Albums of the week: From The Killers to Marc Almond
From Black Eyed Peas star Fergie’s long-awaited second solo outing to fifth record efforts from The Horrors, The Killers and Enter Shikari, it’s a strong week of releases.
FERGIE — DOUBLE DUTCHESS
Fergie’s second solo album has a deliciously ‘hip hop circa 1995’ vibe, but is far from being a collection of humdrum nostalgia-laced tracks. The Black Eyed Peas star’s record — released 11 years after her debut The Dutchess — is a flawless fusion of old-school hip hop and pop.
If there was a Venn diagram of the two genres, Fergie would be slap bang in that middle section.
This is what fans have been waiting over a decade for: Fergie’s powerhouse vocals — bursting with raw honesty, particularly after her marriage breakdown with Josh Duhamel — clever production, sharp lyrics and collaborations with the likes of Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross. She’s also releasing Double Dutchess as a visual album, just to make the wait worth it.
Opening with Hungry, featuring Ross, you’re immediately transported to the mid-Nineties thanks to its epic choral background, an ode to Gangsta’s Paradise.
Fergie doesn’t shy away from punchy production, and all tracks are bold, particularly combined with her emotive vocals.
Heavy at the start with foot-tapping tracks including You Already Know (with Minaj) and A Little Work, it’s the final song, an epic power ballad called Love Is Pain, that is the absolute clincher.
ENTER SHIKARI — THE SPARK
The Spark is a genre-bending soundtrack to the end of the world, and the fifth studio album from the St Albans four-piece.
The Spark was preceded by two very different singles — Live Outside is perhaps the boys’ most accessible moment to
date, while Rabble Rouser gets down and dirty, with Rou Reynolds spitting rhymes about pliers, wires, spiders and screwdrivers.
The album effortlessly leaps from dance floor to circle pit, with themes of society, anxiety and communication cranking the hysteria up to 11.
Elsewhere, Take My Country Back delivers a rallying cry over the album’s most stratospheric chorus.
In a somewhat surprising move, An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces sees synthesisers set to serenade rather than stun.
Those hoping for a return to the earlier sound may be disappointed, but Enter Shikari’s unflinching desire to evolve with every release is something very exciting indeed.
THE HORRORS — V
A fifth Horrors album seemed unlikely when they first turned up with their skinny jeans and bad monikers in 2006. From Southend-on-Sea, they looked like they’d stepped off the page of a garage rock/goth cartoon penned by Ronald Searle. Longevity didn’t seem to be on the cards, but expectations were turned upside down with the psychedelic brilliance of second album Primary Colours.
Their new album V is produced by Paul Epworth, the man behind Adele’s 21, and the addition of his Grammy-tinged polish works across most of the record, building on the synth sound of their previous albums.
Some songs feel like they would have been better off with a bit more dirt in the production, but songs like the closing tracks It’s A Good Life and Something To Remember Me By really work well, the first an elegiac slow-burner, the second sounding like a club mix from 2003 that ticks all the happy/sad chord boxes.
THE KILLERS — WONDERFUL WONDERFUL
You’d think by their fifth album The Killers may have slipped into a dangerous comfort zone. But their new offering, Wonderful Wonderful, is anything but predictable or average. It’s like lead singer Brandon Flowers and the rest of the Las Vegas-formed band have ripped up the pages of every other music book they’ve written. This chapter feels like new territory completely — and it’s impressive. Parts of the album leave you feeling like you have drifted off to a parallel music universe, but sounds switch up quickly and suddenly you’re back down on earth again.
Tunes like Tyson vs Douglas (which references the famous 1990 boxing bout that saw Mike Tyson defeated by Buster Douglas) and The Calling (which features actor Woody Harrelson reading verses from the Bible) will make their mark.
Expect to see Have All The Songs Been Written? topping charts soon.
MARC ALMOND — SHADOWS AND REFLECTIONS
Marc Almond’s recording career spans an incredible 36 years, from being one half of Soft Cell to a successful solo artist with a diverse back catalogue. He has always been an interpreter of song, from Tainted Love to Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart with Gene Pitney. And now this new album features 12 covers as well as a new composition, the Scott Walker-esque No One To Say Good Night To.
How Can I Be Sure?, Blue On Blue and The Shadow Of Your Smile will be familiar to many, but songs such as I’m Lost Without You and I Know You Love Me Not are more obscure. Regardless of that, he faithfully covers these songs for a new audience rather than completely reinventing them. The result is a lush collection created with affection.