Albums: Pet Shop Boys, Mura Masa, Polica, Wire
Pet Shop Boys
CREATING an album which echoes some of the best aspects of their extensive back catalogue without it sounding predictable is quite a feat but one that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have pulled off.
On their 14th studio album, the third of a trilogy of albums with producer Stuart Price following Electric in 2013 and Super in 2016, the duo's enjoyment in what they do shines through.
Like the single Dreamland, featuring Years & Years, Hotspot gets better with each listen. You Are The One is a romantic ballad to rival any on their exquisite 1990 album Behaviour while the playful new single Monkey Business has the joie de vivre seen on Bilingual coupled with the simple pleasure of I Want A Dog.
Like much of the Pet Shop Boys' best work, it's an album of strong emotions, climaxing with the joyful Wedding in Berlin.
A 10-track treat for fans.
MURA Masa's much-anticipated second album RYC ('Raw Youth Collage') is likely to surprise listeners familiar with the Grammy-nominated hitmaker.
Real name Alex Crossan, the Guernsey-born producer is known to shine with his choice of collaborations: his starry first album featured the likes of ASAP Rocky, Charli XCX and Nao, to name just a few.
Rapper slowthai makes an appearance on RYC in Deal Wiv It, which brings an unexpected and bouncy punk feel to an otherwise introspective 11-track album, while Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell delivers a rock-inspired edge on Teenage Headache Dreams.
But the album is also heavy with Crossan's own vocals, such as on standout track In My Mind, where his nostalgic sound compliments the electronic production. He may not be as vocally talented as some of his cameos, but he carries just as much intensity.
Definitely raw and youthful, Crossan's change in direction shows an artist with the ability to tap into current trends and draw the best out of collaborators.
When We Stay Alive
POLICA'S fourth studio album was born from the darkest of times for singer Channy Leaneagh, who fell from her roof while clearing ice, damaging her spine so badly she was in a brace with limited mobility for months.
So When We Stay Alive is about healing and recovery, with the lush results transcending the trauma of its origin, and finding redemption.
On album standout Steady, Leaneagh sings "you won't always feel this way", valuable advice for the difficult days. Driven by icy synths and subtle beats, the sound nods to Lana Del Ray on Sea Without Blue, while Forget About Me tiptoes towards being a power ballad.
Polica have been cult favourites since emerging from producer Ryan Olson's Gayngs project a decade ago, and this career high should be the album to propel them into the mainstream.
FORTY-three years after Wire's first record, three of the four who made it – Robert Grey, Colin Newman and Graham Lewis – have made their 17th album, with Matthew Simms having replaced Bruce Gilbert, who left in 2006.
The 2010s were actually Wire's most productive decade, releasing five acclaimed albums: with Mind Hive, they are continuing where 2017's Silver/Lead left off.
There are the post-punk songs you expect, such as Be Like Them and Oklahoma, but there are more of the left-field pop songs they have done so brilliantly since Outdoor Miner was a minor hit in 1979.
Cactused, the first single from Mind Hive, would be more than a minor hit if there was any justice.
The main difference over the years is song length – their classic LP Pink Flag had 21 songs in 35 minutes, while Mind Hive has nine in the same time.
There is no other band in their fifth decade making music as vital as Wire.