Album-a-rama: Vol. 1
In a new (ir)regular feature we’ll be rounding up recent releases. We’ll include as many as come through the letterbox - yes some still do - and email as we can.
First up is the debut release from XL Recordings new big hope, Lapsley. The twenty year old has been pretty outspoken and not in the most glowing terms about her own genre of music. Blissed out jam and love songs make up the bulk of Long Way Home , with the odd left field tune like the soulful disco-lite of ‘Operator (He Doesn’t Call Me) breaking things up. There’s more than a touch of another XL alumni - Adele - about tracks like ‘Hurt Me’. It’s very good and a promising start for an artist with the talent, voice, and time to find her own way.
Also debuting in March is Matt Corby. After nearly winning Australian Idol in 2007 he took the Matt Cardle route, kinda. With four or so EPs over the next few years Corby has some success, then he disappeared for a couple of years. Telluric  is what he’s returned with. And quite a comeback it is, opener ‘Belly Side Up’ is slick, sumptuous and groovy before ‘Monday’ brings the gospel. Corby’s terrific voice, all treacle thick, is the glue that holds it together; though he can’t quite keep the standards that high and it ends up being a bit less inventive than first thought. The Australian’s another very promising talent though.
Minnesotans Polica return with their third album, after the critical success of 2013’s Shulamith. And really it’s more of the same. There’s less autotune on Channy Leaneagh’s vocals but synthpop is still the smooth centre. United Crushers  is slick and well produced; when it gets going, around ‘Fish’, there’s much to tap your feet to. Lucius have had a makeover. Last time they were glimpsed they were harmony driven and blonde bobbed; two years makes quite the difference. Musically they’ve taken a turn toward pop, image-wise toward punk. Harmonies still take centre stage but there’s more ambition second time round. The are some fascinating songs; then there’s the mildly crazy ‘Gone Insane’ and it's repeating refrain “I can be the one that’s gone insane”. But dance-y pop is at the core of Good Grief ; ‘Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain’ and ‘Born Again Teen’ mix Michael Jackson with St Vincent. Fascinating stuff.
Produced by Merrill Garbutt (otherwise known as Tune-yards) the sixth record from Thao and The Get Down Stay Down is very a case of producer influencing the sound to become very close to their own. Basically if you like Nikki Nack then you'll be a fan of A Man Alive . At the opposite end of the spectrum, 2013  from Meilyr Jones sounds quite unlike anything else so far in 2016. Opener 'How To Recognise A Work Of Art' makes you think one thing (rough-shod and melodic indie) before giving way to 49 minutes of unpredictability.
Laura Gibson returns after four years away and a set of significant events in her life. From moving to New York, to her apartment building catching on fire, to returning to education, it’s been an interesting, if challenging, time since her last album. That’s what makes Empire Builder  so remarkable, it’s not melancholy, if anything it’s slightly twee, as demonstrated by ‘Damn Sure’. The purity that makes it to the final record comes from the fractured recording process and the decision to use some of the original, and first time, recordings.
On the reissue front, Betty Boo's second album, from 1993, gets a huge set of remixes added to the original album. The timeless 'Where Are You Baby?' is the best track here, and whether you find Grrr! It's Betty Boo  worth the £12.99 is down to how much you like the remixes that were very in vogue in 1992. Some improve on the original song, some add nothing. Offering way better value is the Come Find Yourself - 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition from the Fun Lovin' Criminals. Back before Huey Morgan was a BBC 6 Music DJ he led the band, and specifically this album, to Adele-like heights. Everyone owned Come Find Yourself in 1996. That's why this anniversary edition is so clever, who wants the original album, even remastered? Well, no-one, but there will be call for the fourteen tracks on the BBC Sessions disc, an interesting insight into the band as they were twenty years ago. Less essential is disc two with its five versions of the seminal 'Scooby Snacks', and the four remixes of the less-seminal 'King Of New York'.