Albums: Dermot Kennedy, The Darkness, Scouting For Girls, The Wildhearts, Amy Studt
Dermot Kennedy - Without Fear
DUBLIN singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy, who cut his teeth as a busker before building up a global fanbase of millions on streaming platforms, is the definition of an artist on the cusp of something special. Featuring biggest single so far, Outnumbered, and other beloved tracks such as Power Over Me and Lost, Without Fear is full of more hearty ballads crooned through his raw-edged vocal. The record is subdued where it needs to be, and bold where it doesn't. Kennedy's offerings are vibrant with the odd choral influence as well as hip hop beats, but never distractingly so. Not one second of the album is insincere or contrived. Stand-outs include What Have I Done, a more upbeat track for Kennedy, but not at the sacrifice of his voice, which remains gravelly but still sweet. The twang of guitar in gentle The Corner brings you subtly back to Ireland, and title track Without Fear is a tuneful closer to a collection that will make you believe that not all guitar-wielding singer-songwriters are one and the same.
The Darkness - Easter Is Cancelled
VERY few bands could survive a tumultuous break-up and yet still make harmonious music 16 years after their debut. However, with their sixth studio album, The Darkness have managed a miracle. Easter Is Cancelled is pitched as the band's first concept album and while the supposed biblical elements of the album are too subtle to cement the idea, the result is divine regardless. The album brings together many elements skilfully, from soulful acoustic to the classic, whimsical rock listeners will be familiar with. Despite the varying styles, the passionate album flows with only minimal jarring. It could be said that the strong opener of Rock And Roll Deserves To Die is at odds with the album's triumphant closing message of "long live rock and roll". However, Easter Is Cancelled is not contradictory, but reconciliatory. It feels like a fresh beginning for the once-troubled band with a classic, uplifting sound. Occasionally heartfelt and lightly mocking in turns, it is a tongue-in-cheek revival of what we originally loved about The Darkness, and it demands to be listened to repeatedly.
Scouting For Girls - The Trouble With Boys
AS SOMEONE with fond memories of listening to Scouting For Girls as a teenager, the prospect of a new album from the She's So Lovely hit-makers was always going to be exciting. The Trouble With Boys is the three-piece's first album since 2015. Opener Dancing With You is lively, with all the feel-good punch the indie rock band has always seemed to nail. Grown Up grapples with the passing of time, as frontman Roy Stride sings: "I don't wanna be a grown up." This Is A Love Song sees the group succumb to romance, showing a little determination from Cupid following a very different message in their 2010 ballad This Ain't a Love Song. The title track contains the hint of humour that first drew me in all those years ago. With a musical formula that consistently delivers. Scouting For Girls have maintained their pop-friendly persona for their latest release. On second listen some of the tracks feel slightly cheesy, but does that put me off? Absolutely not.
The Wildhearts - Diagnosis
HAVING returned in May with their first studio album in a decade, Renaissance Men, The Wildhearts now book-end the accompanying tour with a six-track mini-album which arguably surpasses the standard of the full-length and, building on a title track which appeared on the album, serves a vital purpose in raising and exploring the issue of mental health care. Diagnosis itself, with its 90-second intro, is better placed here as the lead-out track. God Damn is perhaps the strongest lyrical evocation of an issue frontman Ginger regards as the most important facing the world, while the self-explanatory A Song About Drinking deals with the related topic of addiction ("Can't stop, won't stop, I'm just drinking"). Amid the weighty lyrics and hard-hitting riffs, the Geordie quartet's ear for a pop hook has been key to their longevity in the industry and is ever-present here – even creeping through amid the industrial thump of expletive-laden closer LOCAC.
Amy Studt - Happiest Girl In The Universe
AMY Studt is back with her first album in more than 10 years. Having risen to fame in her teens with a few major hits, including Misfit and Under The Thumb, and popular debut album False Smiles in 2003 before releasing second album My Paper Made Pen in 2007, she vanished from public eye following a breakdown in 2009. Studt has now brushed herself off and used her experiences of depression and recovery to inspire her 11 new tracks. Throughout the candid album, Studt's voice is both fragile and powerful, and the lyrics weaved over ethereal and haunting music are particularly potent, her mindset completely clear. Let The Music Play is a Mazzy Star-esque offering that is quietly huge, an understated song that sounds like a pared-back version of what would otherwise be a huge gothic-pop melody. Her voice is the best and most piercing in This Time, a broodily anthemic treat with a comfortable beat. There is little room for interpretation here, and not much to set Studt apart from all the other singer-songwriters who pour themselves into technically beautiful and meaningful songs. While not a bad effort the album and its musical restraint wear a bit thin over halfway through.