By a strange coincidence, the albums I’ve acquired lately are all by the British (and Irish) female artists and feature moody black-and-white cover photos. They are however nothing alike musically.
Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Every time an artist I really like releases a new album my reaction is half excitement, half trepidation – what if it’s no good? Luckily it’s three for three so far for Florence. The reviews I’ve read billed this as a more subdued, intimate offering, and while that’s somewhat true it only really feels reigned in by comparison to Ceremonials, where the melodrama and bombast were cranked up to 11. That album remains my favourite, but a slight change in direction is a smart move, there’re only so many tribal drums and viking warrior vocals you can do before it becomes repetitive. While for me the new album doesn’t have an individual standout track like Rabbit Heart or What The Water Gave Me, the songs are all strong and Florence’s voice is still marvellous, with a few of the songs displaying a new delicacy. It’s a damn shame I’ll be missing out on her live shows this time around.
Jessie Ware – Tough Love
When I first listened to this I kinda went, nah thanks not for me, too polite, too beige, too smooth, too much like dinner party background music. But first impressions aren’t always right; after I gave it more time I realised that this collection of songs about love, romance and heartbreak actually falls on the good side of refined soul-pop. It’s still too polished for the songs to have any real emotional punch, but Ware’s vocals are fantastic and at its best it’s the kind of classy, sophisticated stuff Sade used to make (and I love me some Sade).
SOAK – Before We Forgot How to Dream
A rather wonderful and promising debut album by a teenage singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland. It’s got the kind of shimmering, melancholic vibe that can only come from the British Isles; it makes me think of walking down some northern beach on an overcast day, looking out at the vast grey ocean. Most of the music is guitar, with some violins and piano thrown here and there. The mournful, wistful mood can get a bit samey over an album’s length, but the idiosyncratic vocals and the general loveliness make it a good listen.
Georgia – Georgia
Another debut album, this time by a London girl called Georgia (GEoRGiA) Barnes. Rather hard to describe; she’s a musical magpie in that she throws in all sorts of samples and elements to create her own unique electronic chaos. The second track for instance samples a cassette she was given by a Pakistani cab driver, apparently. There’s one track that resembles MIA a lot, but otherwise this feels completely original, fresh and a whole lot of fun to listen to.