Album reviews: Jason Mraz | Spiritualized | The Big Blast | The Duplets | James MacMillan

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The rest of this week’s new albums reviewed...

Jason Mraz

Love Is A Four Letter Word

Atlantic £12.99

***

American singer songwriter Jason Mraz’s breakthrough to mainstream success came four years ago, and this fourth album seems obsessed with not rocking that boat of acceptability, or indeed anything else. What he does is lazy, laidback sun-lounger music, easy listening for the easy going, such as singles The World As I See It or I Won’t Give Up. Back in the day, beardy men like Mraz would have been growing into album artists, developing a serious concept or two, and writing a song that would be in some way memorable. Joe Chiccarelli doesn’t even seem to have even leaned forward in his producer’s chair.

CS

Download this: The World As I See It

Spiritualized

Sweet Heart Sweet Light

Double Six Records, £11.99

****

Jason Pierce makes serious British rock music like few others, and this latest Spiritualized album is blessed with unique qualities which may or may not be born of the infirmity in which it is has been conceived.

Too Late has a breezily morbid quality, Heading For The Top Now boasts a Velvety realism and dense musical quality, a nagging insistence which is hard to resist. It’s the work of a man staring down his own mortality – “I’m living my life on a prayer now” he intones on the fragile Freedom, which is dignified and gently devastating. This is the ultimate in bedroom music, created in a tiny space to fill much bigger ones.

CS

Download this: I Am What I Am, Hey Jane

The Big Blast

100 Classic Big Bands

Properbox 165, £14.99

***

A compilation like this four-disc, three-decade-spanning one is never going to satisfy an aficionado (there’s only one track per band – even from such definitive big bands as Duke Ellington’s or Glenn Miller’s) but there are delights none the less in the shape of less familiar bands and in the way the chronological presentation provides an impression of the evolution of the big band sound, from Jean Goldkette’s band (with Bix Beiderbecke) in 1927 through to Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band in 1960.

Alison Kerr

Download this: Clementine, Black Nightgown

The Duplets

Leverage

Pond Chicken Music Chik002, £11.99

****

The accomplished pair of young Highland women return with a new album, this time performed on borrowed, fine pre-war Briggs Scottish small harps. The duo’s music has evolved, becoming more traditional in the tunes department, with the songs either self-penned or thoughtful modern compositions. Their playing is skilled and imaginative, the harps merging seamlessly, with perhaps less dynamic scale than the latest harp evolutions. Opening the CD, Fraya Thomsen’s gently composed melody lodges Burns’ egalitarian hymn in a new place.

Norman Chalmers

Download this: A Man’s a Man

James MacMillan

Miserere

Coro 16096, £12.99

*****

Listening to James MacMillan’s liturgical works, it is hard not to be impressed by the silences as much as by the music. Carefully spaced throughout, these pauses are both a point of reference and a still-point (for audiences and performers alike).

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen commissioned O Bone Jesu as their first liturgical commission in 2001, and it has proved a highly successful investment. The Strathclyde Motets, however, have been composed over several years (the process continues) for visits by the Strathclyde University Choir to the church where MacMillan regularly creates new works. If simpler in form, this music is nevertheless uniformly impressive.

Alexander Bryce

Download this: O Bone Jesu