Albums: New music from Inhaler, Tom Odell, The Wallflowers and Half Waif
INHALER – IT WON'T ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS
DUBLIN rockers Inhaler have been ones to watch since the beginning of 2021 – and not just because frontman Eli Hewson is the son of U2's Bono.
This 11-track debut certainly proves why they have garnered so much attention, and comes after the band dropped the Falling In EP last year.
Lead singles My Honest Face, Cheer Up Baby and When It Breaks, all have thumping drum beats and rhythmic, smooth guitar hooks.
The musical roster behind the band is singer/guitarist Hewson, bassist Robert Keating, guitarist Josh Jenkinson and drummer Ryan McMahon.
"We started writing this when we were teenagers and now we're adults," says Keating.
Hewson adds: "I wanted the songs to feel positive. Because… it won't always be like this."
The pandemic may have halted the music industry globally, but Inhaler are ready to get things rolling again.
TOM ODELL – MONSTERS
ON HIS fourth album, pop troubadour Tom Odell may have finally escaped the spectre of his hit 2012 ballad Another Love.
Single Money is a rebuke to both celebrity culture and the critics who judged his early musical efforts to be mere money-making exercises, while the title track and album opener nod towards the panic attacks that have beset him in the last few years.
Both are passable ballads that draw, somewhat surprisingly, on Ghost Stories-era Coldplay and woozy West Coast hip hop. At these half-whispered levels, Odell's falsetto quiver has elements of Radiohead's Thom Yorke, a fragility not seen before.
More surprises come on the finger-picked Tears That Never Dry, a short and sharp folkie episode that stands out on an album of relative left turns.
Monster won't make the naysayers listen but it certainly marks an evolution in Odell's style – and a willingness to experiment.
THE WALLFLOWERS – EXIT WOUNDS
EXIT Wounds is The Wallflowers' first album in nearly a decade and well worth the wait.
Lead single Roots And Wings has an emotional message and foreshadows the rest of the album – a catalogue of slow, dance-able rock tunes.
The American outfit, formed by Jakob Dylan, has been a musical force for over three decades. Here he offers consistently smooth but delightfully raspy vocals.
"I think everybody – no matter what side of the aisle you're on – wherever we're going to next, we're all taking a lot of exit wounds with us," he says of the record.
"Nobody is the same as they were four years ago."
The project also features acclaimed singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne on four songs.
Since emerging in 1989, The Wallflowers have worked to combine timeless storytelling with hard-hitting musical appeal. On Exit Wounds, they appear to have successfully done so once again.
HALF WAIF – MYTHOPOETICS
YOU can tell it's a lockdown album as there's a song called Sourdough, a lovelorn piano ballad with the lyric "I taste his loneliness in the crust of every loaf".
Mythopoetics isn't all songs about baking though, as Half Waif, AKA Nandi Rose Plunkett, charts a world of addiction, memory and loss.
The synth-pop of previous albums has largely been replaced by more acoustic sounds – fitting for the vulnerability of the lyrics.
Opening track Fabric starts with stately piano, and is 75 seconds of sadness ("you keep breaking me apart") before Swimmer kicks in with wheezing keyboards and frazzled beats.
Party's Over has a late-night comedown feel, while the catchy Horse Racing explicitly references the pandemic, warning "We're never gonna make it to the end".
Orange Blossoms has big Kate Bush energy, while elsewhere Bat For Lashes is an influence, but on her fifth album the Massachusetts singer has found her own voice in a low-key triumph.