Albums of the week: Mark Ronson, Will Young and Hot Chip
Mark Ronson - Late Night Feelings
The pedigree of guest vocalists on Mark Ronson’s fifth record underlines his hit-making credentials. The British super-producer has corralled a line-up of singers ranging from Miley Cyrus and Camila Cabello, Lykke Li and Alicia Keys to less familiar names King Princess, Yebba and Angel Olsen. Each of them earns their place with stylish contributions.
Having trailed his first album in almost five years as a collection of “sad bangers”, Ronson has delivered on that promise with a sumptuous set of songs that transcend his funk-pop origins.
In truth, Late Night Feelings may be too good for the singles chart — there’s no obvious smash to compare to Uptown Funk featuring Bruno Mars (three million UK sales and counting). But as a body of work, it shows Ronson at the peak of his powers on melancholy tunes that accentuate his artistry rather than mere proficiency in a recording studio.
There are sleek pop moments from Cabello, Li and Cyrus — last year’s country-tinged single Nothing Breaks Like a Heart — though it’s often the newcomers who prove the most intriguing collaborators.
King Princess takes charge on the Eighties-style groove Pieces of Us, while Yebba is entrusted with the heart of Ronson’s comeback record, a sequence of startling songs that should supercharge her own career.
The wealth of talent is a reminder of this producer’s knack for backing future female stars, such as Adele and the late Amy Winehouse. But Ronson has also stepped up as a songwriter and solo artist on a masterful contemporary disco album.
by Andre Paine
Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy
Hot Chip have endured impressively for an outfit whose vintage keyboards and daft lyrics (“Riding in my Peugeot”) seemed to signal novelty. But it’s not surprising given Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard’s deep but lightly-worn musicality. This lovelorn banger of an album is their first to be produced by outsiders: Rodaidh Mcdonald, renowned for work with Sampha and The xx, trims the fat; French house legend Philippe Zdar brings a neon sheen. Melody of Love is both moving and preposterous. Spell, Positive and Echo are blissed-out bubbles of delight. Zdar’s untimely death, announced yesterday, makes it all the more bittersweet.
by Richard Godwin
The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger
If The White Stripes was Jack White forcing creativity by restricting parameters, The Raconteurs — the quartet he’s revived after 11 years apart — is him cutting loose with old buddies. Co-written with Brendan Benson, it sounds live and unpolished, leaping gleefully from almost rap-rock on What’s Yours is Mine to pacey punk on Live A Lie. Sunday Driver shifts from riffing to Beatlesy psychedelia. Heavier guitars leap out on country-rocking Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying). It sounds mostly for their amusement, but it’s still fun.
by David Smyth
Dona Onete - Rebujo
Dona Onete, 80, is a Brazilian tour de force yet only recorded her debut a little over a decade ago. With African and indigenous South American roots she’s the voice of her Amazonian city, Belem, and has played WOMAD and Roskilde. This album touches on issues including the indigenous cultures threatened by President Jair Bolsonaro. But for external audiences it’s the groove that matters, driven by dynamic percussion, Marcos Sarrazin’s soulful sax and Onete’s exuberant and urgent vocals.
by Simon Broughton
Hackney Colliery Band - Collaborations: Volume 1.
The colliery brass band is a British working-class tradition, a testament to collective might and lungpower. The Hackney collective are reinventing the form for the 21st century via funk, jazz, electronics and Nirvana covers; here they team with some stellar jazzers. Highlights include Ricochet, blasted skywards by trombonist Dennis “Badbone” Rollins, and tracks featuring vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke, whose snakey Ethiopian modes add intrigue — as does sweet-voiced Yva on Without You. The form’s versatility shines through.
by Jane Cornwell
Will Young - Lexicon
Will Young’s seventh studio album represents an about-turn for the former Pop Idol winner. Wanting little stress after suffering mental health issues, Young chose to release his latest independently. The freedom it has brought certainly suits him.
Lexicon has darker, electronic underpinning than anything he’s done before. All the Songs and My Love are classic pop songs featuring synth and disco while The Way We Were has an impressive falsetto.
he project sees Young collaborating with other songwriters for the first time since his third album. He has boldly overhauled his sound and stayed true to his pop roots.
by Elizabeth Aubrey