Albums of the week: From Florence + The Machine to Goldfrapp
Florence + The Machine have impressed with High As Hope, while a few pop-infused EPs have also delighted our ears this week.
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE — HIGH AS HOPE
The combination of familiarity and inventiveness from Florence Welch and her trusty Machine is one of the greatest joys of modern music. The style — ethereal yet rocky, powerful yet subtle — remains resolute, but also progresses with each album. This fourth record is up there with its predecessors. Every song is bursting with intimate honesty and love and care, each a standalone example of brilliance.
Welch lays herself bare on High As Hope, singing about her battle with an eating disorder on Hunger (At 17, I used to starve myself / I thought that love was a kind of emptiness) and her days of partying hard in South London Forever, where she sings about being “young and dumb and stumbling in the street”. There is a climactic highlight in Big God, a rich, love-laden, chunky effort that reverberates through your head and heart, and sounds like an audition for a James Bond theme tune.
There is not one weak moment on High As Hope, which only begs the question: can Welch and co keep up this momentum with a fifth album? The answer is most certainly a yes.
GOLDFRAPP — SILVER EYE (DELUXE EDITION)
If you wanted something radically different you won’t find it here. Silver Eye, for me, is Black Cherry: Part 2. A mix of perfect pop blended with social commentary. Anymore is instant gratification: just like fast food, it’s over as soon as it gets started and leaves you before you’re ready. Systemagic would be another great pop song, if it had been recorded by anyone else, but here it feels like it has been somewhat dialled in.
The strongest track is Ocean, a pure Eighties dark synthpop tune. The remix on the Deluxe Edition features label stablemate Dave Gahan and he lends a perfect juxtaposition to Alison’s crystal cut voice and gives the piece even more weight. Silver Eye is very much a return to the glory days for Goldfrapp.
HMLTD — HATE MUSIC LAST TIME DELETE EP
This incredibly fun collection of five songs (well, four plus one hardcore techno remix, strictly speaking) could be personified as a goth armed with glow sticks dancing in the shadows on the edge of an Adam and the Ants show. Opener Pictures Of You proves the band’s pop sensibility with a mix of Dave Gahan-style vocals, doom-laden guitar and stabbing synths.
While wonderfully eccentric, the band’s theatrical sound does go over the top at times. Proxy Love’s lyrics about whips and sleaze are very corny. Mannequin somehow sounds like a cross between Pet Shop Boys and The Final Countdown by Europe. Although this release is intriguing enough to want to hear more from HMLTD, you can’t help but feel you may have heard it all before somewhere else.
ORCHARDS — LOSERS/LOVERS EP
There is no downside to this extended-play; the tracks are crammed with fun-filled riffs and melodies, the vocals of Lucy Evers are flawless and a delight to listen to.
There are similarities in her vocals to Hayley Williams of Paramore and some would say musically with the same band’s album After Laughter. It is clear, however, that Orchards have called on a vast range of influences across the rock and pop spectrum, and it pays off with this wonderful, eclectic and electric record. It would be wrong to single out a standout track or two — they all deserve a listen.
Give your ears a treat and dance off into the summer heat with this one.
YEARS AND YEARS — PALO SANTO
Every song on this album takes you deeper into a world of electro pop that’s not just catchy tunes and earworm lyrics but, rather, has a lot of heart.
The album kicks into high gear from its second track, Hallelujah, and then tracks like All For You mark those signature sounds that are catchy and memorable. The slower tempo of Hypnotised does what its name implies. If You’re Over Me has chart-topper written all over it and Preacher is a perfect summer anthem that’ll get you up and dancing.
The album’s namesake, Palo Santo, is taken from the natural wood of the same name which is revered by the Incas as having spiritual significance — a little bit like what this album is in an age of music where throwaway tracks are so common. Years & Years’ album is anything but throwaway — it’s an impressive second offering of memorable music.