CARPENTERS WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Who knew all we needed to heal our hurting hearts at the end of this somewhat dire year was the music of the Carpenters reworked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra? Upon listening to these new reworkings, it’s almost baffling to think the US duo’s original music was not recorded this way. It all seems just right.
The Carpenters’ greatest pop masterpieces have been reimagined with Richard Carpenter conducting his own new arrangements along with his late sister Karen’s immortal vocals. Richard also acted as the album’s producer and arranger, and his involvement in every single piece is distinct. There have been a swathe of RPO collaborations lately, including with Roy Orbison and The Beach Boys, but this one stands head and shoulders above the lot, thanks to the artist himself having a key role in the process. The record serves as a reminder of the true beauty of their music, and it is only heightened by the rather restrained accompaniment of a 70-plus piece orchestra.
Standouts include the orchestra-backed version of Yesterday Once More, the jaw-droppingly stunning I Just Fall In Love Again and Goodbye To Love. A must-have album for any fans of the Carpenters. Or just anyone who enjoys music, full stop.
(Review by Lucy Mapstone)
CLEAN BANDIT – WHAT IS LOVE?
Clean Bandit have morphed into the UK’s dominant power in Latin-inspired pop hits. It wasn’t always this way. When the Cambridge-educated trio met, their focus was on alchemising classical with the thump of house music.
That combination worked well, with their Jess Glynne featuring single Rather Be spending four weeks at number one. But then their attentions turned to Latin pop and watered down dancehall.
What Is Love? sees them follow this to its natural conclusion, and it’s not a road you will want to travel with them. While it might have earned them an abundance of hits (three of the album’s singles went to number one) it’s left them in something of a creative rut.
Over 12 tracks it becomes clear that songs that sounded perfectly serviceable as singles cloy when heard together. They begin to bleed, revealing an approach that’s at best predictable, at worst formulaic.
And a crowd of high-profile guests can’t save the day. Powerful vocalists like Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora and Marina Diamandis fail to lift their collaborations above general pop fodder. It’s a shame, because Clean Bandit’s debut showed them at their best, playing by the rules of pop to create shimmering hits. Now they’re just playing by the rules.
(Review by Alex Green)
LP – HEART TO MOUTH
LP, aka New York singer-songwriter Laura Pergolizzi, goes full-pop on her fifth album, demonstrating the ear for a great hook that has brought her gainful employment from the likes of Cher and Christina Aguilera while still maintaining the idiosyncratic style – think Kate Bush meets John Cooper Clarke – that has made her a cult sensation in her own right.
The smart lyrics that characterised previous releases are all in tact, delivered in her inimitable Roy Orbison-on-helium tones, but they’re matched with an appealing electro-pop backing.
Opener Dreamcatcher has a soaring chorus that offsets a distinctly alt-country vibe. One Night in the Sun is an engagingly sinister take on the power-ballad, while House on Fire is a Latin-beat barnstormer that employs the unusual combination of hand-claps, pounding drums and Roger Whittaker-style whistling to mesmerising effect.
LP might yet steal Lady Gaga’s crown as the world’s strangest, most versatile hit-maker.
(Review by James Robinson)
NIGHT FLIGHT – NIGHT FLIGHT
New kids on the block Night Flight previously told the NME that they believe they can become “one of our generation’s great bands”. A somewhat conceited sentiment to some, but one that actually just deserves a nod of the head and a “fair enough”, because this London indie folk quartet have got something going on. There’s a refreshing confidence in these guys, and rightly so. After releasing a couple of EPs that went down a storm with their growing fanbase, they have now reached their debut album. It must be clarified early on: Night Flight are not the second coming of Mumford and Sons. Think less animated, rocky bluegrass and more pared-back, subtle, mid-tempo indie folk rock. Their offerings have an earthiness, a simple beauty, a deeper level of intimacy and interpretation. Frontman Samuel Holmes has a beguiling tone of despondency in his voice, perfectly befitting their genre.
From the opening bars of their self-titled album’s first track Departure – a simple guitar riff and Holmes’ exquisite vocal – through bigger, euphoric tracks like God Knows and Medicine, and the poetic Death Rattle, the record is a joy. Some moments may sway into samey-samey “haven’t we heard this before?” territory. But largely, it’s a pretty near-perfect effort.
(Review by Lucy Mapstone)