Rock, January 2021

Seasonal Shift
City Slang CD/LP: SLANG50339

Arizona-based Calexico have delivered a 'sort of' Christmas album and to those allergic to such an idea, they've dispensed with the mawkishness associated with music marking the festival. Instead, it's a delightful, pithy set. They are augmented here by guests, and their filmic take on Tex-Mex music is cut with Latin brass and hints of Portuguese Fado. Singer-guitarist Joey Burns appears to be seeking a temporary retreat into a more certain, secure world, sifting through regrets, taking stock, and hoping for better in 2021. He praises friends, family and drunken parties, on material that includes a cover of John Lennon's 'Happy Christmas (War Is Over)' and the chilly, vibraphone-led instrumental, 'Glory's Hope'. MB


Dearly Devoted
Enraptured RAPTCD81; LP: RAPTLP81

The cover here was designed by Martin Andersen, who has worked for 4AD, and Coldharbourstores have the sort of ethereal quality that hallmarked acts on that label. The picked guitar on 'Big Deal' evokes memories of The Cocteau Twins, but this quartet have an individual character and a lightness of touch with keyboards and busy electronic and real drums gliding beneath Lucy Castro's soft, clear vocals. Bark Psychosis frontman Graham Sutton's production adds a depth and sumptuousness to the sound field, but at times the mood darkens with ominous low notes and abstract sonics, and things begin to get chilly on the eerie, drifting 'AMY'. MB


Jakko M Jakszyk
Secrets & Lies
Insideout 19439779492 (CD + DVD); LP:19439779501

King Crimson vocalist and guitarist Jakko Jakszyk has worked with a wide range of musicians including Level 42, Tom Robinson, Sam Brown and a who's who of avant-rockers, all of which feeds into his first solo album since 2009. It encompasses dreamy ballads, inventive pop forms, and tough, angular compositions with fluid lead guitar and intricate picked patterns, recorded with members of King Crimson. Lyrically he deals with love, loss and societal unrest with two tracks particularly poignant: 'The Borders We Traded', an a cappella song about his search for his Irish birth mother, and its companion instrumental, 'Trading Borders'. MB


Smashing Pumpkins
Sumerian 0810016762683 (two discs); LP: 08100167627

Smashing Pumpkins' complicated career continues with the second album by a near re-formation of the original lineup. But Cyr is very different from their '90s grunge heyday. Billy Corgan's production is bright, his songs concise and his vocal melodies are uniformly strong, but glossy synths dominate – with echoes of Tubeway Army – and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin sticks to stiff, foursquare beats. Things change on the twisting, riffy 'Wyttch', with big guitars crashing the party. It's the double-album's most overtly rock moment, but the remaining 11 songs are more rhythmically inventive and more instrumentally diverse – there are even a couple of guitar solos. MB