The Struts/ Strange Days, Rock, Interscope
Barely eight years old, the Struts is definitely one of those British bands that are making an impact. Influenced by a lot of 1980s glam rock and 1990s alternative, vocalist Luke Spiller and team piece together a set of 10 rock ‘n’ roll songs that simply grow on you. And the best thing is that they return to the classic style by producing a 43-minute record.
There are a few interesting collaborations here. Robbie Williams appears on the opening title track, a melodic, hook-filled number with the lines,
“Oh these are strange days, in many strange ways; Science fiction, I believe, has become reality”.
Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against The Machine, chips in on Wild Child. But the real surprise is the appearance of Def Leppard’s vocalist Joe Elliott and guitarist Phil Collen on I Hate How Much I Want You, where the popular 1980s band’s sound is recreated.
A cover of the Kiss song Do You Love Me?’is done tastefully. Spiller shows a clear Mick Jagger influence on All Dressed Up (But Nowhere To Go) and the rocking Cool, which has some marvelous guitaring by Adam Slack. This is pure rock n’ roll, aimed at both young and old.
Rating: 8/ 10
Kylie Minogue/ Disco, Dance-Pop, BMG
The highest-selling female Australian artiste, Kylie Minogue is out with her 15th studio album Disco. After using a country influence on her previous record Golden, she returns to the classic disco sound here, blending it with doses of contemporary electronic dance music.
The good thing about Kylie is her focus on strong hooks, and she gets straight to business on the first two songs Magic and Miss A Thing. Later on, one often gets that heard-it-before feeling but the songs are ideal for the dance floor or car rides.
Other stand-out cuts are Say Something, released as the first single, and the foot-stomping Where Does The DJ Go? which talks of a disc jockey’s life once the party’s over. Spotlight is the perfect album closer, with its sing-along chorus.
Despite its high points, the album tends to drag in the second half, and 16 songs sound a bit much. But it’s creditable how, at 52, Kylie creates music that brims with youthfulness. This has shades of her albums Fever and Aphrodite, though it doesn’t quite get there.
Rating: 6/ 10
Sam Smith/ Love Goes, Pop, Capitol
In terms of technique and expression, the UK’s Sam Smith is one of the most accomplished singers from the past decade. Check him out on For The Lover That I Lost, one of the heartbreak songs from his new album Love Goes.
Backed by a subtle piano, he sings,
“Think about your lips and the way they kiss, There’s so much I really miss about you”.
The song sums up the album’s theme, and Smith’s rendition touches a chord. He continues on ‘Breaking Hearts’, singing,
“While you were busy breaking hearts, I was busy breaking”.
Forgive Myself and the beautifully composed title track, featuring Labrinth, fall in the same nostalgic, melancholic space. Dance (Till You Find Someone Else) peps up the tempo.
On Dancing With A Stranger, a duet with Normani, Smith sings,
“I don’t want to be alone tonight”,
and on Fire On Fire, he talks of hope.
As a bonus track, we have the popular 2018 track Promises with Scottish singer-songwriter Calvin Harris. Overall, this is another feather in Smith’s cap, despite the extra weepiness.
Rating: 7/ 10
Bruce Springsteen/ Letter to You, Rock, Columbia
The Boss doesn’t believe in producing average albums, forget about bad ones. After talking of the American countryside in the brilliant Western Stars last year, Bruce Springsteen gets into more personal territory on his new record Letter To You.
The difference is that after six years, he teams up with his favourite E-Street Band, and that gives a special dimension to the sound. Guitarists Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren are in top nick, playing too tight compositions where you also hear church organs and rugged saxophones.
With recent collaborator Ron Anelio on production duties, the 71-year-old starts with the acoustic marvel ‘One Minute, You’re Here’, which talks of the impermanence of things. On the title track, he sings, “In my letter to you, i took all my fears and doubts, In my letter to you, all the hard things I found out”.
The songs talk of mortality, loss, spirituality, and the power of rock ‘n’ roll. Highlights are Burnin Train, Last Man Standing, The Power Of Prayer, and House Of A Thousand Guitars, all of which are sonically at tangents, but retain the artiste’s broader style. Interestingly, Letter To You was recorded in barely four days. With the Boss, anything’s possible.