Pet Shop Boys
Reuniting with veteran producer Stuart Price for their second offering of a proposed triology, the 13th studio album from electro-pop duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe sees them reclaiming their corner of the dancefloor. On 2013’s Electric, Grammy-winning Price brought bright modern beats to the Pet Shop Boy’s proven pop formula, and that jubilant uptempo disco flavour continues onto Super. Storming opener Happiness is a full-on techno-house banger, the mainly beat-driven instrumental only broken up only by Tennant’s typically playful chorus. “It’s along way to happiness, a long way to go/ But I’m gonna get there boy, the only way I know,” sings the 61-year-old vocalist dryly, his storytelling still as sharp and witty as it was way back in the early 1980s, at the start of their long and celebrated career. The head-nodding, heart-racing rhythms continue with trancey lead single Inner Sanctum, and the infectious Groovy, a contemporary hands-in-the-air house anthem, while Undertow and The Pop Kids are pure PSB, bristling with an exuberant youthful energy.
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
Call it What it Is
(Concord Music Group)
Following last year’s reunion tour, Call it What it Is is the first studio album in eight years from Ben Harper and his roots backing band the Innocent Criminals. The prolific Harper has, of course, been busy since 2007’s Lifeline, releasing an album every other year during the group’s lengthy hiatus, but now “it was time” for the skating soulman to reunite with his long-time bandmates. One listen to clunky opener When Sex Was Dirty and you’ll wish they had stayed well away from each other. An awful stab at garage rock, it’s like Jack Johnson pretending to be The Ramones, but thankfully it’s just a strange misstep in a diverse and otherwise splendid collection of tunes. The blissed-out Deeper and Deeper and the sun-soaked hippie blues of Shine sees Harper and Co back in more familiar acoustic soul territory, while the title track is a heavy blues number calling out police violence and continuing in a similar vein that Harper took with gifted harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite on 2014’s acclaimed Get Up!
The Last Shadow Puppets
Everything You’ve Come to Expect
Eight years on from their The Age of Understatement debut, the long-awaited second full-length album from Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, and his songwriting buddy Miles Kane arrives with greater expectations, now that Turner is one of the world’s biggest rock stars. Produced, as was their debut, by Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, and featuring string arranger Owen Pallet along with a 29-piece orchestra, Everything You’ve Come to Expect oozes a brooding playboy sexyness throughout. Possibly, as Turner has stated, an influence of Isaac Hayes, or his relocation from Sheffield to Los Angeles. Expanding on their debut’s Scott Walker fixations, cinematic opener Aviation is driven by sweeping strings and a relaxed confidence that evokes The Verve’s heyday, while both Miracle Aligner and The Element of Surprise are warm soul pop gems. Used to be My Girl grooves with a desert rock slinkiness that Turner first explored on the Arctics’ Humbug, but it’s the poetic charisma of these debonair puppets throughout, that elevates EYCTE to an exciting level.
Miles Ahead Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
While its nigh on impossible to soundtrack a biopic of jazz trumpet legend Miles Davis with anything but wildly mesmerising music, choosing exactly which songs to feature from such an extensive back catalogue must have proved a daunting task for the producers of Miles Ahead. Wisely they went for a wide career-spanning selection that complements the mood of the film, rather than the simpler option of a collection of greatest hits, and while many of the tracks were edited in length, which will no doubt upset the purists, it does allow easier access to Davis’ music for the new listeners. From the 1953 title track to 1981’s Black Seat Betty, only Frelon Brun, Go Ahead John (Part 2), and the iconic So What avoid the editor’s cut. Interspersed among the music are excerpts of movie dialogue performed by Don Cheadle (who makes his directorial debut and stars as Davis) along with four original funky compositions from pianist Robert Glasper that sit neatly next to Davis’ inimitable jazz masterstrokes.