Sparks “Hippopotamus”

Glorious 23rd album (or so?) from the brothers Mael. “Hippopotamus” consists of 15 concise vignettes of perfectly formed Sparks. Almost distilling their unique art-pop raison d etre in a single long player, it feels like a career spanning best of. Witty, and bursting with melody, it is little wonder that the album has hit no.7 in the UK (first for 40 years) and has garnered huge reviews. Occasionally an album feels like a potential classic on initial listens. This is one such album – utterly wonderful. Embrace them while you still can. 9/10


Sunsonic “Melting Down On Motor Angel”

Mildly obscure, very early ’90’s pop/rock hybrid album which bombed even with reasonable publicity, top remixer (Oakenfold’s mix of single “A Kind of Loving”) and fab single/album artwork. It’s very much of its time, but an interesting curiosity nonetheless (with a faultless first half/side A and an increasingly guitar-driven second half). For those with an eye for a banger, the 808 State/Graham Massey remix of “Driveaway” is a work of genius (ebay the 12″ or CD single). 7/10

Erasure “World Be Gone”

Such is the inconsistency with later-day Erasure albums, you never know quite what to expect. 2014’s “The Violet Flame” was wonderful, whilst 2011’s “Tomorrow’s World” has long been consigned to the pop-dumper. World Be Gone is certainly informed by today’s global troubles and is a largely sombre slow-tempo affair. Musically, it’s fairly sparse too, with Andy Bell’s vocals front and centre. Unfortunately it’s a little too earnest and lacking any real bite or killer chord changes. Not awful, but way to workmanlike. 5/10

Saint Etienne “Home Counties”

It’s been a five years since the excellent “Words and Music”, so album number nine is warmly received from the pop institution that is Saint Etienne (Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell). Home Counties is very much in the mold of their early releases – 19 sprawling tracks interspersed with soundbites and all feeling very British. In fact, the whole album is an ode to English suburban life and casually flits between styles in a somewhat laid back fashion. It’s a difficult album to criticise, but we can’t help feeling it is a little too pleasant and is certainly lacking killer tracks (see any Saint Etienne singles collection), although “Whyteleafe” is really rather good. Nice. 6/10

Carl Craig “Versus”

Detroit legend adds classical elements to a selection of his techno cuts (and remixes). Paris-based Les Siècles Orchestra (directed by François-Xavier Roth) and pianist Francesco Tristano provide the classical flourishes. It’s a flawless marriage which brings to mind the essential “Recomposed” project with Moritz von Oswald. Highly recommended. 9/10

Joe Goddard “Electric Lines”

Hot Chip linchpin delivers a second solo album of melodic house music. There is lots to savour here – split between vocal and instrumentals, not least the utterly essential “Music is the Answer”. However, an uneven second-half featuring a couple of slower numbers and the lumpy “Funk You Up” break the spell. 7/10

Future Islands “The Far Field”

Baltimore three-piece consolidate the success achieved with 2014’s “Singles” with slightly more cohesive album (now with added drummer). It flags a little towards the end, but there is enough pathos and trademark soul-searching from vocalist Samuel T Herring to warrant our continued adoration. 8/10

Hauschka “What If”

Latest album from Volker Bertelmann features extensively manipulated piano works – sitting somewhere between modern classical and electronica. Complex, beautiful and endlessly rewarding, “What If” is already a contender for album of the year. 9/10

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