Lost in Music, John Meagher
Music critic John Meagher's exclusive weekly online column with his top album, best gig, classic album and competition of the week.
Album of the week
Lykke Li – I Never Learn (Atlantic)
The LA-based 28-year-old Swede is back with a third album and the final part of a trilogy about dashed love and broken hearts. What is it about Nordic musicians and their ability to pen great break-up music?
Just in case there was any doubt about her preoccupations, consider song titles like ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone’, ‘Never Gonna Love Again’ and ‘Sleeping Alone’. She packs a lot of misery into 32-odd minutes, but thanks to her whip smart songcraft and the occasionally sumptuous production of Bjorn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn and John-fame), her maudlin ruminations are well worth becoming acquainted with.
The aforementioned tracks will captivate if given half a chance while the gospel-tinged ‘Heart of Steel’ is one of the most striking songs of her career.
Greg Kurstin – a go-to producer for the likes of Lily Allen and Shakira – has come on board too, although fears that he would inject Li’s music with sort of homogeneous blandishments that sully much of today’s pop music are unfounded. Lykke Li hasn’t made a dancefloor-oriented pop collection in the vein of her admired compatriot Robyn, but instead has delivered a follow-your-own-path songwriter album.
Her voice is a thing of considerable beauty and while one may hope that she will have found some happiness come Album Four, there is gold dust to be discerned amid the tears here.
Listen to one of the album’s standouts, here: No Rest for the Wicked
Key tracks: Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone; Sleeping Alone
I have three copies of Lykke Li’s new album to give away thanks to Warner Music Ireland. To be in with a chance of winning, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the title of her debut album. I’ll tweet the names of the winners this evening.
Also out today:
Natalie Merchant – Natalie Merchant (Nonesuch)
It is 13 years since the former 10,000 Maniacs singer released an album of original material and this striking offering suggests she hasn’t lost her mojo over that lengthy hiatus.
The most affecting songs are the ones in which the arrangements are stripped back to reveal Merchant’s lovely, bruised vocals. There’s much anguish amid the robustly crafted confessional tracks – not surprising when one considers she got divorced some years ago. But the birth of a daughter has leavened some of that pain.
Much of what’s special about this sixth solo album can be found on the entrancing opener, ‘Ladybird’, with its hints of her old band. Take a look at its captivating video here: Ladybird Video
And consider this heart-on-sleeve gem when she posted on her website this week: Natalie Merchat Website
Classic album revisited
Brian Eno – Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1982)
The ever-prolific Eno has a new album out today. It’s a collaboration with Karl Hyde of Underworld-fame called Someday World and it offers an intriguing excursion into ambient jazz and Afrobeat as well as the sort of electronica one would associate with the Warp label (who, coincidentally, are releasing this album).
But for my money, the musician-producer’s most perfect album is this stunning ambient work, written for a feature length documentary, originally called Apollo, and inspired by the moon landings.
Al Reinert’s wonderfully evocative movie, featuring Eno’s music, wouldn’t be released until 1989 (when it was renamed For All Mankind), but the musician made sure to put his soundtrack out the year he recorded it.
If ever an album was made to be listened to on headphones, it’s this. There’s incredible beauty in the meticulously textured instrumentals and it’s in the quieter, subdued moments that Eno’s gifts really come to the fore.
The album’s centerpiece is the haunting – and curiously life-affirming – ‘An Ending (Ascent)’. You may think you don’t know the song, but you’ve almost certainly heard it thanks to its use in innumerable documentaries and commercials. It was even employed to soundtrack a segment on Top Gear some years back – but don’t let that put you off. It really is something. Oh and check out Reinert’s visual feast too, if you get a chance.
Listen to An Ending (Ascent)
Gigs of the week
Tori Amos – Olympia, Dublin (May 7 and 8)
It may have been quite a while since the singular American songwriter last troubled the zeitgeist, but nobody could accuse Tori Amos of taking the safe option.
Her career has rarely been less than intriguing and even her weaker albums are capable of wrong-footing those who think they have her pigeon-holed. She has a new album, her 14th, called Unrepentant Geraldines, which will be released this day week.
Here’s the lead single from the album: Troubles Lament