wed 23/05/2018

New Music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Chvrches - Love Is Dead

Owen Richards

When bands move to the US, some find themselves drawn into the commercial machine; when Chvrches crossed the Atlantic, they were targeting direct assimilation from the start. Recorded with mega-producer Greg Kurstin, the band are aiming to be more direct than ever; perhaps a wise move considering they’ve always leaned heavily on the pop side of electro.

CD: Gretchen Peters - Dancing with the Beast

Liz Thomson

Gretchen Peters arrived in Nashville in the late eighties from Bronxville, New York, where she was born, and Boulder, Colorado, where she grew up. Within a decade she was writing songs for some of the biggest names in country music, among them Trisha Yearwood, Shania Twain, and George Strait, and for Etta James.

Reissue CDs Weekly: African Scream Contest 2

Kieron Tyler

African Scream Contest 2 opens with a burst of distorted guitar suggesting a parallel-world response to The Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today...

Robbie Thomson XFRMR, Brighton Festival review -...

Thomas H Green

The welcome to Glasgow audio-visual artist Robbie Thomson’s performance engenders a hefty sense of anticipation. It’s almost nervousness-inducing as...

CD: Caroline Rose - Loner

Kieron Tyler

Loner’s opening track “More of the Same” lyrically tracks being at a party where “everyone’s well dressed with a perfect body and they all have...

An Audience with Dame Cleo Laine, RFH review - a phenomenon at 90

David Nice

Ninety minutes of bottled sunshine from a great artist and human being, plus family

CD: Judith Owen - redisCOVERed

Thomas H Green

Admirably improbable set of cover versions is only partly successful

CD: Hailey Tuck - Junk

Thomas H Green

Jazz-pop newbie proves easy going but likeable

theartsdesk on Vinyl 39: Pink Floyd, Liines, Black Sabbath, Daniel Avery, Elvis and more

Thomas H Green

The truly epic monthly record review round-up

The Last Poets, Brighton Festival review - black power sets the night alight

Thomas H Green

After a slow start the progenitors of hip hop explode into life

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Barbican, review - a three-decade retrospective

Liz Thomson

American singer-songwriter reinvents her back-catalogue

Hailey Tuck, Rich Mix review - delightful but wobbly

Matthew Wright

Great concept, wonderful presence, but vocally erratic

Best Albums of 2018


theartsdesk's music critics pick their favourites of the year so far

CD: Ray LaMontagne - Part of the Light

Mark Kidel

Music for romantics that rocks as well as lulls

Reissue CDs Weekly: Yung Wu

Kieron Tyler

Feelies offshoot’s sole album is as good as those by its parent band

CD: Brad Mehldau Trio - Seymour Reads the Constitution!

Matthew Wright

Prolific improvising pianist creates the apotheosis of the piano trio

CD: Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino

Thomas H Green

Indie guitar heroes head into completely new terrain with fine results

Problem in Brighton, Brighton Festival review - comic but patchy rock show

Thomas H Green

David Shrigley's 'fun musical event' succeeds about half the time

CD: Ryley Walker - Deafman Glance

Kieron Tyler

Far-out and fractured fifth album from the idiosyncratic Chicago dweller

CD: Ry Cooder - The Prodigal Son

Mark Kidel

Stunning blast of stirring gospel and politics

CD: Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

Guy Oddy

Australian slacker queen’s star continues to rise

Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to celebrate Brighton Festival!


Enter our competition to win a spectacular weekend at England's finest arts festival

Pinkshinyultrablast, Band on the Wall, Manchester - glitch-pop madness from Russia’s finest

Javi Fedrick

Three-piece rule the room with their heavy beats and siren-like vocals

CD: RSO - Radio Free America

Guy Oddy

Ex-Bon Jovi guitarist and Alice Cooper’s present guitar-slinger celebrate their relationship in song

Reissue CDs Weekly: Burning Britain

Kieron Tyler

Deep-digging box set devoted to ‘Independent UK Punk 1980-1983’

CD: Simian Mobile Disco - Murmurations

Barney Harsent

Humanity and machinery blend beautifully on the producers' latest offering

CD: Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard - Perfectly Unhappy

Kieron Tyler

Intermittently striking union of Norwegian jazz combo and British saxophonist

CD: Jon Hopkins - Singularity

Mark Kidel

Dazzling rollercoaster of an inner journey

Jazz FM Awards 2018 - a banner year for Ezra Collective

Peter Quinn

Free jazz icons to bona fide jazz royalty are honoured at the fifth edition of the Awards

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

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