Album reviews; Foo Fighters | Loki | Jonnie Common

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs onstage in Dover, Delaware, US. Picture: Getty

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs onstage in Dover, Delaware, US. Picture: Getty

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THIS week’s latest album releases reviewed, including the new Foo Fighters record and an album from Scottish rapper Loki

Foo Fighters

Sonic Highways

Sony

Rating: * * *

For the first few lines of this eighth Foo Fighters record in two decades, all slide guitar and dry, weary vocal tones, Dave Grohl sounds like Noel Gallagher. It doesn’t last long though, building to one of the album’s finest crescendos with Taylor Hawkins’ energetically thumped drums, Chris Shiflett’s searing riffs and Grohl bellowing “f*** it all, I came from nothing!” as Something From Nothing kicks in.

For those first few seconds, though, the connection is obvious. Grohl is the American Noel, sternly macho and matey-sensitive in the breadth of a song, a sculptor of workin’ man’s blues who heartily serves his core audience’s expectations and remains resolutely inflexible about straying off the path he’s set for himself.

As such, Sonic Highways continues the Foos’ trajectory of doing absolutely nothing new and doing it with feverish, winning energy. Even that title conjures truck-drivin’ middle of the road thrills from the days when rock’n’roll was an evangelical calling, a sense which is backed up when Grohl compels us to “send in the congregation... the jukebox generation” on Congregation. The song comprises two minutes of wig-out rock theatrics at the end, a staple feature of the record. There are only eight tracks on here, but on average they top more than five minutes, each heartily abetted by the band’s loin-churning excitement at their own playing.

It’s a trick which is beset by diminishing returns. Something From Nothing is great; The Feast And The Famine is similarly frenzied; What Did I Do?/God As My Witness is a likeable rocker with plenty of volume and a dust-blown tone; Outside and In the Clear are well-produced live set fillers; and Subterranean and the closing I Am A River finally, gleefully break out the strings in the manner of, yes, latter-day Oasis. David Pollock

Download: Something From Nothing

POP

Loki With Becci Wallace

GIMP

Black Lantern Music

Star rating: * * * *

Some might say that politicised rap music went out with Public Enemy, but in Scotland the tradition is alive, well and going strong thanks to artists like Darren “Loki” McGarvey, who came to prominence during the referendum campaign as a powerful grassroots political orator of resonant lyrical ability. This concept record (the acronym stands for Government Issue Music Protest) comes framed with a few mock-up spoken word news clips beamed in from the violent dystopian Scotland of 2034, the least convincing trope of a long but strongly expressed work rich in soulful, old school beats, Becci Wallace’s breathy singing voice and Loki’s often barely contained anger at and frustration with the political norm. DP

Download: Turn The Screw, The Way Things Never Were

Jonnie Common

Trapped In Amber

Song, By Toad

Star rating: * * * *

There’s a lopsided, lackadaisical quality to the vocals of Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Jonnie Common which is pleasingly warm and reassuring to listen to, even when he’s half-singing, half-rapping over the serrated electronic rasp of Crumbs (“do you think that happiness just happens?”) or sadly emoting through Just Because and the acoustic So And So. Guest-starring what sounds like his mum leaving an odd phone message about a hedgehog, this is a quirky record of resounding sonic ability, filled with songs with a sense of progression and experiments in contemporary electronica (see Binary 101 and Figurehead). Occasionally, however, Common’s tendency to place effects over voice grates just a little. DP

Download: Crumbs, Just Because

FOLK

John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary

The Alt

Star rating: * * * *

Under The Arch Records

Edinburgh-based Irish singer and flute player Nuala Kennedy shines in an egalitarian trio with two Dublin lads, John Doyle and Eamon O’Leary. Together they perform fine, carefully wrought arrangements of nine traditional songs – and two sets of tunes driven by her virtuosic flute and whistle playing – before ending in three-part a cappella, all recorded over a few days in North Carolina. Doyle and O’Leary are brilliant on guitar and bouzouki, but it is Kennedy’s expressive vocal character and instrumental rhythmic fluidity that gives the CD its deeper life, and also the single Gaelic lament to a departed wife in Cha Tig Mor Mo Bhean Dhachaigh. Norman Chalmers

Download: The Geese In The Bog/Covering Ground

JAZZ

The Hot Sardines

The Hot Sardines

Decca

Star rating: * * * *

The Hot Sardines are an exuberant and stylish young American band who fuse early and classic jazz sounds, old and original tunes, and have lately been taking New York by storm. Next week they launch this, their first CD, at the London Jazz Festival. Word of mouth prompted such demand for tickets that a second gig was added which quickly sold out. The Sardines’ sound is fresh, their style energetic, swinging and jubilant, and they make even the oldest numbers sound very now. Singer Miz Elizabeth’s sassy and appealing vocals (Zazou and Wake Up In Paris are stand-outs) add another layer of accessibility and one senses that they would be a fun band to hear live, though they might be a bit gimmicky for purists’ tastes. Only complaint? The unimaginative choice of older tunes. Alison Kerr

Download: Zazou

CLASSICAL

Laid Bare

Love Songs

Nonclassical

Star rating: * * * * *

Who is creating the classical music of today that will remain the classical music of tomorrow? The strikingly talented and self-assured female vocal trio Juice (the sopranos Anna Snow and Sarah Dacey plus alto Kerry Andrew) explore some contenders with an album of a cappella love songs. The Nonclassical label aims to combine contemporary classical music with remixes of original classical works (the remixes here

are largely of songs from the album), but any recording that successfully brings together a Gavin Bryars rendering of a Petrarch sonnet

with songs by Leadbelly and Rihanna, as well as other contemporary musicians, deserves a hearing.

The performances throughout are strikingly well-handled, with complex rhythms and dynamics – especially Mica Levi’s Never Adore and Dawn Penn’s You Don’t Love Me – handled with care. A classical oddity, perhaps, but highly worthwhile. Alexander Bryce

Download this: Goodnight Irene

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