Albums: New music from Billy Bragg, The War on Drugs, Tori Amos and Nightmares on Wax

Billy Bragg – The Million Things That Never Happened
Billy Bragg – The Million Things That Never Happened


BILLY Bragg is still looking back in anger on his 10th studio album, which he calls the first pandemic blues album of our times.

He continues his journey into country music on tracks such as opener I Should Have Seen It Coming and bluegrass hoedown Freedom Doesn't Come For Free about a libertarian utopia that goes horribly wrong.

Donald Trump inspires the gospel-tinged The Buck Doesn't Stop Here No More, while Bragg's political side is also seen on Mid-Century Modern, where the Hammond organ evokes Blonde On Blonde-era Bob Dylan. Covid is addressed in Good Days & Bad Days and the downbeat title track.

Bragg has always split his songs between the personal and the political, with the single I Will Be Your Shield, about love in the time of Covid, and I Believe in You among the former.

The final track, Ten Mysterious Photos That Can't be Explained, is co-written by his son, Jack Valero.


Matthew George


ON I Don't Live Here Anymore, their fifth and probably best record yet, frontman Adam Granduciel and his rotating cast of collaborators transcend their musical heroes.

These songs don't revolutionise the band's sound – synthesisers still glimmer like starlight, anthemic piano stabs echo and stadium-size guitars riff in a sea of feedback.

But this is some of Granduciel's most direct songwriting yet, with lyrics that cut to the heart of his favoured subjects: loneliness, nostalgia for a simpler time, the anxieties of life, the complexities of personal relationships.

He deals with these knotty issues with an expansive confidence, starkly different from the sulky, introversion of his early work.

The title track is an '80s-referencing, gospel-tinged hymn to the power of memory, with a chorus that goes: "Is life just dying in slow motion/Or getting stronger every day?"

Opener Living Proof and Old Skin are slow-motion Americana epics, while Victim describes a fractious romance against a throbbing electronic backbeat.

This might be their breakthrough record.


Alex Green


THE front cover of Tori Amos's new album perfectly encompasses the feeling of this wave-like, witchy record.

Though not entirely dissimilar to previous records, this work has a more emotional feel to it, with several slow-burning ballad-like songs littered throughout.

The headline track, Ocean To Ocean, is without doubt the highlight, with an almost catchy chorus and pleasing piano accompaniment, but, like the whole album, will not have anyone on their feet.

A personal favourite is Spies, one of the only songs that could lead to tapping toes and possibly even dancing under the right circumstances.

A close second was Swim To New York State, a completely opposite experience that takes the listener through the emotional rollercoaster of Tori Amos with a slow melody and personal lyrics.

This record fits the bill for its genre and almost rivals Kate Bush in its melodies and vocal range, but certainly will not break into mainstream music lovers' hearts.


Gemma Bradley


WITH a bang and a plume of smoke from his laboratory of sound, George Evelyn returns as Nightmares On Wax with his ninth studio album.

The Leeds DJ has been recording for 30 years and his joyous experimentation with music marries the traditional with the unconventional, teetering and tilting from orchestral jazz to funky electronica and hip hop.

Featuring a host of collaborative singers and musicians, this outing is similarly slippery. It delivers chillout tracks, like the achingly smooth Imagineering and the meandering, explorative 3D Warrior, while also shouting in defiance with the appetisingly sweary earworm that is Wikid Satellites.

There are wackier periods too though, and at times it can almost feel like you're listening to recordings from an off-the-wall art installation. In short, it's not the most accessible record and it's hard to love every inch of it – but it surprises, and the moments it succeeds in are wonderful.


Edward Dracott