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Albums of the week: From Pink Floyd to Eminem

 

Harry Styles' new album
Harry Styles' new album

Here are some big releases in the run-up to Christmas, including the highly-anticipated second records from two of the UK's finest - Stormzy and Harry Styles.

HARRY STYLES - FINE LINE

It's been nearly four years since One Direction went on hiatus and the longer they're apart the further away Harry Styles gets from his cookie cutter boy band past.

His second solo album is full of confidence, the 25-year-old having found his sound - chilled-out post-club euphoria with a retro slant and heady hazy pop-rock that drips with sensual intent and young lust in a kind of David Bowie-meets-Mark Ronson manner.

If you've seen Styles lately, clad in something beautifully flamboyant, fluid and a little bit 'vintage shop', you'll understand how his new collection serves ideally as the aural accompaniment to his image.

The 12-track album has a few so-so moments, but even the lesser tracks aren't superfluous, instead acting as a glue between the more inebriating offerings, such as the spirited and catchy opener Golden, the 1970s disco-infected Watermelon Sugar and the brilliant She, a scuzzy, whining-guitar laced ode to a mystery woman complete with Styles' rather excellent falsetto.

Styles has the charm, talent and mettle to dabble in his own style without having to follow other chart-thirsty artists of his generation and that is perhaps his most standout quality.

8/10

Lucy Mapstone

STORMZY - HEAVY IS THE HEAD

If Gang Signs And Prayer was an enigmatic walking tour through Stormzy's spirituality, Heavy Is The Head is his blueprint for the mortal world.

Within minutes, the 26-year-old has referenced his ever-growing list of accolades: headlining Glastonbury, his handful of Brit Awards, a publishing imprint and numerous magazine covers.

Stormzy, real name Michael Omari, has come a long way since he uploaded a freestyle titled Shut Up to YouTube in 2015. His long-awaited second album is a snapshot of an artist plagued by ravenous doubts but ready to accept the burden - and responsibilities - of fame.

It's impossible to deny the towering worth of tracks like Superheroes, his tribute to the 'young black kings' and 'immaculate' black queens of British culture. But Stormzy is aware of the intense scrutiny with which this album will be received and on Bronze he tackles the topic head-on.

HITH sounds like Stormzy stretching out in the studio and experimenting with new musical forms.

7/10

Alex Green

PINK FLOYD - THE LATER YEARS

Pink Floyd have never been ones to take half measures - The Later Years is a 16-disc collection (including CDs and DVDs) of their music from 1987 onward. There are also highlights packages for those whose budget, or interest, doesn't stretch to the box set.

Those who know their Floyd history know this is the post-Roger Waters years. But if you've never given this period a chance, now is a good time to give it a shot.

The real prize is the first ever full release of their 1990 Knebworth concert. Guest musicians include saxophone player Candy Dulfer and the original vocalist from The Great Gig In The Sky, Clare Torry.

7/10

Padraig Collins

XXXTENTACION - BAD VIBES FOREVER

Aged just 20, US rapper XXXTentacion was shot dead and killed last year in a robbery gone wrong. He was awaiting trial for allegedly attacking his girlfriend while she was pregnant.

His fourth and final album sounds like a misjudged attempt at kingmaking by his estate - an attempt to position him as a force of nature, gone too soon. School Shooters with Lil Wayne was recorded as a response to the Parkland shooting.

Somewhere between an album of off-cuts and a posthumous tribute, Bad Vibes Forever is likely to satisfy no-one.

5/10

Alex Green

EMINEM - THE SLIM SHADY LP

Listening to The Slim Shady LP some two decades after it was first released, it bears testament that it's a record that carved the way for future artists of the genre.

Of course its creator Eminem, real name Marshall Mathers, has released scores of music since this record, but it feels like this one is still the defining one of his career and a generation.

The triple-length edition of his Grammy-award winning original album prolongs the journey for fans, with additions including 10 added tracks, as well as some a cappella and freestyle versions of songs.

Instrumental versions of Guilty Conscience and My Name Is also hold their own. All in all it's a pleasing trip down memory lane, with a few extra bonuses thrown in for good measure.

6/10

Kerri Roper

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