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Jezabels

Jezabels

Marissa Nadler album

Marissa Nadler album

Phillip Phillips

Phillip Phillips

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Jezabels

What the band lack in consistency, they make up for in intensity.

The Brink (PIAS): the girl-boy quartet from Sydney first got noticed in 2011 with an album, Prisoner, that boasted its fair share of effervescent pop songs.

This follow-up has a darker heart, no question about that, but the band haven't lost sight of the hooks and melodies that have made them stand out from the competition Down Under.

So whether they're ruminating on how alienating modern society is, or railing against the proliferation of surveillance culture, they're also keeping tabs on ensuring that their music remains eminently radio-friendly.

Much of what The Jezabels do best revolves around frontwoman Hayley Mary (whose name sounds like a prayer if you say it quickly) and she has that sass and attitude, as well as the tunes, to make even the jaded listener sit up and take notice.

Her vocals are quite something on the huge, anthemic No Country – which isn't so much designed for arenas, as stadia – and she is Patti Smith-angry on the anti-Government belter, Got Velvet.

Their sound has been super-sized – and, in places, it's all the better for it. Much of the credit for that should go to the producer, Dan Grech-Marguerat, whose deft touch helped make Lana Del Rey's debut a global success.

Yet, for every glittering, pulsating track, The Jezabels are running on empty on another. It's noticeable that while the album begins promisingly, it peters out towards the end.

Key tracks

No Country; Got Velvet

 

Summer sounds a little gloomy

July (Bella Union)

The Boston singer-songwriter is something of an unknown quantity on this side of the world, but this sixth album – her first on respected indie label Bella Union – is likely to change that.

The title suggests the sound of summer, but there's little bright or cheery about Nadler's songs. Instead, these melancholic vignettes seem tailor-made for the wee small hours.

Regret and despair are in plentiful supply, yet Nadler's exquisitely crafted compositions are not as maudlin as such a description might suggest and her bracingly honest lyrics will ensure that the attentive listener is pulled into her world.

Admirers of such contemporaries as Cat Power and Hope Sandoval will find much to cherish here as will those who are drawn to folk music that's heavily influenced by the American gothic tradition.

Key tracks

Firecracker; 1923

Reality bites for this ex-winner

Phillip Philips

The World from the Side of the Moon (Interscope)

The news that Fox has cancelled the US instalment of The X Factor might just spell the end of such reality shows and hopefully consign Simon Cowell to the margins of pop history.

The horrible homogenisation of such shows – which have dominated the primetime TV line-up for more than a decade now – can be gleaned from innumerable sources, including American Idol.

Phillip Phillips' album was released in the US 16 months ago, but is only now getting over here. It hasn't been worth the wait: sure, Phillips is an accomplished musician, and his acoustic guitar playing is exemplary, but there's precious little that lodges in the memory.

Think pleasant, but slight, pop-country singalongs, the odd power ballad and the occasional rock out. Single Home is a decent Jason Mraz-type effort while Gone Gone Gone could give Jack Johnson a run for his money. But all too often his efforts carry the whiff of reality TV show contestant – opener Man on the Moon, not to be confused with the REM song, is especially weak and a cover of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game only serves to showcase Phillips' vocal range.

It could be worse: there's no room on this album for the ghastly version of Michael Jackson's Thriller that is included in some US editions. Suckers for punishment can investigate on YouTube.

Key Tracks

Gone Gone Gone

Day & Night