John Meagher on this week's biggest album releases (and a classic revisited)
Why Make Sense? (Domino)
The rise of Hot Chip from underground curio to mainstream success story over the past decade has been heartening, not least because they did not need to slavishly alter their brand of electro-pop in order to hoover up a new audience.
This sixth album doesn't deviate all that much from the 'dance music with heart' template of before, and that's no bad thing because when Joe Goddard, Alexis Taylor et al are in form, they're a very special entity indeed. Why Make Sense? features stunning synth lines, euphoric house stylings and those curiously captivating vocals from non-singer Taylor.
The album is every bit as eclectic as the Londoners' previous work. A funk-pop delight, Love Is The Future, features a guest rap from De La Soul's Kelvin 'Pos' Mercer, while the subdued Huarache Lights is an atmospheric delight featuring electronically treated vocals.
Elsewhere, the huge-sounding Need You Now will likely sound great blasting from a festival near you this summer (Electric Picnic is on their 2015 schedule), while the soulful Easy To Get is an inventive slice of synth-pop designed to move your feet - and your heart.
Hot Chip have been allowed to develop at their own pace and now, 15 years on, we're reaping our reward.
The Desired Effect (Virgin EMI)
The Killers became badly derailed on their most recent album, but frontman Brandon Flowers has returned with a second solo album that harks back to his band's strong opening salvo.
Think stadium-sized choruses, pop hooks aplenty and rousing heartland rock. Anthemic belter I Can Change samples Bronski Beat while the heartstring-tugging closer The Way It's Always Been delivers emotional paydirt. Killers? Who needs 'em?
The seemingly ubiquitous Pharrell Williams is in the producer's chair for this entertaining, but rarely scintilating, funked-up outing from one of rap's biggest personalities. Dogg's wordplay is occasionally inspired and, of the numerous collaborators, it's Kendrick Lamar and Gwen Stefani who bring most to the table. A mixed offering, but one that (unlike many of his hip-hop peers) doesn't feel like the work of committee.
Saturn's Pattern (Parlophone)
The 'Modfather' can't be faulted for his workrate - this is his 12th solo album in two decades - but his quality control smarts may have slipped: all too often, songs like the soulful Phoenix feel distinctly 'reheated'. But when he's inspired, as he is on the experimental, intoxicating White Sky, the former Jam and Style Council figure soars.
classic album revisited
Having come to prominence as a member of Massive Attack, the Bristol man went his own way on this spectacular debut, still a landmark trip-hop album. Richly atmospheric, its textured tracks would prove hugely influential. Alison Goldfrapp appears, but it's the vocals of a then 19-year-old Martina Topley-Bird that stay with you. Remarkable.