Albums: Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott back with barbs, wit and sharp observation

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott: Crooked Calypso

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott

Crooked Calypso

THE two return with another slice of Heaton's smart and intelligent pop on this, their latest collaboration. As usual the lyrical content is full of barbs and sharp observation, leavened with humour. He Wants To takes aim at music biz Svengalis and People Like Us sticks a scalpel into the privileged middle classes. Racism via religion gets a kicking in The Lord Is A White Con, all set to a jolly foot-tapping tune. Heaton's gift is the ability to come up with hummable melodies that carry songs that say something more than just moon and June. He can do a song about unrequited love, like He Can't Marry Her that shows real emotion on one hand and a witty take on divorce such as She Got The Garden on the other. The way their voices work both together and individually is just the icing on the cake.


Steve Grantham


Declan McKenna

What Do You Think About The Car?

WHILE most 15-year-olds would be forgiven for writing songs about micro-scooters or whatever else exercises teenage minds, English singer Declan McKenna turned for inspiration to the lesser explored subject of Fifa's business ethics. The result, Brazil, became first a YouTube hit and then a chart sensation. A similar level of substance informs most of the tracks on his long-awaited debut: Isombard, for instance, attacks the malignant influence of the right-wing media, while Bethlehem tackles the thorny issue of religious fundamentalism. Lest this sound overly worthy, McKenna sugars his social conscience with a finely tuned ear for an infectious hook, and the album's indie-inflected guitars jangle with youthful exuberance – an effect enhanced by the snippets of childhood conversation that pop up between songs. A minor classic from a potential major talent.


James Robinson


Dizzee Rascal


DIZZEE Rascal had the seminal grime album in 2003 with Mercury Prize-winning debut Boy In Da Corner and, following the recent success of grime albums, his sixth is his least pop-infused since. Raskit finds Dizzee rapping honestly over harsh synths and deep bass, with more of a hip-hop tinge than a grime focus, which makes sense given that the album is mostly US produced. But whether it's lines about Wiley and Megaman or references to the Ayia Napa stabbing early in his career, Dizzee shows he's not afraid to confront the past. The album at times feels like an explanation as to why he left the scene he emerged from, coupled with constant reminders of his role in shaping it, but Raskit also doesn't shy away from politics – with Boris Johnson and Margaret Thatcher vocal samples used to discuss gentrification. This album is definitely one that will have people talking.


Kameron Virk


Foster The People

Sacred Hearts Club

THE third album from Los Angeles alt-dance outfit Foster The People sees Mark Foster, Sean Cimino, Isom Innis and Mark Pontius struggling with their identity somewhat. This can sometimes be a good thing; there's certainly nothing wrong with musical experimentation and eclecticism, but in the case of Sacred Hearts Club, the results are often confusing and fail to present a cohesive album. It's not a bad album, by any means. As always, their upbeat psychedelic pop sounds great in the summer, but there are no discernible 'hits' as such. Two interludes, both under a minute long, hint at what perhaps could have been. Orange Dream and Time to Get Closer are woozy and interesting, and don't sound a million miles away from Tame Impala, but both end far too soon. It all adds up to a strangely dissatisfying work, on the whole.


Rob Barker


Avey Tare


EUCALYPTUS is in many ways precisely what you'd expect from an album by any member of Animal Collective – chaotic, sprawling, mind-expanding and... odd. But anyone who took in the band's most recent output may be surprised to hear quite how mellow and acoustic guitar-laden Avey Tare's second solo release is. Tare says the album was "conceived on Hawaiian mornings. Written on a sunlit bedroom afternoon in Los Angeles". The short production period is key here: Eucalyptus feels like a snapshot of the subtle mood changes and chains of thought that float by on a morning by the sea. Take, for example, the lyric on the album's longest song, Coral Lords: "I pray deep like Buddha/but I don't understand/more water in my coffee/than there is on land." That pretty much sums up the record – breakfast table meditation, scrawled down, scarcely edited and presented like a moment in chrysalis. There are glimpses of real beauty, particularly at the album's centre – take the lush PJ or the offbeat folk balladry of In Pieces – but not quite enough meat on the bones to rank it alongside Tare and Animal Collective's best.


Stephen Jones

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