Albums: Pat Dam Smyth, The Soft Cavalry, Olympia and Julia Michaels
Pat Dam Smyth
The Last King
SEVEN years after his debut solo album, the Belfast singer-songwriter returns with an outstanding follow-up. His vocals and songwriting knack conjure Leonard Cohen vibes, with lyrics drawn from the darkest places yet wrangled into accessible and hook-laden shapes.
Some of Smyth's more ill-advised drug-fuelled episodes are referenced on Goodbye Berlin and Dancing, and while this is by no means a political album, the idea of a hopelessly lost Last King ruling in confusion while his empire collapses is unavoidably on the nose.
The one criticism might be that album is a bit 'samey', making the rockier Kids and Juliette a welcome change of pace. Smyth donated closing track Where The Light Goes to the recent Smoke Rainbows compilation in aid of mental health charity Help Musicians UK: its climactic sing-along was a highlight there and it is impossible not to picture it being sung back to Pat by a rapturous Glastonbury crowd in 12 months' time.
The Soft Cavalry
The Soft Cavalry
DESPITE the involvement of Slowdive's Rachel Goswell, The Soft Cavalry is not the long-awaited follow-up to her 2004's acclaimed solo debut, Waves Are Universal.
This is largely the work of her husband Steve Clarke – an established musician himself. Clarke's influences shine through: introspective 80s rock looms large, with the gentle longing of Talk Talk and REM ever-present.
Goswell's reverb-heavy tendencies also get a look in and the album's fulcrum is the pair's domestic relationship: a year of marriage and rural Devon life.
While the like of Passerby and Spiders are anthems to his wife, Clarke also revisits the anxieties of premarital existence and life as a musician. This conflict lends some moments a thrilling edge, but at other times the album feels overly 'busy'.
However, it remains a joy to hear Clarke's potential put down on tape – a second album could polish the formula towards greatness.
Inner Monologue Part 2
THE American singer-songwriter who has collaborated with the likes of Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes and written songs for Bieber, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Linkin Park and Little Mix has released her follow-up EP to Inner Monologue Part 1.
If ever there was proof that someone who cut their teeth as a pop songwriter can transfer those talents into their own work, this is it. Michaels (25) has poured her heart and soul into this collection of eight modern pop songs; Falling For Boys ("mistaking 'em for men") and F***ed up, Kinda ("I always get those angry texts, like damn") will resonate with pretty much anybody who's ever been in a relationship.
Michaels' vocals may not be up there with the great pop divas of the world, but who cares when the quality of the songwriting and production is this good.
OLYMPIA – real name Olivia Bartley – returns with her second album Flamingo, following a successful debut and sell-out shows in her native Australia and overseas.
The 11-track album's opener Star City is a guitar-infused throwback, with her moody vocals giving the pop track a rockier edge. She yearns for a love lost in Come Back and Easy Pleasure experiments with electric undertones and guitar solos. Everything is stripped back for Nervous Riders, continuing to build up to a climatic end which doesn't quite reach the heights it was intended to. The album's second single, Shoot To Forget, showcases Olympia's vocal range with a catchy hook and indie undertones.
Although the album has a clear direction and sound, it lacks a distinctive standout track that really keeps the listener captivated. You are definitely forgiven if you find yourself drifting away or have the urge to skip to the next track as you listen.