Albums of the week: Robyn, Tom Odell and Boy George & Culture Club

Heji Shin
Heji Shin

Robyn - Honey



Pop years are like dog years — disappear for more than two and you may as well be gone for ever. Stockholm’s Robin Carlsson is the anomaly. Eight years since she released her last album, Body Talk, the clamour for her return has only grown louder.

That’s partly thanks to the ongoing success of her song Dancing on My Own, a UK top 10 hit for her in 2010, prominent again in 2012 in the first series of Lena Dunham’s TV series Girls, and an even bigger hit in 2016 in a wimpy acoustic version by Calum Scott. It set the blueprint for a style of “sad pop” that has become a genre of its own, with everyone from Lorde to Troye Sivan writing songs that can move the feet while prompting a tear at the same time.

Robyn’s absence, which has included a long-term relationship break-up, the death from cancer of her close friend and musical mentor Christian Falk and years in therapy, has given her plenty more fuel.

However, although Honey sounds downbeat and low-key, it’s far from heartbroken. Written predominantly with Joseph Mount of Metronomy, it ranges from the alien sparseness of Beach2k20, which sees her repeating “Let’s go party”, to the soft-hearted strings and synth twinkles of Because It’s in the Music.

Missing U, her energetic comeback single, is the closest link to her older synthpop, while elsewhere, on tracks such as Send to Robin Immediately, she has gone deeper, quieter, prettier.

It’s not an album of pop hits. It sounds like she’s outgrown the charts and gone somewhere even more appealing.

by David Smyth

Thom Yorke - Suspiria OST



It's nearly Halloween guys! If you want to frighten the marrow out of your party guests, look no further than Thom Yorke’s bone-scrapingly effective score for Luca Guadagnino’s forthcoming remake of the cult 1977 Italian horror movie. As the excellent soundtracks of Call Me By Your Name and A Bigger Splash attest, Guadagnino knows what he likes, music-wise, and the Italian director set his heart on persuading Yorke to compose his first movie soundtrack.

As it happens, Yorke had spent his time since A Moon Shaped Pool composing a series of instrumental “spells” to ward away the horrors of Trump, climate apocalypse etc, and they form the core of this meandering double album, recorded with the London Contemporary Orchestra and Choir.

A discordant piano motif recurs throughout; organs distend; footsteps creep.

It is by turns unsettling, disturbing and flat-out terrifying. However, it also has moments of extreme beauty — Klemperer Walks, The Conjuring of Anke — and in Suspirium and Open Again, a pair of vintage Yorke vocals for Radiohead nuts to cherish.

by Richard Godwin

Boy George & Culture Club - Life



A Wembley Arena concert with Belinda Carlisle and the remaining Thompson Twin next month suggests Culture Club are unable or unwilling to leave the Eighties. The first album since a flop reunion almost 20 years ago shows barely any sonic progression since their heyday. Alongside the tepid reggae and predictable funk, a burst of trip-hop on God & Love is about as adventurous as it gets. If there was ever any doubt that Boy George was Culture Club’s head boy, his name now officially overshadows that of the group. Fair enough, perhaps, as his suavely soulful vocal is the best thing about this comeback.

In career terms, though, Life may be an overoptimistic album title.

Gaye Su Akyol - Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir

(Glitterbeat Records)



Gaye Su Akyol is the dynamic new singer songwriter on the Turkish music scene. She’s well-known at home and now getting increasing recognition worldwide. She won over a lot of fans at Womad this summer. The title of this album, her third, translates as “Consistent Fantasy is Reality” and hints at, she says, the surreal difficulties of life in modern Turkey. Musically, it draws strongly on Turkey’s psychedelic, Galata Gothic, rock tradition and features a swirling soundscape of guitars, bass, Turkish lutes and intricate percussion. Her voice is seductive and arresting with alluring melismas, while avoiding orientalist stereotypes. Her band, who play masked, weave compelling textures that keep things interesting even when you don’t understand the lyrics. We’ll be hearing plenty more of her, I’m sure.

by Simon Broughton

Tom Odell - Jubilee Road



Based on his time spent living in east London, Odell’s latest album, Jubilee Road, roots itself in everyday matters as the 27-year-old tries to bring his local London community to life.

Inspired by the friends he made living there, Jubilee Road tells sweeping stories — everything from tales of whisky-shaking gamblers in the local betting shop to ones of torn couples on bittersweet wedding days.

There’s more of Odell too on this, his most introspective album to date. Despite moving forwards thematically, Odell doesn’t venture far from the saccharine, Keane-esque piano balladry he’s previously favoured that can at times cloy. There are still plenty of affecting songs here such as the album’s title track, If You Wanna Love Somebody and his strong duet with Alice Merton, Half as Good as You.

by Elizabeth Aubrey

Amaro Freitas - Rasif

(Far Out Recordings)


Amaro Freitas is a young pianist from the steamy Brazilian province of Pernambuco, who grew up practising on an imaginary keyboard, too poor to commute to the local conservatory. From residencies in restaurants, to a wildly acclaimed debut to this, his second album with a trio on double bass and drums, Freitas is proving himself exceptional. There’s the way he mixes the classic jazz of, say, Thelonious Monk with powerful homegrown rhythms including the drum-driven sounds of carnival. There’s his percussive style and quicksilver timing; complex patterns are delivered effortlessly, recalling nimble-fingered Brazilian icon Hermeto Pascoal, and deft flourishes from guest Henrique Albino on flute and velvety saxophone. Breathtaking stuff. Freitas plays Ronnie Scott’s, W1, on November 2 and 3.

by Jane Cornwell