Albums: Living In Extraordinary Times shows James are as relevant as ever

Living In Extraordinary Times by James


Living In Extraordinary Times

MORE than 30 years after their first release, the Mancunian Brit-pop favourites have continuously evolved to remain as relevant as ever. Singer Tim Booth, now based in California, sets his stall out lyrically from the off on this latest album, with the political and the personal represented in the first two songs – the percussive anti-Trump diatribe Hank followed by Coming Home (Part 2), a companion piece to 1990's Come Home and a tender expression of love from afar for his son. The political side is perhaps best expressed on Many Faces, a message of unity which pointedly states "all walls fall over time", while the two schools meet on May's storming lead-out single Better Than That, one of the band's best songs in years. The seven-minute-plus What's It All About, which at one point echoes the cadence of Better Than That's pre-chorus, is another stand-out at the back end of a fine set.


Tom White

The Black Delta Movement


ANYONE with an ear for honest-to-God rock'n'roll won't fail to be knocked sideways by this infectious collection of barnstormers. Of the many influences worn brazenly on the Hull-based group's sleeves, there's a clear Jesus & Mary Chain/Black Rebel Motorcycle Club vibe to be heard in the mantra-like vocals of No End and the wigged-out guitars of seven-minute album closer Butterfly, as well as a Nirvana-esque pop sensibility that can be picked up in the maddeningly catchy King Mosquito and For You. Most notably, the thundering guitars and aural swagger of Hunting Ground, Ivory Shakes and Deceit have the same solid pub-rock backbone that made early Oasis into megastars. The indie scene has been pretty wan in recent years, but based on the sheer intensity of Preservation, The Black Delta Movement might just be the band to reinvigorate it.


James Robinson

Amanda Shires

To The Sunset

AMERICAN singer-songwriter and violinist Amanda Shires, winner of the emerging artist of the year at the Americana Music Honours & Awards 2017, has the ability to restore the listener's faith in many things with this, her fifth album. Mostly that the folk/Americana genre has another (and arguably more appealing) level that can be achieved if you just add a bit of grubby guitar and some electro twists. The 36-year-old says the album "is meant to be a positive thing... To The Sunset sounds like a toast: This day is over, we don't know what's in the future, but it's hopeful, I think". And this collection definitely errs on the optimistic side, even with songs like Take On The Dark, where Shires repeatedly, alluringly croons that "it's OK to fall apart". Eve's Daughter, an upbeat song that focuses on a woman's hope for love in testing times, is one of the album's peak moments.


Lucy Mapstone

Deaf Havana


THIS collection of anthemic pop songs from UK rock group Deaf Havana must seem like blasphemy to fans of the band's heavy early material, complete with throat-wrenching, screamed vocals. Singer James Veck-Gilodi channels his inner Ed Sheeran as his pained vocals pierce echo-laden lead guitar lines, reminiscent of the XX, and haunting Sigur Ros-style synth. The title of each song is a word associated with religion. While this is certainly no gospel record, there are choral breakdowns which may incite some listeners off their pews to clap along. Epiphany is a coming of age moment for Veck-Gilodi as he sings about erasing his tattoos and getting a well-paid job. Loyal disciples will be pleased they didn't have to wait long for this quick fire follow-up to last year's All These Countless Nights. But there is too much sickly, uninspiring fodder with awful auto tune to entice casual listeners into Deaf Havana's congregation.


Andrew Arthur


All Good Wishes

ALL Good Wishes, the second album from Gulp, sees them continue where debut album Season Sun left off – with another round of sun-worn psychedelia. Formed by Super Furry Animals' bassist Guto Pryce, Lindsey Leven and their long standing guitarist Gid Goundrey, they wear their influences heavy on their sleeve. Julee Cruise, Chromatics, The Soundcarriers and Broadcast all come to mind as the album drifts by. The title of Morning Velvet Sky references Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood's Some Velvet Morning, and this album seems to inhabit a world in-between that duo's weird 1960s pop and a layered 1980s synth sound. Gulp work best when Pryce's pulsing bass is driving the songs along, with Claudia and the Ladyton-esque Ride two of the album's more memorable moments.


Colm McCrory

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