Album reviews: Marc Bolan, Hannah Georgas, Billy Ocean, Dirty Projectors, Declan McKenna

Various

Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs Of Marc Bolan And T Rex

MARC Bolan was friend and rival to David Bowie, first to find fame and first to number one after he moved from 1960s mystical folk rock duo Tyrannosaurus Rex to the glam rock monster T Rex. But he’d been left far behind by the time of his death in a car crash two weeks before his 30th birthday in 1977, and will only be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November, 24 years after Bowie. AngelHeaded Hipster aims to redress the balance and serves as a celebration of producer Hal Willner, who died of Covid-19 in April. Willner compiled tribute albums to great composers including Thelonious Monk, Kurt Weill and Charles Mingus, and placed Bolan at that level. His contacts book secured a mixture of Bolan’s contemporaries, later artists influenced by him and some unexpected choices. Some of Bolan’s best-known songs are missing from the 26 here but AngelHeaded Hipster will still make you want to listen on repeat, as well as send you back to the originals.

9/10

Matthew George

Hannah Georgas

All That Emotion

ALL That Emotion, the latest offering from Ontario native Hannah Georgas, runs the gamut of emotion: suppression, oppression and breaking free. Fresh from producing and co-writing one Taylor Swift’s album – Folklore, you might have heard of it? – The National’s Aaron Dessner helps to create layers of dense instrumentation. His hypnotic style and choice of driving, looping drums is a fine accompaniment to Georgas’s tremolo vocals. Songs like Change showcase the range of her voice, which offers vulnerability and steely resolve in equal measure. Pray It Away, a polyrhythmic zinger that recounts her battle with her conservative-leaning family over same-sex marriage, is a stand-out, while Someone I Don’t Know offers dense, beautiful guitars. With the help of Dessner’s deft hand, Georgas has produced her most focused and emotionally truthful album yet.

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8/10

Alex Green

Billy Ocean

One World

BILLY Ocean celebrated his 70th birthday by announcing his first album of new material in 10 years and a tour taking in venues such as the Royal Albert Hall. Of course, coronavirus put paid to the British R&B and pop legend’s plans, but this album remains. The Grammy Award-winner co-wrote all 12 tracks on the tellingly titled One World, which was recorded in Manchester and New York last year. The album does not get off to a good start. Opener We Gotta Find Love features muddy, 80s-style production and jarring thunder and rain effects. Thankfully, Ocean soon hits a stride, riding a taut groove on Feel The Love. Yet across the album it’s a mixed bag. Ocean soars when he is allowed to showcase his rough, deep voice but flounders under shoddy production and busy orchestration. Fresh from being made an MBE in the New Year Honours list, this is a welcome return to the spotlight, but not one that shows off Ocean’s best songwriting.

5/10

Alex Green

Dirty Projectors

SuperJoao

UNDERSTATED is hardly the word you’d use to describe a Dirty Projectors record ordinarily, but in recent years frontman and songwriter Dave Longstreth has been on something of a journey. After a well-publicised falling out with bandmate and ex-partner Amber Coffman, 2017’s self-titled record was a brutal story of heartache, while the follow-up, Lamp Lit Prose, was a cameo-laden attempt to revert to his project’s more playful early days. But on four-track EP Super Joao – the latest in the band’s EP cycle, 5EPs – Longstreth is found in a notably more contented mood, plucking away at a nylon-string guitar like a fireside troubadour. Inspired by Chet Baker and the late bossa nova pioneer Joao Gilberto, it’s quite the departure for a man who’s usually obsessed with fraught rhythmic structures and tangled harmonies. But as on Flight Tower, the previous EP in the series, Longstreth and his bandmates seem to have found a sense of calm, and they’re wearing it well.

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7/10

Stephen Jones

Declan McKenna

Zeros

SINCE 2017, when Hertfordshire singer-songwriter Declan McKenna released his debut studio album What Do You Think About The Car?, he’s improved greatly as an artist. His long-awaited second album Zeros shows just how much he’s progressed and how the time he spent working on it has paid off. You Better Believe features an upbeat indie-pop vibe also heard in some of McKenna’s previously released singles. Among them is Beautiful Faces, one of his more meaningful songs, as it covers the issues young people face in the modern world and the lyric “beautiful faces smiling over us” gives the feeling of the general public feeling smaller than the celebrities we see on social media. Later parts of the album demonstrate McKenna’s ability to make each track sound unique. This is clear when you go from Rapture, a clear upbeat auto-tuned song, straight into Sagittarius, which has a much more mellow sound to it. If you’re judging each track on its own merit then they are all decent but collectively, it’s a mismatch of styles that at times seems thrown together.

6/10

Abi Hayward


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