This week’s new album reviews include Rihanna’s long-awaited return, Bloc Party’s second post-reunion album, the debut from thinking-person’s supergroup Nevermen and something truly awful from Sia.
Rihanna – Anti
Rihanna’s four-years-in-the-making eighth studio album is a fascinating work, although perhaps not for entirely positive reasons. Thankfully it sounds nothing like you may have feared (Calvin Harris’s ‘We Found Love’ is a million miles away from anything on here) instead it’s a refreshingly stripped-down almost anti-mainstream album. But that’s not to say it’s particularly original. Most of the tracks sound like approximations of the moody nihilistic seediness of The Weeknd or the low-key minimalism of The Internet.
One track, a cover of Tame Impala’s barely six-month old ’Same Ol’ Mistakes’ just wipes Kevin Parker’s vocals and replaces them with Rihanna’s own. That being said, it contains her most emotive vocal work of her career (maybe not a massive victory considering she barely ever gets above deadpan insouciance.) But despite the minor grumbles, Anti is the most consistent Rihanna album so far and shows her willingness not to give much of a fuck about anything. 7/10
Bloc Party – Hymns
Post-reunion Bloc Party are a far more placid bunch then pre-break-up Bloc Party. They’re no longer stretching in various different directions, threatening to pull apart the very fabric of what made us fall in love with them in the first place. Now they just do what Kele Okereke says and are a fully-fledged disco-indie band that occasionally writes a nice ballad. It seems to works for them and we get to enjoy some pleasant, if inoffensive, music with at least one good idea per track. Although there’s nothing as exciting as ‘Octopus’ from their last album, there’s also nothing as straight-up The XX ripping-off as Kele’s last solo album, so things are about equal in the karma bank. 7/10
Sia – This is Acting
Starts with a piano line that makes my heart plunge with depression as it’s one I’ve heard more than 1,000 times before on every unimaginative pop ballad recorded in the last five years. Then enter Sia’s vocals, which for 12 interminable tracks barely deviates from her abrasive yelping, delivered over some unbearably dead-eyed overwrought euro-pop. It’s exhausting, numbing stuff that has no discernible character or anything to recommend. It’s only later that I learn this is a collection of tracks originally written by Sia for Adele, Rihanna and Beyonce, but ultimately rejected by those artists. It totally makes sense. These are the very broadest pop brush-strokes, without a hint of daring or imagination, pitched directly as filler for artists who have creatively moved on long ago. 2/10
Money – Suicide Songs
The Manchester four-piece have been around since 2010 creating ethereal, dreamy rock music, that’s as enchanting as it is a bit dull. They’re a bit like the nicer side of Led Zeppelin, the side that’s all noodling pastoral folk, without Jimmy Page chugging away in the background like a mad-man. So uh, yeah, not as good as Led Zeppelin, but at least they’re not singing about Hobbits and Gandalf all the time. 6/10
Milk Teeth – Vile Child
Do not not look up this band, otherwise you’ll find out they’re from Stroud in Gloucestershire and it will totally shatter the illusion they’re a post-hardcore band working their way up for years on the toilet circuit of Washington. In fact, forget I even said it. Instead just pretend the screaming and the frantic guitars offset by simple melodic lines are borne from years slaving away in five-and-dimes and living out of a car, instead of growing up surrounded by stately homes and golden retrievers in the Cotswolds. Yeah I’ve ruined it haven’t I. 6/10
NEVERMEN – NEVERMEN
Nevermen is a supergroup consisting of Methods Unsound’s hero Mike Patton, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Doseone the rapper, producer and co-founder of Anticon. These are three talented, boundary-pushing gentlemen to say the least and god knows I love a Mike Patton side-project (although technically his whole career is made up of nothing but side-projects, including Faith No More, as that was just to pass time between Mr Bungle albums).
Unfortunately Nevermen is a tad underwhelming, neither giving either artist a chance to truly shine in either exploratory experimental terms, nor in making something appealingly hook-laden (both disciplines these guys are more than capable of nailing). Instead it plays out like the meandering cast recording of a West-End musical, full of movements that possibly make sense visually but are fairly beige on record, with none of the artists stretching themselves beyond what they’ve achieved before. The last thing I imagined from Nevermen is that they would play it so safe. 6/10
Check out all the latest music releases in our new album reviews section, including this round-up featuring School of Seven Bells and Soulwax.