Albums: Liam Gallagher, Jack Garratt, Kodaline, Orlando Weeks, Jehnny Beth
YOU can thank Noel Gallagher for this glorious recording. After he used some choice language to describe the city of Hull while on stage in the US, brother Liam pledged to perform at the city's Grade II listed hall. What started in spite has gifted fans a snapshot of Liam at his post-Oasis best. The frontman famously missed Oasis's MTV Unplugged in 1996 over a "sore throat", leaving Noel to take on singing duties (and earn plaudits for breathing new life into their songs). This time around he was ready. With his voice in fine fettle, Liam tears through a set of Oasis classics bolstered by new material, including a song for his formerly estranged daughter Molly. While brother Noel started strongly post-Oasis with his High Flying Birds project, it has been Liam who has stormed ahead with two albums of solid solo material. On MTV Unplugged, Liam settles an old score, and settles it well.
Love, Death And Dancing
JACK Garratt was 24 when, in 2016, he won the Critics' Choice Award at the Brits, following in the footsteps of Adele, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding. Big boots to fill, you might think? Well, Garratt thought so too. After releasing his debut album, Phase, he disappeared from the limelight, racked with anxiety and struggling with his sudden graduation from small-time performer to headliner. The intervening four years were spent trying to cope with the fallout from those 12 months as the next big thing. Luckily, his time in the wilderness has not been in vain. Love, Death And Dancing is a more focused affair that strips back much of the decoration that distracted on his debut. Hooky choruses reminiscent of Queen are layered with tape hiss, while house beats sit alongside glitchy breakdowns. There's a clear sense of identity here, one that feels authentic and avoids the modish eclecticism of his debut.
One Day At A Time
DUBLIN band Kodaline have always aspired to the heights of Coldplay, Bon Jovi and The Script, both in their music (glossy and chart-ready) and in their appearance (neat and boy band-esque). In the Republic, three consecutive number one albums have elevated them to such heights, while their chart success in the UK has been considerable. One Day At A Time, their fourth album, continues a winning formula: a hint of folk, a swelling chorus, frontman Steve Garrigan's emotional vocals. If anything, Kodaline pedal back some of the electronic experimentation and vaguely activist language of 2018's Politics Of Living, in favour of what they do best. Each of the 10 songs starts small then builds, and builds, and builds, until it crescendos in a flurry of keys and choirs. Spend It With You is a genuinely beautiful love song carrying a delightfully simple message. Like much of the album, it's likely to inspire great singalongs when Kodaline return to their rightful place – the stage.
ORLANDO Weeks's debut solo album marks a big shift in his musical style from his days as frontman of indie group The Maccabees. A Quickening sees the singer ditch the band's upbeat guitar riffs and throwaway lyrics in favour of a much more reflective and downbeat tone. The album is about Weeks's experience of becoming a father, he has previously said, and it does seem to show a musician who is mellowing with age. His haunting voice is frequently accompanied by gentle piano and trumpet playing. The album's singles Milk Breath, Blood Sugar and Safe In Sound are richly textured with an intense yet calming sound. All three are powerful in their own right. However, the album offers little in the way of shifts in tone and many of the songs feel similar to each other. Only the track All The Things appears to be doing something different thanks to its high tempo electronic backing music. While the album contains some strong songs, when taken as a whole it verges on becoming repetitive.
To Live Is To Love
AFTER two highly rated albums as singer with Savages - both Mercury Prize nominated - which followed two underrated ones as John and Jehn, not to mention a Gorillaz collaboration, Jehnny Beth finally goes it alone. The inspiration for To Love Is To Live came on the night David Bowie died, listening to his last album Blackstar, while the fragmented tracks on Beyonce's eponymous fifth solo album helped pull her free from traditional verse-chorus songwriting. First track I Am starts with her declaring "I am naked all the time" and rises to a crescendo of tortured synths, while Flower is less fractured, simple beats and minimal guitar, and We Will Sin Together is the most conventionally catchy. A Place Above is a 73-second spoken word introduction by Cillian Murphy to I'm The Man, which was featured in Peaky Blinders and subverts power balances with Beth's distorted vocals repeating the title between interludes of woozy piano. The vocals are variously whispered, chanted and screamed but it's the quieter tracks - minimal piano-led ballads The Rooms and The French Countryside - that make more impact, suggesting less can be more, along with final track Human, the longest at over six minutes.