Album reviews: Haim | Dizzee Rascal | Moby

Band of the year proclamations have been ringing out for the best part of 2013 about Los Angeleno sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, and their token male drummer Dash Hutton.

Haim. Picture: Getty


Days Are Gone

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Polydor £15.99

Star rating: * * * *

It feels strange to note this and to realise that their debut album isn’t even out yet. For those who have had an ear on the quartet for the past few months or even seen one of their live shows, a lot of this record will sound resonantly familiar. For everyone else, it’s surely the release which will take Haim to the next level of fame and recognition.

For almost the entire running time it’s a great album, most notable for its refreshing commitment to such old-fashioned tropes as great choruses, pleasant sounds and sentiments blended to memorable effect, and the development of a sound which is resolutely their own. Although, in fairness, the most enduring comparison they find themselves on the end of – that they’re a Fleetwood Mac for the 21st century – is also the one which rings truest. It applies most readily during the album’s earliest songs, including the lithe, highly produced Falling, the cod-reggae Forever, the irresistible glam-meets-Shania Twain dynamic of The Wire, and the reserved, breathless Honey & I, all constructed as though Stevie Nicks was harmonising with herself.

Early release Don’t Save Me grabs the heart from its earliest lines, surely one of the finest pop songs in recent years to have been played by Americans with guitars and record collections dating back to the mid-1970s. Yet a sense of the contemporary begins to emerge with the rough-edged R&B grind of My Song 5, Go Slow’s neo-soul groove and the taut electric groove of grungy rocker Let Me Go. On any level, it’s a satisfying debut. David Pollock

Download this: Don’t Save Me, The Wire


Dizzee Rascal

The Fifth

Dirtee Stank/Universal, £14.99

Star rating: * * *

An unrepentant attempt to go global after summer’s London Olympics appearance, this (you guessed it) fifth studio album from East London’s Dizzee Rascal co-opts a raft of producers whose credits include Rihanna, Madonna and Lady Gaga, as well as a contingent of the biggest current names in British pop, including Jessie J (on the glossy We Don’t Play Around), Tinie Tempah (Spend Some Money’s autotuned homage to bling and excess) and Robbie Williams (the cheery high street garage funk of Goin’ Crazy). It’s a record filled with energy and strutting bravado, but it’s a shame when he stoops to songs like Arse Like That. DP

Download this: Goin’ Crazy



Mute, £13.99

Star rating: * * * *

Pretty much nothing he can do will ever erase Richard Melville ‘Moby’ Hall’s reputation as the mid-market electronica producer of advertising directors’ choice since he dished out every track on 1999’s Play for licensed use. Yet a bunch of cannily picked collaborations lend this 11th album reassuring depth. Highlights include female vocalist Cold Specks on the hymnal A Case For Shame and Tell Me, Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne grounding the cheery psych-gospel of The Perfect Life, and Mark Lanegan deploying his best Leonard Cohen growl on the brilliant, glacial The Lonely Night. DP

Download this: A Case For Shame, The Lonely Night


Gerry Mulligan

Gerry Mulligan Quartet + Spring Is Sprung

Essential Jazz Classics, B00CSQMAD4, £10.99

Star rating: * * *

Once hard to get hold of, two early 1960s live recordings by the wonderful baritone saxophonist/arranger/bandleader Gerry Mulligan make up this CD. Both showcase his musical rapport with the trombonist Bob Brookmeyer – their interplay is distinctive, clever and witty – as well as with bassist Bill Crow and drummer Gus Johnson. And both feature a mixture of Mulligan and Brookmeyer’s own compositions, with a smattering of unexpected tunes such as Count Basie’s Jive At Five and Kurt Weill’s Lost In The Stars and Broadway number I Believe In You. Although I’m mad about Mulligan, I’ve never enjoyed the Brookmeyer collaborations as much as some of his others; but those who are fond of them will rejoice in the availability of these tracks on CD. Alison Kerr

Download this: Open Country



At The Heart Of It All

Vertical Records VERTCD100, £14.99

Star rating: * * * *

Still going their own way, Capercaillie’s latest modern take on Gaelic tradition defies the rumour of the band’s demise and gives us more quintet arrangements swinging behind Karen Matheson’s vocals. But there are 14 guest musos included within this album’s 11 tracks, with a whoosh of singers such as Kathleen MacInnes, Sineag MacIntyre and Julie Fowlis, plus the deeper voices of Kris Drever and Darren MacLean. There’s a master piper, of the uillean persuasion, a top fiddler and a horn section. Oh, and the opening track has Tommy Smith on sax. But it’s all neat, polished and shiny, and really comes alive in the instrumental sets. Norman Chalmers

Download this: Cal’s Jigs


James MacMillan

Tenebrae Responsories

Hyperion CDA67970, £12.99

Star rating: * * * * *

James MacMillan’s compositions for the Catholic Church are reflected in this fine album of music performed by the Westminster Cathedral Choir under Martin Baker and the London Brass. Much of the music – almost all written within the past few years – was composed for specific occasions, such as the installation of an archbishop, or the 2010 visit to Westminster Cathedral by Pope Benedict, or for groups, such as Cappella Nova, who premièred the title work in Glasgow in 2007. As a result, there is a unity of soundscape which demonstrates MacMillan’s repeated use of musical forms and imagery, but also his development of them, and even the earliest work, the Edinburgh Te Deum, dating to MacMillan’s student days, shows some of the stylistic roots he has built on over the past 30 years. Alexander Bryce

Download this: Serenity