Midnight marks a new day for singer-songwriter Grace Potter, as the soul-rock frontwoman temporarily cuts loose from her rootsy Nocturnals bandmates to spread her pop wings on this debut solo album. Created with LA producer Eric Valentine, the slick commercial dance beats of Midnight are certainly a wild departure from the straight-ahead blues rock that led the 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist to open for The Rolling Stones and duet with a hip-shaking Mick on Gimme Shelter. Now sounding more like Donna Summer than Janis Joplin, the electro stomp of Look What We've Become strays warily close to Britney Spears' pop socks, but the Chic-esque Your Girl and the gospel-tinged Empty Heart make a rambunctious bid to pinch the country-pop crown right off the top of Taylor Swift's pretty barnet. On the stand-out ballads, The Miner and Nobody's Born With a Broken Heart, Potter is back on more familiar soul territory, where her vocals burn brighter without the added pop sheen. With stadium stardom beckoning, it may be quite a while before Potter's old sound ever sees the light of day again.
Man Plans God Laughs
With a career now in its fourth decade and having written one of the greatest politically charged rap songs of all time ( Fight the Power), seminal hip-hop granddaddies Public Enemy are entitled to make their 13th long player as short and sweet as they like. Clocking in at just 27 minutes and with only two of the tracks breaking the three-minute mark, Chuck D and gang are hitting hard and fast with "probably the most intense Public Enemy record of the century". From the first line of opener No Sympathy from the Devil, the 55-year-old emcee's baritone sledgehammer delivery remains reassuringly confrontational, PE's socially conscious civil rights message seemingly as relevant nowadays as it was on the release of their classic Fear of a Black Planet 25 years ago. Produced solely by G-Wiz and embracing the fresh progressive beats of today's hip hop, with plenty of samples of their own past glories, Chuck D and Flavor Flav still bark aggressively with passion on the powerful standout title track and Me to We, a call-and-response cry for black solidarity.
After eight years of belting out an unhinged cacophony, underground Melbourne punk rockers Deaf Wish make their full-length debut on Sub Pop, with the arrival of their fourth album, the 10-track dose of Pain. Now with the backing of the iconic alternative rock record label, a much wider audience surely beckons for the Aussie foursome who started with a guiding philosophy of punkish attitude: "Let's not make anything that's going to last. If we're together for just two shows, then that's what it is." Strolling nonchalantly down every avenue of indie noise, Deaf Wish jump with ease between the meditative Valentine drone of On, to the grievous Pistol fury of the title track. Often sounding like Iggy Pop fronting a charged Sonic Youth, Pain pulses to a beat of raw simplistic chaos as lead vocal duties are shared between guitarists Jensen Tjhung and Sarah Hardiman, bassist Nick Pratt and drummer Daniel Twomey, each brooding chorus or guttural yell drowning in a hypnotic wave of buzzing feedback and blisteringly distorted riffs. Sometimes pain can bring a whole lot of pleasure.
While I must admit that I enjoy a little boogie listening to the odd stomping '70s pub-rock tune from the young revivalist bands of today, there's no getting away from the fact that it was all done better in, well, the '70s. Compared to The Kinks, The Faces and The Stones, you'll always sound - sadly - like a glorified cover band. Say hello to The Strypes. The 2013 13-track Chris Thomas-produced debut Snapshot from Irish rockers Ross Farrelly and Co certainly divided opinion: either loved for its unapologetic homage to classic rhythm and blues, or loathed for its derivative immature dirge. But when you're as young and sprightly as these four fellows - they are all still teenagers - two years can be a long time to bloom and Little Victories sees a marked progression in forming their identity. Much like the Arctic Monkeys before them, funk and hip hop have played an important part in influencing the structure of the new songs. Unfortunately, so much so that A Good Night's Sleep and a Cab Fare Home and Get into It could easily be mistaken for the modern groove of Alex Turner and Co.