sat 04/07/2020

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Album: The Jayhawks - XOXO

Russ Coffey

If one song best captures the overall mood of XOXO, it's the Beatles-meets-country strains of "Living in a Bubble". The punchy lyrics offer a timely warning about the effect of 24-hour news. The real impact, however, comes from the gentle, acoustic textures that usher you back to a pre-digital age. That's XOXO all over. Despite the teenager on the cover, this is really a record that exudes wisdom and experience.

Album: Polly Scattergood - In This Moment

Thomas H Green

A decade ago, Polly Scattergood was Mute Records’ newest, most-likely-to signing and, while she never crossed over like similar unconventional female artists of the period (Bat For Lashes, St Vincent, Anna Calvi, etc), she has a developed a cult following.

Glastonbury Festival 2020: Beyoncé, Boo-Yaa T.R.I...

Caspar Gomez

Coronavirus blah blah blah. Glastonbury cancelled. What to do? Didn’t go to the 2010 festival for reasons too tedious to go into. Suffered the worst...

Album: Willie Nelson - First Rose of Spring

Liz Thomson

Listening to Willie Nelson’s latest album is like pulling on a pair of beloved beat-up cowboy boots. The declarative vocal over simple guitar, a...

Romeo and Michele Stodart Present… The Thank-You...

Liz Thomson

It’s 15 years since two schoolfriends with a passion for acoustic music opened Green Note in London’s Camden Town, their goal to create “somewhere...

Album: Paul Weller - On Sunset

Mark Kidel

Another near-perfect album from the Modfather

Reissue CDs Weekly: Razorcuts - Storyteller, The World Keeps Turning

Kieron Tyler

Definitive overview of the UK indie-popsters reveals their rapid development

Album: Sparks - A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

Nick Hasted

Arch rhymes and secreted emotion from veteran LA ironists

Album: HAIM - Women in Music Pt. III

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Energy and experimentation from sister trio at the top of their game

Album: Nadine Shah – Kitchen Sink

Kathryn Reilly

A fresh look at women's woes from one who knows

New Music Lockdown 12: Glastonbury Festival Special

Thomas H Green

Check out the wealth of online happenings that make up Glastonbury 2020

Album: Khruangbin - Mordechai

Barney Harsent

The Texan three-piece are hard to pin down, but easy to love

Album: Dream Wife - So When You Gonna…

Guy Oddy

Arts punks’ sophomore effort dashes expectations

Reissue CDs Weekly: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art

Kieron Tyler

California-inspired collaboration between two American greats sounds better than ever

Album: John Legend - Bigger Love

Nick Hasted

Soulman as new man, in variations on clean-cut romance

Album: [MONRHEA] - her[ART]

Thomas H Green

Debut from female Kenyan electronic producer showcases innovation and possibility

New Music Lockdown 11: Make Music Day, Greenpeace Festival, Tiny Changes, Kasabian and more

Thomas H Green

This week's selection of the most striking new online music events to enjoy from home

Album: Neil Young - Homegrown

Barney Harsent

The unearthing of the singer-songwriter's long-lost album turns up moments of pure gold

Album: Michael Franti & Spearhead - Work Hard & Be Nice

Guy Oddy

Ex-Beatnig and Disposable Hero of Hiphoprisy lurches towards the middle of the road

Album: Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

Mark Kidel

Poetry and romance for an age of disillusion

Reissue CDs Weekly: John Lee Hooker - Documenting The Sensation Recordings 1948-1952

Kieron Tyler

Definitive chronicle of the legendary blues-man’s earliest recording sessions

CD: Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways

Tim Cumming

Bob returns with an unadulturated, stone-cold masterpiece

Album: Norah Jones – Pick Me Up Off the Floor

Sebastian Scotney

Strong songwriting captures the mood of the times

Album: Larkin Poe - Self Made Man

Thomas H Green

Female-fronted blues-rock stalwarts return with the songs and enough range to carry the day

New Music Lockdown 10: Download Festival, Isle of Wight Festival, Gorillaz and a 48 Hour EDM Rave

Thomas H Green

The latest selection of online musical extravaganzas to enjoy from home

Album: Jehnny Beth - To Love Is To Live

Nick Hasted

Former Savages leader lets her guard down

Laura Marling, Union Chapel, YouTube review - communication breakdown

Liz Thomson

Solo performance in empty venue doesn't make involving viewing

EP: Imelda May - Slip of the Tongue

Mark Kidel

Spirited poems from Irish rockabilly queen

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Belfast Gypsies

Kieron Tyler

Definitive statement on the band Van Morrison can’t have coveted while with Them

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

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