Joanna Newsom’s third studio album, Have One On Me, which is approximately two hours in length and encompasses eighteen songs on three inordinate, but extremely well-sequenced CDs in a format befitting of Newsom’s novelistic scope and eye for lyrical detail, both rejects and embraces the musical motifs conspicuous in her previous two efforts, The Milk-Eyed Mender and Ys, as she tempers the more flamboyant vocal tendencies which helped cultivate these albums’ ingenuity, opting instead for a noticeably restrained, elegiac approach to singing while simultaneously acquiescing to her trademark folk-cum-country, harp-oriented sounds in a manner that consciously echoes the ghosts of pop musical history on album standouts such as “In California” (Joni Mitchell), “Good Intentions Paving Company” (Stevie Wonder) and “Soft as Chalk” (Neil Young) without ever sacrificing her compelling, clairvoyant and vastly inimitable idiosyncrasies.
In a nutshell: If a superior album is released this year, I’ll eat my hat.
It is indeed quite the mammoth task to attempt to follow up the atmospheric musical delights of Phantom, but despite the lack of a Music of the Night or Think of Me, there is evidence of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical greatness here. The music aches with a characteristic darkness; the thuds of a deliciously decadent piano assail throughout. There is bombast aplenty, the triumphant heraldry that opens Beneath a Moonless Sky catching all off guard. This song in particular is a standout, featuring a mesmerising interplay between the Phantom and Christine. Their vocals are exquisite – clear, pristine, and beautiful, capturing the nuances of their characters perfectly.
In A Nutshell: A bewitching ensemble that deserves more than the inevitable comparisons to what went before.
Artist: Erik Hassle
Apparently Erik Hassle is a big deal in his native Sweden and is making tracks around Europe – and listening to this debut offering, it’s not difficult to understand why. Hassle’s identikit pop-cum-light-rock is exactly what the continent looks for: inoffensive, rhythmic, generally melodic meh sung in everybody’s second language, English.
Lead single ‘Hurtful’ and follow-up ‘Don’t Bring Flowers’ are genuinely catchy – exactly the kind of tune one might hear while sat in a cybercafé or a hostel lobby somewhere – anywhere – in Europe.
Hassle isn’t at all a bad songmaster – there is genuine talent on show, and he probably merits The Guardian’s title of ‘Hot New Act’ – but these contributions are largely filler with regrettably little killer.
In a nutshell: The soundtrack to your inter-railing. Your little sister will love it.
Artist: Johnny Cash
Album: American VI: Ain’t No Grave
This album is the last in the American series. Cash may begin by daring death to take him on, but winds down, ultimately accepting his demise and taking a more reflective tone about life, advising us to snatch what joy we can as he muses over love, life, loss and what happens next. Instrumentally the album is stripped down and complements the lyrical content.
The closing ‘Aloha Oe’ sounds a cheesy, contrived idea on paper, but works well as the calm dignified goodbye we all expected from (and wanted for) the Man in Black.
In a nutshell: A fitting farewell to a genuine legend.
This album from Dublin outfit Captain Magic is full of soul, featuring twelve tracks of the most extravagantly entertaining music. The authentic combination of violin, guitars, and drums captures the atmosphere of a den in small town Kentucky or Colombia. One track, ‘Funk Me a River’, features two mixes – ‘Double Espresso’ and ‘Cappuccino’ – each adding a different vibe to the same song.
It’s hard to believe that a five-piece busker band can make their music sound like a mini-orchestra. The album features hardly any vocals – not a bad thing, because the vocals that do appear, while good, could be better!
This is an extremely promising debut effort – and with the right record label, Captain Magic could have a big break on the world stage.
In A Nutshell: A must-have – hear them in Temple Bar Square for free.