Album-a-rama: Vol. 3

After an extended summer break it’s about to get busy in the pre-Christmas - yes it’s soon - album release rush. There’s a proper mixed bag in store today as we cover super-duos, returning pop-rockers and some new acts.

First up the good times are back as hyped up pop-rockers Grouplove return with their third effort. Big Mess [7] is much closer in soul to their debut than their last album, 2013’s Spreading Rumours, in that it’s fun. There’s a lightness of touch to their debut that was missing last time, and opener ‘Welcome To Your Life’ signals they’ve found their groove. The husband and wife front-couple of Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi give life to the technicolour sounds. Whether you’re a fan or not depends on your tolerance for peppy, riff powered, pop songs, and whether you can take the near duplication of melody from ‘Itchin’ On A Photograph’ to ‘Standing In The Sun’. Its familiarity is one of its strong points; and whilst it might grate for some most will revel in the sheer pulpy euphoria of it all.

Also having a damn good time are the intriguing power duo that is Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam. Better known as the voice of The Walkmen and a part of Vampire Weekend the duo first collaborated on Leithauser’s solo debut Black Hours in 2014 but this debut joint effort is on a whole different level. More than anything I Had A Dream That You Were Mine [8] is enormously enjoyable; from the rollicking swagger of opener ‘A 1000 Times’, the funky melody of ‘Sick As A Dog’ and ramshackle ‘Rough Going (I Won’t Let Up) to the old style country twang of ‘Peaceful Morning’ and hilarious story of ‘The Bride’s Dad’. First impressions are that Leithauser’s vocals dominate, his isn’t a voice that is subtle and has round corners, it’s a blunt instrument that demands attention. The great news is that in the hands of Rostam that powerful instrument is tamed and paired with an extraordinary array of sounds around it with melodies and riffs, bass and harmonica, all kinds of movement of sound, take the soaring guitar led sultry groove on ‘When The Truth Is…’ as one of many examples of this perfect match.

So a terrific start, how does Banks follow-up to her successful debut in 2014 measure up? It gets off to a great start with lead single ‘Fuck With Myself’ a bass-y groove laced with attitude, it’s the undoubted high point of The Altar [6]. ‘Gemini Feed’ riffs a bit with auto-tune, ‘Judas’ has compelling lyrics, then, as can be the problem with R&B, the rest of the twelve tracks blend into one another. Every so often something stands out, like the simple, stripped back ‘Mother Earth’ and beautiful ‘To The Hilt’, and the urgency picks up later on, but it needs a bit more.

More commercial is Elle Exxe, who releases her debut after a huge build up and drip-drip of singles. And thank’s to that stream of music Love Fuelled Hate is exactly what you’re expecting. Singles ‘Lately’ and ‘Sick’ are solid pop songs, while ‘The Hammer’ brings attitude. And that’s really what makes Exxe stand out from the crowd, her attitude. The songs are decent enough but tracks like ‘W.T.F’ and ‘Hating On You’ have some front to them.

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