We take a look at the new CD releases from Beyonce to Brian Eno.
Beyonce – Lemonade: The thing about Beyonce is that she makes you feel strong. And Lemonade she scrimps on nothing: not honesty, pain or rage, opening with Pray You Catch Me, a track that swims with accusation and adultery. There’s almost a viciousness to Lemonade at times – particularly the shrieking, gravelly Don’t Hurt Yourself featuring Jack White. Daddy Lessons is too plucky, too countrified, while Love Drought is a languid low point, but Freedom, featuring Kendrick Lamaar, anthemically stomps and kicks. Sandcastles tremors with delicate piano and, at 1 minute 19 seconds, Forward, featuring James Blake, is a beautiful, softly furled snapshot of a song that ought to be extended into a 20-minute swamp of fizzing base and whispered lyrics. Magnificent. Ella Walker
Katy B – Honey: If there’s one artist you should be tuning into in 2016, it’s Katy B. She’s back at it again six years since her smash hit of a debut, On A Mission, and 2014’s Little Red, with her unique mix of dance and pop, although this time she’s brought a plethora of big-name artists along with her on collaborative-heavy album, Honey. Each track features contributions from a different helping hand, from KAYTRANADA on glittering opening track Honey, to Geeneus and Novelist closing the album on Honey (Outro). Contributions from Four Tet and Floating Points can be heard on silky club-tastic number Calm Down, while Craig David, teams up with Major Lazer on Who Am I. While Honey might not be the most cohesive album, it’s a minor flaw in a set of excellent tracks. Claire Hubble
Brian Eno –The Ship: Words like ‘musical genius’ can be thrown around too easily, but Brian Eno remains one of the few who earns the label. The Ship isn’t the most listener friendly album and it’d be easy to dismiss it as ‘plinky plonky pretentiousness’, but if you let its 20-minute long songs in, it’s transformational. The lyrics are weak, trying a bit too hard to be poetic, but in ways hard to pinpoint, it gets in. You do feel like you’ve been on a journey come the end. Plus, after slogging through some weird, but beautiful 40-odd minutes, Eno pulls out an amazingly radio-friendly pop song in Fickle Sun (iii) - somewhat smugly subtitled I’m Set Free. Maybe Eno’s not a genius, but on The Ship he shows a justified and enjoyable confidence in his ability to make great, if odd, music. Tobias Chapple
Kyle Craft – Dolls of Highland: American singer-songwriter Kyle Craft clearly fancies himself as the next Bob Dylan, but Dolls of Highland is certainly not the next Blood On The Tracks. Craft’s mannered style of delivery begins to jar over the course of 12 tracks without much change in tempo. That is not to say he is without talent, although anyone looking for something a bit different from the plethora of alt country/Americana shtick that has been pedalled so successfully over the past decade or two is in for a disappointment. The best song on the album is the lovely and plaintively sung Lady Of The Ark, while opening track Eye Of A Hurricane, again with piano to the fore, finds the listener reaching for the repeat button. But far too many songs meander along without purpose. Kim Mayo
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic - Vaughan Williams: Remove the encrusted nostalgia for yesteryear that we normally hear in today’s performances and you have Andrew Manze’s virile and colourful account of the Second Symphony, London here bustling with colourful vitality. Tempos are unusually brisk in the outer movements, his wide dynamic range magically capturing the pianissimo passages elsewhere. This opening disc in a projected complete cycle of Vaughan Williams’s symphonies finds a few moments of wobbly intonation from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic who are otherwise in virile form. Their Eighth, with its multitude of percussion effects, emerging in brightly lit colours and high on impact. The spacious and detailed sound quality stands out in a crowded market place.(Onyx 4155) David Denton