Albums: New music from Billy Eilish, Liars, Yola and Will Young
BILLIE EILISH – HAPPIER THAN EVER
OPENING with Getting Older, the second album from 19-year-old Billie Eilish sounds astonishingly world-weary – the line "Things I'm longing for, someday I'll be bored of" is literally delivered with a yawn – though just three songs later she sings "I'm in love with my future, can't wait to meet her".
Not My Responsibility, which made headlines as a video monologue against body-shaming at Eilish's live shows last year, tees up a hard-hitting second half of the album – single Your Power's sunny acoustic guitar does nothing to disguise Eilish's composed take-down of the abuse of young women in the performing arts, the self-explanatory NDA and Male Fantasy pick up the thread and the title track explodes from old-fashioned crooning into an expletive-laden kiss-off.
The younger generation boasts some exceptional role models and spokespeople on a range of issues – and on this showing, Eilish deserves to be viewed among them.
LIARS – THE APPLE DROP
THE Apple Drop is the most accessible album of avant-garde band Liars' 20-year career.
It finds bandleader Angus Andrew working with his wife, lyricist Mary Pearson Andrew, multi-instrumentalist Cameron Devell and jazz drummer Lawrence Pike.
Liars will never be mainstream but it's easy to imagine the brooding, widescreen Slow And Turn Inward and Big Appetite at arena gigs and festivals.
My Pulse To Ponder is built on an insistent guitar riff, with Andrews singing ominously "I'll cut your throat", while King Of The Crooks has a laid-back feel quite at odds with Liars' usual intensity.
The spoken word sections of Sekwar sound uncannily like Baxter Dury and Star Search has layered vocals, glistening washes of synths and insistent drums. Final track Planets New Undoings points to further changes of direction, all disembodied chants and free jazz experimentation.
Don't expect Liars to repeat themselves, but 10 albums in, Andrew has produced what may be his best yet.
YOLA – STAND FOR MYSELF
BRISTOL-raised Yolanda Quartey wrote for the likes of Katy Perry and Massive Attack before releasing her debut album in her mid-30s. Produced by Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, Walk Through Fire was a success in the US, where it won her four Grammy nominations and sparked critical acclaim.
Two years later, Stand For Myself, with its rousing themes of self-love, black identity and economic inequality, may finally make everyone else listen. Classic country is the focus here, but Yola also delves into doo-wop and modern soul on tracks such as Dancing Away In Tears.
Nashville has become her second home and Yola carries the city's music with the ease of someone born there, not in the West Country.
It is Yola's honesty, gained through years of struggle, that elevates her sophomore album to an exquisite work.
WILL YOUNG – CRYING ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR
TALENT show contestants performing cover versions are often, largely falsely, told they have made a song their own. But Pop Idol-winner Will Young mostly succeeds with the cleverly selected tracks on this celebration of modern female artists he admires.
Lykke Li, Sky Ferreira and Clare Maguire are probably not well known names to Young's usual fans, but they may want to seek out the original tracks after enjoying his versions of I Follow Rivers, Everything Is Embarrassing and Elizabeth Taylor.
Everything But The Girl's hit Missing is probably the one track most people will have heard before although the airplay given to Young's covers of Bat For Lashes' Daniel and MUNA's Crying On The Bathroom Floor mean that they may already be familiar.
It's an emotional and not always uplifting listen but versions of Robyn's rather more upbeat Indestructible and Cam's sexy country track Till There's Nothing Left are highlights of a covers album which sounds distinctly Will Young.