Trou­ble­some, un­apolo­getic, ir­ri­tat­ing? A pop song­writer of the high­est or­der? Yes, Lily Allen has her mo­ments ei­ther way, but strip away all of the celeb chit-chat and you’re left with this ques­tion: is she re­ally any good? Judg­ing by Sheezus, her first al­bum since 2009’s ex­cel­lent It’s Not Me, It’s You, Allen is very good in­deed – her pop nous is sec­ond to none, and her lyric writ­ing re­mains pithy, amus­ing, satir­i­cal and di­rect. Sheezus is pro­duced by Greg Kurstin (who also co-wrote a few tracks), and Allen’s themes touch on body im­age, misog­yny, sex, and the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women in pop mu­sic – topics that are bound to be in­ter­preted in var­i­ous ways. What­ever. Some songs don’t fully work (no­tably the coun­try twang of As Long as I Got You) and Air Bal­loon owes a too ob­vi­ous debt to MIA’s Paper Planes. But mostly Sheezus is supreme pop, pure and not by any means sim­ple. lilyallen mu­

Par­lophone Down­load: Air Bal­loon, URL Bad­man, Sil­ver Spoon


Natalie Mer­chant None­such Down­load: Giv­ing Up Ev­ery­thing, Mag­gie Said An epony­mous ti­tle for Natalie Mer­chant’s sixth solo al­bum (and her first of all-new songs in 13 years) is ei­ther a fail­ure of imag­i­na­tion or a sign of a ma­jor state­ment. Con­sid­er­ing the per­sonal roller­coaster Mer­chant has ex­pe­ri­enced since 2001’s Moth­er­land (mar­ried, mother, di­vorced), it’s not sur­pris­ing that this new one weighs heav­ily on re­flex­iv­ity and re­flec­tion. There is weari­ness and hurt in her voice, but also a de­ter­mi­na­tion to carry on. It re­mains an ex­tra­or­di­nary voice, as old as the hills and as mys­te­ri­ous, yet also fa­mil­iar, warm and pas­sion­ate. Mag­gie Said, Go Down, Moses, It’s a Com­ing and cen­tre­piece, Giv­ing Up Ev­ery­thing have the in­ten­sity and sheen of Mer­chant’s best work. It takes time, and there is the odd ex­cess (eg the strings on La­dy­bird), but Natalie Mer­chant, at 50, re­mains a sin­gu­lar talent. na­tal­iemer­


Lu­mi­nous XL Record­ings They were ini­tially pur­vey­ors of al­most com­i­cally the­atri­cal psych-punk with their de­but al­bum, Strange House (2007). Since then The Hor­rors have evolved quite beau­ti­fully into a band with real cre­ative depth. The Southend band’s fourth al­bum has that sense of der­ringdo while laugh­ing in the face of con­sis­tency. Baggy Mad­ch­ester vibes abound on Chas­ing Shad­ows, while the elec­tronic depths first plumbed on Sky­ing (2011) are in­ten­si­fied on the glit­tery throb of In and Out of Sight and I See You, the lat­ter’s nod to Gior­gio Moroder-es­que synths pro­vid­ing a glitsy dis­coball un­der­cur­rent. The churn­ing psy­che­delic lay­ers of Jeal­ous Sun sound like their older ma­te­rial, while the hazy Mine and Yours pil­fers a scratchy Hen­drix-style riff. Eclec­tic? Cer­tainly. Con­fused? Pos­si­bly. Lu­mi­nous? If you have the pa­tience for re­peat lis­tens, def­i­nitely. the­hor­rors. Down­load: I See You, Mine and Yours

Loma Vista

An al­bum which has been around the houses (orig­i­nally re­leased in 2012 but only now re­ceiv­ing an Ir­ish out­ing), Loma Vista is a riot of sunny-side-up har­monies and melodies. You’ve ex­pe­ri­enced these tex­tures and those Beach Boys/Fleet Foxes touch­stones be­fore (and not just on the LA band’s de­but al­bum, Song­book), but that doesn’t make the ex­pe­ri­ence any less plea­sur­able. Fam­ily of the Year have a lovely knack for knock­ing out bright, glee­ful sounds with folk and pop frills blow­ing this way and that. Le Croix, The Stairs and Hero cap­ture the Fam­ily way, pow­ered by laid­back croons, gen­tle strums and those heav­enly har­monies. One won­ders where they can go from here with this par­tic­u­lar con­fec­tion, es­pe­cially with these stylis­tic map ref­er­ences. But that’s a quib­ble to be tack­led an­other time. fam­i­ly­

Down­load: St Croix, Hero


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