Albums: Suede, Kodaline, Josh Groban, Christine and the Queens, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Christine And The Queens
WHEN Heloise Letissier delivered Chris to her record label, she produced not only a collection of vividly imagined and brilliantly captured songs of self-discovery but also a 15-page dossier that portrayed her physical emancipation. She tells of becoming "a real grownass woman" since her debut LP Chaleur Humaine – a number two hit in the UK – and has achieved that through embracing her androgynous, non-binary self, building up an athletic physique and adopting the more masculine contraction of her stage name. Chris is a fresh shell for Letissier and an unshackled confidence streams through the record, the basslines funkier, lyrics punchier, the full package strikingly sensuous. Girlfriend, the glitterball-disco single, has Chris candidly pursuing flings above commitment, and is one of several songs here that recall peak-period Michael Jackson. Doesn't Matter and Damn (What Must A Woman Do) are mighty works from a phenomenal artist.
WITH Bridges you get exactly what you want from a Josh Groban album. Soaring melodies and a rich vocal tone that just oozes richness and comfort. Groban's eighth studio album doesn't hold any real surprises. The emotions he evokes, however, are priceless. The soaring vocals in the cover of Snow Patrol's Run, here reworked as a duet with Sarah McLachlan, Groban starts in an almost classical tone then the harmony with McLachlan rises with a Celtic lilt. Bridges also features a collaboration with flamenco composer and virtuoso guitarist Vicente Amigo on Musica del Corazon, a foot-tapping love song. Romance is on the cards again in a duet with renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli on We Will Meet Once Again and with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles the pair settle on a poppy/country crossover sound with 99 Years. So as autumn closes in, light the fire, grab a blanket and settle down with Bridges.
Politics Of Living
THE Irish quartet have now come up with their first offering since 2014's Coming Up For Air. This comes after a number of instances of their music being used in film and TV shows. This album of shiny, highly produced, indie-pop with its radio-friendly and catchy songs should now provide them with even more exposure. Steve Garrigan's distinctive, high range vocals provide a counterpoint to the very electronic sound, making the songs stand out against the usual indie output.
The Blue Hour
ONCE the "best new band in Britain", according to the Melody Maker, Suede rose through the 90s, seen, albeit begrudgingly, as part of the Britpop movement. After a return to live shows in 2010, the alternative rock band released new music in 2013 and now we have their eighth studio album, The Blue Hour. Opening track, As One, sets the scene, with haunting voices and dramatic strings, and there is a sense of foreboding. This unease continues throughout, Chalk Circles stomps menacingly and All The Wild Places, with its lush orchestration, is sad and chilling. This might not be for those who liked the anthemic pop of 90s Suede. This is a collection that works as a whole and tells a dark and unsettling story, demonstrating how the band has progressed and grown.
Live From Atlantic City
LIKE all good live albums should do, this recording of a 2006 set in New Jersey by the legendary southern rock band transports you to the jubilant atmosphere of the real show. You reach for an imaginary beer and whoop as singer Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of late vocalist Ronnie, dedicates Red White and Blue (Love It Or Leave) to US military veterans. During the show the band are joined by guests Hank Williams Jr, rock band 3 Doors Down and former American Idol contestant Bo Bice, which only helps to age the recording. The band, whose only original member is guitarist Gary Rossington, play covers of their guests' songs which may leave die-hard fans wishing there were more Skynyrd songs on offer. The wailing guitars and honky tonk keys are red hot throughout but the undoubted highlight comes with the finale of Sweet Home Alabama followed by the epic Freebird.