John Meagher on the albums and tunes of the week
Listen up - here's what you could and should be listening to this week...
California Nights (Virgin/EMI)
Album of the week
Los Angeles duo Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno do a fine line in classic west coast pop filtered through a proud indie sensibility and have enjoyed rave reviews for their last pair of albums.
This third offering doesn't deviate from the template too much, but that hardly matters when they're delivering such sun-kissed delights as perky opener 'Feeling Ok' and the deliciously jaundiced 'Jealousy' in which Cosentino wastes little time in cutting to the quick: "Why don't you like me?"
If some of the endearing lo-fi edges of before have been sanded down somewhat, perhaps in an attempt to garner more radio play, there's still plenty to thrill jangle-pop fans and those who like an extra helping of guitars ('Heaven Sent'). California Nights has no shortage of compelling riffs - or hooks, come to that.
Cosentino's somewhat needy lyrics won't win any prizes for profundity ("What is life?/ What is love?/ What's the meaning of it all?" she enquires at one point), but her vocals hit the sweet spot time and again.
In places, the pair seem a little too comfortable when sticking to a well-worn path and some of the songs fail to get out of first gear, but when they are truly inspired, as they are on the sumptuous title track which manages to evoke good times in The Golden State, they're capable of something special.
Whether or not this album will be the one to open their world to a whole new fanbase remains to be seen but one senses that they're on course.
Key tracks: 'Feeling Ok'; 'California Nights'
The Brooklyn-based collective delivered one of the great hidden gems of 2013. This follow-up doesn't quite scale those heights but there's plenty to adore. Led by classically trained Ellis Ludwig-Leone, there's little regard for genre although they're at their most potent while delivering chamber pop confections sung by gifted vocalists Allen Tate (left) and Charlene Kaye.
Key track: 'Parasites'
What Green Feels Like (Heavenly)
Young English troubadour Joseph Lyons has delivered a startlingly strong debut that revels in its gentle acoustics, gorgeously textured instrumentation and beautifully observed lyrics. It's an album that's already drawn comparisons to the late Nick Drake's vivid work, and it's not difficult to see why: Lyons' keenly observed songs are cut from much the same cloth.
Key track: 'Pylons'
My Morning Jacket
The Waterfall (ATO)
The Kentucky quintet were Grammy-nominated for the last album, 2011's Circuital, and they've returned with a strong collection that harks back to their alt-country roots. The robust, well-crafted and evocative songs more than make up for the absence of daring material. A band in tune with America.
Key track: 'Like a River'
Classic album revisited
The Pretenders (1980)
The 1980s was just a month old when this marvellous debut album was released and the cocksure delivery of Chrissie Hynde would prove an inspiration for countless female-fronted outfits that followed. Producer Chris Thomas perfectly captured a band of outsiders, but made their music appeal to a wide audience. Guitarist James Honeyman-Scott was on fire here.