Albums: Harry Styles, Stormzy, Pink Floyd and XXXTentacion
HARRY Styles' second solo album is full of confidence, the 25-year-old having found his sound - chilled-out post-club euphoria with a retro slant, and heady hazy pop-rock that drips with sensual intent and young lust in a kind of David Bowie-meets-Mark Ronson manner.
If you've seen Styles lately, clad in something beautifully flamboyant, fluid and a little bit 'vintage shop', you'll understand how his new collection serves ideally as the aural accompaniment to his image.
The 12-track album has a few so-so moments, but even the lesser tracks aren't superfluous, instead acting as a glue between the more inebriating offerings, such as the spirited and catchy opener Golden, the 1970s disco-infected Watermelon Sugar and the brilliant She, a scuzzy, whining-guitar laced ode to a mystery woman complete with Styles' rather excellent falsetto.
Styles has the charm, talent and mettle to dabble in his own style without having to follow other chart-thirsty artists of his generation, and that is perhaps his most stand-out quality.
Heavy Is The Head
IF GANG Signs And Prayer was an enigmatic walking tour through Stormzy's spirituality, Heavy Is The Head is his blueprint for the mortal world.
Within minutes, the 26-year-old has referenced his ever-growing list of accolades: headlining Glastonbury, his handful of Brit Awards, a publishing imprint and numerous magazine covers.
Stormzy, real name Michael Omari, has certainly come a long way since he uploaded a freestyle titled Shut Up to YouTube in 2015. His long-awaited second album is a snapshot of an artist plagued by ravenous doubts but ready to accept the burden – and responsibilities – of fame.
It's impossible to deny the towering worth of tracks like Superheroes, his tribute to the "young black kings" and "immaculate" black queens of British culture. But Stormzy is aware of the intense scrutiny with which this album will be received. On Bronze he tackles the topic head-on.
"These gatekeepers are p****s / And you old guys make me sick," he intones. HITH sounds like Stormzy stretching out in the studio and experimenting with new musical forms.
The Later Years
PINK Floyd have never been ones to take half measures: The Later Years is a 16-disc collection (five CDs/five DVDs/six DVDs) of their music from 1987 onward – the post-Roger Waters years. There are also highlights packages for those whose budget, or interest, doesn't stretch to the box set.
The first disc is a remixed version of the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason album, and it's a great improvement on the original. All of the drum parts have been re-recorded by Nick Mason and more of the late Rick Wright's keyboards have been included, some taken from live recordings.
The set also includes a remastered Delicate Sound Of Thunder live album and other live recordings and unreleased studio recordings.
But the real prize is the first ever full release of their 1990 Knebworth concert. Guest musicians include saxophone player Candy Dulfer and the original vocalist from The Great Gig In The Sky, Clare Torry.
Bad Vibes Forever
TO HIS detractors, Jahseh Onfroy was too consumed with crafting his own legacy to put much mind to the music. To his many fans, he was a troubled genius.
How you hear Bad Vibes Forever depends on which camp you fall into. Aged just 20, the US rapper was shot and killed last year in a robbery gone wrong while awaiting trial for attacking his girlfriend while she was pregnant.
His fourth and final album sounds like a misjudged attempt at kingmaking by his estate - an attempt to position him as a force of nature, gone too soon. School Shooters with Lil Wayne was recorded as a response to the Parkland shooting.
But when XXXTentacion threatens to drink the blood of perpetrators there is little substance beneath the shock. Soon the album's sprawling 25 tracks begin to come unstuck.
Somewhere between an album of off-cuts and a posthumous tribute, Bad Vibes Forever is likely to satisfy no-one.