June Music Review

Let’s start with a disappointment. Cherry Ghost has been one of the most under-rated bands in the UK for some years, after two brilliant albums, Thirst for Romance and Beneath this Burning Shoreline. Based on these works, and tracks such as People Help the People (a minor hit) and the gorgeous Mathematics (one of the loveliest songs of the last ten years), Simon Aldred, the main man behind the band, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as his fellow North-Westerner, Guy Garvey. Indeed, Cherry Ghost shares much of Elbow’s tuneful wistfulness and way with a lyric.

But the new album, Herd Runners, sounds like they have gone headlong for the Radio 2 audience, and with a sound that is more obviously country than previous albums. Most tracks individually are fine. They’re tuneful and pleasant, but there is a lack of variation and challenge, not to mention a minor chord or a pace that isn’t strictly ‘mid’. I went back to Beneath this Burning Shoreline after playing the new album and there is more going on in the first track of that album than in the whole of Herd Runners. A great present for a MOR loving relative or friend though – I am being harsh, many people will thoroughly enjoy this and to some extent so did I. But Aldred can do much better that this.  6/10.

Sharon van Etten got the attention of the indie music cognoscenti and was in my personal top ten of the year with her last album, Tramp, in 2012. A singer songwriter from New Jersey she defies easy classification, with touches of alt-country, folk, rock, blues and indie. In Are We There she writes with great honesty about relationships, and generally not the good side of things. But this isn’t heavy going - her songs are always interesting, sometimes lyrically challenging but never lacking in hooks, and are surprisingly catchy after a couple of listens. And some are outright cheerful!

But she can also sing “Stab my eyes so I can’t see” like Patti Smith, and send a chill down your spine. Van Etten can also pull off the guitar rock sound convincingly, then move you with a delicate piano based ballad, but whatever the musicals style, it never overpowers her voice and the strength of the songs. The album has got excellent reviews pretty much everywhere except the Guardian (3 stars there) but I’m with the majority here. 9/10 and a contender for album of the year so far.

Happyness are a London trio whose debut album Weird Little Birthday harks back to US lo-fi stoner / slacker bands like Pavement, and more recent acts such as Yuck and Mazes, but with a off-beat British sense of humour in the lyrics. (See the song title below - Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste The Same). It’s all quite woozy, with half whispered, half-asleep sounding vocals, and some ballads as well as the mid-tempo numbers. The overall effect is a bit amateurish at times but charming and fun, and makes me want to see them live. Worth a listen. 7.5/10

And as an extra treat if you’ve got this far – if you haven’t heard Mathematics by Cherry Ghost, here you are. Enjoy.

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