Tegan and Sara

Love You to Death

Warner Bros

★★★★

Having slogged away for 15 years, they could hardly have been considered overnight successes, but the genre-hopping Quin sisters, Tegan and Sara, certainly found a new level of stardom with their 2013 album, Heartthrob. They were transformed from indie darlings into Grammy-nominated pop queens so it may come as no surprise that the Canadian twins’ eighth album, Love You to Death, continues along the same slick, mainstream trajectory.

Even when they were churning out acoustic folk ditties, Tegan and Sara – who will be returning to Hong Kong for a live show at Kitec, in Kowloon Bay, on July 28 – were blessed with buoyant pop sensibilities and infectious melodies. Little has changed other than their method of delivery (and the arrival of a truckload of eye shadow). On the lead single, Boyfriend, the girls take a complex same-sex relationship and wrap it up in a sugary singalong disco romp. With 1990s synth-pop grooves bubbling throughout, Love You to Death – glossily produced once again by veteran hitmaker Greg Kurstin– is a pure pop album that displays no guilt at having indulged in adult pleasures.

Dan Le Sac

Cherished, Overthrown [06-16]

Available as a pay-as-you-want download on Bandcamp

★★★

As the glitchy beatmaker in electronic hip-hop duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Daniel Stephens created three albums of intense sonic soundscapes over which the bearded wordsmith dropped his rhymes of darkness. Both the producer and the Essex MC hit their creative peak on 2013’s Repent Replenish Repeat and, despite an accomplished 2012 solo album, Space Between the Words, Le Sac will probably be remembered by many as the man behind the laptop – because he was, after all, the intensely focused man behind the laptop, programming furious beats and rhythms while Pip unleashed poetic sermons.

 

 

Released 10 years to the day after his first gig as Dan Le Sac, the Pip-less Cherished, Overthrown [06-16], a body of sketches and ideas collected, tweaked and “given the love they need to be complete”, allows Le Sac’s music to do the talking. While they switch effortlessly between EDM grooves and chopped-up samples, the 11 numbers often feel like video-game soundtracks and, ultimately, the album has a Scroobius-sized hole in it.

Big Thief

Masterpiece

Saddle Creek

★★★★

Naming your debut album Masterpiece is a bold move. Adrianne Lenker, frontwoman of Brooklyn four piece Big Thief, backs up the claim by stating that the music “paints in vivid tones the process of harnessing pain, loss and love while simultaneously letting go, looking into your own eyes through someone else’s, and being OK with the inevitability of death”. It’s too early to tell whether this collection of lush emotional songs will prove to be Big Thief’s magnum opus, but even allowing for the intentional lo-fi static of opener Little Arrow, they are far from half-baked creations.

Lenker and her romantic partner, guitarist Buck Meek, had already recorded together – suggesting an immediate chemistry – and the full band flesh out their bittersweet narratives with a dynamic richness. Never too shy to drop a dreamy melody or an acerbic lyric, Big Thief also find room for a 90s-style scuzz-rock hook in many of their wistful ballads, including album centrepiece Real Love, which is ripped apart by a jarring guitar solo. Raw and hypnotising stuff.

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