Albums Reviews: Phil Collins celebrates 65th with double re-release
Phil Collins: Face Value / Both Sides
DAVID Bowie's death reminded us we need to celebrate artists while we can. Drummer, singer and songwriter Phil Collins turns 65 this month and to mark the milestone, has remastered two of his biggest albums, both with bonus tracks of previously unreleased material.
Face Value, his debut solo album, released in 1981, still sounds fresh – just wait for that drum on In The Air Tonight and try to sit still for upbeat I Missed Again.
Both Sides was released in 1993 to a lukewarm reception – Collins plays all the instruments and used his first vocal takes on the "hugely personal" songs, making it his "favourite album".
Plagued with health problems that meant he hasn't played drums since 2009, his soulful Can't Turn Back The Years takes on poignant significance – and poetic Both Sides could've been written yesterday, it's that relevant.
Seafret: Tell Me It's Real
THE ebbing tides, crashing waves and craggy cliff-tops of Seafret's Yorkshire homeland form the bedrock of their debut album. Tell Me It's Real is a record deeply rooted in the natural elements and human emotion. This is fragile, lovelorn folk – fans of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith will find much to like.
The acoustic duo came to our attention with single Oceans – a beautiful track championed by the likes of Zane Lowe. But the debut album shows that Oceans was no one-off. Delicate finger-picking weaves around melancholy tales of star-crossed love – told beautifully by Jack Sedman (who's joined by Harry Draper).
The themes are weighty, the acoustic sound spare and stripped back, but at the same time capable of soaring to majestic heights. 'Seafret' is mist drifting into port off the sea, and the music these two Yorkshire lads create is similarly atmospheric.
Tuff Love: Resort
LIKE Garbage, Crass and Perfect Pussy, Tuff Love aren't afraid of having a confrontational identity. The Glasgow-based duo, Julie Eisenstein and Suse Bear named their first three EPs Junk, Dross and Dregs, and the 15 tracks across those now-sought-after 10-inch records are repackaged on Resort.
Trashy it isn't. Eisenstein and Bear count Paisley chart-botherer Paolo Nutini among their growing fan base and hitched a ride as support to reformed shoegazers Ride last year, taking their fuzzy, sun-warped songs to supersized audiences.
Written, performed and produced in Bear's flat, Resort's songs offer a certain bedsit charm. The album sequences the EPs chronologically, with opener Sweet Discontent the track that set Tuff Love an early high bar.
They sometimes clear that bar – Slammer being the kind of sussed pop The Breeders might have patented, and That's Right an indiepop stomp – and occasionally drop just short.
Sia: This is Acting
IT'S hard to better a song as beautifully crafted as Sia's Chandelier, but on This Is Acting, the Australian singer's seventh record, she's not far off the same powerful polish.
On the first two tracks anyway at least... The definition of "belters", there's no ease into the album, no delicacy, just sheer, knockout brilliance. Bird Set Free smacks into you with all the force of a magpie crashing into a window, feathers flying, claws scrambling against the glass, while Alive builds epically, crushing your lungs as you attempt to sing along (it's impossible), Sia's voice breaking and squawking magnificently on the bridge.
They're both certifiable pop smashes, but then things begin to slide into the realm of generic club bangers – Move Your Body being the most disappointing culprit. Reaper and House On Fire pull things back into focus, but in the end it doesn't all quite come together.
CROSSING the line between introspective folk music and spoken poetry is London band Snowpoet, a project between six musicians hoping to bring their ambient sound to a wider audience.
The group manages to incorporate a wealth of influences on this 38-minute, nine-track debut. Dreamy, layered single Waves sparked media buzz, but there is more than hypnotic chords and quirky effects, while the crackling Gathering is along the same lines.
Stand-out track Glad To Have Lost takes pointers from Bjork to build a mesmerising combination of beats, vocals and simple piano chords that ebbs and flows like a tide.
Lauren Kinsella's delivery ranges from early Laura Marling-style folk crooning, to straight reading on Poetry Of Stillness, and soulful jazz on If I Miss A Star.
It won't suit everyone's taste, but Snowpoet is worth repeated listens.
Lucinda Williams: The Ghosts of Highway 20
LUCINDA Williams has travelled a long road, for decades quietly forging her path, carved from the bones of country, blues, folk and rock, gaining respect and critical acclaim.
Her latest offering channels memories of time spent on the major Southern US highway of the title. Gathering together those ghosts, Williams sets the scene and draws you in as a back-seat passenger, gently lulled by the ride into a hazy state between sleep and reality.
A smoky melancholia prevails as she reflects on life and death. However, a spirited determination remains ever present, as she accepts the downfalls of her lover with Place In My Heart, tries to exorcise her thoughts in Bitter Memory and ends by aiming for the positive with Faith And Grace.
Unfussy and unhurried, ingraining themselves through truth and hope rather than the usual modern spectacle, these are songs to treasure.