Music reviews: Palma Violets, Emika, Ciara
Danger in the Club
Following their chaotic live shows and the brash garage punk of their 2013 debut, 180, the album that spawned their much-lauded single Best of Friends, London’s Palma Violets were championed as one of guitar rock’s brightest hopes.
Produced by John Leckie (Muse, Radiohead), the indie quartet’s second album, Danger in the Club, retains their youthful sweaty spirit and continues the same shambolic sing-along manifesto without ever really striving for anything too ambitious.
When Danger in the Club does break from the festival anthems (Gout! Gang! Go! and Coming Over to My Place) and Clash-lite formula (Girl, You Couldn’t Do Much Better on the Beach), it really begins to breathe, embracing a bittersweet and melancholic tone such as on the darkly sprawling Matador and the bar-room brawling Peter & the Gun.
Other than the doo-wop misstep of Walking Home, bassist Chilli Jesson and singer/guitarist Sam Fryer certainly channel their inner Jones and Strummer into rowdy and ramshackle harmonies, but overall Danger in the Club fails to capture the gang’s reckless live energy.
Reportedly written over a fortnight, DREI is EDM producer Ema Jolly's (aka Emika) second album of the year, and sees a return to her signature synth-heavy and vocal-laden electronica.
Following on from Klavirni, a collection of solo piano compositions released earlier this year on her eponymous record label after her departure from Ninja Tune, DREI leaves behind the twinkling of the ivories in favour of some "fat, hard beats".
Now based in Berlin, the classically trained Czech-born Brit says the self-produced album is "ultimately about freedom … the madness of being alone … the perils of a limitless creative mind" and kicks off in fine style with Battles, a dark ebb and flow of synth over a minimal drum beat as Emika clinically informs us, "I have battles/ Each one I win/ Says I want more".
The dark affair continues with the pulsating My Heart Bleeds Melody before the brooding Miracles Prelude ("Fighting a cause, where do you stand/ I stand for freedom baby, now give me your hands") leads into the icy trip-hop landscape of album highlight Miracles.
R&B's obsession with getting it on and its inevitable consequences never seem to lead to fallow ground. Inspired by the break-up of a relationship and the birth of her first son, R&B songstress Ciara's sixth album and the period leading up to it have certainly proved fruitful.
Jackie, named after her mother, sees the newly independent pop princess in remodel mood as she moves on from the rapper Future, her ex-fiancé and father of her son who featured on her 2013 single Body Party.
The heartbreaking lead single I Bet is quite obviously aimed at the long-gone Mr F. "But you thought the grass was greener on the other side," croons the 29-year-old Crunk&B diva over a shimmery drumbeat, "I bet you start loving me, as soon as I start loving someone else/ Somebody better than you". Despite the fervent stomp of One Woman Army and the pumped-up party anthem That's How I'm Feelin', featuring rap superstar Missy Elliott and mangy mutt Pitbull, the tempo is less booty bouncing and more subdued than that of previous albums. This is certainly not one to shake the dance floor.