Shania Twain and Sam Smith lead the way with the week's best albums
SHANIA TWAIN – QUEEN OF ME
Country pop queen Shania Twain is back with her sixth studio album.
It comes locked and loaded with girls' night out bangers like Pretty Liar and Best Friend, set to have everyone singing along as her tour stops by the UK later this year.
Opening with upbeat bop Giddy Up, the record is a tour of all the best country sounds and tropes climbing the charts over the past few years – with Shania delivering powerful vocals despite undergoing open-throat surgery a few years ago.
Last Day Of Summer, with its nostalgic 90s feel is a personal favourite and I can see it being popular with UK country fans.
No Dolly, sure, but title track Queen Of Me is a pretty regal tune, and perfectly summarises the good vibes of this album, despite being a touch predictable and repetitive.
Twain is still very much the one for toe-tapping country tracks and tearjerkers.
(Review by Imy Brighty-Potts)
SAM SMITH – GLORIA
Gloria is a glorious portfolio that shows off Sam Smith's newfound musical versatility and penchant for self-exploration.
Hit single Unholy with German singer Kim Petras had listeners chomping at the bit to listen to the full release, having heard little from Smith since the release of Love Goes in 2020.
While some of the tracks feature a similarly raunchy, expressive and overwhelmingly bassy sound, the album is in fact an eclectic mix of pop, disco and soul.
The collection is also punctuated by short, punchy interludes, with Dorothy's Interlude, featuring myriad LGBTQ+ pop culture references, a particular standout.
Lose You and Love Me More will transport the listener while the gorgeous Gimme will have them dying to get on the dance floor.
Collaborators Koffee and Jessie Reyez are phenomenal on this album while others are slightly more run-of-the-mill.
But if they bring new audiences to the Smith renaissance, who cares?
(Review by Imy Brighty-Potts)
RAYE – MY 21ST CENTURY BLUES
In 2021 Raye split with her label after years of struggling to get them to release her debut album.
Now, newly independent, she has reached the milestone of her debut album chronicling her experiences in the 21st century.
Raye incorporates a multitude of genres on this release.
There's a prominent R&B influence on the record, heard on the likes of Hard Out Here and Flip A Switch, as well as jazz on The Thrill Is Gone, gospel on Buss It Down and drum 'n' bass on Environmental Anxiety.
Black Mascara is an epic dance track and hit single Escapism tells of post-breakup debauchery over a trip hop beat.
The most honest tracks are the standouts.
Ice Cream Man is about being a strong woman against unwanted and inappropriate male attention while Body Dysmorphia features cutting lyrics on the titular condition.
Unfortunately, these few gems are embedded among several less memorable tracks that will likely fade into the background.
But this shouldn't take away from the songs here that demonstrate talent and potential that will hopefully be realised soon.
(Review by Mason Oldridge)
YOUNG FATHERS – HEAVY HEAVY
Half a decade since the release of their last album, Edinburgh trio Young Fathers show no signs of being pinned down by expectations.
Listening to Heavy Heavy, its 10 tight tracks coming in at around only three minutes on average, offers a journey most heftier records could only dream of.
At times the band's fourth effort feels like a dreamscape – disorientating in its unpredictability, a sonic explosion playing out in little over 30 minutes.
Standout single I Saw is both furious and euphoric as it glam stomps its way through its taut lyrics (“Gimme that bulletproof vest/And don't forget I'm not susceptible to your nonsense”), while the hazy repetition in Geronimo feels designed to draw the listener into a spiritual trance.
Quieter moments come in the beautifully building layers of Tell Somebody, or interject when you least expect, such as in the arrhythmically pulsating but soulfully hypnotic Shoot Me Down.
The inverse is true of closing track Be Your Lady, which lulls you in with slow R'n'B only to erupt with a literal and jarring “Bang!”.
Unforgiving, chaotic and impossible to define, Heavy Heavy pulls no punches, but to listeners operating on Young Fathers' wavelength, that's exactly what they will be hoping for.
(Review by Sarah Williets)