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Albums of the week: From Katie Melua to The Struts

 

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Matt Berninger's latest album

Matt Berninger's latest album

Press Association Images

Matt Berninger's latest album

Matt Berninger

Serpentine Prison

With the expanded 10th anniversary re-release of The National's career-high album High Violet just four months ago, does the world really need a solo album from the band's singer?

The answer is a definite yes, as Matt Berninger's debut under his own name is a quiet triumph, produced impeccably by Booker T Jones, frontman of Booker T & The MGs.

Opening track My Eyes Are T-Shirts ("they're so easy to read") comes with his distinctive baritone, while the album features washes of organ on One More Second, mournful strings on Collar Of Your Shirt and licks of brass on All For Nothing and Take Me Out Of Town.

Silver Springs is a duet with Gail Ann Dorsey, and the title track is the last of the 10 on the album. It refers to a sewer pipe that drains into the ocean near LA's international airport and has a cage on top to prevent people getting into the water, and shows Berninger's penchant for finding beauty in the mundane.

The typically literate lyrics are more personal than those for The National, while the music is stripped down, freed from the need to fill arenas,

Serpentine Prison, in its melancholy and introspection, is reminiscent at times of Robert Fisher's criminally under-rated alt-country outfit Willard Grant Conspiracy, and its understated qualities deserve a wide audience.

8/10 Review by Matthew George

Katie Melua

Album no8

While none of her recent works have matched the commercial success of her debut and sophomore albums, Katie Melua has quietly been serving up top 10 hits for over a decade.

This - if it is a sign of anything - points towards her knack for cutting through passing trends with artful song-writing and occasional sonic experimentation.

Melua has been clear that this is not a divorce album - coming as it does shortly after her split from World Superbike racer and musician James Toseland.

But on Album No 8, love is both the question and answer.

Melua's coded lyricism is put to good use on English Manner, which explores the shifting power dynamics of a love triangle, while Maybe I Dreamt It is a paeon to shared experience: . Love Like That, which opens the album, tumbles earthward in a cascade of strings, with nods to the psychedelia of Minnie Riperton's Les Fleurs. Inspired by folk greats like Bob Dylan, Album No 8 features some fine, old-fashioned song-writing.

6/10 Alex Green

Beabadoobee

Fake It Flowers

Turn-of-the-millennium emo pop might not quite be the flavour of the month right now, but Beabadoobee - real name Beatrice Laus - somehow carries it off in a way that feels totally at home 20 years on.

After all, her biggest splash so far came in the most 2020 way possible - suddenly going viral on TikTok after rapper Powfu sampled debut single Coffee.

In a recent LA Times interview, the British-Filipino singer said she spent every night dancing around to the likes of Michelle Branch, Veruca Salt and the soundtrack to Lindsay Lohan's Freaky Friday.

That should probably give you a decent idea of what to expect, but there's far more depth to Beabadoobee than her bedroom listening and playful demeanour might suggest.

Sorry is a quiet-loud-quiet anthem bursting with serious pop prowess, while the lo-fi lilting ballad How Was Your Day is lifted straight out of the Daniel Johnson songbook.

And though the tweeness might feel a little on-the-nose at points, closer Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene presents a terrific slice of saccharine art rock with hints at an even more interesting future.

6/10 Stephen Jones

The Struts

Strange Days

If ever there was a 21st Century reincarnation of glam rock, The Struts are surely it.

The enigmatic Derby quartet have emerged with another riff-heavy offering from the depths of the global pandemic.

Strange Days saw the band move to the US and in with producer Jon Levine. Thrashing out nine tracks in 10 days, this speedy approach has left the new album lacking the magic of 2018's Young & Dangerous

Strange Days' title track is an underwhelming, mid-tempo affair, drizzled with the vocals of Robbie Williams, while the additional guest appearances read like an A-Z of classic rock - Tom Morello and Joe Elliott to name a few.

The long-awaited follow-up was always going to be a tough task, but what the previous album produced in terms of infectious hooks, stadium choruses and down-tempo tales of woe, Strange Days misses out on by the narrowest of margins.

6/10 Danielle de Wolfe

Belfast Telegraph