London Grammar sound so much like another particular London band that their albums should come with an ‘X’ on the cover (the xx, for those who don’t recognise the allusion). ‘Strong’ is the (ahem) strongest track off their first album. Singer Hannah Reid’s voice might be reminiscent of a thousand X-Factor contestants, but the way she delivers the line ‘I’ve never been so wrong’ hints at a wellspring of regret that most of those other kiddies can only dream of expressing.
2. AM (album) – Arctic Monkeys
The Monkeys’ new album got a rare, but not wholly unexpected, 10/10 from New Musical Express. It’s not quite that good, but it’s my favourite album by the band so far, with the possible exception of their previous album, ‘Suck It And See’. I always thought the early Arctic Monkeys albums were a bit overrated, and I think they’ve been a better band ever since their stint with Josh Homme as producer. Even post-Homme, there’s a heavier Queens of the Stone Age-like edge to their sound now, rather than them coming across like a bunch of teenage boys shouting out the clever lyrics they scribbled down at the pub.
Eric Clapton had ‘Layla’, the Kinks had ‘Lola’, Oasis had ‘Lyla’, and the Maccabees continue to show what the best syllable is in the pop language (except for maybe ‘na’ and ‘yeah’). Coming from their album ‘Given To The Wild’, this track makes me think of a camera racing across blue sky and open plains. For others it might make them think of ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’ books.
It was hard to pick where the Arcade Fire might go after ‘The Suburbs’ – this track manages to seem like a natural progression and a sharp left turn at the same time. It grooves along for over seven and a half minutes, not really shifting around that much, but it still might well be the most compelling Arcade Fire track since ‘Rebellion (Lies)’. David Bowie does backing vocals and Regine Chassagne sings in French, adding to ‘Reflektor’s’ THIS IS IMPORTANT! Factor.
Sugar are kind of the forgotten group of early ‘90s US alternative rock, in part because they were spawned out of mid ‘80s US alternative rock, with leader Bob Mould previously having been part of Husker Du. Their album ‘Copper Blue’ though is as good as anything produced by younger similar bands of the period. Think a more accomplished Urge Overkill, or a less manic Frank Black. ‘Hoover Dam’ veers more towards ‘arena rock’ than some of Sugar’s other output, but does it brilliantly.