Auburn-bearded troubadour Alex Clare is an artist who’s helping reinvent the soul style for the 21st century, mainly up to this point with Too Close, a song which paired his smooth voice with a rough-edged dubstep bass grind to memorable effect.
On this second album the electronics are pared down, and it does Clare’s voice many favours: for example amidst Never Let You Go, more carnivalesque than clubby, the barroom groove of the title track and the Terry Callier-like strains of So Deep. Throughout, even though his lyrics tend towards meat and potatoes fare about “understanding the road we’re on”, that voice and the music combine in pleasingly dramatic fashion. David Pollock
Download: Not In Vain, So Deep
A Grammy-winning, top five artist in the US who hasn’t achieved quite the same success over here, Londoner Imogen Heap returns with an album which has been in preparation since 2011, a worldwide art-meets-music project which has seen her find inspiration in everything from the sound of a match flicking to time spent in the Himalayas and the Chinese city of Hangzhou. From it all she’s managed to create a record of songs which slot together remarkably well. There is a worldly feel to the chanting chime of Minds Without Fear and the mantra-like Climb To Sakteng, and where the music is steady and richly layered, Heap’s voice is more suited to the generic balladry of Deadmau5 collaboration Telemiscommunications. David Pollock
Download: Entanglement, Minds Without Fear
It’s A Good Day
Mack Avenue MAC1087
The exuberant, zesty vocals of the young French singer Cyrille Aimée may be familiar from her guest appearance on Curtis Stigers’ recent CD, but this is her first major release in her own name. On the Stigers duet, she sounded like a dead ringer for Stacey Kent but this delightful, often downright joyful album (even her Love Me Or Leave Me is upbeat) shows that she is no Kent clone. The 13 tracks here are a mix of original songs and old tunes from the jazz repertoire, such as the inspired reworking of the title number, made famous by Peggy Lee, and the gypsy jazz-influenced Aimée is accompanied throughout by different line-ups drawn from her full band, which comprises three guitars, bass and drums. Alison Kerr
Download: Nuit Blanche
The Brig Tae Nae Where
It leaves you with a wee lump in your throat, the chorus of the last track on this album, with the kids of Prestonpans in full, loving voice about their “toun”.
Alex Hodgson was once one of them. Now much older, he has written all but two of the songs on this album himself (the others are by Robert Burns and Ewan MacColl) and he takes as his subject his home and background.
Twice a Burnsong winner, and a strong, popular performer, his moving vocal delivery brings life to songs like Doon Pinkie Cleugh, about the locale of the last battle between the Scottish and English armies, or the subject of the fascinating title song, which can be spied at Belhaven Bay in East Lothian. Norman Chalmers
Download: The Street O’ Sorrows
Ottorino Respighi, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms
The Masters Of Violin, Vol 3
Dynamic CDS 7693
Portmanteau works, with several contributors participating in the creation of an artistic work, appear less frequently in music than one might think. The F-A-E Sonata, with movements composed by the violinist Albert Dietrich, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, was meant to be based on the three notes of the title (Brahms couldn’t be bothered), drawn from the phrase “Frei aber einsam” (“Free but alone”) suggested by the virtuoso violinist Joachim. Despite its joined-up nature, it hangs together in a way that the other recording on this disc, Respighi’s Sonata In B Minor, never quite seems to manage. This performance of the original composition by violinist Franco Gulli and pianist Enrica Cavallo repays repeat listening. Alexander Bryce
Download: Schumann, Intermezzo
Emerging from the dramatic northern landscapes of Caithness, six-piece Neon Waltz are a band still very much in the development stages, but with plenty of authentic talent to boast about.
Their unique, characterful sound – at times thoughtful indie rock, at others atmospheric punk – has already won them festival slots at Wickerman, T in the Park, Tramlines and The Great Escape.
Songs Sombre Fayre and recent release Bare Wood Aisles, in particular, are refreshing efforts, and the acoustic sessions and demo videos available on their YouTube channel are well worth checking out.
You can follow Neon Waltz at facebook.com/neonwaltz and listen to them at soundcloud.com/neonwaltz.