ONE need look no further than the effect of her presence on the viewing figures of TV talent show The Voice to realise Kylie Minogue’s appeal is strong and enduring.
Kiss Me Once
Star rating; * * *
As she grows older with grace, however, this first album since 2010’s Aphrodite and her debut under the managerial wing of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation keeps her close to the musical constituency with which she’s most aligned, namely the Hi-NRG pop fraternity.
Kiss Me Once is sleek, bright and as saccharine-sweet as Minogue’s own voice, from the vaguely trance opener Into The Blue to the strutting, autotuned Million Miles. Producer of the moment Pharrell Williams takes charge of I Was Gonna Cancel, an album standout combination of vaguely Get Lucky harpsichord effects and disco chimes, which really brings out Minogue’s ability to hold a compelling rhythm with her vocal.
Yet much of the rest of the record follows unadventurous lines. What might be referred to as an unofficial “sex trilogy” only reaches its peak with the commercially tuned French touch of Les Sex, with the changing-room dance-pop of Sexy Love and Sexercize’s furrow-browed cod dubstep grind failing to convince.
This is a record which fails to display much in the way of originality, staying remarkably (and no doubt reassuringly) true to Kylie fans’ expectations. Feels So Good, If Only and the epic, Beautiful, featuring Enrique Iglesias, are standard-issue girl-next-door love songs, lent an air of pseudo-sophistication by their big-budget production, although no fan of Minogue’s will argue with the latter song’s sentiment that “after all this time/you’re still the woman”.
Download this: I Was Gonna Cancel, Fine
A Perfect Contradiction
Star rating: * * *
This third album in five years from London sass vehicle Paloma Faith starts in explosive fashion with the single Can’t Rely On You, a lithe and sensual funk groove bolstered by the production presence of the ubiquitous Pharrell Williams. In comparison, the rest of the record can’t help but feel a little flat, although there’s plenty of perfectly pleasant high-street pop in here. Mouth To Mouth is a smooth slice of squelchy 80s soul which entreats a lover to “do it like we never met before”, Other Woman is a sleek disco stomp, and The Bigger You Love (The Harder You Fall) fuses Jimmy Cliff and the Supremes. But elsewhere Faith’s vocal strengths are hammered into boxes marked pop product. DP
Download this: Can’t Rely On You, The Bigger You Love (The Harder You Fall)
Foster The People
Star rating; * * *
After the success of their 2011 debut album Torches and its big hit, Pumped Up Kicks, Los Angeles trio Foster the People find themselves having to prove not just that they can write a follow-up, but they can break out of the one-hit wonder territory they’ve strayed close to. As evidenced by the theme of wary maturity in bright comeback single Coming Of Age, there’s no undeniable three-minute pop rush here, rather a cohesive, well put together record which should help their cause as an enduring albums band in waiting, from the MGMT meets My Bloody Valentine trip of Pseudologia Fantastica to the swaggering 80s soul of Best Friend. DP
Download this: Are You What You Want to Be?, Best Friend
Chris Ingham Quartet
Downhome Records, web only
Star rating: * * *
As a lifelong fan of Hoagy Carmichael, his wonderful tunes, characterful voice and the excellent musical company he kept, I expected to be seduced by this affectionate and lovingly presented tribute by pianist-singer Chris Ingham’s quartet. But it just made me want to switch it off and dig out my old Hoagy records to listen to instead. Why? Because although the performances are enjoyable enough, they are pale imitations (with disappointingly bland vocals) which just bring on cravings for the Carmichael classics. One for the uninitiated in Hoagy-dom. Alison Kerr
Download this: Dear Bix
Jersey Girl Music, web only
Star rating: * * * *
Susan Cattaneo is a former professor of songwriting at Boston’s Berklee Music College, and this is a mature collection of songs, written either by her or for her. She has lived in Nashville, and was brought up on a New Jersey farm where she learned to sing in six-part family harmony. So although her creations are in broad country genres, there is lovely musicality about the seven-strong band’s musicianship and her own shifting vocal subtleties. All sorts of guitar with piano, keys and synth over bass and percussion are carefully marshalled by producer Lorne Entress in this affecting album, rich in harmony vocal lines. Norman Chalmers
Download: Lies Between Lovers
Symphony No 2, Concerto For Orchestra
Hänssler Classic CD 94.224, £9.99
Star rating; * * * * *
Live recordings from the 1950s and 1960s have both a historical and musical value: historical for their presentation of artists both established and upcoming, and musical either for the freshness or tradition embedded in their approach to music-making. With long-lived artists such as Lorin Maazel, here making his 1958 debut with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony, there is also an opportunity to compare the skill of half a century ago with the artist of today. Three works feature here: Beethoven’s Overture To Coriolan, his Symphony No 2 and Bartók’s Concerto For Orchestra. At 28, Maazel’s energy is apparent, but also his willingness to innovate, using different tempi from those regularly found in the concert hall, as in his deliberately slow Beethoven second movement. Alexander Bryce
Download this: Beethoven, Overture To Coriolan