempt to restore himself to his turn-of-the-millennium heyday.
THE MEN — DRIFT
Timing is everything. Any week besides the first in March for an album release by The Men has come to feel out-of-season, given their stunning run at this precise point on the calendar from 2012 to 2014: the big-hitting Open Your Heart followed by the woozy New Moon and the bar-room rock of Tomorrow’s Hits.
The Brooklyn band, noise-punk purveyors who discovered plaid shirts and country wings, hit a bump in the road and their subsequent release, the thrashy self-released Devil Music, did not surface until September 2016. Bearing familiar hallmarks, it was nevertheless far from vital.
Drift sees the band ignited again and back on the Sacred Bones label, with the electro-throb of portentous opener Maybe I’m Crazy a signal of creative replenishment. Here comes March then once again, with one of America’s finest bands firmly back on track.
ANDREW WK — YOU’RE NOT ALONE
“Bet you never thought you’d see the day ... but we proved you wrong,” sings Andrew WK on new track Music Is Worth Living For. Well, yes and no. Andrew WK’s eighth studio album is certainly a surprising phrase to type, 17 years after his one-dimensional debut I Get Wet — half an hour of constant party references — did not indicate longevity.
So has he grown? Allow me to point you to track one ... The Power Of Partying. In the interest of balance, Ever Again and Total Freedom portray a changed man and Break The Curse is more than six minutes on a different subject, but this is mostly a more grandiose take on the old hits, laced with piano and Eighties synths.