Saturday 17 September 2016

Current Most Listened To Albums (September 2016)

Foreverland / The Divine Comedy:
Greatly anticipated, this is Neil Hannon's 11th album with his band, The Divine Comedy. I have been exploring their back catalogue intensively for the last few years and it has been great to have so much to discover. For reference (having listened to everything he's done except for Fanfare for the Comic Muse and Regeneration), my favourite previous albums are Absent FriendsVictory for the Comic Muse and A Short Album About Love

Foreverland is another great addition to Hannon's extensive catalogue, although it did take me a few listens to love it, maybe because there are no pop sing-a-long crowd-pleasers in the same vein as National Express or Becoming More Like Alfie(Napoleon Complex comes the closest). That isn't to say that the songs don't get in your head and under your skin. The Pact is a good example of how Neil Hannon is an incredible song writer, with lyrics seemingly focusing on a union of nations, whilst revealing perhaps the most magical part of a long-term relationship. I heard in interviews, that this album is about what happens after the 'happily-ever-after' and having his partner Cathy Davey duet with him on Funny Peculiar is perfect. This track evokes old Hollywood musicals- a very sweet moment on the album. How Can You Leave Me On My Own is also a favourite with its daft lyrics, and I love seeing Neil dressed up in the video!

Overall, this is a slower burner for me compared to some of The Divine Comedy's previous albums...and I'm glad. It is perhaps more mature and refined than some previous releases and the more I listen, the more I find to appreciate in Hannon's craftmanship. I can't wait to see him live in October!

The Small Hours / Matt Berry:
In contrast, this album (also much awaited), I was instantly hooked on. I have listened to it a lot. Matt Berry is a fairly well-known comedian (IT Crowd, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, Toast of London), but he is also a musician. This album is potentially his best yet and feels more polished than his earliest stuff (which I still adore). Another observation about this album is that, amongst his quirky and abstract lyrics, many tracks feel more personal and heartfelt. The title track ends the album and is one of the two songs that have really got me hooked. The Small Hours is melancholic, reflective and beautiful. If you're an anxious procrastinator in 'the small hours', you might connect to this like I did.

Track number 7, Seasons on Fire, is one of those melodies that is capable of getting in your head and staying with you. It's an emotive track that reveals Berry's ability to explore something different than we've have seen him do before- the loss felt when a relationship ends. The arrangement on this is superb with his guitarist and drummer doing a sterling job. For a song to make me tear up, it has to be something special. This song is as addictive as October Sun was on 'Kill the Wolf'. I'm going to need to ration listening to Seasons on Fire because it's fresh and new and magical. I want to hold onto that for a while.

His last two albums have both featured an extended prog rock piece and there is something a little different offered in its place here. Night Terrors, running at nearly 10 minutes, is discordant in places, jazzy, brings nostalgia of 1970s TV shows and adds an interesting extended interlude to the album. The Pheasant and Solstice from previous albums were growers that turned into album highlights for me. I believe this may be the case here too.

There are no dud tracks on this album. It is everything I hoped for and more. If you are partial to alternative, folky, psychedelic rock to comfort you through the small hours, you need this album.  

Live- The Farewell Tour / Bellowhead:
I will always regret not seeing the live tour, but this CD (and bonus DVD) is the closest thing to it. This three disk combo features 29 of their tracks, performed live. Having seen them twice live, I know how captivating and exciting this folk super-group are on stage, and it is sad to think that they won't be producing anything as an 11-piece band for the foreseeable future. I was, however, thrilled to see Lilibulero on the track listing which I never got to see live. This band have certainly left their mark on me. If you've never heard of them, watch this. You're welcome!

Blood / Lianne La Havas:
Released last Summer and a Christmas present from my brother, Blood is an album that evokes nostalgic feelings for me and also pulls on my emotions. The opening track Unstoppable gives an indication of how well produced this is. La Havas' voice is empowered and makes me feel like I'm back in the late 90s in my bedroom discovering neo soul, hanging onto every lyric and dreaming away. A track called Wonderful is absolutely stunning. It is delicate and achingly beautiful in its lyrics and simplicity, really showing off La Havas' vocals. Amongst Green and Gold and Tokyo, for me, another stand out is Good Goodbye which anyone who has experienced loss can relate to. This heartbreaking track, accompanied by strings, makes me cry every time I hear it.

Woman / Jill Scott:
As a longstanding fan of Jill Scott, this doesn't disappoint. Another release of 2015, this album doesn't stray far from Jill's previous work; I don't feel like she would ever sell out and try to fit the mould of the mainstream- she knows her audience and stays faithful. Stand outs for me are Beautiful Love (with BJ the Chicago Kid), a mellow, soulful track; Jahraymecofasola, which showcases Jill's positivity and faith in God; and Back Together, a love song with a classic feel. I saw Jill live years ago at Shepherd's Bush and I'd love to see her again. I feel like, listening to the likes of Jill Scott and India Arie as a 15-16 year old made me appreciate so much about life, love and femininity. And there's no-one with songs as sexy as Jill's!

The Heart Speaks in Whispers / Corinne Bailey Rae:
I was introduced to this album when I saw Corinne Bailey Rae live at The Tabanacle in April. As a teenage fan, I was familiar with her first album and have since come across The Sea. For a start, it has to be emphasised how wonderful she is live. Corinne's sweet, positive personality came through between performances and her voice is flawless. I can still remember how she captured the room with I won't Break Your Heart, which still remains an album favourite, along with Stop Where You Are and Green Aphrodisiac. 

Knowing about the publicised loss that Corinne Bailey Rae went through in 2008, this record seems to reflect how she has healed since The Sea; there is this sense particularly in The Skies Will Break , an affirming, upbeat opener to the album. That is not to say that there are not tender and vulnerable moments (Night and In The Dark bring another facet to the album). 

Overall, I believe Corinne Bailey Rae to be one of the UK's best singing talents and one who is a little underrated. This album is well worth investing in.

Have you listened to any of these albums?
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