wed 27/01/2021

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Album: Steve Hackett - Under A Mediterranean Sky

Liz Thomson

Never have the early months of the year felt more cruel. Escape is what we all yearn for - from home, from ourselves and our shrunken lives. Never has music been more important to us and, over the last few days, I’ve had Steve Hackett’s new acoustic album playing and replaying as I’ve worked at long-overdue practical tasks. And while thoughts of Spain are bittersweet just now, I’m loving Under A Mediterranean Sky, which has energised me, despite all.

Album: Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams

Thomas H Green

“Hope”, from the debut album by 20 year old London singer-songwriter Arlo Parks, has a perfect chorus for these times. Blissed piano chords, lazy funk beats, lusciously upbeat synth dreaminess, and on top of it all, her sweet, airy voice offering support: “You’re not alone like you think you are.” It seems directed at those who quarantine isolation has swirled down into a dark place.

Reissue CDs Weekly: Richard Hell & The...

Kieron Tyler

"Three plus versions of the same album. It’s ridiculous, but I’m glad.” The first paragraph of Richard Hell’s text in the booklet accompanying...

Album: Bicep - Isles

Mark Kidel

Bicep's second album fufills the promise of the first, released in 2017 to wide acclaim. Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar, friends since childhood...

Album: Wardruna - Kvitravn

Guy Oddy

Norway’s Wardruna have proved to be an unlikely international musical success, both within Scandinavia and further afield, since releasing their 2009...

Album: Eminem - Music To Be Murdered By Side B

Nick Hasted

Diminishing returns in Slim's Psycho II

Album: Cerys Matthews, Hidden Orchestra & 10 Poets - We Come From The Sun

Katie Colombus

An evocative soundscape of poetry and music

Album: Passenger – Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted

Liz Thomson

Former Brighton busker lacks hidden depths

Reissue CDs Weekly: John Mayall - The First Generation

Kieron Tyler

Massive box-set tribute to the important British musical visionary

Album: Sleaford Mods - Spare Ribs

Kathryn Reilly

A searing scream in the face of Boris, the virus and the shit show that is 2020s Britain

10 Questions for Musician and Broadcaster Cerys Matthews

Sebastian Scotney

Thoughts on an album which places poets centre-stage

Gillam, Hallé, Bloxham, Hallé online review - music of poetry

Robert Beale

Turbulence, calm, and long, slow melodies in a concert commemorating 2020

Album: Skyway Man - The World Only Ends When You Die

Thomas H Green

Warm psychedelic Californian indie-gospel-country ruminations on the path to the beyond

Album: Katy Carr - Providence

Tim Cumming

Post-war Hampstead takes centre stage in the conclusion to Katy Carr's trilogy

Album: New Age Doom - Himalayan Dream Techno

Guy Oddy

Eerie drone music from the forests of British Columbia

Album: Hilang Child - Every Mover

Kieron Tyler

Directness competes with the impressionistic on Ed Riman’s second album

Reissue CDs Weekly: Charles Mingus @ Bremen 1964 & 1975

Kieron Tyler

Live recordings where the jazz great wouldn’t ‘tone down his performance to meet the audience’s tastes’

Album: Viagra Boys - Welfare Jazz

Thomas H Green

Stockholm punks impress with heart and musical range on their second album

Album: Steve Earle & The Dukes - JT

Liz Thomson

JT, RIP: Steve Earle's loving tribute to his son

Albums of the Year 2020: Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

Mark Kidel

The gifted young and the old reflect on troubled times

Albums of the Year 2020: Maria Schneider Orchestra - Data Lords

Peter Quinn

A dazzling double album from the acclaimed composer, arranger and bandleader

Albums of the Year 2020: Drive-By Truckers - The Unraveling

Nick Hasted

Sorrow and anger at a trampled American Dream

Reissue CDs Weekly: Lost Innocence - Garpax 1960s Punk & Psych

Kieron Tyler

High-octane collection of engineer-producer Gary Paxton’s excursions into garage rock

Albums of the Year 2020: A.G. Cook – 7G

Harry Thorfinn-George

A mammoth 49 song post-post-modern riot of sound

Albums of the Year 2020: Joensuu 1685 - ÖB

Kieron Tyler

The welcome return of Finland’s spiritual explorers

Albums of the Year 2020: AC/DC - Power Up

Russ Coffey

Was classic rock the best escape from the 2020 blues?

Albums of the Year 2020: Laura Marling - Song for Our Daughter

Katie Colombus

A strangely prophetic yet comforting album for our times

Albums of the Year 2020: Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Making space for the things we don't talk about in quarantine times

Reissue CDs Weekly: Looking back at 2020

Kieron Tyler

Kenny Carter, Game Theory, Norwegian jazz, The Stooges, Hank Williams and more

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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