David Gray serves up a feast for the ears and Ghetts rides gospel soultrain.
Conflict Of Interest
Ghetts has not attained the same celebrity status as fellow grime originators Skepta and Wiley. But Conflict Of Interest - his third album proper - may do just that, despite not being as pop crossover as its list of collaborators suggests.
Yes, it features Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Emeli Sande and is being released on major label Warner.
But Ghetts manages to illustrate his soul-baring vision of gospel and grime on his own terms, joined by talented newcomers such as Pa Salieu, Backroad Gee and Miraa May.
Each album has seen Ghetts mature his vision a little more and, taken as a whole, Conflict Of Interest portrays an artist at the height of his powers.
The track Autobiography literally tells his story from the moment he "started out in Nasty crew just after Dizzee Rascal blew" and features a recording of presumably his mother recalling his burgeoning talent as a boy.
Review by Alex Green
The Hold Steady
Open Door Policy
"It was an early morning meet-up at the mansion on the mountain, the master still had glitter on his face" - the half-spoken opening lines of The Feelers could only be The Hold Steady.
With lyrics that tell short stories about epic parties and lost weekends on the neon-soaked boulevard of broken dreams, Craig Finn has spent much of the past two decades on the road with his band.
Finn's literary songwriting style, complete absence of irony and unabashed celebration of rock music is not to everyone's taste, and the influence of Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and The Replacements is clear.
But The Hold Steady always sound unmistakeably themselves, Finn's unique vocals, somewhere between speaking and singing, backed by Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge (guitar), Franz Nicolay (keyboards), Galen Polivka (bass) and Bobby Drake (drums).
Although the new album was written and mostly recorded before the pandemic had begun, Open Door Policy's themes of mental health and medication, technology, consumerism and above all survival are all too relevant now.
Review by Matthew George
As The Love Continues
Gorgeous soundscapes and slow-burning epics are a stock in trade for Mogwai, and their tenth record by no means reinvents that formula.
Pat Stains and Midnight Flit bear many of the classic hallmarks of the Scottish veterans, with rousing, soaring, shimmering guitars and strings doing battle on a race through space.
But there's something borrowed too - album highlight F*** Off Money is a glorious, almost balletic anthem - evoking Air and F*** Buttons played at semi-speed.
While the record begins with a razor edge it does start to blunt after a time, and later tracks Ceiling Granny and Supposedly We Were Nightmares are at risk of feeling a little post-rock by numbers, even if these guys did create the template themselves a couple of decades ago.
Nonetheless, Mogwai's essence has always been best captured at their monstrously brilliant live shows, and As The Love Continues evokes that heady experience better than many of their previous studio recordings - perhaps intentionally, given the circumstances we're all in.
Oh, to stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers, sweating, desperate for the loo, and breathing in every last snap of the snare drum.
Review by Stephen Jones
Singer-songwriter David Gray's 12th studio album may well be one of his best.
The album's title and sparse arrangements are inspired by a group of monks who settled at Skellig Michael, the most westerly point of Ireland, in 600AD.
Gray created his own small colony as he hunkered down (pre-pandemic) at Edwyn Collins' Helmsdale studio in the extreme north of Scotland with six co-vocalists to create a haunting and intimate collaboration.
Dun Laoghaire is an early stand-out and the gorgeous single Heart And Soul will be the most familiar-sounding to Gray's long-time fans.
But the album is one to immerse yourself in as a whole, preferably through headphones - you can just drift away for nearly an hour of beautiful tranquillity.
Review by Tom White