Album Review – Janelle Monae, the Amazing, Eleanor Friedberger and Frank Turner

It is a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, so no procurement content till Tuesday (unless something extraordinary happens), but here’s a short album review for April / May, with four very strong releases that are all well worth checking out.

Eleanor Friedberger is a new name for us, but she was (with her brother) one half of indie-electro faves Fiery Furnaces a few years back. Rebound is her fourth solo album and its very good – sophisticated pop, with often witty lyrics, all quite hard to categorize but with tuneful, clever songs that get under the skin. She has an unforced, conversational singing style, and there are touches of the Cure and synth-pop along with a bit of psychedelia and some straightforwardly strong pop tunes. Well worth a listen, and probably a grower too. 8/10

 

Janaelle Monae has been around a while and many have felt she hasn’t quite delivered given her undoubted talent as writer and performer. As a gender-fluid “woke” black woman, Dirty Computer could have been very earnest or hectoring, but it is anything but. Whilst having some very effective “political” moments including the powerful, clever and literate rap Django Jane, it is a real treat for anyone who likes pop, sold, dance, R ‘n B; or just good music really. The Prince homage Make Me Feel is a highlight, as is the very rude Pynk with its hilarious video. But other tracks are simply very commercial pop songs that could almost be Katy Perry or Taylor Swift on a good day; title track Dirty Computer has Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys on backing vocals. There’s a pretty amazing full-length narrative film as well – Monae is a huge talent and already an album of the year contender (that’s three so far). 9/10
(Some use of the “f-word” here… but a great song).

 

Frank Turner has been around even longer, with three personas - as a solo folk troubadour, lead singer / screamer with hardcore punk band Möngöl Hörde, and a sort of UK Springsteen when he plays with his band Sleeping Souls. With Be More Kind he switches between modes one and three, as he produces his most commercial work for some time, perhaps ever – this is very much a pop/rock album. He is more hopeful than he’s been for some time, there are some great tunes here, but at times he gets rather close to Sheeran territory – which is both a compliment and a slight concern that he might be losing his edginess. But there are still plenty of his literate, liberal, concerned and political lyrics here, for instance on the ironic Make America Great Again, and the title track is lovely, destined to be a gig sing-along favourite for years to come. All in all, another very strong addition to an impressive body of work. 8.5/10

 

Finally, the band that have now produced two albums that are just great for falling asleep to. And I mean that as a compliment – elegant Swedish psych-rockers The Amazing make gorgeous music that washes over you, but has enough going on that you can “listen” carefully if you want – or just let yourself drift off. However, I wonder if they read my last review that said this and decided to play a bit of a trick on listeners on their new release, In Transit. So after 40 minutes of this hour long album, and after 7 minutes of the building, but beautiful, 10 minute track called Benson Se Convirtio Completamente Furiosa, we suddenly get the wildest, least sleep-inducing atonal, white noise, lead guitar solo you’ve ever heard! Obviously designed to wake me up. Seriously, I love this (apart from that solo), it is unlike pretty much anything else out there, and you should check it out. 8.5/10.

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