Review: Whether you thought 'May Your Kindness Remain' was the jewel in the crown of Arizona's Courtney Marie Andrews or not, one thing is for sure. This, her follow up record, sees the artist return to more familiar territory, which means losing the big band feel and late-1960s country soul grandeur of that last album, and instead focussing on a devastating level of intimacy, singing songs of heartbreak and reflection in such a personal way we feel not just connected but part of the stories unfolding. Tracks like 'How To Get Hurt' genuinely stop you in your tracks, beautiful and universally accessible balladry that reminds you of just what it means to hear a great, emotionally charged single. 'Ships In The Night' sits at the deeper end of the spectrum, while 'Old Flowers' could and should close out a sombre night drinking in some quiet saloon or other. In short, very, very good stuff.
Review: The world has long needed more Fiona Apple. An artist with a relatively slim body of work - 'Fetch...' is only her fifth album since debuting in 1999 - nevertheless her impact on music has been significant, spending a quarter century within corridors of the industry itself. Moreover, she represents all that's right about the business' uncompromising eccentricities, although sadly this now serves to remind us of all that's been lost in the sanitised and corporatised 21st Century model. Few who remember her MTV Video Music awards acceptance speech, calling bullshit on an entire industry, will be surprised at this latest work, then. From erogenous piano numbers, to percussion played with the bones of a dog, it's hardly by-numbers, never safe, and always on her own terms. Employing background clatter, worksong rhythms and alternative acoustic rock, the finished article is well worth the wait.
Review: Given the recent passing of Ennio Morricone, it seems fitting that we're being treated to a reissue of Babe Ruth's "The Mexican", a scorching funk-rock number based on the late, great Italian composer's theme from "For A Few Dollars More". The band's cover of that can be heard on the B-side, but it's the five-minute A-side, which boasts lyrics calling out the misleading narrative of John Wayne western "The Alamo", that you need in your life. Full of killer funk breaks that became staples during hip-hop's foundational block party era, plus driving musicality and some of rap music's best-known hooks, the track is still capable of slaying dancefloors 47 years after it was first recorded.
Review: There's a carefree, lackadaisical and generally upbeat disposition running through this incredibly welcome record from Devendra Banhart. Something of an enigma - poet, artist, actor and (of course) singer/songwriter - we have the sunshine of his adopted Californian home to thank for this one, with the album nodding to the slick and inviting beach pop said state invented. There's plenty more going on here than besides well polished niceness, though. Each delicate note is played with a purpose that's feels far more commanding than the loose vibe, background choruses recreate the glory days of soft soul with pinpoint precision, while the range of instruments at play is nothing short of impressive. It's unlikely you'll hear a nicer thing this year, and if you do we'll eat our words at the first opportunity.