Paul Weller: Other Aspects, Live At The Royal Festival Hall

For many bands the obligatory album with an orchestra is a sign they’ve run short of ideas, their egos are too big or they’re dead. For Weller not only does it work — his songs suit gentle string arrangements — but it takes his music to a different place, that place being St Tropez, about […]

Metronomy: Nights Out

If success is sounding as fresh as a decade ago, this reissue of the Metronomy break-through album is one of the best. The sound of what the band’s mainman Joseph Mount said was a bad a night out (maybe more than one, looking at the title), we found it too weird to like when we […]

Skinny Lister: The Story Is…

Skinny Lister are one of those good-time live bands, all punky folk catchiness and entertainment; we saw them live at Rode Hall’s Just So and they’ve recorded at Newcastle-under-Lyme, although they’re not local. It’s three tracks in before Skinny Lister hit the sound we were expecting, the first three songs all showing a new pop […]

Michael Bublé: Love

This starts off with a sentimental cover, When I Fall In Love, which is peak Bublé, as slow and luscious as you like and his voice shown off to its best. A perky I Only Have Eyes For You follows, just total class; you’d have to be Scrooge not to love it. Love You Anymore […]

Pet Shop Boys: Behaviour / Very / Bilingual

The PS Boys have been re-releasing their albums all year so they’re not out for Christmas but they’d make good pressies — the sleeve notes alone are worth the price, entertaining, indiscreet and informative as they are. This final tranche is albums that came after their heyday but they’re all still good. We might have […]

Ida Sand: My Soul Kitchen

The PR for this says Sand loves “sweet soul music”, and the emphasis is on the sweet for this collection of covers and originals. She’s got a honeyed voice and the band is tight but — in the best possible sense — it most reminds us of a live band you’d get in a classy […]

Sheridan Smith: A Northern Soul

We read that Smith’s debut album, Sheridan, was last year’s second-best selling debut by a UK woman, beaten only by cool pop singer Dua Lipa (although Smith sold 100,000 copies and Lipa 1.2m, so it’s not a close-run thing). That collection of covers was a little patchy, but this new one is more of a […]

Christine and the Queens: Chris

Christine’s last album garnered good reviews but we never got it. We assumed the critics either lucked out — most time “critically praised” means “poor sales and disappears” — or we missed the point, because this new album is wonderful (… at least until we saw the last one sold 1m copies. What do we […]

Plan B: Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose

Plan B shot to mainstream fame after following up his inner-city rap album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words with his successful Motown persona in The Defamation of Strickland Banks, telling the tale of Mr Banks, a British soul singer. The boy could sing, and had soul. Soundtrack Ill Manors came next, a “hip […]

Gorillaz: The Now Now

We like Gorillaz as a singles band as much as the next primate, but have never really dug the albums, at least until this one. Probably because it’s low key, induces calm and doesn’t try anything too clever. Opener Humility is a gentle pop tune. It could have been made by any middle-ranking, decent chill-out […]