sat 21/05/2022

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Album: Harry Styles - Harry's House

Thomas H Green

Harry Styles’ previous two albums sounded like someone rifling pleasantly through the history of pop and rock, but always genially and politely. More entertaining than his scalpels-ready critics wished when One Direction paused in 2016, those albums still didn’t fully hold together as bodies of work. Harry’s House does.

MØ, Heaven, London review - snappy, sexy and energized

Thomas H Green

“I live to survive another heartache/I live to survive another mistake,” roars a sold-out Heaven. It’s a new song but everyone seems to know it. It’s not MØ’s most famous song but is the bluntest monster banger of the night, crunching four-to-the-floor club-pop that brooks no argument. It’s the last of the set (prior to an encore) and MØ is now a perspiring ball of energy.

Album: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Dirt Does Dylan

Liz Thomson

I have to confess, it’s a long time since I’ve thought about the Nitty Gritty Dirty Band and a new album serves as a reminder of how good they were,...

Tallies, Old Blue Last review - Canadian quintet...

Kieron Tyler

Toronto’s Tallies have acknowledged their fondness for Aztec Camera, The Smiths and The Sundays. Add Cocteau Twins into the building blocks, too....

Album: Lykke Li - EYEYE

Harry Thorfinn-George

Swedish singer Lykke Li has called her new album Eyeye “her most intimate work to date”. In regard to Lykke Li’s music, this feels almost impossible...

Charli XCX, O2 Academy, Glasgow review - sweat-drenched pop amid feverish atmosphere

Jonathan Geddes

The singer's commanding presence overcame a slick production

Album: Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel

Tom Carr

Manchester indie art-rockers experiment successfully with musical AI

The Great Escape 2022, Brighton review - sunshine, queues, and thrilling new bands

Caspar Gomez

theartsdesk's intrepid duo spend a day trawling the multi-venue seaside festival for musical kicks

Album: Mavis Staples and Levon Helm - Carry Me Home

Mark Kidel

Good enough gospel but a little too bland

Music Reissues Weekly: 999 - A Punk Rock Anthology

Kieron Tyler

Entry point compilation into the band who ‘seem to have lost control’

Transgressive Records showcase, The Great Escape, Brighton review - five acts offer intriguing pop alternatives

Thomas H Green

Let's Eat Grandma, The Waeve, Mykki Blanco and more set the south coast a-buzz

Album: Kendrick Lamar - Mr Morale & the Big Steppers

Joe Muggs

The philosopher-king of hip hop culture ventures ever inwards: but will he become too dour?

Album: Dubstar - Two

Thomas H Green

1990s pop duo return with a lush exercise in likeable, wistful melancholy

theartsdesk Q&A: Marc Almond of Soft Cell

Harry Thorfinn-George

The Eighties icon tells how Andy Warhol, Chernobyl, nostalgia and the colour purple inspired the first Soft Cell album in 20 years

Album: Van Morrison - What's It Gonna Take?

Nick Hasted

Pernicious lockdown conspiracies, leavened by depressed confessions

Clubbing with the Stones: Live at El Mocambo

Tim Cumming

Prior to their European tour, one of the band's finest ever gigs sees the light of day

theartsdesk in Estonia: Tallinn-Narva Music Week review - solidarity through music on the Russian border

Kieron Tyler

Where there is no place for barriers

Album: Florence + the Machine - Dance Fever

Guy Oddy

Lockdown brings out the pop-progger in Florence Welch

theartsdesk Radio Show 33: Ukraine special - musicians and artists direct from Ukraine, with co-host Anastasia Piliavsky

Peter Culshaw

Ukraine as a cultural space between tired Europe and psychopathic terrorist Russia

alt-J, Barrowland, Glasgow review - unlikely anthems from the shadows

Jonathan Geddes

The Leeds band kept their distance during a variable set

Album: The Waterboys - All Souls Hill

Joe Muggs

Mike Scott's ever-evolving troubadours attempt modernisation with mixed success

Music Reissues Weekly: Kokomo - To Be Cool

Kieron Tyler

Previously unheard sessions by the soul-funk outfit characterise pre-punk Britain’s patchwork-quilt music scene

Album: Emeli Sandé - Let's Say For Instance

Thomas H Green

The popular singer moves further into commonplace mainstream fare

Album: Congotronics International - Where’s The One?

Howard Male

Cultural sharing of the most life-affirming and necessary kind

Album: Arcade Fire -WE

Tom Carr

Canadian indie rock giant's lockdown album is heartfelt and imaginative

Spiritualized, Symphony Hall, Birmingham review - a curate's egg of a show from Jason Pierce's space rockers

Guy Oddy

An uneven performance from the veteran psychedelicists

Album: Kate Rusby - 30: Happy Returns

Liz Thomson

A bloodless album but it will appeal to the fans

Album: Soft Cell - Happiness Not Included

Kathryn Reilly

Soft Cell have clearly been having as rubbish a time as the rest of us

Music Reissues Weekly: Dusty Springfield - Dusty Sings Soul

Kieron Tyler

Twenty-four musical landmarks from the finest British soul singer of her era

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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