Albums: New music from Charli XCX, Placebo, Aldous Harding and Sea Girls

Charli XCX – Crash


WITH a roster of producers that would even make Drake's head spin, it's remarkable Charli XCX has her own head screwed on enough to make Crash feel cohesive as well as eclectic.

Her fifth album opens with the AG Cook-produced title track, a two-minute sonic smorgasbord that encompasses both Prince and PC Music, ending in synthetic-sounding The 1975-esque guitar licks.

The 1975 man George Daniel takes a co-producer credit on that one, while New Shapes, features Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek.

There are plenty of bangers here. Lightning is a case in point: not content with summoning up 1980s-era Madonna, it proceeds to show us the woman who brought us Diamonds is still a fan of delightfully overblown extended metaphors. And should we be surprised when Used to Know Me drops us in the midst of an indisputable rave anthem?

Probably not – this is Charli XCX, after all.

Rating: 4/5
Rachel Farrow


"I'M THIN as a rake, I'm no longer fleshy," Brian Molko sings on Sad White Reggae – but musically, he and Placebo have been hitting the gym for their eighth album and first in nine years.

Opening track Forever Chemicals announces itself with an uncharacteristically fierce riff and bass growl and while the long-established Placebo sound and familiar themes of drugs, LGBT issues and mental health are all present, a noticeably industrial heft throughout much of the album elevates Molko's distinctive vocals.

Hugz is another to hit hard and heavy while single Surrounded By Spies uses its fractured lyrical snippets to ape the paranoia and claustrophobia it references.

"I fell off the face of planet Earth, I went missing," Molko acknowledges on the album's penultimate track Went Missing, and fans will be hoping he and Stefan Olsdal do not leave it so long next time.

Rating: 4/5
Tom White


NEW Zealand-born Aldous Harding's playful and joyous music sounds like no-one else, despite using simple instrumentation.

On her fourth album, Harding specialises in songs with killer hooks that will stay with you for a long time, as on the piano-driven single Fever, the jaunty Tick Tock and Passion Babe.

Her mother is a folk singer, an influence evident on Staring At The Henry Moore, Bubbles (not the West Ham United song) is a sparse ballad that could be from decades ago, and Leathery Whip has echoes of the Velvet Underground.

She has reunited with super producer John Parish after they worked together on Party (2017) and Designer (2019) and there are contributions from Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods, among others.

Harding has talent and tunes to spare, and at just 10 tracks long and leaving you wanting more, Warm Chris is her most charming and accomplished album yet.

Rating: 4/5
Matthew George


INDIE rockers Sea Girls return with their lockdown produced effort Homesick. From opener Hometown, we are introduced to themes of nostalgia and memory, which continue throughout the album, comparing the past and present.

Lead single Sick explores the difficulties and complexity of adulthood, culminating in frontman Henry Camamile pleading to be a child again.

Paracetamol Blues is a highlight – a beautiful insight into a caring relationship, while Lucky is another triumph, with a build-up complemented by Camamile's powerful vocal performance.

Meanwhile, Cute Guys is the stand-out of the album, with a slower pace than the others.

Acoustic guitar works delicately with Camamile's chilling falsetto to produce a haunting track dealing with crippling fear.

Although it lacks the experimental spirit needed to take Sea Girls to the next level, this is a worthy follow-up without a single bad song.

Rating: 3/5
Mason Oldridge

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