Four albums worth a listen: By the Cult, Tindersticks, Basia Bulat and Little Green Cars
Here's our third round-up of 2016 of four current, recent and forthcoming record releases worth a listen.
More will follow as the year goes on.
The Cult: Hidden City
The Cult are reunited with Canadian producer Bob Rock for their 10th album, and they’re certainly ready to rock this time round.
As was the case with its most recent predecessor, 2012’s Choice of Weapon, also overseen, partially, by Metallica and Michael Bublé producer Rock, and 1989’s Sonic Temple, the 61-year-old’s first collaboration with the band, this is as straightforward a rock record as they are ever likely to turn out.
Gone are the goth leanings of their early days as Southern Death Cult and the more industrial sound they experimented with on the second of the five LPs they’ve made with Rock, 1994’s self-titled album, and taking centre stage instead are the crowd-pleasing riffs and radio-friendly choruses of their mid-1980s heyday.
This is classic Cult from start to finish, given the customary combination of polish and power that is Rock’s trademark sound, and it’s quite possibly their best effort since Sonic Temple. It very much deserved to see the group, due to play at Newcastle City Hall next month, back in the top 10 for the first time in almost quarter of a century but had to settle for being a new entry at No 19 in Friday’s chart, making it their biggest hit since 1993.
Frontman Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, the band’s only ever-presents since their formation in Bradford in West Yorkshire in 1983 and reunions in 1999 and 2005 after splitting up in 1995 and 2002 respectively, are on top form here, the former’s singing being as accomplished as he’s ever managed, even when crooning, as on Birds of Paradise, and Duffy isn’t afraid to dispense with the restraint he’s shown over recent years, for whatever reason, and recall past glories to excellent effect.
Among the highlights of Hidden City’s dozen tracks are Avalanche of Light, featuring a refrain reminiscent of the 1980 Robert Palmer single Johnny and Mary, and the sparse ballad Hinterland, but, in truth, there’s not a single duffer here.
Tindersticks: The Waiting Room
It’s their first album of new material for four years, but alternative rock act Tindersticks’ latest offering, their 10th, is well worth waiting for.
The Waiting Room, a No 71 hit, traverses much the same territory that the Nottinghamshire band have been negotiating for the last 24 years, sometimes yielding diminishing returns but more often hitting heights comparable with the more memorable moments of their distinguished past.
Here and there, a sense of treading water is discernible, but elsewhere the band, coming to the Sage Gateshead in May, appear willing to stray slightly out of their comfort zone, though never too far.
The standout track among the 11 tunes here is Hey Lucinda, a duet with the late US singer Lhasa de Sela recorded in 2009 but shelved following her death from cancer the year after at the age of 37. The decision to resurrect it as a tribute to de Sela is a sound one as frontman Stuart Staples’ duets have always been among the highlights of his career with Tindersticks and solo as the 50-year-old’s low, earthbound vocals, occasionally harshly likened to Vic Reeves’ impressions of a pub singer on the comedy panel show Shooting Stars, benefit from the counterpoint and uplift afforded by a female voice. This one is worthy to rank among the best of his duets, offering more than the odd echo of 1995’s Travelling Light with Carla Torgerson and 2006’s This Road is Long with Maria McKee.
Basia Bulat: Good Advice
I’m not sure how much good advice is on offer on Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat’s fourth album, but you’d be well advised to give it a listen.
The 31-year-old has abandoned the tasteful indie folk of its predecessors for something altogether bolder and brasher, coming across like a less whinge-prone Adele, and her voice sounds better than ever, combining self-confidence and vulnerability well.
Opening track La La Lie offers a pleasing twist on the ever-popular use of la-la-las in choruses, and the nine songs that follow maintain the high standard it sets.
Little Green Cars: Ephemera
Irish indie pop act Little Green Cars’ second album, Ephemera, gets off to a cracking start with the single The Song They Play Every Night, but that proves a hard act for the ensuing 11 tracks to follow.
Nothing else here is as instant or memorable as that opening shot, but that possibly says more about its merits than any lack of quality elsewhere.
There is certainly a fair amount of variety on offer, ranging from breezy pop, to sensitive folk-style ballads to more uptempo material not a million miles away from New Order.