Arts

Albums: New music from Elvis Costello, Bonobo, Broken Social Scene and The Wombats

 Elvis Costello & The Imposters - The Boy Named If

ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS – THE BOY NAMED IF

ELVIS Costello released his album Hey Clockface, a sideways look at ageing and the relentless march of time, last year.

The Boy Named If functions as a kind of sequel – a collection of songs about the juddering, hormonal transition from childhood to adulthood.

The album is based loosely on the idea of having an imaginary friend who "you blame for the hearts you break, including your own" – and is accompanied by a book containing illustrated short stories expanding on the songs.

In contrast to the apparently whimsical subject matter, Costello delivers a riotous collection – some of his fieriest music in years.

On tracks such as the Farewell, OK, he amps up the energy while retaining the melodic streak of Hey Clockface.

And his voice, coarsened by age, only makes his reflections on youth more poignant.

This is most clear on Paint The Red Rose Blue, where he conjures up a bereaved couple over plaintive country rock.

4/5
Alex Green

BONOBO – FRAGMENTS

BONOBO's seventh album provides more upbeat tunes interwoven with his typical dose of pensive soundscaping.

The British musician, real name Simon Green, is known for his soothing electronic music. Fragments largely retains this tranquil air.

The album features collaborations from up-and-coming artists including Jordan Rakei, Jamila Woods and producer O'Flynn.

Most of the tracks wash over the listener in waves with warm and gentle melodies, including Counterpart and the aptly titled Tides, on which Woods provides vocals.

Yet others such as Age Of Phase and Otomo (featuring O'Flynn) are underlaid with harsher, heavier beats and synthesised sounds.

Otomo is a standout track that flits between sequences of driving basslines and ethereal moments created using a choral sample. Another noteworthy track is Elysian, the use of slow strings and harp giving a more calming, whimsical and cathartic vibe.

None of the song transitions are jarring, and listeners are guided smoothly through what is an overall excellent sonic experience.

4/5
Mike Bedigan

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – OLD DEAD YOUNG: B-SIDES & RARITIES

THE latest release from this revered Toronto collective is a collection of 14 non-album tunes recorded between 2001 and 2016 and ranging from 75 seconds to over seven minutes.

While opening track Far Out is an eerie instrumental, Do The 95 is the band's signature sound, five minutes of squally guitars, scrappy vocals and frantic drums, with a long fadeout.

Their self-proclaimed "explosive loud and soft jams" can sound sprawling and unfocused at first listen, but there's always a tune or two hidden in there to keep you coming back.

This House Is On Fire, an unreleased track from the 2009 album Forgiveness Rock Record, which the band have played live a number of times, is perhaps the standout here.

Curse Your Fail features alternating vocals from four lead singers, while the gentle All My Friends dials back the baroque orchestration to just plaintive vocals and acoustic guitar.

Another lowkey triumph.

3/5
Matthew George

WOMBATS – FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD

YET again, the Wombats have smashed it. In their fifth album they have produced music that has their familiar punchy beats, but also a new twist.

Vaguely similar to some of the early 1975 records, several songs are more layered, and will definitely rile up any crowd.

The lyric 'What a crazy pranged out year' from one of the headline songs, Everything I Love Is Going To Die, represents the album perfectly.

Lyrically, this album feels somewhat more significant as it reads as a self-intrusive look into the pandemic, but it still holds some of the old ideas of drinking, partying, lust and love.

Hailing much more funky vibes, this album is a comment on youth, especially the song Ready For The High, which has a rather poignant comment about technology and phones.

What is beautiful is that the band still manage to leave you not quite knowing what they're talking about half the time, while still enjoying yourself.

4/5
Gemma Bradley

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