Album reviews: Ariana Grande's latest LP Thank U, Next is timelessly romantic
Thank U, Next
GIVEN that the past eight months of Ariana Grande's personal life have featured a whirlwind relationship that crashed on the rocks, the world seemed to wait for the Grammy Award-winning singer to harden and pull something savage out in the bag. But surprisingly, Thank U, Next is a romantic, fuzzy offering, completely at odds with her current personal life. It eclipses 2018's Sweetener – a notably cathartic effort after the Manchester terror attack at her concert – by being softer, raw and fuelled with emotion. The music is dreamy and waltz-like, interspersed with vocal clips that could be straight from a vintage movie, all hazy and sepia tinged. Euphoric at times, Grande softly sings lullaby-style melodies over chiming isolated beats, laying out the grand ideas of romance, describing all the wonderful things about a relationship. There are also small hints that the 25-year-old has experienced too much too soon. She's gracious, grateful and Thank U, Next is timelessly romantic.
Head Above Water
AVRIL Lavigne's sixth studio album is a contemplative, 12-track offering. The title track, Head Above Water, is poignant and powerful. It sets the tone immediately and you realise you're hearing from a very different Avril. The singer, 34, refers openly to her health struggles and battle with Lyme Disease. Talking about Head Above Water, she has said: "One night, I thought I was dying, and I had accepted that I was going to die. My mom laid with me in bed and held me. I felt like I was drowning. Under my breath, I prayed 'God, please help to keep my head above the water'." Other stand-out tracks include I Fell In Love With The Devil, Tell Me It's Over, It Was In Me, Crush and Love Me Insane. Say goodbye to Sk8er Boi Avril and hello to next-level lyrics and an album filled with new depths.
HOW has it been 15 years since Nouvelle Vague's self-titled album sauntered into the ether, with their soft melodies and dreamscape lyrical sighs? To celebrate, the French collective have re-recorded their favourite tracks. Here we have a stripped-back sound; it almost feels like a relaxing beach holiday, there are birds chirping in the background and Moody has a jazz like lilt rather than their usual bossa nova vibe. Israel spins the feel of a spaced out bazaar (which, lets be honest, is not particularly likely in real life). Previous covers of U2's Pride, Dexy's Midnight Runners' Come On Eileen (which is stunningly beautiful and fragile) and The Stranglers' Get A Grip On Yourself are respun. A large selection of these fantastically relaxing and coffee-shopesque pieces have come from Bande a Parte. Whether you are a long-time fan or have never dipped your toes into the glassy pond that is Nouvelle Vague, this is an album that you need to hear.
RY X is many things. He's the preferred vocalist of the Berlin techno scene, a folk troubadour and a songwriter. It's been three years since the Australian native released Dawn, a shimmering pop-electronic portrait. Unfurl sees the genre-hopping vocalist return to that sound in earnest for the first time since. Ry X, real name Ry Cuming, is best known for his records as The Acid and Howling – projects that delve into the fruitful territory between balladry and hard, emotive dance music. Fans of those projects will likely be disappointed by Unfurl as it features a sounds closer to the light folkiness of Dawn. But its gentleness is no reason for followers of his tougher work to stay away. Cuming's hushed tenor sits as neatly on these tracks as any before. Over 13 tracks, Cuming plays with sounds you might have heard on albums by Faroese-Icelandic duo Kiasmos or even Fleet Foxes.Unfurl might not please all his fans but it is certain to delight some of them.
The first few minutes of the Piroshka album opener, This Must Be Bedlam, sound so much like Half Man Half Biscuit, I had to check that I hadn't been sent the wrong record. The vocals of Miki Berenyi put paid to any confusion, and it's an unexpected and promising start to this debut album. Berenyi is supported in this indie supergroup by members of Moose, Elastica, and Modern English, and there is real quality here. Village Of The Damned is gorgeously great, and the synths on Everlastingly Yours swoop and soar in all the right places. Unfortunately, the more straight-forward poppy numbers lack their subtlety and lazy sixth-form lyrics on tracks such as Hated By The Powers That Be grate somewhat.