This week we review the latest CD releases, including the engergetic music of Nadine Shah.
Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination: “The bad guys are winning” declares Nadine Shah on the title track of her third album. The Tyneside-born singer pulls no punches with this rousing, energetic record which covers the refugee crisis, Donald Trump, nationalism, mental health and the Syrian civil war. A call to arms leads the way on Holiday Destination while Yes Men gives Shah’s vocals the chance to explore their depth as she offers a blunt take of the mainstream media. Shah thinks globally throughout but stops to reflect on a personal milestone in 2016 as she turned 30 against a backdrop of President Trump and Brexit. The emotionally-charged Mother Fighter zooms in on a Syrian woman, Ragda, to whom Shah reached out after watching her in the documentary A Syrian Love Story. Joe Nerssessian
Gordi –Reservoir: Gordi is the childhood nickname of Sophie Payten who has spent the last six years studying medicine in Sydney. Reservoir, the 24-year-old Australian’s major-league debut, arrives days ahead of her final exams. Gordi signed 18 months ago to Jagjaguwar, home to the likes of Bon Iver and Angel Olsen, and the artist described in 2013 by Australia’s Daily Telegraph as “set to become Sydney’s very own singing surgeon” looks set for success in the vein of her big-name label-mates. File cautiously under folktronica but prepare for soaring ambition. Highlights include All The Light, a spark of self-assurance that becomes a fireball, the glam stomp of On My Side, and the stunning, sparse closer Something Like This. John Skilbeck
Queens of the Stone Age – Villains: Queens Of The Stone Age may have lost a bit of their earthy authenticity since the days of Nick Oliveri and that golden run from Rated R on but there’s absolutely no doubt that Josh Homme still knows how to hook you in. Indeed, Villains is very much the Homme show - unlike 2013’s Like Clockwork... there are no special guest cameos. This band more than many others have a knack of writing a song that suddenly makes perfect sense on the third or fourth listen, but alas that blow never comes on lead single The Way You Used to Do, which feels surprisingly one-dimensional for a comeback track. Though glossier and more lightweight than many of its predecessors, Villains does feature some vintage QOTSA moments and should have enough to keep fans satisfied. Stephen Jones
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding: The epic rockers have made light work of following up 2014’s breakthrough Lost In The Dream, honing their anthemic Americana into something even bigger. The familiar signposts are there – ultra-widescreen production, motorik rhythms and Adam Granduciel’s gruff and engaging voice delivering lyrics of hope and resilience amid dark times. As always, the songs meander like the best Springsteen, but the sharpness of the melodies pull you in to the point where you are singing along to some on first listen. New elements muscle their way in to the highly textured soundscape – pulsing beats add a welcome wooziness half way through opener Up All Night, while Holding On’s glockenspiel chimes leave you in no doubt of the band’s pop intentions. Arj Singh
ONSLOW: String Quintets Nos 10 & 22: Never heard of the Anglo-French composer, Georges Onslow, who lived in the Beethoven era? Well now is the time to discover two truly neglected masterpieces that are unusual in the string quintet world, having a double bass added to the conventional quartet. Onslow was a wealthy ‘gentleman’ composer who produced a massive amount of music, but never really bothered about his works being performed. Had they carried the name of Mendelssohn, these two hugely attractive, tuneful and very substantial works would be part of our regular chamber music repertoire. The recently formed Spanish-based Elan Quintet are in every way outstanding, and the Naxos sound quality in ‘world premiere recordings’ is outstanding. David Denton