Albums of the week
American singer-songwriters Sara Bareilles and Lissie have delivered this week's best albums.
SARA BAREILLES - AMIDST THE CHAOS
Sara Bareilles is probably the most gifted musician you're not listening to right now.
Of course you may be aware of the American singer-songwriter and her previous efforts, including 2007 hit single Love Song, and her work on the mammothly successful Broadway and now West End musical Waitress, for which she wrote the score. But this new album, her first in six years, is possibly her best work yet and deserves everyone's attention.
Amidst The Chaos is perfectly titled for 2019, and will get you out of a funk, even if you don't think you're in one. Forget about Brexit, messy US politics and the generally depressing news cycle and instead soothe your soul with Bareilles' powerfully moving vocals and flawless musicality.
From jaunty, euphoric opener Fire, to album closer A Safe Place To Land, a rousing ballad with John Legend, this album has it all.
Lead single Armor, celebrating the strength of women with a moreish jazzy hook, is definitely a highlight.
Bareilles is all about heartfelt, gutsy music with rich pianos and addictive melodies.
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8/10: Lucy Mapstone
LISSIE - WHEN I'M ALONE: THE PIANO RETROSPECTIVE
American songstress Lissie has been around for nearly a decade - it's hard to believe her acclaimed debut Catching A Tiger was released in 2010, so she has a lot of material to draw on for her latest album, When I'm Alone: The Piano Retrospective.
It's a collection of some of her greatest hits - When I'm Alone and Castles among them - and it also features a cover of Fleetwood Mac favourite Dreams, as well as The Dixie Chicks' Cowboy Take Me Away.
It's a vibrant ode to Lissie's best-loved songs with just the tinkling of the ivories.
The 11-track offering is the perfect combination of her haunting voice set against only a piano.
Each song is re-imagined and given a new level of depth, making it a delectably easy listen. It is bound to please existing fans and also appeal to newcomers.
8/10: Jessie Mills
CIRCA WAVES - WHAT'S IT LIKE OVER THERE?
I'm not sure what's in the water over in Liverpool, but there is definitely something brewing. Circa Waves are the latest offering of indie rock from the city. What's It Like Over There? is their third album, and seems to possess what could be the key to their mainstream success.
What's It Like Over There? isn't your everyday indie rock - it has something more to offer. Of late the genre has been about biting guitar rifts and gritty edges, and this just isn't that. It's rounded and almost mellow. This is the rock you would take home to meet your mother, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way - the production takes it to a whole other level.
There are still the anthems like Move that long-time fans will love, but overall this is an album that will significantly increase their fan-base.
8/10: Rachel Howdle
BILLIE EILISH - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Teenage singer-songwriter Billie Eilish has been making waves since 2015 with her first EP, Don't Smile At Me, and the release of her debut album seems set to secure her as this generation's true punk icon.
This minimalist album has standard textbook punk elements, with lo-fi muttered vocals, clips of conversation, distortion, vibrating bass and muted drums, sounding not unlike a tech-heavy track pumping from another room at a house party.
At times there are flashes of hip-hop swagger, but the rough feeling is that her carefree vocals don't make the best of her talent.
6/10: Sophie Goodall
LUKE SITAL-SINGH - A GOLDEN STATE
Pop music is full of songs about places we've never been - and Bristolian Sital-Singh enjoyed making his LA-inflected album so much that he moved to the City of Angels directly afterwards.
But A Golden State isn't in thrall to good vibes only. Lead single Los Angeles is calm, unfolding like a short film, hopeful and wistful about the life that awaits him and his partner.
There's heartbreaking stuff too, nowhere more than in The Last Day, where the man considers what'll really matter at the end of his life. The piano-led closing track shows his voice reaching such a volume that the mic signal peaks - it's affecting, and affirms that these may not be love songs, but songs written by one struggling in love. He's been there.
7/10: Michael Dornan