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Girls Names, Stains on Silence

Girls Names

Stains On Silence

GIRLS Names venture into darker territory with their fourth album, a minimalist, gothic, synth-heavy effort recalling early PIL and the Banshees as well as the more modern sounds of bands on the Blackest Ever Black label such as Tropic of Cancer. Shorn of the urgency of previous efforts, the four-piece Belfast band's sound is improved with more space to play with. Waves of 80s synth, drum machines, and angular guitars are dominated by Claire Miskimmin's monotonous, brilliant bass-playing. Girls Names develop and improve with every record. The first song, 25, is as miserably beautiful an opener that you could ever hope for from any record. The chord changes move from sad to sadder – perfection.

8/10

Colm McCrory

Nine Inch Nails

Bad Witch

NINE Inch Nails conclude their experimental trilogy that began with EPs Not The Actual Events in 2016 and ADD VIOLENCE in 2017 with what Trent Reznor insists is a full-length album, but at a svelte six tracks and 30 minutes in length is really somewhere in between. Nevertheless, not a second is wasted in this pulsating handful of brooding soundscapes. Even after 30 years in the business, Reznor maintains his place at the cutting edge. Bad Witch features tracks as weird and atonal as Ahead Of Ourselves, which sounds like dance music as imagined by a Dalek, and Play The Goddamned Part, which combines a nightmarish bass riff with, of all things, jazz saxophone. Like everything NIN produces, Bad Witch is packed with confrontational and not entirely pleasant music, but makes for compelling, if uneasy, listening.

8/10

James Robinson

Bebe Rexha

Expectations

IT'S hard to believe that someone as accomplished as Bebe Rexha is only just releasing her debut album. The US singer-songwriter first found fame in 2013 when she wrote the Grammy-winning Eminem and Rihanna hit Monster, and since then she has collaborated with Louis Tomlinson, Nicki Minaj, David Guetta and Rita Ora among many others. The 28-year-old has a voice that ventures into Britney Spears-esque territory, and the songwriting skill and musicality of someone with decades in the industry. The album feels refreshingly authentic, and is characterised by how unashamedly pop it is while being strikingly forward-thinking. Rexha offers up an intoxicating combination to keep listeners on their toes. From Don't Get Any Closer, a haunting, rock/electro-tainted pop ballad-lite, to her catchy hit with country duo Florida Georgia Line, Meant To Be, and the funky yet melodic Self Control, Rexha has clearly worked hard, and the result has the desired effect.

9/10

Lucy Mapstone

Panic! At The Disco

Pray For The Wicked

After a short break, Brendon Urie and his ever-changing line-up are back with their sixth studio album. The rich tones that Urie has been sharing on Broadway in the musical Kinky Boots are welcoming from the first bar of the first song. Overall, Pray For The Wicked has a very retro feel, retreading the footsteps left by I Write Sins Not Tragedies, but expanding with a rounder production. High Hopes is about aiming to be the best you can be, and not settling, yet Roaring 20s is a satirical look at fame and its fickle nature (with a similar feel to Fall Out Boy's Arms Race with a souk-style paso doble). On the outside Panic! At The Disco have a bloody good pop record, but with continued listening it becomes a layered discussion on life in your 30s – questioning if your life is everything you expected it to be as the world around us changes at an exponential rate.

9/10

Rachel Howdle

Mike Shinoda

Post Traumatic

IN JULY it will be a year since Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington died, and if anything was going to commemorate him a year on, then band mate Mike Shinoda's album Post Traumatic could not be a more fitting tribute. Shinoda has said the 16-track album is "a journey out of grief and darkness, not into grief and darkness". And listening to the album from beginning to end is like going on that journey along with him. There is the rawness of the opening track, Place To Start, which features excerpts of voice messages of support left for Shinoda following Bennington's death, and the potency of the lyrics in Over Again, which state: "You say goodbye over and over again". Those distinctive Linkin Park rhythms and melodies, the ebb and flow of their songs that fans have come to know, are still there throughout the album. But there's a new dimension added by Shinoda - a mix of his musical talents combined with searing honesty that make this album poignant and oh-so powerful.

8/10

Kerri-Ann Roper

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