Albums of the week: First Aid Kit, Tune-Yards and Fall Out Boy
Tune-Yards - I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life
“I’m only human,” whispers Merrill Garbus on the opening jam of her fourth album as tUnE-yArDs — but you do wonder at times. There’s something so other-wordly and in-between about her sound — the echoey expanses, the grapheme basslines, the intra-galactic self-confidence — it sounds like she’s beaming in from somewhere else altogether. Now expanded to a duo — bassist Nate Brenner has become a permanent fixture — and much more explicitly dancey than on her lo-fi early albums, tUnEyArDs mess with body and head to delicious affect. The album as a whole is a woke exploration of womanhood, “white centrality”, privilege and power, but it’s a lot more playful than that sounds. On Colonizer, over an amusingly harsh beat, she trills: “I use my white woman’s voice to tell stories of travels with African men.” Unapologetic in its appropriations, from Detroit techno to reggae to baroque to folk, and oblique in intent, it’s as unsettling as it is entertaining.
By Richard Godwin
First Aid Kit - Ruins
SWEDEN rules the world when it comes to electronic pop, so the success of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg is something of an anomaly, given that they sound like they’ve come from a cabin deep in the Wisconsin woods rather than Stockholm. Now on their fourth album, they still harmonise with the genetic magic of siblings, though they sound almost too comfortable together at this stage. Postcard rolls along easily over honky-tonk piano and pedal steel guitar. They benefit from mixing things up a bit, making us wait two minutes for Johanna’s voice to join in on the acoustic ballad To Live a Life, and adding massed extra singers and horns on the uplifting Hem of Her Dress. Mostly, though, it’s business as usual.
By David Smyth
Fall Out Boy - Mania
(Virgin EMI UK/DCD2)
WITH their unwieldy song titles, self-deprecating lyrics and “guyliner”, Chicago’s Fall Out Boy were the unlikely success story of the early-2000s. Unlikelier still, they had a bassist — Pete Wentz — who was also the heartthrob. Unfortunately, a decade on from their commercial and creative peak, their pop-punk has lost its panache. Indeed, opener Young and Menace is a mash-up of all modern music’s worst bits: blaring synths, Auto-tuned vocals and terrible lyrics. Hold Me Tight Or Don’t, meanwhile, is an awkward dance-off between Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You and Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. Things improve a little in the second half. Church is a showcase for singer Patrick Stump’s piercing tenor, while the new single Wilson (Expensive Mistakes) proves they haven’t forgotten entirely how to write a memorable refrain.
By Rick Pearson
Glen Hansard - Between Two Shores
There's no sign of retirement plans from Van Morrison, who’s released two albums in the past few months. But if he ever decides to pass on the baton to another soulful folk singer, fellow Irishman Glen Hansard seems the most likely candidate. In fact, Hansard has shown similarly bloody-minded tendencies during his career. While fans may have been hoping for a reunion of Oscar-winning duo The Swell Season, the former busker has charted his own course as a solo artist. For his self-produced third album he balances tender introspection on Wreckless Heart with the stately soul of Lucky Man. Lyrically, there’s a rigorous intimacy that draws you into his songs. With that gravelly voice maturing nicely into middle-age, Hansard’s never sounded better.
By Andre Paine
Toto Bona Lukua - Bondeko
Toto Bona Lokua are Gerard Toto, Richard Bona and Lokua Kanza, three artists with extensive solo careers in their own right. They first recorded in this trio format in 2004 and this is their followup. Toto was born in France with ancestry from the French Antilles, Bona is from Cameroon and Kanza from Congo. The title fittingly means “friendship” or “fraternity” in the Congolese language of Lingala. Their lithe, high voices blend in close harmony backed by guitars, bass and light percussion. There’s a gentle samba-like Brazilian feel to much of the album, particularly the opener Ma Mama. It’s very listenable but rather saccharine and often verges on easy-listening.
By Simon Broughton
Elliot Galvin - The Influencing Machine
Young British pianist/composer Elliot Galvin isn’t your ordinary maverick. Having made a splash with two solo albums and with inventive ensemble Dinosaur he’s made a work of soaring ambition. Ten tracks, featuring bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Corrie Dick, coalesce into an exhilarating riff on technology, the mind and our factually-challenged age. Galvin moves from spacious meditations to blistering wig-outs. On Boys Club a toy guitar plinks inside a sonic maelstrom; a Renaissance folk melody blends with West African rhythms on Bees, Dogs and Flies. Visionary stuff. He plays the Vortex, N16, on February 23.
By Jane Cornwell