Hunter by Anna Calvi [6/10]

Anna Calvi Hunter review

British singer/songwriter/guitarist Anna Calvi has bloomed on her third release,  “Hunter.” This is a powerful collection of songs propelled by drama and bold lyrics around gender and sexuality. She has one of those voices equally at home soaring or roaring or cooing, and ordinarily I’d be left a little cold by this kind of vocals, but not so in this case. Calvi’s guitar work is brilliant. I enjoyed the variety, ranging from swoony “Swimming Pool,” to dramatic, controversial “Hunter,” to snappy “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy.” The penny dropped when I discovered the producer is Nick Launay; he adds heft and grace and, yes, drama, to every track. A risky, triumphant album, “Hunter” is well worth a listen.

Review: Joy as an Act of Resistance by Idles [8/10]

idles joy as an act of resistance review

It’s nigh impossible to properly maintain the rage into one’s sixties, so I don’t listen to much metal or proper punk anymore. But Joy as an Act of Resistance,” the sophomore release of much vaunted Bristol band Idles, came so highly recommended that I had to give it a spin. What a beauteous surprise! Idles takes me back to the days of Spooky Tooth or Black Sabbath or Public Image Limited, a sublime marriage of raw-voiced vocal savagery, a bludgeoning band attack, splendid lyrics, and – this is an essential ingredient – an ear for melody amidst the fury. Much of the hype about “Joy” concerns its earnest lyrics, tackling familial violence, racism, prejudice and loneliness, but that’s just the icing on the cake of a potent brew. Standout tracks include take-no-prisoners “Colossus,” the whooping sadness of “Cry to Me,” and the pro-immigration “Danny Nedelko.” For once the beat-up makes sense: Idles have a long highly creative future ahead of them.

Family of Aliens by Teleman [8/10]

Is Teleman England’s best kept cult secret? Surely! Once dedicated to creating the perfect pop (indie-style) confections, they’re now a robust four-piece with imaginative, solid musicianship around keyboards and guitars, all circling around frontman Tom Saunders’ field-fresh vocals. After some more experimental outings, “Family of Aliens” sees them leaping back into bouncy, almost-dance-style, sparkling songs built around intelligent, evocative lyrics (“Dreams are going to drown you someday, you don’t even know how deep you’ve gone”). Standout tracks include plaintive “Sea of Wine,” the ear worm opening track, and the sweeping “Song for a Seagull.” Not a dud track on this career best: buy and tap your foot and marvel!

We’re Not Talking by The Goon Sax [8/10]

Oh, smash your piggy bank on the floor and grab your cash for this sophomore wonder from the precocious, inwardly focused but tune-filled trio of Louis Forster (yes, son of Go-Between Robert Forster and he not only sounds like dad but writes as well as him), James Harrison (who can also pump out words and music inspired) and crisp, bouncy drummer Riley Jones (and she also writes and sings!). The debut of The Goon Sax was all about young love and ennui, and that hasn’t changed with We’re Not Talking, but now the arrangements sparkle and the variety of indie-style songs is astonishing. I’m too old for these loose-chat lyrics, I tried to tell myself, but I’ve been singing them in the shower nonstop! Check out the rollicking “Make Time 4 Love,” the thumping “She Knows” (with a swoony Alex-Harvey-ish hook), the one-minute bedroom solo of “Somewhere Between,” and the XTC-style brilliance of “Get Out.” Not a pop moment wasted, this smells like a classic.

Songs You Make at Night by Tunng [8/10]

British folktronica group Tunng has been making gorgeous mixed-fi music for over a decade, one of those influential but ignored bands that it’s a treat to discover. Songs You Make at Night is one of their best, a sumptuous amalgam of acoustic guitar and electric piano, heavy bass beats, and found sounds sprinkled with clicks and the like, all hushed over by Sam Gender’s feather-light weary falsetto (I swear he channels Robert Wyatt unerringly at the start of amazing “Dream In”) and Becky Jacobs’s ethereal voice. The lyrics pinch and pull with poetry. Standout tracks include nigh-poppy “Dark Heart” and pastoral “Like Water.” A must buy for 2018, songs you hear at night and in the quiet of the day.