Albums: New music from Benjamin Francis-Leftwich, Joan Armatrading, Marina and Mykki Blanco
BENJAMIN FRANCIS LEFTWICH – TO CARRY A WHALE
SINGER-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich takes an unflinchingly frank look at the life of a recovering alcoholic in To Carry A Whale. The album, his first for two years, is "an observation on what it's like to be a sober alcoholic addict a couple of years in", Leftwich has said.
His tender new 10-track release features musings on drug use, addiction, love and loss.
It has two clear high points in Cherry In Tacoma and Full Full Colour, two singles off the album which are richly textured and compelling.
However, much of the rest of the album feels more middle-of-the-road and pedestrian, perhaps most notable with Sydney 2013 and Oh My God.
While there are a few gems here for Leftwich's fans, To Carry A Whale fails to maintain the high standards of its best songs and just misses out on jumping from mediocrity to greatness.
JOAN ARMATRADING – CONSEQUENCES
IT MAY be Joan Armatrading's 22nd studio album but the British singer-songwriter has lost none of her creativity. Released nearly 50 years after her 1972 debut Whatever's For Us and three years since her most recent album Not Too Far Away, Consequences is an album about all types of love.
The lyrics of the 10 tracks reveal a real understanding about the different manifestations of love – from the dizzy excitement of Glorious Madness to the easy companionship of the jazz-influenced Natural Rhythm.
The catchy Already There is about someone finally arriving at the same emotional place as you while title track Consequences, an unpredictable mix of musical styles, looks at the more challenging side of love.
The track that leaves you humming days later, though, is the two-tone Better Life – a positive singalong tune about loving yourself.
MARINA – ANCIENT DREAMS IN A MODERN LAND
MARINA Diamandis has by this point surely earned her place among the modern pop greats. The Welsh-Greek singer, formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, has tackled all manner of subjects in her music, from mental health to love, war and feminism.
Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land is another home run: a rousing, humorous message in a bottle featuring uplifting lyrics, her quasi-operatic voice and the kind of radio-friendly electropop experiencing a renaissance thanks to the likes of Robyn and Jessie Ware.
Diamandis' political views have always augmented her music and here they give it a toothy bite as she lashes out at the world's misogynists on Venus Fly Trap. I challenge you to find a song that namechecks the pandemic, capitalism, Britney Spears and Harvey Weinstein with such easy grace and humour as Purge The Poison.
Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land is another step forward and among Diamandis' best.
MYKKI BLANCO – BROKEN HEARTS & BEAUTY SLEEP
Mykki Blanco began as a stage persona created by the talented Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. A decade later, the frontier between creator and creation is virtually non-existent.
This nine-track effort is the California-born non-binary rapper-artist's first official release in five years. It marks a shift from performance artist to artist full-stop, full of personal tales of heartbreak and joy, accompanied by electronic producer FaltyDL's bubbling pop and R&B beats.
Speaking about their past releases, Blanco says: "I couldn't continue on that same trajectory.
"I can't call myself a serious musician if you can't go on a journey bumping a Mykki Blanco record from start to finish."
Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep certainly achieves that, doing away with traditional notions of pop and rap and replacing them with woozy beats and clever, reflective lyrics.