Review: A new Bruce Springsteen album is always exciting. The Boss' hardworking and hard-done-by fables, touching on the politics and socio-economics tearing America apart, still resonate. If anything, they have become more relevant in an age when class struggles have created deep cultural divides, meaning any reminder of the real enemy is a welcome release.
Save for 2014's collection of covers and alternative versions, High Hopes, Letter To You is Springsteen's first full length since 2012, and will delight die harders - this is what they've been waiting for. Opening with 'One Minute You're Here', gruff rock 'n' roll set among the railroad tracks of Nowheresville, post-industrial decline, sets the tone. This is the artist on full power, an orator of broken dreams and heartfelt promises, a guy who will always be there for us because it feels like he's one of us. The king is back, long live the king.
Review: As long as there is hip-hop, debate will rage as to which album by A Tribe Called Quest is their finest. Of course, they're all superb, but 1993's "Midnight Marauders" - their third full-length - may well be the best of all. That's a big call, but we'd ask any doubters to give it another listen. The New York crew is in particularly fine form on the mic throughout, while the backing tracks, which make great use of crunchy, head-nodding beats and hundreds of superb, hand-picked samples, are amongst the most intricately produced, groovy and deep ever committed to wax. It's one of those hip-hop sets that should be in the collection of any committed music head, and not just rap fans.
Review: Tyler, the Creator's fifth studio album was produced entirely by the Californian artist himself, but it does feature guests like Solange, Playboi Carti, Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert. It immediately debuted at number one and it's easy to see why. Rich with a complex fusion of funk, rap and r&b that glides on Cali-synths and neo soul melodies, the whole thing is tethered to the ground with a hefty low end and follows the narrative of a love triangle as told by American comedian Jerrod Carmichael. Arguably his best work to date, the production is next level and storytelling wholly involving.
Review: Just when you thought all hope was lost along come The Strokes to fulfil the promises they made way, way back with their startling debut 'Is This It'. That was 17 years ago, and while the outfit have made plenty worthy of note in the years between then and now, we'd be surprised if we're the only ones thinking this latest is their best effort since that inaugural outing. Confident but also hungry, rather than bloated and lazy, there's plenty here that you won't be able to get away from in a hurry. 'Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus' might define the package best, delivering some powerful pop energy in an all-round homage to and critique of the 1980s, an era revisited again on 'Bad Decisions', which owes plenty to Billy Idol's Generation X classic, 'Dancing With Myself', with tracks like 'Why Are Sundays So Depressing' diverting to a synthdom route and 'Not The Same Anymore' throwing crooner styles into the mix. Exceptional stuff.
Review: Whilst it's now impossible to view Leonard Cohen's final album outside the context of his passing, the fact of the matter is that this lugubrious sage had been ruminating on the nature of endings and goodbyes for much of his near half-century of artistry, and it's hard to think of a figure who's been quite so eloquent and wise in this endeavour. 'You Want It Darker' seem may a fitting way to bow out, but moreso it bears testimony to the fact that Cohen's questing spirit remained undimmed right until the last, and his travails in the exploration of faith, romance and the human condition were never to lose their finesse and bite.
Review: Since their early heyday of mammoth pop hits, electronic-indie duo MGMT seemed to sound gradually more and more conflicted, unsure whether to continue producing stadium-scale hooks or follow their eccentricities. It seems, with their fourth full-length 'Little Dark Age', that they've opted for the latter - sounding all the more confident and cohesive for it. 'Little Dark Age' sees the pair channeling their synthetic poppy psychedelia into their darkest, most serious and interesting songwriting yet. Anybody who panned 2013's self-titled album or 2010's 'Congratulations' should be pleasantly surprised by this return to form and new-found resolve. 'Little Dark Age' is a far cry from MGMT's definitive debut, but it's to the band's credit that exploring the more weird and wonderful corners of their pop-sensibilities has worked so well.