Roisin Murphy, Mumford & Sons and more - John Meagher on the albums and tunes of the week
Listen up - here's what you could and should be listening to this week...
Album of the week
Hairless Toys (PIAS)
Eight years have elapsed since the former Moloko singer released her second solo album - in that time she became a mother-of-two - but she's certainly made up for that hiatus with an album that's every bit as engaging, esoteric and eccentric as we have come to expect from one of Ireland's most interesting pop exports.
Hairless Toys offers no shortage of gorgeously textured downbeat electronica and delightfully unexpected flights of fancy, as well as sporadic moments to remind us that this Wicklow lady knows how to deliver pop hooks. The album's quietly devastating centrepiece, 'Gone Fishing', is a fragile slice of electro-pop, which was apparently inspired by the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning - a seminal study of the New York drag scene of the 1980s.
Elsewhere, the nine-minute long 'Exploitation' is a breathy exploration of the sexual politics at the heart of even the most intimate relationships, while 'Unputdownable' finds her embracing the sort of techno she twisted for her own ends in Moloko.
At just eight tracks, her third album finds Murphy resisting the temptation to make up for lost time with copious new material. Instead, she's focused on ensuring that the songs that have made the cut are as perfectly realised as possible.
While the album is not without its odd bum note, for the most part, these intricately crafted tunes will reward those who make its acquaintance.
Key tracks: 'Exploitation'; 'Gone Fishing'
Mumford & Sons
Wilder Mind (Island)
Marcus Mumford and friends have ditched the banjos and have stadium domination in sight with slickly produced rock that's redolent of U2 (but nowhere nearly as good). While they seem a little more comfortable inhabiting a Coldplay-like sound than the folk pastures of old, their music remains devoid of intelligence, insight and, some would argue emotion.
Key track: 'The Wolf'
Queen of the Clouds
The Swedish newcomer scored a substantial global hit last year with the arresting single 'Habits (Stay High)' and it's one of several tracks that helps raise this album above most pop debuts. Dance, R&B and synth-pop mix well as Lo candidly talks sex, relationships and more. It might have benefited from a less glossy production, but pop fans everywhere won't quibble.
Key track: 'The Gun'
Who is the Sender? (Dead Oceans)
The English progressive folk singer who first came to prominence in the early 1970s, only got around to releasing his (much praised) third album in 2012. This follow-up is a seductive affair - a gentle ramble through the back roads of his mind and a beguiling appreciation of nature. A delicate, wistful beauty.
Key track: 'Underneath the Sun'
CLASSIC ALBUM REVISITED
The La's (1990)
The sole album from the Liverpudlian quartet, led by the troubled Lee Mavers, it is utterly in thrall to 60s Merseybeat and, in its own way, ushered in the guitar rock popularised by Oasis et al within a few years. The jangle pop perfection of 'There She Goes' still gets the spine shivering but it's surrounded by great three-minute anthems and shanties like 'IOU' and 'Feelin'. A retro delight.
And last week's recommendations: John Meagher on the albums and tunes of the week
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