Rock/Pop

 

This week's rock and pop releases reviewed

DAVID GRAY

Draw the Line Polydor***

It’s been 10 years since White Ladderbecame as common a household item as Corn Flakes. For its progenitor, however, the ladder has been something of a cross - but now he's ready to cast it aside and resurrect his muse. Gray has also cast aside most of his regular band, gone back to the gritty vocal approach of those pre- White Ladderdays, and assumed a more outward-looking stance in his songwriting. Opener Fugitivesees Gray symbolically emerging from an emotional bunker, while Jackdawand Nemesissuggest he is still relentlessly in pursuit of his goals. Jolie Holland from the Be Good Tanyas adds some soft country tones to Kathleen, and a duet with Annie Lennox on Full Steam Aheadmanages to avoid the middle of the road and deliver an upbeat finish. www.davidgray.com KEVIN COURTNEY

Download tracks: Fugitive, Breathe, Full Steam Ahead

MUSE

The Resistance Warner Music***

The Band once known as "the new Radiohead" hover these days somewhere between Smashing Pumpkins, Yes and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Or Queen, if reports on the Devon trio's latest direction are to be believed. Certainly, there multi-part harmonies and huge riffs on their fifth album that could be attributed to Freddie Mercury & co, particularly on the enjoyably ostentatious United States of Eurasia. Yet Matt Bellamy has also claimed r&b mogul Timbaland as an influence, and the poppy Undisclosed Desiresand Belong to Youtread new ground for a band usually heavily reliant on epic guitar anthems. Orchestral pomp is also put to good use on the threepart Exogenesis Symphony. It's big, bold and occasionally brazenly overstated - everything you'd expect from a Muse album, in other words. www.muse.mu LAUREN MURPHY

Download tracks: Undisclosed Desires, United States of Eurasia

PREFAB SPROUT

Let's Change the World with Music Sony ****

Prefab Sprout's first new material for eight years - but it's not really new at all. This was originally recorded back in 1992 and slated to be the follow-up to Jordan : The Comeback, but the label asked for changes, chief Sprout Paddy McAloon refused, and the album was put on a shelf for 17 years. It's been given a reboot, courtesy of a new production overhaul, and you can only wonder what exactly the suits found fault with: this is another superb Prefab Sprout effort, replete with intricate pop melodies and McAloon's beguiling lyrical tics. Earth: The Story So Far(now there's a title), Music Is a Princessand Sweet Gospel Musicall serve as reminders of why McAloon is regarded as one of the finest songwriters of his generation. Now that this has been released from the vault, bring on the fabled Michael Jackson concept album that McAloon has been sitting on for the last decade or so. BRIAN BOYD

Download tracks: Sweet Gospel Music, Music Is a Princess

TAKEN BY TREES

East of Eden Rough Trade****

Victoria Bergsman used to be the lead vocalist in Scandinavian band The Concretes, but she is perhaps better known as providing the lilting tones on Peter Bjorn & John's global smasheroo hit single, Young Folks. Bergsman is now Taken By Trees, and along with her new nom de plume has uncovered a new musical furrow to plough. Going from the chilly north to the hot belt of Lahore, Pakistan, Bergsman has done everyone a favour by fusing her intrinsically indie aesthetic with subtle variations on Pakistani music (using local musicians, as well, and recording there). The result is the coolest fusion music this critic has heard since Ry Cooder and VM Bhatt's 1993 album, A Meeting by the River. Aligning indie aesthetics with Sufi stylings (via, of all people, Hermann Hesse), Bergsman pulls off a minor triumph with sincerity, substance and not a little enlightenment. TONY CLAYTON-LEA

Download tracks: Watch the Waves, Day by Day

YACHT

See Mystery Lights DFA****

You want fun, you've got fun, as Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans decamp to the DFA label, get their electro-pop spurs on and produce an album which is as zesty as any you're likely to hear in 2009. Yacht have dropped buzzy long-playing anchors before, but none as immediate, ambitious or freewheeling as this dish. Lessons have been learned (especially, it would seem, from the duo's full-bodied live shows) and these sunny, merry, hypnotic grooves are ones you'd be happy to see moving into the house next door. There’s a swing and an edgy thrill to Summer Songand You Can Live Anywhere You Want, which catch something of a LCD Soundsystem/Talking Heads shine, yet Bechtolt and Evans lob in enough rogue ingredients and oddball twists to allow them to patent this dancefloor-bumping pop for themselves. www.myspace.com/yacht JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: Summer Song, You Can Live Anywhere You Want