Albums: New music from Yungblud, Nicholas Lens and Nick Cave, Calexico and Sigur Ros
YUNGBLUD – WEIRD!
THIS second full-length album is sure to continue the irresistible rise of the artist born Dominic Harrison. A kind of one-man My Chemical Romance with a South Yorkshire accent, his over-the-top style will not be to everyone's taste but has won him legions of fans as a spokesman for disaffected youth.
Harrison unflinchingly addresses mental health, his past suicide attempts and gender issues with an eloquence and power belying his 23 years, while showcasing a dizzying range of musical influences – from the shouty rap-rock single Strawberry Lipstick to the vaguely Parklife-esque Charity, via the Greensleeves sample that kicks off Ice Cream Man and clear glimpses of Eminem among others.
A prodigious talent with plenty to say, Yungblud is sure to be a festival fixture once again when circumstances return to relative normality.
L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S – NICHOLAS LENS AND NICK CAVE
I WAS brought up within a church. As a young adult I worked within a monastery. As a grown-up I have left a lot of this behind. From the first bar of Litany of Divine Absence it felt as if I had stepped back in time.
Written during the first coronavirus lockdown, Nick Cave has collaborated with Belgian composer Nicholas Lens on new opera L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S. Not what you would expect from a self-described opera, L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S is modern chamber music in its purest form. The simple lyrics from Cave add emphasis to the emotion that swells from Lens' compositions.
A meditative ostinato in its simplest form, L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S is both relaxing and thought-provoking. Asking questions about where we come from, what our purpose is, how we can grow and where we will go at the end.
L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S is a powerful work that inspires serenity from its very core.
CALEXICO – SEASONAL: SHIFT
IF VETERAN desert noir band Calexico releasing a Christmas album is a tale of the unexpected, it's also surprising just how good it is.
A mix of originals and covers recorded with friends around the world, opening track Hear The Bells is classic Calexico with a festive twist. Tom Petty's Christmas All Over Again – "long-distance relatives, haven't seen in a long, long while, yeah, kind of miss them, I just don't wanna kiss them" captures the Covid-haunted 2020 festive season, the upbeat Mi Burrito Sabanero is sung in Spanish by Guatemalan star Gaby Moreno, while Glory's Hope is a gentle instrumental. Other guests include Portuguese fado singer Gisela Joao, Mexican producer Camilo Lara and DeVotchKa's Nick Urata.
A faithful cover of John Lennon & Yoho Ono's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) seems superfluous, but overall Seasonal Shift is a welcomed addition to the limited genre of alt-country festive albums, led by Low's superlative 1999 Christmas.
SIGUR ROS – ODIN'S RAVEN MAGIC
BACK in 2002, atmospheric rockers Sigur Ros were invited to collaborate with a host of other Icelandic musicians including Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, Steindor Andersen and Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir of contemporaries aniima.
That roll call may not catapult the record to the top of many Christmas lists – but it should. Released 18 years after it was performed live only a handful of times, Odin's Raven Magic is an epic Norse tale told through a brooding blend of post-rock and contemporary classical.
What's perhaps most remarkable is that such a grandiose and emotionally enveloping project all came together in just a couple of weeks, indicating what a creative roll the band were on at the time.
Frankly, it's a travesty it's been kept from us this long. At times dark and brooding and others simply shimmering with ethereal beauty, it shows another side altogether to Sigur Ros and comfortably stands shoulder to shoulder with the band's classic turn-of-the-century output, Agaetis byrjun and ( ).