Album reviews: Troye Sivan, Smoke Fairies, Enya, Hurricane #1
Sivan deserves the praise big names have been pushing his way, Smoke Fairies bring Yuletide magic and melancholy, Enya powers along gorgeously, and Hurricane #1 get upbeat
In any normal month, the debut album from dreamy YouTube sensation Troye Sivan (who has close to four million adoring followers) would likely be leading the way in monumental sales figures, but in December 2015, Blue Neighbourhood is being slightly overshadowed by a new record-shattering album from a certain soul songstress from Tottenham. But the youthful Australian pop singer needn’t worry. Adele, along with Taylor Swift and Sam Smith, it seems, are just as smitten by the brooding 20-year-old as are the Tumblr generation. Opener Wild, which Swift called “stunning and awesome”, is an anthemic slab of synth pop, which (along with the tracks Ease and Fools) first featured on Sivan’s Wild EP released earlier this year. Throughout the album, Sivan’s soft and melancholic vocals remain catchy in an almost effortless way. With a lyrical outpouring of honest and heartfelt reflections mixed with subtle R&B rhythms and haunting electronic beats, the young vocalist sounds remarkably wise and mature – and appears to have quite a future in store.
Full Time Hobby
Following on from the release of last year’s self-titled album, Wild Winter is the Smoke Fairies’ stab at a Christmas album, but this is no traditional celebration of merriment. There are no tinklings of sleigh bells or joyous cries to deck the halls to be heard across these 10 new seasonal tracks from the British dream-pop duo. Gorgeous and ethereal they may be, but jolly is far from the mood they bring. “Sometimes winter provides us with a sense of togetherness and love and sometimes it leaves us feeling alienated, cold and playing a glockenspiel alone in a darkened room. It’s part of the year that will always be bittersweet and wild,” the pair have said. There aren’t many Christmas albums that wallow so delightfully in the melancholy of a harsh winter bleakness, let alone include a cover of a Captain Beefheart song (Steal Softly Thru Snow), but right from the opener, Christmas Without a Kiss, with its moan of heavy bass, Wild Winter is enveloped in a charming tone of festive sadness.
Dark Sky Island
Eight years on from her last album, And Winter Came, New Age singer-songwriter Enya, the bestselling Irish solo artist of all time, returns with her eighth album, Dark Sky Island, and it’s very much business as usual – only bigger and brighter. Throughout a nearly 30-year career of lush orchestral arrangements and rolling Celtic dreamscapes, Enya’s luxuriously calm yet soaring voice has remained the star of the show, seemingly becoming more controlled and powerful as the years go by. Partly inspired by Sark, a small Channel Island with an exceptional night sky free of light pollution, Dark Sky Island reunites the angelic singer with her long-time collaborators, lyricist Roma and producer Nicky Ryan (and why not – the trio have sold over 75 millions records together) for 11 tracks of soothing spiritual electronica. “Night passes by/ Taking the stars/ So far away/ Everything flows,” she sings on the uplifting Echoes in Rain, on which layers of instrumentation build seamlessly as Enya’s vocals ring clear and crisp, a voice that remains captivating throughout.
Find What You Love and Let it Kill You
Sixteen years have passed since British indie band Hurricane #1 released their second album, Only the Strongest Will Survive, as they somewhat successfully rode the coattails of the infinitely greater bands of the Britpop era. The band formed by singer Alex Lowe and guitarist Andy Bell, who went on to play bass with Oasis and who just recently headlined Clockenflap with seminal shoegazers Ride, return with Find What You Love and Let it Kill You, an album mostly written while Lowe was in hospital undergoing treatment for cancer. Sans Bell, Lowe had the idea that the album should be happy and not too dark. “When you are wired up to chemo and radiotherapy, the last thing you want to do is wallow in it,” says the vocalist, stating he wanted to create a very organic album, “nothing fancy, just good tunes”. Glowing with an uplifting warmth and happiness, these 11 tracks of back-to-basics rock’n’roll are just that, built around glorious big-hook melodies that hark back to a time when the Gallagher brothers topped the charts.