ALBUM OF THE WEEK
NATALIE PRASS - NATALIE PRASS
Ambitious yet approachable, the debut record from American songwriter Natalie Prass sets a high benchmark for the year. From the off, the Nashville resident opens her heart and out pours soulful southern goodness. It is a record documenting a betrayal in a relationship: “Our love is a long goodbye,” she sings over and over on album opener My Baby Don’t Understand Me, for the avoidance of any initial doubt. The vengeful strut of Your Fool, delicately reconfigured later in the album as spoken-word track Reprise, is brassy both musically and in its punishing words. “Tonight, when you’re out, you’ll come back to an empty house, with a note signed ‘Sincerely, your fool’,” she sing-speaks, before the sign-off of “They tell me I’ll always be your fool” signals the strain of breaking free altogether. The closing It Is You, which might have been cut from a vintage Broadway musical or a Disney movie, showcases the blossoming Spacebomb music factory in Richmond, Virginia through whose doors these songs entered in stripped-down form and exited dressed in the most warming orchestral arrangements. This is a record with heart, soul and virtue close to Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis and Carole King’s Tapestry. It is quite simply wonderful.
PAPA ROACH - F.E.A.R
It’s been an unbelievable 15 years since American-rockers Papa Roach released their triple-platinum album Infest and rock-club favourite Last Resort. Although the now foursome - Jacoby Shaddix, Jerry Horton, Tobin Esperance and Tony Palermo - are arguably too old to be wearing eyeliner and bleaching their hair, lead vocalist Shaddix’s voice is still as powerful and angry as ever on eighth album F.E.A.R. Opener Face Everything And Rise is a shout-along, defiance-filled start, while Warriors has a fast-paced nu-metal beat to really get pulses racing. On top of this, Gravity, featuring the angelic guest vocals of Maria Brink, Fear Hate Love and Broken As Me are moments of pure angsty brilliance. In a time when metal has taken a back seat, it’s great to see that one of the old names is still going strong; these rockers have clearly still got it.
POND - MAN IT FEELS LIKE SPACE AGAIN
Nick Allbrook may have looked pretty crazy to step away from the Grammy-nominated Tame Impala, but it’s almost certainly not so. The Perth multi-instrumentalist comes into his own making music with Pond, now celebrating their sixth album in as many years. Man It Feels Like Space Again is a warmly textured record of multiple personalities; languorous yet lively, sunny yet sorrowful, and has a marshmallowy middle into which several songs blend into an haze of psychedelic funk. At nine songs, it is perfectly paced and has less of a ‘jam’ feel than predecessor, Hobo Rocket. Alongside tongue-in-cheek titles (Heroic Shart anyone?), the album is defined by scoops of saccharin melodies suspended in a fizz of cymbal-led rhythms and sticky pop soundscapes. Zond is a heavily distorted yet tightly articulated burst of retro sci-fi cartoon synths and Allbrook’s echoey squawks, and the title track is a cacophonous medley of cosmic bleeps, bloops and sixties flange noodling. The nostalgic Elvis’ Flaming Star sees the King of roll ‘n’ roll blended with Bowie vocals and garage beats, while Medicine Hat offers a Dylanesque acoustic breather from all the sonic experimentalism. This Valentine’s Day, discerning indie heartthrobs will be romancing to the sound of Aussie psychedelia, you’ll see.