Rock, April 2021

hfnalbum.pngJane Weaver

In the '90s Jane Weaver served in Britpop group Kill Laura, and her solo career has touched upon folk and Americana. But on her more recent releases she's fashioned a distinctive style from many disparate influences and clearly loves both the transcendental qualities of pop melody and of sonic texture and timbre. On Flock she's created a vividly produced 3D sound, which includes elements of primary coloured '80s funk and a strong electronic component, with 'Modern Reputation' a veritable feast of cosmic analogue synths. The glam stomp of 'Stages Of Phases' evokes Goldfrapp's 'Strict Machine' and dreamy flutes drift over hyperactive drumming on the title track in a way both modern and timeless. MB


Arab Strap
As Days Get Dark

When Falkirk duo Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton reformed Arab Strap they were determined 'not to produce mediocrity' and their first album in 16 years is an uncompromising mix of melody and raw, unflinching lyrics. Over electronic drums, guitars, keyboards and occasional brass and strings, Moffat intones tales of love, lust, loss and loneliness, which all take place under the cover of night, with characters that include the debauchee of 'Here Comes Comus!' and the desperate self-harmer of 'Sleeper'. But the songs are all delivered with a warmth and a pawky wit, and 'The Turning Of Our Bones' brilliantly captures both the fragility and power of life. MB


The Hold Steady
Open Door Policy
Positive Jams/Thirty Tigers 55080CD; LP: 54885LP

On their eighth album the Brooklyn sextet purvey a singular take on Americana. Lyrically, they overlap the flamboyant narrative style that Bruce Springsteen brought to his early songs of the heartland and with his half-spoken, half-sung delivery Craig Finn packs in so much detail that each song unfolds like a mini novella. With its big guitars, 'Lanyards' sounds suitably panoramic, but like their compatriots The National and Wilco, The Hold Steady also take liberties with rock forms, bending their song structures into unusual shapes, a prime example being 'Unpleasant Breakfast' with its slippery rhythms, siren-like keyboards and punchy brass section. MB


Teenage Fanclub
Endless Arcade

'Home' opens proceedings inauspiciously with a simple strummed chord sequence, and despite some tasty lead guitar explorations, at 7m it outstays its welcome. But the other 11 tracks are more succinctly structured with the band's trademark dovetailing guitars and vocal harmonies, and subtle keyboard coloration. Endless Arcade may lack the swagger of signature albums like 1991's Bandwagonesque – although they come close at times, particularly on the animated 'Warm Embrace' – but this mellower approach yields its own gems like the bittersweet, Beatlesy 'The Sun Won't Shine On Me' and the serene closer 'Silent Song'. MB