Albums: The 1975, Charli XCX, Tim Burgess and Badly Drawn Boy
how i'm feeling now
FULLY conceived and created amid the pandemic, how i'm feeling now (stylised in all lowercase) is perhaps the first truly important quarantine album. The pop maverick worked on the album from her home in Los Angeles and the result is a heady mix of nostalgia, joy, longing, anxiety, desperation.
While Charli XCX's work usually exudes rigorous, sometimes scathing, self examination, it's usually balanced by a party-girl escapism. But here, there is no escape.
Forever evokes the longed-for day when friends will reunite and embrace, cocooning the listener in a sedative blanket of auto-tune. Despite taking strides towards the mainstream on 2019's Charli, her music is certainly not for everyone. She remains committed to the abrasive production of long-time collaborator AG Cook, who ensures even her sweetest tracks are never far from erupting into a cacophony of bassy blasts.
Charli XCX has created an album that encapsulates the here and now whilst also looking to the future.
Notes on a Conditional Form
THE 1975's fourth album is a masterclass in the range of the alternative genre. It opens with a Greta Thunberg speech set to gentle piano music, outlining the tone of the radical album. Unsurprisingly for The 1975, it does not shy away from issues of justice – from the shouty, infectious People to the sweetly subversive Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America, where Americana and queerness collide.
Clocking in at just over 80 minutes, the 22-track album is a commitment but would be well worth dedicating the time to, even without a lockdown. Sung tracks are interspersed by swelling orchestral breaks before the album closes on an affectionate tribute to friendship in Guys.
The album does have its lulls, so you could be forgiven if your attention wanders once or twice. Infrequent low points aside, Notes On A Conditional Form is another hit from the darlings of the alternative genre and demonstrates the quartet's sheer talent across the board.
I Love The New Sky
TWITTER stalwart Tim Burgess's regular Listening Parties have provided a platform for a horde of Gen-Xers to re-listen to a selection of classic albums. But what can fans expect from I Love The New Sky, the fifth solo album from The Charlatans' frontman?
Well, it's strange to say the least. He brings the childlike, quirky charm that he's trademarked to swooping, psychedelic sonics with Beatles-style backing harmonies and plenty of organ, making you feel like you're transported to more carefree, summery time.
The music often swings into sections of strange, synth experimentation, and at times the album turns a little bit lounge music, a little bit film score. But the best bits are the weird, futuristic instrumentals, which feel pioneering at best and grandiose at worst.
Sunshiny, upbeat and with a familiar, friendly voice, this is cheerful weirdness and great escapism for trying times.
Badly Drawn Boy
Banana Skin Shoes
BADLY Drawn Boy's eighth album since 2000's Mercury Music Prize-winning The Hour Of Bewilderbeast is his first studio LP in a decade is a sparkling return.
Damon Gough played four of the tracks at a joyous gig at London's Roundhouse in January, before the world went dark, and the remaining 10 are equally strong.
"Press play" he says at the start of album opener and first single Banana Skin Shoes, which bounces by in a skitter of bass, keyboards and treated vocals, while the lyric "It's hard to start a fire when it rains" in I'll Do My Best nods to his hero Bruce Springsteen, and I Need Someone To Trust echoes Chicago's soft rock epic If You Leave Me Now.
It's not a radical departure from previous albums, but the best tracks here are as good as anything he's released, which is a high bar, and will soundtrack the better days to come.