Album reviews: Howard Jones, Mac Demarco, Lydia Ainsworth and Tanika Charles

1980s pop star Howard Jones is back with new album Transform

Howard Jones


THERE is definitely something in the air at the moment with the return of several 80s musical heroes. Lyrically, Howard Jones is as life-affirming as he was 35 years ago and, it has to be said, now is the time for us to such uplifting words.

Transform has the power to do just that. With the help of super-producer BT, Jones weaves uplifting tracks that have stepped straight out of the decade that fashion forgot to remind us that everything is possible with some self-belief and determination.

Eagle Will Fly Again, used on the soundtrack of the Eddie The Eagle film in 2016, feels like it should have been on Airwolf.

Get a feel for the 1980s, when we never gave up, courtesy of Howard Jones.

Four stars

Rachel Howdle

Mac Demarco

Here Comes The Cowboy

A CLASSIC Mac DeMarco love song always feels like it's being delivered with a sly wink. But if anybody still thought the Canadian was just a slacker with a boyish sense of humour, they'll be put right with his fourth LP.

Take K, a simple, Dylanesque folk ballad that lays bare DeMarco's skill as documenter of the lovelorn. Meanwhile, next track Heart to Heart is as slow-burning and addictive as anything he's produced before.

But there are also new influences: the playful Choo Choo toys with George Clinton-esque funk, while kind-hearted closer Baby Bye Bye brings to mind RAM-era McCartney.

In a recent interview, DeMarco described this album as "something that was supposed to be imperfect – perfectly crappy", but these songs feel like they've been given far more care and attention than that. The songs are often simple and the production remains low key but DeMarco's chops as a producer and songwriter are continually being burnished.

Three stars

Stephen Jones

Tanika Charles

The Gumption

WHAT a great word gumption is. A decision that is imaginative, driven and determined, The Gumption is the perfect title for Tanika Charles' punchy second album. Toronto based, the singer credits herself for marrying classic soul with modern production styles, something she continues to achieve in this 12-track release.

Vocally, Charles hits somewhere between Motown and early 90s R&B. Opening track Tell Me Something is moody and emotional, with the singer breaking it down into spoken word at the end. Love Overdue, the first single from the album, makes you want to dance.

Charles sings with jubilation, gospel perhaps another influence to her sound. Through the lyrics, the album covers a range of emotions and deals with many issues facing women today – Upside Down even name checks the Time's Up movement.

Soulful and slick, Charles' latest release was definitely made with, well, gumption. After the success of 2017 release Soul Run, her follow-up effort will undoubtedly be another hit.

Four stars

Emma Bowden

Lydia Ainsworth

Phantom Forest

WITH a voice that could easily be compared to Kate Bush and a style best described as "late-00's Lady Gaga meets retro 1980s video game soundtrack", Canada's Lydia Ainsworth is an intriguing musical proposition. The singer, composer and producer has created a collection of music that is meant to entice the listener into her dream world, which she says is "Mother Nature's vanishing home".

Leaning towards the more experimental side of electro-pop, Ainsworth has created an interesting album that certainly won't be everybody's cup of tea, but is unique and stylish enough to appeal to those who enjoy the craftsmanship she offers.

From funky album opener Diamonds Cutting Diamonds – which has concise, clean synth beats against a fuzzy techno backdrop – to smoother, more ethereal tracks that highlight her piercing vocal such as Kiss The Future, The Time and Give It Back To You (arguably the standout), Ainsworth's third album is definitely worth a go.

Three stars

Lucy Mapstone

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