Emeli Sande – Long Live The Angels
Is Emeli Sande bored? A lot of Long Live The Angels, follow-up to the phenomenally successful Our Version Of Events, comes off as a singer still looking around. Her voice is as beautiful as ever, nailing that echoey soul sound, but overall it’s a bit committee-built. This might be because of the album’s structure, telling the story of Sande’s renewal after her divorce, with a subdued first half giving way to a livelier second. Fine on paper, less so when individual songs don’t land, or when the first half feels so tightly weighed down. Give Me Something is tired and laid back, while Hurts, the album’s first single, tries too hard with its clapping and manic violins. But then, just when you forget how good her music can sound, she pulls out something amazing: I’d Rather Not is spine-chilling and Breathing Underwater is an emotional earworm. Sande is undeniably talented, shame that here she rarely finds her full footing.
Arborist – Home Burial
That Arborist named their debut album after DIY interment is a clue to its tone — this isn’t a summer party album. But the Belfast band’s luscious mix of harmonies, guitars and strings bringing strong flavours of Americana and melodic indie together into an aural road trip. The band’s cult following has not been hurt by the support of Pixies and Breeders’ icon Kim Deal, who lent her vocals to Arborist’s 2015 debut single, Twisted Arrow, featured here. The themes of death, ageing and family might, when read in the cold light of day, seem bleak in the extreme; but Mark McCambridge and co have put together a collection of songs with a strong vein of soul through them.
Olly Murs – 24Hrs
If any solo artist shows how to make a success of The X Factor, it’s got to be Olly Murs. As well as TV presenting and massive arena tours, this is his fifth album since he came second in the talent show in 2009. Clearly on a philosophy of if it ain’t broke… 24 Hrs is a catchy collection of radio-friendly pop, detailing the trials and tribulations of luurrve — squarely aimed to please his legions of fans. If you didn’t like his previous work, this is unlikely to convert you. First single and album opener You Don’t Know Love sets the tone for a slightly more broken-hearted Olly. Grow Up and 24 Hrs address failed relationships, while the lyrics to Read My Mind and Unpredictable focus on flings rather than finding The One. Of course, even the ballads come with earworm choruses, but with stripped-back closer Flaws, Olly shows he still has a great voice under all that production.
Cerrone – Red Lips
On the back of Giorgio Moroder’s comeback via Daft Punk a few years ago, French disco producer and songwriter Cerrone attempts a revival of his own with Red Lips. Adopting the same approach as Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, the album was recorded mainly with live studio musicians, and with a host of special guests including Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Afrobeat drumming legend Tony Allen and soul star Aloe Blacc. Although very slick and fun, the formula tends to wear a little thin over the course of an album, but in short blasts this could light up a dance floor, no problem.
Sting – 57th & 9th
This would be retro if it wasn’t Sting still being Sting. Now 65, his voice has the same gravelly yearning it did way back in the Eighties. In fact, he’s heavily reliant on his earlier sound, with little experimentation except for rockier riffs. Hardcore swooning Sting fans will no doubt be content. If You Can’t Love Me has a velvety, bluesy feel to it, despite the bleak lyrical content (“How can I live in this broken world?”), Down, Down, Down sets a strange, melancholy pace while Inshallah, overlaid with keening strings, talks at winding length of the war in Syria. A motley collection.