Album Reviews

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Charlie Simpson – Young Pilgrim (PIAS B004XC37LU): Six years after leaving Busted, Charlie Simpson has moved beyond teeny-bopping having fronted post-hardcore quartet Fightstar through three albums. His first solo-record sees the 26-year-old acting his age with a pleasant dose of acoustic-pop. Eschewing his small-town Suffolk roots for an affected, Americanised bellow, moments of petty angst are balanced with a playful country bounce. Producer Danton Supple offers emotive, indie-flick arrangements and aching arpeggios into the mix. It’s all a bit obvious, but so blindingly earnest that it could bridge the gap between Busted’s pop fan base and Fightstar’s fickle followers. RG

Cassettes Won’t Listen – Evinspacey (Daylight Curfew B0052MJNK4): A one-man electronic concoction by Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Jason Drake, this 12-track album bristles with inventiveness and laid-back charm. The woozy nature of Drake’s music provides the perfect backdrop to his musings on life and love. The stand-out track here is Perfect Day, which has been getting attention on internet forums, with opener Friendly Float almost as impressive. Drake is certainly one to watch and this release could well catapult him into the mainstream if radio stations pick up on its summery charm. KM

Gabe Dixon – One Spark (Decca B004YAS9NW): After fronting The Gabe Dixon Band for more than 10 years and notching up three albums with the three-piece group, the writer and piano player has elected to produce a solo recording with decidedly mixed results. It starts promisingly enough with Strike, but the much-vaunted duet with Alison Krauss, Even The Rain, proves to be a disappointment, with her impressive pipes wasted on the song. One Spark is by no means bad as the songs are immaculately played and sung. It’s just that, as a whole, it doesn’t really engage the listener and the songs seemingly meld into each other with little change of tempo. KM

Hyde & Beast – Slow Down (Tailfeather B0057MFA10): Two drummers – The Futureheads’ Dave Hyde and former Golden Virgins member Neil Bassett join forces on debut, Slow Down with its stripped down, psychedelic sound. A throwback to the late 1960s and early 1970s, tracks such as If You Could Buy Me Anything and You Will Be Lonely have a definite Kinks influence, while album highlight (And The) Pictures In The Sky has a riff akin to Get It On by T-Rex. The driving piano and brass section on opener Never Come Back make it another strong track on a decent debut. AC

Britten: Complete Scottish Songs (Naxos 8.572706): Appearing last autumn with Opera North in Dove’s Adventures of Pinocchio, Mark Wilde sings two of Benjamin Britten’s major song cycles, A Birthday Hansel and Who are these Children. Set to words by Scottish poets, Wilde’s birthplace deals well with Robert Burns’ use of dialect, his pleasing light and lyric voice quite ideal. He is admirably partnered by harpist Lucy Wakeford in the first, and elsewhere by pianist, David Owen Norris. Eleven other songs complete a well-filled disc of outstanding sound quality. DD

Haydn: Piano Trios Nos. 24 - 26 & 31 (Naxos 8.572040): A wealthy widow with a deep knowledge of music proved an amiable companion for Haydn on his visits to London, their relationship inspiring three of his happiest piano trios, the ‘Gypsy’ Rondo of the Twenty-fifth becoming one of his best-known melodies. The fabulous Kungsbacka Trio mix youthful joy with the elegance and refinement that have become their trademark, the strings dancing around the immaculate playing of pianist, Simon Crawford Phillips. They add the equally pleasing account of Thirty-first. DD