Albums of the week: Newton Faulkner to Roddy Woomble
Newton Faulkner has Hit The Ground Running on his return, while rockers LCD Soundsystem reunite for American Dream.
NEWTON FAULKNER — HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
For best-selling singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner, the last few years have been about change.
Once dubbed the ‘British Jack Johnson’, Faulkner has developed a sound that’s truly his own. Rather than solely relying on his guitar, which still sends waves of joy like the sea lapping a sandy beach on a hot day, there is more percussion evident — and the harmonies in Smoked Ice Cream make it sound like a gentle hug on a hot day. Title track Hit the Ground Running has a Paul Simon vibe running through it.
Faulkner has crafted a beautifully chilled album that showcases his voice and emotions.
The Good Fight is reflective and almost melancholy, This Kind of Love embraces African rhythms, the simple nature of the melody lets his voice shine. Never Alone has some similarity about it, very much the comfy song of the album juxtaposed with So Long — a delicate, modern piece of folk music.
This is the perfect album to round off the summer and welcome in autumn.
LCD SOUNDSYTEM — AMERICAN DREAM
The announcement of punk-funk-dance-indie outfit LCD Soundsystem’s return with a new album was met with mixed responses. Some fans felt James Murphy and co were severely damaging their hip credentials by going back on their word after claiming their April 2011 Madison Square Garden gig would be their last ever.
One listen to American Dream should hopefully change their opinions.
Unlike most reunion albums, LCD Soundsystem achieve that rare feat of making it seem like they’ve never been away. On first listen, I’d argue it tops their previous album, 2010’s This Is Happening, in that the influences are a little less obviously on display.
They’re still there, but melded into a sound that is now undeniably theirs. Highlights include latest single Tonite, Other Voices and How Do You Sleep? It’s great to have them back.
MOGWAI — EVERY COUNTRY’S SUN
The enigmatic Glasgow post-rock outfit have reunited with producer Dave Fridmann for this latest batch of instrumentals and opener Coolverine’s languid, sonorous bassline at first suggests a return to the style of one of their earliest collaborations, the gloomily minimalist Come On Die Young.
In fact, many of the subsequent tracks are unexpectedly upbeat. Party With The Dark even has a chorus — and one that wouldn’t sound out of place on an album by the Killers.
Some work better than others: AK47 is pleasingly retro, sounding like the theme from a sinister computer game released in about 1983, but Old Poisons can’t pretend to be anything other than a dad-rock wig-out.
Nevertheless, Mogwai remain the go-to band for morbidly atmospheric soundscapes.
RODDY WOOMBLE — THE DELUDER
Turning 40 appears to have awoken an experimental spirit in the Idlewild frontman, judging by this rambling and eclectic set.
Opening pair Look Back Like Leaving and To Feel Like A Fool share a similar minimalist style before Woomble changes tack and throws a strange mix of elements at third track Jupiter, which begins with him simply listing planets over an electronic-tinged backdrop but pivots to a catchy and seemingly unrelated guitar-pop chorus. Like Caruso is not an obvious lead-off single, but then there is little obvious about this fourth solo album as the dark, brooding numbers mix with the ethereal piano ballad A Skull With A Teardrop and the bilingual On N’a Plus De Temps (which translates as ‘We have no more time’).
A world away from Idlewild, or indeed his folk collaborations with Kris Drever and John McCusker, this is an interesting but curious diversion.
THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART — THE ECHO OF PLEASURE
Kip Berman, the driving force behind the bittersweet Nineties guitar-pop of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, has always worn his heart on his sleeve. In fact, he’s more likely to be out on the street shaking it with two bloody hands, imploring passers-by to hear his stories of love and heartbreak.
Days of Abandon from 2014 appeared to leave behind the emotional rollercoaster of Pains’ first two records in place of a staid introspection on the realities of adult relationships.
New record The Echo Of Pleasure, however, is a return to form. A little older, a little wiser, and channelling the same mix of New Order, The Cure and The Smashing Pumpkins with a renewed maturity and energy, Pains still manage that rare mix of heart-bursting joy tainted by melancholy — but the subject matter here shows a songwriter who has grown into his position.
There’s no pleasure in skipping town the first time love’s light flickers. Love and life are complex, messy experiments and the ultimate reward comes in finding a way through the chaos.
This is Berman’s epiphany on The Echo Of Pleasure, with all the highs and lows it brings and he wants the world to know.