Albums: Kitt Philippa, Nick Cave, Freddie Mercury and Elbow
NORTHERN Ireland singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kitt Philippa's transfixingly soothing vocals will catch you off guard from the opening track of their (Philippa's preferred pronoun) debut album, Human.
Philippa was raised on classical music and it shows, although the classically-driven tracks are largely tainted with a mild urban, contemporary edge. Aside from that, the artist has a natural flair for connecting with an audience with poetic, emotional lyrics and even more emotional musicality.
Striking title track and NI Music Prize Single of the Year 2018 Human opens the album; the delicate Lion starts calmly with clever, pared-back instrumentation, allowing Philippa's vibrant voice to take centre stage before building into mild euphoria; Fahrenheit is an experimental offering, with digital sounds layered over a jazzy keyboard, but Philippa's atmospheric voice is still the main event.
From start to finish, the collection shows Philippa's power to blend the old and the new. A must-listen for all.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
IN THE first album recorded since the death of his son, Nick Cave continues a sort of public exorcism, and produces a devastating, painfully beautiful, work.
2016's Skeleton Tree was almost entirely written and recorded before Cave's 15-year-old son Arthur fell from the cliffs close to their Brighton home. Now, 2019 brings Ghosteen, an 11-track double album that flits between ruminations on family and explorations of the ethereal, always with the presence of Cave's "little white shape dancing at the end of the world".
Rippling piano and Warren Ellis's expansive, shifting synths replace the usual rhythm section of drums and bass.
It is oh-so sad, even in the context of Cave's music, which has always been doom-laden and filled with sorrow. Bright Horses features some of Cave's finest lyricism while Waiting for You's simple refrain is all that is necessary to evoke the sadness in his heart.
IT'S hard to believe it is 28 years since Mercury's untimely death: this collection is a reminder that he sang just as he lived his life – with passion, joy and sadness.
Familiar tunes like The Great Pretender are mixed with recently discovered tracks like Time Waits for No One and Mercury sings from his heart on every one. The title is inspired by the Queen leader's famous quote "You can do anything with my work, but never make me boring" and the collection brings back memories of Mercury's captivating, strutting performances, dominating the stage and drawing every eye to him.
His collaboration with Monserrat Caballe on Barcelona stills sounds majestic and dramatic more than 30 years later and another duet with Caballe, How Can I Go On, is a particular delight. The jaunty Living On My Own camouflages the loneliness of its lyrics and there is another plaintive story in Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow.
A collection to remind everyone what we have lost.
Giants of All Sizes
ELBOW have had consecutive number one albums, 2014's The Take Off And Landing Of Everything and 2017's Little Fictions, and four in a row in the top 10 – but only one top-10 single, 2011's festival-pleasing bombast of One Day Like This.
We can expect more of the same on their latest offering as Guy Garvey sings of "Rocking like a suicide pedalo at high tide" on first single Dexter And Sinister, with Jesca Hoop lending guest vocals, and asks "How can a bland, unremarkable, typical Tuesday be Day of the Dead?" on Empires.
From the opening line "I don't know Jesus any more" to the drug references that litter White Noise White Heat and Doldrums and frequent hints towards the broader political turmoil in the world, Giants Of All Sizes is a self-professed "bleak" album but one which I suspect will continue to reward during repeat listens.