We take a look at all the latest releases including bad boy Pete Doherty’s new album.
Peter Doherty – Hamburg Demonstrations: Pete Doherty’s troubles have been well documented, but he’s still a musical force to be reckoned with. The opening track on his latest solo offering, Hamburg Demonstrations, Kolly Kibber is a Kinks-esque slice of jaunty pop, while Down For The Outing sounds like a more mellow Libertines. Flags From The Old Regime, Doherty’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, is tender, Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven is his response to the Paris attacks of last November. It’s heartfelt, but the serious subject matter and plinky-plonk arrangement seem ill-matched. Oily Boker is the standout track on the album, lush guitars and harmonica augmenting a toe-tapping tune. Doherty’s knack for literary, bittersweet storytelling is evident throughout. It’s good to have him back. By Darryl Webber
John Legend – Darkness and Light: On his first record since winning an Academy Award for Best song for Glory, with rapper Common, in 2015, John Legend is on epic form. His voice rolls over you in rich, smooth waves, tonally beautiful, and his delivery silkily effortless with it. Love Me Now is an anthemic request for us to live in the moment, layered with backing vocals and strings that draw the song into a yearning crescendo that makes you want to grab the nearest person to you, kiss them and dance. What You Do To Me is angrier but still soulful, with electronic riffs lending the chorus a stealth so you find it whirring in your brain hours later. I Know Better is classic Legend; tender lyrics looped round deep piano notes that reverberate in your chest. No darkness here, it’s all pure light. By Ella Walker
Bruno Tonioli –An Italian Romance: Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has entertained audiences for 12 years, but he’s not showing off his vocal talents with this three-disc compilation album. As he puts it, he has curated 57 tracks of his “favourite Italian music, inspired by the romance of Italian culture”. The first disc plays like a cheesy wedding playlist: Mambo Italiano, That’s Amore and Quando Quando Quando all appear. Disc two is inspired by film and theatre - themes from The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, for example – while the third rounds up English-friendly operatic and classical music heavyweights in the vein of Nessun Dorma and Allegro. Ultimately, Tonioli has chosen crowd-pleasers, so expect to see this album under a lot of older relatives’ Christmas trees. By Natalie Bowen
Weeknd –Starboy: Singles Can’t Feel My Face and The Hills have practically sound-tracked the last two years, ever since The Weeknd – aka Canadian singer Abel Tesfaye – presented his second LP, Beauty Behind The Madness. Spouting perfect pop, bound up in catchy electronica, everything he’s done so far has been magnificent, and now he’s back with the Daft Punk approved Starboy. It’s not a disappointment. The title track is laced with an urgent percussive patter that builds and builds, R&B-laden Party Monster unfurls slowly, hypnotically, while Sidewalks featuring Kendrick Lamar, swaggers with a funky sureness. It’s bold, explicit and addictive, with a lusciousness difficult to resist. By Ella Walker
MacMillan – Symphony No. 4/Violin Concerto:I confess that I seldom enjoy James MacMillan’s music, but these two avant-garde works from the Scottish-born composer are certainly important musical milestones of the 21st century. They are, by and large, works of atonality with a sparing amount of melody, the one-movement Fourth Symphony chillingly cold in its expressivity. The Violin Concerto is a vehicle for virtuosity and more readily approachable on first hearing, the Russian-born, Vadim Repin, producing a quite remarkable display of agility and sheer stamina. The BBC Scottish Symphony, with Donald Runnicles conducting, are devout MacMillan advocates, the recordings, taken from broadcast concerts, offer the punchy sound the symphony frequently demands. By David Denton