Albums: Raphael Saadiq, New Model Army, CRX and The Night Cafe
RAPHAEL Saadiq's many years as a leading light in the R&B/soul world are evident on this, his long-awaited fifth solo studio album, his first in eight years.
Jimmy Lee is a remarkable collection from the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter/record producer, inspired in part by his brother's struggles with addiction as well as his own deeply personal journey of discovery.
Poignant at times, the album errs towards the more positive-sounding side than morose thanks to the former Tony! Toni! Tone! man's knack for constructing captivating pieces of art.
The record is both epic and light, one of those rare finds where every track is a surprise; no two songs sound the same, a delight in a world where many artists stick to one vibe on an album. Saadiq's music feels authentic, to both him and his genre, and Jimmy Lee is a true masterclass in the many layers R&B has to offer.
LOS Angeles five-piece CRX featuring Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi released their debut record, New Skin, in 2016. Since then, they have been spending their time writing Peek.
The band's inspirations drip out of the speakers from the opening bars of We're All Alone – which opens in a style becoming of Goldfrapp, yet has darker opinions on our lack of communication in the age of social media and technology.
New Obsession is essentially Talking Heads and Get Close is an ear-bending loop of synth hooks. This is a masterclass in how much better 80s synth pop would have been with today's production values – Falling is a movie theme tune that Simple Minds would have been proud of.
This is a truly awesome record filled with rich vocals, and it evokes so many memories and emotions from a time when David Bowie was an Absolute Beginner and ra-ra skirts were neon and cool.
New Model Army
VETERAN rock band New Model Army have always been difficult to categorise, spanning genres including punk, funk and soul. And their latest effort, From Here, continues this tradition.
The 12-track record takes listeners on an almost unrelentingly bleak journey, exploring themes of existence, introspection and change. It was recorded on a remote Norwegian island, and it shows.
Opening song, Passing Through, sets the tone while the single Never Arriving is of a similar vein. Other highlights include Where I Am, which signals a change of pace and a slightly more upbeat outlook for the album, but it does not last long. The final song on the album, the title track, opens with pounding drums and contains the nihilistic pronouncement "I am the master of nothing".
New Model Army will celebrate their 40th anniversary next year. While From Here is unlikely to woo many new converts, existing fans will find more than enough to satisfy themselves.
The Night Cafe
MELODIC, euphoric indie charm abounds on this Liverpool band's debut album. The Night Cafe have paid homage to their home city's area code 0151 with this collection of peppy, indie pop/rock tracks.
From the opening bars of first track Finders Keepers (which follows a whirring techno-sounding intro), it's clear these boys have a sparkling career ahead of them. They're not reinventing the wheel and have kept their sound confined inside the safer realm of easy-to-listen-to tunes, but there's an undercurrent of discernible skill and ambition here.
At a lengthy 18 tracks this album does start to wear a tad thin just past the halfway mark, but the pared-back and poignant A Message To Myself brings it all back.
A positive start for this bright young quartet. Hopefully they can let loose a bit more on album number two.