This week’s new CD releases includes a new offering by the renewed Blondie.
Mac Demarco –This Old Dog: Despite being just 27 years of age, Mac DeMarco and his cheeky gap-toothed grin seem to have been around the indie music scene forever, and on his third album the Canadian jangle-pop connoisseur is nothing if not consistent. The lazy, afternoon-on-the-porch lilt of title track This Old Dog brings to the party everything fans have loved about Mac until now. But there is a newness too, and some real signs that the young joker has growing artistic aspirations: tracks like My Old Man in which the singer reflects on growing older (“uh-oh, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me”) and ballad One More Love Song add an emotional depth that hasn’t always been apparent in his work, and show there’s a lot more to this young man than his penchant for tomfoolery. by Stephen Jones
Blondie –Pollinator: Have Blondie caught up with modern pop or has modern pop caught up with Blondie? They’ve roped in all their hippest fans to help ensure their new album has a contemporary gloss. However, it’s when the band are prepared to simply act as throwbacks to the New Wave they helped invent that Pollinator really sizzles. Doom Or Destiny, Long Time and Already Naked could all have been lifted from anything the band released in their late-1970s heyday. Elsewhere, they veer a bit too far from the classic formula: funk-inflected Love Levelis as bizarre as it is appalling, while electro-pop lead single Fun comes off a bit dad-dancing-at-the-disco. They’re fooling nobody but, if you squint, you can still make out the ghosts of those cool, skinny New Yorkers on the cover of Parallel Lines. By James Robinson.
Cover Stories – Brandi Carlile celebrates 10 years of The Story: Brandi Carlile’s The Story was a fairly minor folk-rock record of 2007 but, 10 years on, she has gathered a star-studded line-up of cover versions to raise money for charity War Child. She even bagged Barack Obama to write the album’s foreword. It was Adele’s 2015 interpretation of Hiding My Heart that first inspired the project, and she joins other marquee names in Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam and Kris Kristofferson, alongside rising stars such as Torres, to rework the original tracks. Cover Stories touches everything from country to prog-rock and experimental pop. They don’t always hit the mark but, more than anything, Cover Stories proves the strengths of Carlile’s songwriting, giving a broad range of artists the licence to experiment. By Alastair Reid
At the Drive In –Interalia:Post-hardcore luminaries At The Drive-In are back with new record Interalia. The title – Latin for “among other things” – is a fitting summation of an album by artists who may have passed their peak but still have a lot to offer. The departure of co-founder Jim Ward – so often the yin to the white-hot yang of singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – means it’s eight tracks before the pace lets up. Yet Bixler’s vocals hit a middle ground between the hoarse roars of the band’s early years and the soulful croon-and-yelp of later projects and, similarly, guitarist Rodriguez seems to hit neither the burning abandon nor the virtuosity found elsewhere. Interalia is the sound of a band who know how to write a record without pushing themselves too hard. By Alastair Reid
Delius and Elgar – String Quartets: The Villiers, undoubtedly one of the finest young British string quartets to have emerged in recent years, have an in-born feel for the music of Delius, and here breathe life into a gorgeous score that is seldom heard in the concert hall. Though composed in France in the midst of the First World War, it is by nature a pastoral work, the Villiers lavishing playing of exquisite beauty. By contrast Elgar was by nature an outgoing character, though he had suffered a nervous breakdown during the war, and his quartet was full of yearning for times that were long past, and it ends in deep sadness.In every way this is a superb release in Naxos’s excellent recording. By David Denton