Albums: New releases from Ed Sheeran, Freya Ridings, Ada Lea and Laville
No.6 Collaborations Project
ED SHEERAN gathering a collective of some of the hottest artists of the moment? If that doesn't say "surefire number one album" then I don't know what does.
Sheeran's fourth album could, at worst, be described as anodyne and formulaic, but at best is a showcase of the best in current pop, rock, grime and hip-hop, blending them all with his signature singer-songwriter (and part-time rapper) style.
Despite what critics may think of Sheeran, his versatility knows no bounds as he straddles soulful slow jams with the likes of Yebba and Ella Mai, grime with Stormzy, hip-hop with Eminem and 50 Cent and rock with Bruno Mars and Chris Stapleton.
No track is bad, but there are definite stand-outs, including the collab with Mars and Stapleton. Sheeran should definitely consider focusing on more rock-tinged music going forward.
HER 2018 single Lost Without You put her on the music map. And one thing is for certain: Freya Ridings isn't going anywhere but to the top of the charts. Her debut, self-titled album is packed with one hit-worthy song after the next.
Castles is already proving to be a favourite and there are plenty of impressive songs left to feast on including Holy Water, Ultraviolet and Still Have You. With a Glastonbury performance under her belt already, expect to hear a lot more from Ridings.
Her songs have the emotional depth of a soul well beyond her 25 years and it's this defining quality that makes this one massively impressive debut album.
What We Say in Private
FOLLOWING the end of a recent romantic relationship, Ada Lea decided to keep a diary for 180 days. She had to act. The emotional fall-out had left her unable to sleep. She would stay up, sometimes for days at a time, painting and writing madly. The Montreal-based musician and artist, real name Alexandra Levy, wanted to mark her route to independence but inadvertently created the foundations of her debut album.
What We Say In Private tackles heartbreak but more than that it nails the messy, complicated reality of extracting oneself from another person. Her medium? Ageless glam rock, thrashing guitars and zeitgeist-y visuals. For Real Now (Not Pretend) is a full psychedelic wig out while The Party is a wistful tune that ambles gently before building to a delicate crescendo.
On all these tracks, Lea manages to combine heavy, dissonant guitars with a laid back, slacker vibe. But the two worlds don't clash, they congeal and harden into something strange and new.
NORTH London's Laville builds on the promise of his debut EP and collaboration with grime superstar Big Narstie with The Wanderer, a classy and compelling collection of breezy soul songs that recall the hey-day of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Although the tone is never less than laid-back, the singer's languid vocals prove versatile, the album embracing a variety of genres: It would take a cold heart indeed not to be seduced by the sleek guitar lines and funk bass of Love Shine, while lead single The Truth has a gospel-inflected flavour, and Wavy Love is the best old-school disco track heard since the end of the Studio 54 era.
This is smooth, easy going music of the sort that could quickly become essential listening for romantics and lovers of lazy Sunday mornings everywhere.