News Column

ALBUMS OF THE WEEK [Birmingham Mail (UK)]

November 29, 2013


GARY BARLOW: Since I Saw You Last ? GARY BARLOW'S last solo album, Twelve Months, Eleven Days, failed to make a real dent in the UK charts in 1999, but The X Factor head judge and Take That frontman has "relit" his fire with this latest release. Opening with the jaunty Requiem, the 12-track album, with all songs written by Barlow, features Face To Face, a dancey duet with Sir Elton John, poignant ballad Jump, Americana-style More Than Life and toe- tapping track Small Town Girls. Barlow shows off his vocals in 6th Avenue with its rousing chorus and piano melodies. Let's hope this won't be the last of Barlow's own music.

VARIOUS: Share More Air ? WITH a name sounding like a forbidding Orwellian organisation, the Ministry of Stories is a cool creative writing charity, overseen by novelist Nick Hornby. For this album, they have paired the lyrics of 56 children, aged eight to 13, from the east end of London to the tunes of pop musicians. There are tales of world champion sandal throwers, cats on missions and the inventor of jazz. The naivety of the words is coupled with predominantly sparse, folky arrangements, which is often very affecting. Opener Air by folk poppers Ajimal has a wispy fragility, punctured by stabs of spectral guitar, and is hauntingly beautiful.

THE FAUNS: Lights ? BRISTOL band The Fauns release their impressive second album, four years after their selftitled debut in 2009. With a set of 11 superbly crafted songs, frontwoman Alison Garner possesses an ethereal voice, which brings to mind Portishead's Beth Gibbons, and that band's ambient and atmospheric soundtrack to Gibbons's musings has clearly been a major influence. Backed by guitarist Lee Woods, bassist Michael Savage, guitarist Elliot Guise, and drummer Tom Adams, Lights is an albums to savour in a quiet moment. The Fauns are set to put the Bristol music scene firmly back on the musical map.

ONE DIRECTION: Midnight Memories ? THE X-Factor-born phenomenon, comprising of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, have (sort of ) left their bubble-gum pop roots behind for their third album. The boyband's sound edges more towards rockpop, with the music more mature and sophisticated than before. Some tracks such as Diana, Happily and Through The Dark are likely to please both fans and their parents, while forgettable slow numbers like You And I and Don't Forget Where You Belong prove the band's talent lies in up-tempo, dancing numbers.

NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS: Live From KCRW ? NICK CAVE fans have not been starved of new material, with the 15th studio album Push The Sky Away released back in February, but now the Australian veteran and a streamlined Bad Seeds have released their fourth live album. It features four tracks from that album - the title track along with Mermaids, Higgs Boson Blues and the excellent Wide Lovely Eyes - as well as a host of Cave classics. Stranger Than Kindness and the Johnny Cash-in-fluenced modern arrangement of The Mercy Seat stand out while Jack The Ripper provides a suitably raucous finale.

BOYZONE: BZ20 ? A LISTEN to Boyzone's new album is filled with nostalgia. Without band member Stephen Gately, who died in 2009, BZ20 reminds fans what could have been. The band are now celebrating their 20th anniversary with a new record. BZ20 accompanies the quartet's 20th anniversary celebrations, which sees them embarking on an arena tour starting in Belfast on November 29. Their fifth album is a mixture of covers including The Tony Rich Project's Nobody Knows and Everything I Own by Bread and original tracks such as lead single Love Will Save The Day. It's a good listen for fans.

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