Music reviews: Joss Stone, Tame Impala, Little Boots
From a dodgy venture into reggae to a diva's weird pop and some Australian alt-psych pop, we've a mixed bag of albums here for you
Formed as a bedroom recording project by Perth native Kevin Parker, Australian alt-psych/pop outfit Tame Impala hit paydirt in 2012 with the anthemic track Elephant taken from their sonically expansive album Lonerism.
Topping many year-end polls, it was a busy kaleidoscopic album, resplendent with infectious pop melodies. For its eagerly awaited follow up, the self-produced Currents, Parker had promised a slightly more minimal record, to “use only what’s needed – instead of a supreme pizza, where you just throw everything on”.
Parker’s claims that a defining moment, listening to the Bee Gees coked out and on mushrooms, had a “profound emotional effect” on him, and it certainly sounds true on the funkadelic The Less I Know the Better, as the band’s typical fuzzy rock gives way to full-bodied disco.
Opener Let it Happen adds a Daft Punk groove to its dense eightminute synth-rock journey. Obviously Parker’s recent collaboration with Mark Ronson, on the producer’s Uptown Special album, made a strong impression on the stoner studio wizard.
Tame Impala Currents (Modular Recordings)
Other than well-known actors exploring their musical whims, there’s barely a phrase that sends shivers of dread coursing up and down the spine more than “I’m going to make a reggae album”.
On her seventh album, Water for Your Soul, the revered British soul singer Joss Stone has walked down that worrying path. Four years in the making and released on her own imprint, the album draws from Stone’s globetrotting adventures and her work with Damian Marley.
“The songs we’ve created are heavily rooted in that [reggae] sound,” Stone has said. “There’s also the Irish fiddles, the sarod, the tablas, the flamenco guitar.”
Lead single The Answer, cowritten with reggae star Dennis Bovell, attempts to pack most of these influences into one song and sounds like the jumbled pig’s ear you’d imagine.
Stuck on You sees Stone on more familiar ground, her soulful croon interweaving with the backing vocals and hand drums to form an almost hip-hop flow. It’s far better than it sounds, which is more than can be said for the ganja-loving Sensimilla.
Joss Stone Water for Your Soul (Stone’d Records)
The third album from the classically trained British singer Victoria Hesketh (aka Little Boots) opens with the track Intro, and an answering machine message from the independent record label that she runs, strongly encouraging us to “go make something happen”.
After her previous major record label was pushing for a British Gaga, Hesketh has now assumed complete control of her image and creative direction, and she follows up the thumping club melodies of 2013’s Nocturnes with a newfound freedom to make “the most poppy music in the most weird way I can”.
Produced with help from synthwave musician Com Truise and Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Madonna), Working Girl is packed to the brim with soaring discoelectropop and is likely to soundtrack many summers.
Driven by a funky bassline, Get Things Done pits Hesketh’s breezy vocals against a Janet Jackson pop hook, while No Pressure leans heavily towards a ‘90s dance-floor filler, and breezy single Better in the Morning with its bubbly do-do-dos will bury itself in your head before you can say “hypnotic pop gem”.
Little Boots Working Girl (On Repeat Records)