Out this week, all of the records that you need on your shelf this week in one handy place.
Check out the albums that get our fopp stamp of approval below.
Childhood – Universal High
Touted as the next Stone Roses when they first emerged from Nottingham in 2012, Childhood have turned out to be something very different. With their long-awaited second album, the quintet, led by the key duo of frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft and guitarist Leo Dobson, have fully embraced the more soulful influences that have long hovered at the edges of their sound.
The band’s spiritual home now seems to be America – in the lush arrangements, in the impeccable production of Ben H Allen III (Deerhunter, Animal Collective), and even in Romans-Hopcraft’s slightly transatlantic vowels – so it’s fitting that Childhood decamped to Maze Studios in Atlanta to record Universal High.
The results are impressively infectious, with stringed instruments taking a backseat to synths, pianos and keyboards of all kinds. On the sinuous funk of second single Cameo, Childhood come on like Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker exploring an obsession with major-seventh chords, while the psychedelic fug of synths and sugar-sweet melodies on the propulsive Melody Says brings to mind MGMT circa Oracular Spectacular. Meanwhile, the title track is a sumptuous piano ballad, echoing Todd Rundgren at his most straightforward.
Their influences might be vintage, then, but Childhood always put a more modern twist on them, hence Understanding is like Andy Weatherall producing Curtis Mayfield, complete with crazily processed Rhodes piano and Romans-Hopcraft crooning, “Take a look at my life/Take a look at my love…” Don’t Have Me Back tries on Stax pop for size, but mixes it with a hypnotically echoed sax solo.
Only two albums into their career, Childhood have created a brave melange of the past, the present and the future, taking in slick ’70s soul, classic Gallic pop, shoegaze haze and the crisp production of 2017. A very universal triumph, indeed.
Dizzee Rascal – Raskit
Nine years ago, Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris teamed up for Dance Wiv Me, an infectious electro number that reached Number One and sent them both into the big-time.
Harris has remained there, dating Taylor Swift, modelling underwear for Armani and generally becoming one of the most successful British musicians ever. Dizzee, however, always seemed too nuanced a character for superstardom, even as he racked up more Number Ones and collaborated with the (un-street) likes of Robbie Williams, Jessie J and will.i.am. Now, back with his sixth album, the man born Dylan Mills has returned to the stripped-down grime and gritty topics of his 2003 debut, Boy In The Corner.
The transition feels a natural one, even if today – with the likes of Boy Better Know bigger than ever – everyone knows that grime is big business. Dizzee’s flow is superb on the sinister Wot U Gonna Do as he ponders what life holds for a failed star – “everybody wanna take shots at the king… gotta work weekend shifts at McD’s, then you can’t party on a Friday…” Sick A Dis, meanwhile, finds Mills ranting over a mutant dancehall beat as he settles scores: “Sick of comparisons I don’t relate… sick of these hipsters/Sick of these tricksters… Sick of this government, look at the state, same old debate.”
Musically, Raskit is also a return to form: Business Man brilliantly utilises a kitsch organ sample, and The Other Side is fragmented dubstep, while Man Of The Hour recalls The Avalanches’ gauzy disco. Plus there’s no Robbie Williams here – in fact, there are few choruses and each of Raskit’s 16 songs is endearingly punchy and short.
Even more importantly, Dizzee is back with a fire in his belly that’s been missing since he hit the mainstream. Looking sharp again, you could say.
Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
Global superstar Lana Del Rey releases her fourth album Lust For Life, which features collaborations with A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Sean Ono Lennon, The Weeknd & Stevie Nicks. The record includes the already-released, gorgeous new singles Love and Lust For Life.
In a recent interview with BBC Radio 2, Lana stated that she began recording the album “thinking that the whole record was going to have sort of a, like, a ’50s, ’60s feeling, with some kind of Shangri-La, early Joan Baez influences.” She has since discussed the political tones to the album saying that “As the climate kept on getting more heated politically, I found (that) lyrically everything was just directed towards that,” she said.
“So because of that, the sound just got really updated, and I felt like (talking) to the younger side of the audience I have. I guess it’s just a little more socially aware. That’s kind of a global feeling.”
Foster The People – Sacred Hearts Club
Founded in in 2009, Foster the People achieved success with the 2011 release of their debut album Torches, which has sold nearly two million albums and over nine million singles worldwide. Torches featured the #1 hit Pumped Up Kicks, which was declared “the year’s anthem” by SPIN, and also spawned the infectious singles Don’t Stop (Colour On The Walls), Houdini and Helena Beat.
The band garnered three Grammy nominations for its monumental debut, including Best Alternative Album, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for Pumped Up Kicks and Best Short Form Music Video for Houdini.
The band followed-up their impressive debut with Supermodel, which was influenced by front-man Mark Foster’s world travels and his resulting shifting perspective on life. Their latest record, Sacred Hearts Club, includes the lead single, Doing It For the Money, and the forthcoming hits Pay The Man and SHC.
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott – Crooked Calypso
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott release their third album, Crooked Calypso, which boasts all the hallmarks of Heaton’s peerless song writing: songs buoyant with melody, and redolent with biting wit, but also real emotion. Opening track I Gotta Praise, a euphoric secular Gospel anthem, raises the roof & opens the record in style.
The Lord Is A White Con, meanwhile, considers religion as an exploitative tool of empire builders, while She Got The Garden is the wittiest divorce song since D-I-V-O-R-C-E. “Singing was something I was never going to do with my life.
I just sort of fell into it, an accident, the result of me being in the right place at the right time. But I’ve always loved singing Paul’s songs, and I love them even more now. I’m biased, of course, but he’s just becoming better and better. It’s an honour to sing alongside him” states Jacqui.
Also Out This Week
Nicole Atkins – Goodnight Rhonda Lee
French Montana – Jungle Rules
Goldfinger – Knife
Jethro Tull – Songs From The Woods (40th Anniversary)
Marillion – Misplaced Childhood
Declean McKenna – What Do You Think About The Car?
Radiohead – Ok Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017
Ramones – Leave Home: 40th Anniversary
Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Barefoot In The Head
Kenny Wayne Shepard – Lay It On Down
The Specials – In The Studio
The Specials – More Specials
The Specials -The Specials
Tyler The Creator – Scum F*ck Flowerboy
Various Artists – Now 97
Daphni – FABRICLIVE 93
Wintersun – Forest Seasons