Life

Albums: Taylor Swift and Oasis deliver this week's biggest album releases

There is also new music from Ladyhawke and Little Mix...

The new album by Little Mix is a greatest hits collection

TAYLOR SWIFT –

RED (TAYLOR'S VERSION)

WHEN Taylor Swift released Red in 2012 she sent a message to the music industry: no longer was she its country starlet, this Pennsylvania star had pop ambitions. Red was a transitional record in the purest sense – rough around the edges and a little uneven, but it made her an international success.

In a bid to regain ownership of her music, Swift recently embarked on the re-recording of her first six albums after the master recordings were sold. Of all those records, Red presents the best opportunity for exploration. Like Fearless (Taylor's Version), this album stays true to the original with only subtle differences apparent, even on repeat listens.

Treasures, however, are found in the 14 new tracks (the original had 16).

They include a 10-minute version of All Too Well – an anthem reportedly inspired by Swift's romance with Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal – that will delight fans with its telling extra verses, even when their exclusion from the shortened original was well justified. Phoebe Bridgers joins Swift on Nothing New for a somber acoustic indictment of the music industry and its treatment of young women. Run with Ed Sheeran is less impressive, with a chorus (“Run, like you'd run from the law”) lacking Swift's usual lyrical depth. Swift has elevated what could have simply been a re-release to something more – a self-portrait of her younger self, with a dash of something new for good measure.

4/5

Alex Green

OASIS –

KNEBWORTH 1996

IT MAY not be the new album Oasis fans were hoping for, but with a reunion seeming as far off as ever before, due the success of Liam and Noel's solo careers, the 1996 live album from Knebworth is a welcome replacement.

It's been 25 years since the epic event where 250,000 people witnessed the crowning moment of Britpop and the Gallaghers strutting their stuff to their adoring fans.

Welcomed on by the Swamp Song, Noel turned to the mic and bellowed “This is history. This is history. Right here, right now, this is history”, and nobody could argue with that.

Kicking off with Columbia, followed by the b-side of Acquiesce, Oasis launched into hit after hit, merging classics such as Live Forever, Supersonic and Cigarettes and Alcohol from Definitely Maybe, to Wonderwall, Don't Look Back in Anger, Champagne Supernova and others from their latest release at the time, (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, as well as teasing new tracks from Be Here Now, it was a setlist that not only defined a generation, but welcomed a new selection of fans of which would stick with them through to the end in 2009.

The performance may not have been as polished as what they ultimately became, but it's a welcome throwback to a couple of brothers and their mates who became the biggest band in the world, and this was their finest moment.

4/5

Nick Hayward

LITTLE MIX

BETWEEN US

TO view Between Us as Little Mix's first album following the departure of Jesy Nelson would be disingenuous – this is a well-time greatest hits collection embellished by five pieces of new material.

But as a road map of where they have been, and where they are going, it is certainly an interesting listen.

From their creation on The X Factor in 2011, Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and the recently departed Nelson have carved out a public persona defined by songs about female empowerment and cathartic break-ups.

While their subject matter has not change much since their debut album DNA, their musicality has developed, with tracks such as Wings, Salute and, of course, Shout Out to My Ex using increasingly daring pop and R&B arrangements.

It's a sharp reminder that when they emerged from Simon Cowell's pop factory their sound was forward thinking, especially when compared to the likes of Leona Lewis or Alexandra Burke.

The five new tracks both hit and miss.

The title track, for example, contains an emotional moment when the girls reference the titles of some of their biggest hits, but suffers from an anaemic trap beat.

No and Trash are both indicators of the band's intended direction as a three-piece – more chart-ready electro-pop in the vein of contemporaries such as Mabel or Anne-Marie.

Between Us does little to surprise, but achieves its main aim: it is a full stop to this stage of Little Mix's career.

3/5

Alex Green

LADYHAWKE

TIME FLIES

WELCOME back electro-pop artist Pip Brown, with her fourth album as Ladyhawke, and first in five tumultuous years for her.

Since her 2008 breakthrough with the catchy Paris Is Burning and My Delirium, the New Zealander explored a heavier, guitar-led direction, then breezy pop, and Time Flies returns to her original inspirations.

Ladyhawke's name comes from a 1985 cult fantasy film, and Brown's music has always been influenced by that decade, so a track like Reactor, with lyrics that reference fatal attraction, could be from a lost John Hughes film.

Opener My Love and the synthpop singles Mixed Emotions and Think About You are aimed firmly at the dancefloor, while Walk Away is influenced by classic disco.

She also adds guitars to the mix, led by Guilty Love, with its distinct glam rock feel, and Adam veers towards power ballad, while the only slight mis-step is Take It Easy Mama, which is little too busy, never settling into a coherent style.

Brown had challenging health issues including post-natal depression and being treated for skin cancer, before starting to write these songs in 2019, and there's a sense of rebirth and freedom about them.

Time Flies, crafted with a host of collaborators over Zoom during the pandemic, is a joyous album, explained by Brown feeling grateful to be alive and making music.

This is the best Ladyhawke album since that self-titled debut and should see her return to the spotlight she deserves.

4/5

Matthew George

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