Otwo reviews Lonely Are the Brave (Maverick Sabre), Blues Funeral (Mark Lanegan Band), Clear Heart, Full Eyes (Craig Finn), Area 52 (Rodrigo y Gabriela) and Little Sparks (The Delorentos)Album: Lonely Are the Brave
Artist: Maverick Sabre
Soul rapper Maverick Sabre has been steadily building momentum, and with this debut he should move out beyond the shadows of his collaborators, Professor Green and Chase and Status. Drawing on his turbulent childhood which started in Hackney and continued in Wexford, his first collection of self-penned tracks is both brutally opinionated and unnervingly honest, conjuring up the dilapidated underbelly of today’s Britain.
On vocal highlight ‘No One’, a crisp retro soul arrangement, Sabre delivers an engagingly feisty and vulnerable style which echoes the artistry of Amy Winehouse. Single ‘Let Me Go’, the summery ‘Sometimes’, and hook-laden ‘Running Away’ provide much-needed uplifting moments, however.
Maverick’s brutality comes across a touch heavy-handed on occasion, particularly on ‘Cold Game’, but ultimately, it is enduringly clear from this debut that Maverick Sabre is a fiercely independent artist. While pandering to one’s own musical whims doesn’t always pay off, here lies proof that sometimes it is a risk worth taking.
In a Nutshell: A revelation in soul
Artist: Mark Lanegan Band
Blues Funeral is Lanegan’s first solo installment since 2004’s Bubblegum, but anyone familiar with his work with acts such as Queens of the Stone Age and The Gutter Twins will spot a grungy continuation in the material here.
Fusing rock and soulful blues, opener and first single ‘The Gravedigger Song’ best personifies the artist’s attempt to mix different styles to create a unique musical sound, and it is a great start to the album. Unfortunately, the record begins to fall asunder from there, making listeners blatantly aware that it was written in a rush during recording, as Lanegan has admitted.
With an annoying repetition of lyrics in ‘Grey Goes Black’ and an attempt to embrace the blues style a bit too much, beginning in ‘St. Louis Elegy’ and continuing to the end of the record, Blues Funeral will leave the listener sorely disappointed.
In a Nutshell: Add the ‘The Gravedigger’s song’ to your iPod, and forget the rest
Artist: Craig Finn
Hearing the The Hold Steady frontman’s long awaited solo debut, it is noticeable that the distraction of his former band’s sound has vanished. Finn’s voice is now given free reign and his narrative lyrics have time to expand as he encounters the bleak beauty of his self-destruction and the solace that he eventually found in religion. Neither of these themes are sung with remorse or thankfulness, merely avid description.
The appeal of tracks like ‘Honolulu Blues’ and ‘Rented Room’ is in their lasting power, still revealing new subtleties after multiple listens. With an easy-going sound, coupled with the loose musical accompaniment, and set off by Finn’s American twang, it becomes rapidly reminiscent of classic Americana music. Although these influences are apparent in his voice, his style is remarkably fresh and thinking of a comparable peer is impossible.
In a Nutshell: Rarely does an album this good name-check Jesus so often
Album: Area 52
Area 52 is a testament to the musical efforts of Mexican guitar duo and adopted Dubliners, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quientero. The transition from busking on Grafton Street to recording an album accompanied by a Cuban orchestra a decade later is no mean feat.
Looking at the track listing you might recognise these pieces from either 11:11 or their self-titled album; however the arrangements featured on Area 52 are a significant departure from the originals. The Cuban orchestra adds a salsa flare to the mixture of hard rock and flamenco played by Rodrigo y Gabriela, perfectly complimenting the duo’s superb guitar play.
The accompanying trumpets on ‘Hanuman’ add emphasis at just the right points, ‘Ixtapa’ features a brilliant sitar interlude played by Anoushka Shankar, and the orchestra’s piano almost steals the show on ‘Santo Domingo’. This album gives a fresh twist to some established material.
In a Nutshell: Truly inspired reinterpretations
Album: Little Sparks
It is clear from Delorentos’ latest album that this Dublin quartet has found its feet and on this, their third album, the band shows a more confident side to themselves. Where You Can Make Sound felt like it was missing something, on this record, it is clear from the off that they are at the top of their game. The record opens strongly with two outstanding tracks, ‘Did We Ever Really Try?’ and ‘Bullet in a Gun’, which instantly capture the listener’s attention and keep them enthralled.
There are, of course, some lesser moments. The title track itself is disappointing in its inaccessibility, which coupled with the previous track ‘Right to Know’ causes a slight lag in the middle of the record. ‘Waited for you so Long’, a touching song clearly designed to pull on your heartstrings, and ‘Pace Yourself’, the standout track on the album, however, manage to steer it back in the right direction. Overall, it is a much stronger record than previous releases.
In a Nutshell: Bigger, bolder and better than before