Rock/Pop

 

Latest CD releases reviewed

BASEMENT JAXX
ScarsXL ***

The party can’t go on forever, and there is a strong sense of the morning after the night before to
Basement Jaxx’s fifth album. Unlike previous fare, which has always tended to come from the brighter and funkier side of the tracks, Scarsis moody, broody and, in places, surprisingly downcast. Sure, there are carnival attractions here (the effervescent Raindrops), but the emphasis seems to be more on gruff and unsmiling tunes, such as the title track and the melancholic My Turn. Even when the collective take a step towards the the higher ground, there is a colour-by-numbers feel to the manoeuvre – Twerksounds like a kissing cousin of their old classic Jump N’ Shout, while there are also familiar hues to the boisterous soul of She’s No Good. Next time out, Basement Jaxx need far more tracks like the extraordinary Day of the Sunflowers( We March On), with Yoko Ono emoting like an Ibiza newbie.  www.basementjaxx.co.uk JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: Raindrops, Day of the Sunflowers (We March On)

THOMAS DYBDAHL

Thomas Dybdahl Last Suppa/Universal ***

You might not have heard of this Norwegian before (although regular readers of my esteemed colleague Jim Carroll’s New Music column will have seen him mentioned over the past few months). That’s going to change with this sliver of sonic serenity. Veering just the right side of your standard singer-songwriter fare, Dybdahl – who is quite the award- winning star in his native country – applies a kind of edged tone throughout his songs of emotional swings and roundabouts. It’s this slant (as well as his liking for deft musical understatement) that marks the singer-songwriter out from other less interesting people we could name, and it’s also the very reason why Norway’s loss will undoubtedly be our gain. www.thomasdybdahl.com TONY CLAYTON-LEA

Download tracks: All’s Not Lost, That Great October Sound, I Need Love Baby, Love, Not Trouble

BANANARAMA

Viva Fascination ***

Bananarama are still in the Guinness Book of World Records as the all-female group with the most ever chart entries. They dominated the 1980s hit parade, seamlessly stitching together glossy pop production values with a sassy and irreverent attitude. Bananarama have flitted in and out of the charts since their heyday. They are now down to core members Karen Woodward and Sara Dallin. Viva sees them back and using all form of studio trickery to update their sound. On Twisted and the single Love Comes they get it absolutely right – the former wouldn’t be out of place on a La Roux album, and the latter is a hi-NRG romp. They lose momentum with the inclusion of three covers (they don’t need so many; they’re good writers themselves), and sometimes let the ball drop. Still, Viva marks a welcome return for a group who are as real as they are as talented – as opposed to a set of dolls created for marketing purposes. www.bananarama.co.uk BRIAN BOYD

Download tracks: Love Comes, Twisted

ELEANOR MCEVOY

Singled Out Moscodisc ***

There’s a slack-limbed quality to this disparate collection. As a singer-songwriter and violinist, Eleanor McEvoy has ploughed a furrow all of her own with four strong solo collections, but this “independent singles” release smacks more of necessity than invention. Jagged edges separate the effervescent opener (and single), Oh Uganda, from the intimate sentiment of Make Mine a Small One, and is light years removed from her quirky, sidelong covers of Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me.For low-attention listeners in search of three-minute snapshots of McEvoy’s wide angle vistas, this collection might be a palate tickler, but for anyone in search of the meat on the bone, her back catalogue is far more substantial. That said, Suffer So Wellis a newgrass humdinger that deserves top billing all on its own. www.eleanormcevoy. com SIOBHAN LONG

Download tracks: Suffer So Well, Oh Uganda

PORT O’BRIEN

Threadbare City Slang ***

There’s a striking difference between Californian duo Port O’Brien’s first two studio albums. Having spent summers in Alaska as a fisherman and baker, respectively, Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin crafted a blithe, jangly debut that sounded like the workings of a folkier, condensed Broken Social Scene. Threadbare, its follow-up is a much sadder, starker affair – unsurprising, since much of it was inspired by the death of Goodwin’s younger brother. It’s an apt soundtrack to the turning of the seasons. Hazy acoustic guitar riffs and shuffling drum beats seep from the speakers like an autumnal blanket of sound, but the prevailing downbeat mood is tempered by perkier numbers, such as the scratchy indiepop of Leap Year. Goodwin’s voice is almost too brittle to handle at times, but overall, it’s a tattered, heartfelt affair. www.portobrien.com  LAUREN MURPHY

Download tracks: Leap Year, Oslo Campfire

BADDIES

Do the Job Medical ****

There’s a likable swagger to Southend punky pups Baddies. Live, they strut and snarl around stages with a vigorous, whip-smart attitude (and neatly pressed grey shirts). The attitude comes through on record, pressed into amplifying a bunch of robust, rambunctious tunes that zing in all the right ways. Battleshipsremains Baddies’ gloriously pitched, highly energetic calling card, but it now has company. Both Holler for My Holidayand Tiffany . . . I’m Sorryshow that, when the band shake off their influences (a dab of Queens of the Stone Age, a dash of Talking Heads and a glug of Fugazi), they’re still capable of bursting out of the blocks with choruses and sets of hooks to die for. Catch Baddies live when they play Dublin’s Academy on October 1st and Belfast’s Auntie Annies the night after. www.my space.com/baddies JIM CARROLL

Download tracks : Battlestations, Holler for My Holiday

CODES

TreesDreamInAlgebra EMI ****

It gets off to a fantastic start: a rush of clattering drums and spiralling atonal keyboards against a backdrop of swooning guitars. It sounds like it could be an Irish TV on the Radio. Instead, the debut album from Codes turns out to be more like an Irish Coldplay. But even if you’re not hugely keen on earnest falsetto vocals combined with bashed cymbals and big, stirring melodies (and I’m not), this is still hugely impressive stuff. In fact, the mix of synths, beats and chiming keyboards is so beautifully arranged that I couldn’t help wishing it were an instrumental album (the enchanting instrumental track, Telos, is one of the highlights). If you only listen to one epic rock album this season, make it this one, not Muse. www.codes.ie ANNA CAREY

Download tracks: Malfunctions, Telos

ELDER

Nobody Knows Elder Music ****

There’s no doubting Elder Roche’s ears have been pricked – for a long time. Elder’s songwriting is peppered with Influences as wayward as Jethro Tull, Crowded House, Andy White, The Divine Comedy and possibly even a lengthy spell in the company of David Lynch. Shadowy figures lope and loiter in unlikely settings, and he clearly revels in the way his characters look askance at the world. And so, lines as painterly as “I’m slackjawed by the black daw colour of your hair”, which might reek of pretence elsewhere, somehow fit right into the demented fairground that Elder calls home. Lazy comparisons with Tom Waits do him nothing more than a disservice: Elder’s voice and wit hint at a creative spirit all his own. www.elderroche.com SIOBHAN LONG

Download tracks: Figures Dressed in Black, Spinning Wheel

GIRLS

Album Fantasy Trashcan ****

Christopher Owens has truly lived the songs he sings. Born into a religious cult that turned against mainstream culture, Owens escaped when he was 16 and spent a couple of years living on the streets. He is now based in San Francisco and works with producer and fellow Girls member Chet Jr White. Owens’s songs are a blur of emotions, from hurt, fragile fragments about heartbreak, lost friendships and his childhood to powerful affirmations of life and the sweet smell of second chances. These cracked ballads, hard-hitting anthems and freakily innocent Californian pop moments all come with fuzzy, ethereal, sun-soaked sounds, and White’s production evokes a magical sonic world. You’ll spin Lust for Lifeagain and again trying to work out how something so simple can be so compelling, but you’ll probably also fall for the strummy, psychedelic blissout of Hellhole Ratraceand the sepia- coated lament of Headache. www.my space.com/girlssanfran JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: Lust for Life, Hellhole Ratrace