DCSIMG

Album reviews: Eels | Ron Sexsmith | The Louis Lester Band | Olof Arnalds | Johann Sebastian Bach

Our round-up of the week’s album releases

POP

Eels

Wonderful, Glorious

Vagrant Records

****

The prolific Mark Oliver Everett makes Eels’ tenth album, and the case for his being one of America’s most endearing and enduring contemporary musical talents. I Am Building A Shrine hums with heartfelt honesty and is a musically spacious delight, touching and tender while remaining tough enough. The title song is perhaps the pick of the bunch, demonstrating a breathtaking ability to move through the musical gears. Open My Present is typical of the album’s combination of self-deprecating humour and withering observation. World weariness has never sounded so bright and full of energy.

Download this: Wonderful Glorious, Open My Present

Ron Sexsmith

Forever Endeavour

Cooking Vinyl

****

The Canadian singer-songwriter is the very definition of consistency, and this latest album delivers to his high standards with a nonchalant flourish. Here he scarcely breaks into a sweat and the songs rarely break the three-minute mark. The underlying current stems from a health scare he suffered last year, but there is no hint of self-pity or maudlin contemplation. Nowhere To Go is the most pessimistic Ron is going to get, and there is much in the way of life affirmation. If Only Avenue is an affecting thoughtful ballad, and the entire experience is a pleasure not a chore.

Download this: Sneak Out The Back Door, Me, Myself And I

JAZZ

The Louis Lester Band

Dancing On the Edge

OST (Decca)

***

Dancing On the Edge is the prestigious new Stephen Poliakoff drama on BBC2. Set in London in the early 1930s, it follows a black dance band – the fictional Louis Lester Band – as it finds fame playing in high society. All 23 tracks on the CD are original – penned by film and TV composer Adrian Johnston – with the series’ leading actresses (Angel Coulby and Wunmi Mosaku) providing their own vocals. It’s mostly very convincing, enjoyable stuff which will undoubtedly work well in the TV drama. But whether it’s worth listening to in preference to original jazz of the 1930s is debatable.

Download this: Dead Of Night Express, Sweet Mary Jane

FOLK

Olof Arnalds

Sudden Elevation

One Little Indian TPLP1152CD

****

This is the third album from the brilliant Icelandic female musical talent, and her first solely in English. Exceptional vocal skill with heart-catching purity is allied to an idiosyncratic sense of structure, harmony and continuous melodic surprise, in her dozen new songs. Picked string acoustic instruments prevail, and Perfect ends the album suddenly out of a wild sweep of vocal harmony. As Björk says, Olof’s voice may be “somewhere between a child and an old woman,” but it is truly beguiling.

Download this: A Little Grim

CLASSICAL

Johann Sebastian Bach

The Well-Tempered Clavier

ECM 476 4827

*****

Bach’s handbook for pianists has become one of the great learning curves for solo performers. Robert Schumann called it the “pianist’s daily bread”, and there is no denying its attraction for someone aiming to master a range of keyboard techniques.

Ostensibly created as an educational work, it is also possible that Bach thought it useful as a demonstration work for a new job in Leipzig which required as much teaching as composition.András Schiff’s performance exudes his craftsmanship, elegance, sensitivity and style; his sleeve notes are an equally informative and clearly expressed study of this work from the soloist’s perspective.

Download this: Prelude No 1 in C Major

 

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