ROYAL BLOOD How Did We Get So Dark? ★★★ Warner Bros

Or­dained as the saviours of Bri­tish rock (com­mer­cially if not cre­atively) Royal Blood’s sopho­more re­lease fol­lows the same melodic, lyri­cally in­nocu­ous, riff-heavy course as their de­but with any rough edges fur­ther soft­ened to broaden their ap­peal. Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher’s bass and drums combo has its charms. Like Muse with­out the histri­on­ics, Lights Out and How Did We Get So

Dark? show­case the duo’s air­tight mu­si­cian­ship and knack for ra­dio-ready tunes, I Only Lie

When I Love You car­ries a snotty Fu­ture of the Left vibe and Kerr unashamedly in­dulges his Queens of the Stone Age fan­dom on Looks Like You Know. It’s all quite one-di­men­sional how­ever leav­ing the im­pres­sion of a col­lec­tion pri­mar­ily de­signed to make live venues shake and shud­der un­der its weight. roy­al­blood­

FLEET FOXES Crack-Up ★★★ None­such Records

For a while, it seemed like we might never hear a third Fleet Foxes al­bum after front­man Robin Pec­knold ab­sconded to Columbia Univer­sity, but the fol­low-up to 2011’s Help­less­ness Blues sees the Seat­tle band at some­thing of a cross­roads. Crack-Up is an al­to­gether more pon­der­ous record, with lyrics mus­ing on life and a mu­si­cal blue­print that di­verges from what came be­fore. There are al­to­gether fewer sin­ga­longs and more in­cur­sions into long pas­sages, key changes and pro­gres­sive time sig­na­tures. The band’s har­monies and Pec­knold’s im­pec­ca­ble vo­cals re­tain their recog­nis­able style on the gor­geous Na­iads, Cas­sadies and the dream­like I Should See

Mem­phis. That con­coc­tion makes for an al­bum that’s un­doubt­edly more in­ter­est­ing than their pre­vi­ous fare, but also per­haps less en­joy­able. Fleet­

THE STRYPES Spit­ting Im­age ★★★★ Vir­gin/EMI

Third al­bum in and The Strypes look as if they have fi­nally bro­ken their teenage r&b habit and de­vel­oped into a band full of the joys of adult­hood. Go­ing from what is es­sen­tially proto-punk to the can­nier end of the class of 1978/’79 (Squeeze, The Jam, early Elvis Costello and the At­trac­tions, The Pre­tenders) seems a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion, and it is to The Strypes’s credit that they have ad­vanced with such flair. While they’re still in thrall to their in­flu­ences, what’s dif­fer­ent here is that the song­writ­ing comes from a level of se­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ence. Grin and Bear It emits shades of Squeeze (“she took a test when she was late, moved into the new es­tate . . .”), while

Easy Rid­ing is a snappy Nick Lowe of­f­cut. So much for grow­ing pains – it seems com­ing of age wasn’t too dif­fi­cult, after all.

RIDE Weather Di­aries ★★★ Wi­chita Record­ings

The shoegaze re­nais­sance con­tin­ues apace. Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of My Bloody Valen­tine and Slow­dive, Ride are the lat­est to mark their re­union with new ma­te­rial. Weather Di­aries is the Ox­ford quar­tet’s first al­bum since 1996 and it sounds like the in­ter­ven­ing 21 years never hap­pened. Rather than rein­vent or up­date their sound, Mark Gar­dener and co have largely stuck to their tried-and-tested for­mula and songs like Lan­noy

Point and Cali ably tick the “dreamy”, “squally” and “wall of sound” boxes, while Lat­eral Alice and All I Want in­tro­duce a bristling en­ergy and up­beat cho­ruses into the mix. Else­where, pro­ducer Erol Alkan’s in­flu­ence can be most keenly felt on the elec­tronic mur­mur of Rocket Sil­ver

Sym­phony, but over­all this is a record made for fans rather than one to sway new con­verts.

BETH DITTO Fake Su­gar ★★★ Vir­gin

Beth Ditto has got her swag­ger back. Hav­ing spent her time as Gossip front­woman talk­ing about gay rights, equal­ity and other po­lit­i­cal fare, her de­but solo al­bum ar­rives at a time when such is­sues are high on many agen­das, so such forth­right views could not be more nec­es­sary or es­sen­tial. Just as im­por­tant are the sounds she ex­plores here, as she saun­ters with style from pop to disco to rock to stom­pers in­cor­po­rat­ing all of the above. She does so with the help of r’n’b pro­ducer Jen­nifer De­cil­veo, who has just the right tem­plates to show off what Ditto is ca­pa­ble of.

Fire pirou­ettes with great, sassy con­fi­dence, and on the mag­netic giddy pulse of Oo La La and In and

Out, Ditto has found the kind of groove that best suits her cut and thrust. A su­gar high that bodes well for where she goes next. twit­

ALL WE ARE Sunny Hills ★★★ Dou­ble Six

If you’re ex­pect­ing more of the warm, tran­quil pop that coloured All We Are’s de­but al­bum from 2015, think again. De­spite the name, Sunny Hills is a beast of a darker hue, as Richard O’Flynn, Luis San­tos, Guro Gik­ling and pro­ducer Kwes go all in on a much dif­fer­ent and edgier slate of sounds. The re­sult is an al­bum of abra­sive and tougher tex­tures and hues than was the case with their de­but. Tracks such as Burn

it all Out and Hu­man dis­play­ing much more in­ten­sity and mus­cle. It’s a wel­come change with the band em­bel­lish­ing tracks with the kind of thump­ing post-punk fix­tures and fit­tings that makes the tracks re­ally stand out from the can­vas. Such a brac­ing state of af­fairs comes across as a real state­ment about the cur­rent moods of chas­sis and change. face­­sisall­weare

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