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Music dims

Published on December 18th, 2017 | by voxx


5 Great Overlooked Albums

Paloma Faith – The Architect

While Paloma Faith’s previous LPs have offered a theatrical take on slick retro-pop, fourth time around she’s got serious, taking on everything from Brexit, interracial relationships and environmental catastrophe. Alongside songwriting assistance from Sia, Rag’n’Bone Man and Ed Harcourt, she’s hired* a gaggle of heavyweight talent to add vocals. A gloriously stentorian Samuel L Jackson delivers spoken-word opener ‘Evolution’, John Legend assumes control of swooning duet ‘I’ll Be Gentle’ and socialist mascot Owen Jones pipes up in the brief rant, ‘Politics Of Hope’. With string arrangements from David Arnold, the production is epic and when Faith belts out the arena-filling choruses of ‘Warrior’, ‘Guilty’ and the title track, it’s clear The Architect has elevated her to a whole new level.

Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures

Amid the giddiness of Britpop, York’s Shed Seven never quite met the hysteria of Blur and Oasis, yet their warmly anthemic indie rock, across tracks such as ‘Going For Gold’ and ‘Chasing Rainbows’, kindled great affection of its own. It’s now 16 years since they released an album, and Instant Pleasures – a rumination on both the joy of a good pop song and the easy gratifications of the modern age – returns to similar ground. These are big, amply-chorused songs with enough tenderness to balance the boom. Among them stand some wonderfully forlorn moments: ‘Better Days’, for instance, possesses the kind of drizzly, midweek melancholy that could only have been written by a Northern British band.

Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe

It takes some chutzpah to end your debut full-length album with a chopped and screwed rendition of novelty hit ‘The Fast Food Song’, but New York rapper Princess Nokia is not lacking in confidence. A smart melting pot of influences and references, 1992 Deluxe fizzes with righteous anger and feminist chest-thumping as Nokia’s deft rhymes weave their way through dark trap beats and old-school samples. Her home city provides the backdrop to tracks that deconstruct gender (‘Tomboy’), explore Puerto Rican mysticism (‘Brujas’) and celebrate weirdness (‘G.O.A.T.’), always with enough levity to avoid veering into po-faced self-importance. “Most folk are so f**king lame,” she spits on alt-anthem ‘Different’ – not a problem that Princess Nokia has.

Nerina Pallot – Stay Lucky

For her sixth studio album, at 43, this groovy musician has bought her freedom, recording with her own new label and dropping the slick pop patter she produced for the likes of Kylie Minogue. The result is “totally muso”, festooned with sax solos and languid jazz-soul freakouts. Pallot’s heart looks like a retro one. ‘Juno’ has an engulfing, Massive Attack-style dub power; ‘Man Didn’t Walk On The Moon’, with its laid-back, top-down vibe, could be Fleetwood Mac; and ‘Come Into My Room’ is a low-lit croon – Lena Horne, Julie London maybe, swept along on intimate piano. ‘Come Back To Bed’ is achingly chanson. This album is brave because it’s not immediate: cheaply, you occasionally long for the hooky pop. But – offering hope despite loss, putting its heart in shameless romance – it’s worth the commitment.

Sia – Everyday Is Christmas

Presumably most days already seem like Christmas for fans of Sia, whose prolificacy has birthed a fusillade of soundtrack contributions, songs for herself and songs for others. Everyday Is Christmas might be a conflicting experience for them, though: you’d hope these 10 original seasonal songs would be good, but what if potential hits had been rendered unlistenable outside the festive period? Tracks such as ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and ‘Candy Cane Lane’ don’t prove troubling on that front, but ‘Underneath The Mistletoe’ and ‘Snowflake’ are welcome returns to the intimacy of Sia’s early career. More upbeat is the Phil Spector-referencing ‘Puppies Are Forever’, the high-point on an LP that, on balance, really is just for Christmas.

- By Jake White

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