Releases from Eno Hyde, George Ezra and Old Crow Medicine Show are reviewed.
High Life is the second full-length album produced by this unique meeting of minds within the space of two months.
Yes, months. In the red corner, former Roxy Music member and producer to the stars, Brian Eno. And in the blue corner, eccentric Underworld vocalist, Karl Hyde. Whereas Someday World leant towards the electronic, the pair have attempted a more stripped back record here.
The layered, trance-like chugging guitar of Hyde on opening track Return calls to mind the repetition of Neu's Hallogallo. On top of that come choral effects reminiscent of Eno's work on U2's Achtung Baby and Zooropa. West African funk is the basis for the album's only single to date, DBF.
Never a boring listen, ideas and sounds are given room to breathe, meander and transform. As such, albeit with more soulful influences, there's an almost post-rock approach to High Life. Potentially the only misstep here is the juddering breaks of Moulded Life.
Despite the bleeps and pulses on Lilac, there's a sensitive and uplifting quality to the vocals.
And as one might expect with an album which is 50 per cent Eno, it's an ideal headphones listen. One in which to really immerse one's self.
Wanted on Voyage
A well-placed Glastonbury appearance, two EPs, and shortlisting for BBC's Sound of 2014 have led us to this debut from the Bristol native. Fans of Mumfords foot stomps (Cassy O) and husky Nutini lite-soul (Blame It On Me) will be satisfied that the year-long journey has ended like this. For others, the 'Dreadlock Holiday Jamaic-ish' timbre to Ezra's voice – exemplified on Budapest – will cloy.
The best points come with Did You Hear The Rain and the Nick Cave-tinged Spectacular Revival. Overall, however it's the kind of album usually favoured by bead-wearing, backpackers who "heard some Aussie guy called Trent play it in a hostel in Phuket once".
Old Crow Medicine Show
This Virginia crew have delivered the kind of foot-stomping, harmony-laden bluegrass over the past decade-and-a-half that has made Trustafarian Londoners want to don tweed waistcoats and pick up banjos.
Old Crow find a nice balance on this record between breakneck bluegrass and more sedate sensitivity. Sweet Amarillo is an accordion-led waltz, while The Warden focuses on the seven-piece's excellent harmonies. There's also the spitfire delivery of 8 Dogs 8 Banjos and Shit Creek to make the toe tap.
There's a gloss to production that sits uncomfortably with the rootsiness of the material, but all-in-all far better than some.
Sultans of Ping FC
Casual Sex In The Cineplex
These Sultans are a band who first crash-landed into my consciousness when I was 10. Andy Ruane (or one of the two Brians) introduced the video to Where's Me Jumper? on Scratch Saturday and they've clung limpet-like to my brain since. With an album as irreverent, snotty and smart as this, it's easy to see why. As with a lot of memorable first albums, Niall O'Flaherty wrote about the world around him.
And for all his fur coat-adorned sneering, O'Flaherty could be ridiculously sweet too. Let's Go Shopping, for instance, sees him imagine an exchange between himself and his wife in middle-age. They reminisce about raves and "pill-popping" in a touching way.
There's also Veronica with its killer line, "you think you're not good enough for me, and it's true, but I like you anyway".
But for each instance of reluctant romance, there's something equally surreal as a counterbalance. The most glaring example is the brother meeting Karl Marx eating mushrooms in the People's Park.
The charm of the album is inescapable, if you get it. There's a lack of self-consciousness that just wouldn't happen today.
Joaquin Phoenix's moustachioed Theo is a professional letter-writer for those who can't express themselves as well as he can.
But, for all of his kind-heartedness, he's lonely since his divorce. Everything changes when he installs a new operating system with an advanced AI, called Samantha.
Playing with ideas around relationships and artificial intelligence, director Spike Jonze's debut outing as a writer/director effortlessly merges a touching love story with hard sci-fi. The rather alien situation of falling in love with a computer is brilliantly written, and beautifully played by Scarlett Johansson – in a voice-only role – and Phoenix.
Existing in a fine lineage of bottled-up murder mysteries, such as Murder On the Orient Express and Hitchcock's Lifeboat, the appeal of setting up a whodunit on a plane is obvious – nobody can get on or off, and there's loads of ways for Liam Neeson to use a pen that you hadn't thought of before.
Neeson, Ireland's once-unlikely action hero, plays a troubled air marshal on a routine flight to London. Cheesy sequences in the airport establishing both his soused paranoia and cuddly appeal seem to be setting up a self-aware romp.
But, while the film remains enjoyable for much of its running time, it starts to strain dramatic believability in the third act.
By Ben Keenan
Mac and PC, Act I and II: €18.50, brokenagegame.com; iPad, Act I only: €8.99, iTunes App Store
Beautifully-written, hand-illustrated and animated, the first act of developer Double Fine's Broken Age is a masterclass in storytelling. Written by Tim Schafer, the comic genius behind classics like Day of The Tentacle and Grim Fandango, the story begins with a choice – you're presented with two characters seemingly totally separate; one on a futuristic spaceship, the other in a pastoral countryside. Tap on one and play through their story. Get stuck or curious and you can easily switch to the other. Both storylines have an unwholesome sheen of paradise with a sense of real darkness lurking underneath, the jokes getting better the darker it gets. Featuring notable acting talent like Elijah Wood and Jack Black, it's a pleasure to play, and sets up Act II (out later in year) nicely.
LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES: UNIVERSE IN PERIL
iPad: €4.49, iTunes App Store
Boasting 90 playable characters from the Marvel universe, there is something here for fans, but in all of the meetings that must have taken place between the executives at Lego and Disney/Marvel, all the talk of demographic crossover and amortisation of royalties in lieu, it feels like nobody took the time to talk about what the game would actually be like to play.
In theory, having Marvel's super heroes fighting in a Lego game makes sense, and the console versions of this same game have been very well-received, but the iPad port is deeply disappointing. Framed as an arcade-style experience, the controls are unresponsive and imprecise, making combat unsatisfying, and the disposable one to two-minute cutscenes don't feel practical on a mobile device.
The season is upon us and while we've no way of predicting what the Irish weather will be like when you read this, here are 10 of my guaranteed "having-a-good-summah" good weather tracks for when the sun is shining.
A Tribe Called Quest
Check The Rhime
The sound of lazy summer days in the sunshine, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg go laidback to a simple beat. On point Phife.
Forget Me Nots
Everyone knows this, not because of the original, sadly, but because Will Smith used the guts of the melody and arrangement for the theme tune from Men In Black.
Rock Creek Park
"Doing it in the park / doing it after dark / oh yeah." Whatever the Washington funk band were doing in the park in 1975 it sounds fun.
Brian Wilson and the boys take us to the Californian beach for excitations (Um bop bop).
"Superman or Green Lantern ain't got a-nothin' on me." Sixties' psychedelic pop from the man who now lives in Mallow.
This J Dilla-produced track by the LA 90s' rap group is a true headnodder.
"Everybody is doin' a brand new dance now," sang Eva in 1962. It's still likely to incite a dance party 52 years later.
Lulu And The Luvvers
Two years later, pop singer Lulu covered The Isley Brothers hit for a British audience.
Forget Get Lucky, this track from their '97 debut screams summer with the actual sound of waves lapping the shore and a video of the Da Funk dog on the beach.
My Mate Paul
A standout from the Belfast man's second album, which presaged his soundtrack work by mixing audio recorded on the streets of New York.