Album reviews: Beck | Nina Nesbitt | Planningtorock

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ALTHOUGH 12 albums recorded in a little over 20 years points to an enduringly prolific career for Californian singer-songwriter Beck Hansen, breaking down the rate at which he’s released them flags up this latest record as something of a milestone.

Beck

Beck. Picture: Getty

Beck. Picture: Getty

Morning Phase

Capitol, £14.99

Star rating: * * * *

His first offering under a new label deal, it’s also the first album he’s released since 2008’s Modern Guilt.

Nina Nesbitt

Nina Nesbitt

The other notable aspect of Morning Phase is that it’s been explicitly marketed as a follow-up to 2002’s Sea Change, which is possibly the critical high point of his career. That album stemmed from the end of a decade-long relationship, while this one emerges from a decade spent as a husband and father, but also from under the cloud of sustaining a serious back injury in 2008 which ruled him out of recording for some time. As such the mood is contented but reflective, and tinged with no small amount of self-doubt: “is it time to go away/and try again some other day?” he ponders during the downbeat, mandolin-infused Say Goodbye. Morning Phase is considerably more understated than almost all of his previous work, but that’s not to say the blissed-out country rock meets West Coast psychedelia aesthetic is ever anything but in possession of itself. It’s a record which builds and sustains a beautiful emotive mood, from the rising slide guitar chimes of Morning to the swirling, insistent twang of Blue Moon and Wave’s sombre, rising strings. There are shades of Neil Young to Country Down and the finale Waking Light, and this feels very much like Hansen’s Harvest to Sea Change’s After The Gold Rush. 
David Pollock

Download this: Blue Moon, Don’t Let It Go

Nina Nesbitt

Peroxide

Island, £14.99

Star rating: * * *

THERE’S nothing groundbreaking in this debut album from young Edinburgh-raised singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt, right, who has clearly paid attention to the procession of X Factor successes over recent years. Yet beneath the vaguely folky acoustic guitar jangle and the louche sass in her vocal lurks a strong sense of identity which it might be entertaining to watch develop over the years. In the meantime, songs like the title track, with its air of upbeat teen angst, the zeitgeist-grabbing but hard to shake Selfies, and the rebuttal to a vain older man Mr C – featuring Lily Allen – are pleasant, memorable and for the most part thoughtful hits in waiting. DP

Download this: We’ll Be Back For More, The Hardest Part

Planningtorock

All Love’s Legal

Human Level, £12.99

Star ratting: * * *

“Fall in love with whoever you want to,” is the first line of Welcome, the introductory track on this third album from Berlin-by-way-of-Bolton electronic producer Jam Rostron, aka Planningtorock, and it sets the tone for a record which is political in a most warm and inclusive way. On tracks like the ghostly dubstep of Human Drama (“gender’s just a lie”), the lo-fi house of Misogyny Drop Dead and Patriarchy Over & Out’s experimental disco-funk, it’s a record which wears its polemic edge more lightly than its set of deep and utterly contemporary pop grooves. Rostron’s voice stands out throughout, reminiscent of Jimmy Somerville or Antony Hegarty. DP

Download this: Answer Land, Misogyny Drop Dead

JAZZ

Kate Daniels

Atmospherics

Loxford Records K2, only available online

Star rating: * * * *

Hers may not be the most arresting or distinctive voice but British singer Kate Daniels has created a strangely compelling collection of songs; an introduction to a style she intriguingly (and accurately) describes as “jazz noir”. These are moody, melancholy, midnight-y arrangements featuring such top British musicians as John Etheridge (guitar), John Horler (piano), Graham Pike (trumpet) and Tony Coe (tenor sax), and a voice that lends itself equally well to gently swinging ballads and gut-wrenching chansons. Alison Kerr

Download this: You Don’t Know What Love Is

FOLK

Beoga

Live At 10: The 10th Anniversary Concert

Compass Records, 7 4621 2 (CD and DVD), £14.99

Star rating: * * * *

This is a dynamic live expression of one of the most ear-widening versions of contemporary musical tradition to come out of Ireland. Beoga are fronted by two button accordions, with a female singer/fiddler, a piano player and percussionist, and the five members are joined here by seven top instrumentalists, including the honeyed grooving of bassist Trevor Hutchinson. Playful imagination marries gentle rhythmic flow within surprising structure, then leaps into straight-ahead reels, before devolving into shimmering atmospherics. There’s some really great stuff, in over 20 tracks, plus a video recording. Norman Chalmers

Download this: Cu Chullain’s Despair

CLASSICAL

Richard Danielpour

Darkness In The Ancient Valley

Naxos 8.559707, £6.99

Star rating: * * * * *

Richard Danielpour’s music takes its inspiration from many cultures, reflected in the three widely different pieces all recorded for the first time here. His Iranian parentage provides the source music, via Persian folk melodies and Sufi rhythms, for Darkness In The Ancient Valley, a memorial to the sufferings of the Iranian people in recent years. Lacrimae Beati, by contrast, goes back two centuries to Mozart’s Lacrimosa from the Requiem, and draws its inspiration from a visit to the Vienna cemetery where the composer is buried. Finally, Maya Angelou provides the texts for A Woman’s Life, covering childhood to old age, and here brilliantly sung by Angela Brown. A splendidly varied recording, strikingly performed by the Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero and soloists. Alexander Bryce

Download this: Track 4, Profanation