FEATURE: The Album Round-Up


IN THIS PHOTO: Dizzee Rascal/PHOTO CREDIT: Steven M. Wiggins/Inside Slash Out PR 

The Album Round-Up


IN an unlikely-to-be-weekly-series; I bring the best albums of the week…

IN THIS PHOTO: Lana Del Rey/PHOTO CREDIT: Kurt Iswarienko (for The New York Times)

into one handy, bite-sized feature. There are some big ones out this week. I bring together Declan McKenna’s What Do You Think About the Car? and Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life. Included is Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot’s Crooked Calypso and Foster the People’s Sacred Hearts Club. A little bit of Dizzee Rascal’s Raskit thrown into the mix.

A sturdy and impressive collection of albums that should, if you delve into each, cater to broad and varied tastes…


Declan McKennaWhat Do You Think About the Car?

Label: Columbia Records

Genre: Alternative; Indie

What Are the Critics are Saying?

The Guardian:

They are protest songs, but sound anything but worthy or world-weary. Instead, they are sun-soaked aural fizz bombs which channel indie rock through his love of David Bowie and Abba. His effervescent anthems are packed with detail, from electro squiggles to children’s voices, and he saves one of his best choruses for The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home, in which he packs the anger, fear, alienation and glimmering flames of hope of Generation Z into a euphoric, uplifting pop construction”.


On debut album ‘What Do You Think About The Car?’, there’s swagger to McKenna’s delivery but no cockiness. Instead, he narrates his innermost feelings on everything from politics (‘Isombard’) to the media’s treatment of transgender suicide (‘Paracetamol’) with subtlety and skill. Standout ‘Make Me Your Queen’ is a rare moment of intimacy as he laments the ache of unrequited love, again with a delicacy and wisdom beyond his years”.

DOWNLOAD: Humungous; The Kids Don’t Want to Come Home; Make Me Your Queen; Paracetamol


Lana Del Rey Lust for Life

Label: Interscope Records

Recorded: 2015-'17

Producers: Lana Del Rey; Ricky Nowels; Benny Blanco; Boi-1da; Emile Haynie

Genres: Alternative/Indie; Rock; Pop

What Are the Critics are Saying?


All this positivity is balanced with a healthy, or unhealthy, dose of depressive Del Rey — the old Lana who’s chronically prone to sleeping with ne’er-do-wells and maybe dreaming of sleeping with the fishes, too. The lure of bad boys keeps Del Rey in her tranquilized state in the entrancingly dysfunctional stretch of the album that runs from “Cherry” and “White Mustang” through “In My Feelings”.

The Guardian:

While many of the song titles and clumsy references may have a discerning music fan scoffing at Del Rey’s predictability, there remains an admirably unflinching quality to this record (even if it is five tracks too long). She has evolved elements of her once disturbing narrative, and her ardent fanbase will detect clear leaps made since her debut. But, in the current climate of laborious genre-hopping and guest vocals on throwaway chart tracks, Del Rey has remained a mystery. She is consistent in her aesthetic, adding zeitgeisty elements to her sound without being dictated by them”.

The New York Times:

And she closes the album with “Get Free,” which hints at both old girl-group songs and Radiohead’s “Creep” as she resolves to dump someone: “I was not discerning/and you as we found out were not in your right mind.” The usual melancholy is there, but so is a wink”.

The Independent:

Like The Weeknd’s personal dark brand of R&B; Del Rey’s deliciously twisted pop fuses hip hop beats with her breathy vocal delivery; their mutual power is in their ability to keep things hidden, whilst seeming utterly explicit. It’s a heady mix to be caught up in”.

DOWNLOAD: Love; 13 Beaches; Coachella - Woodstock in My Mind; Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (ft. Stevie Nicks); Get Free

STANDOUT TRACK: Lust for Life (ft. The Weeknd)

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott - Crooked Calypso

What Are the Critics are Saying?

The Guardian:

It’s not all social justice worrying, however. On I Gotta Praise and Love Makes You Happy, the pair prove they can still effortlessly knock out the archly brash and heart-wrenchingly simple love songs that characterised their Beautiful South output. Clearly, the well of witty, interesting pop that Heaton has been drawing from throughout his career has not yet run dry”.

Hot Press:

Stitching kitchen-sink dramas, observational comedy and pub philosopher ruminations together with feelgood music makes for an irresistible listen. Opening strongly with the gospel-steeped ‘I Gotta Praise’ and the witty, disco-flavoured ‘He Wants To’, Crooked Calypso features some of Abbott’s finest vocals (‘He Can’t Marry Her’), and Heaton’s sharpest lines (‘People Like Us’, ‘The Lord Is A White Con’). ‘Blackwater Banks’, though, is sure to be the LP’s most talked-about moment. Calling to mind Billy Joel’s ‘She’s Always A Woman To Me’, it’s a touching love letter to Ireland and destined to become a radio staple”.

DOWNLOAD: She Got the Garden; People Like Us; He Can’t Marry Her; The Future Mrs. Heaton


Foster the People - Sacred Hearts Club

Genres: Alternative; Indie

Label: Columbia Records

What Are the Critics are Saying?

A.V. Club:

Overall, Sacred Hearts Club also signals a return to Foster The People’s more electronic origins, but not in the inventive way that was used on Torches. Rather, it comes off as hackneyed copy, full of the predictable EDM/trap beats that every other chart-topper has shoved in somewhere. It’s a deeply disappointing effort that, if there’s any consolation, could be mistaken for just about anyone”.

Evening Standard:

Lotus Eater is three minutes of Strokesy perfection — insouciant yet incendiary. On Static Space Lover, they marry Beach Boys-style harmonies to a chunky bassline. There’s also a hint of hip-hop swagger on this record, as well as a curious club banger that references Sylvia Plath’s suicide. But these risk-taking departures are outnumbered by solidly catchy tunes that never match that breakthrough hit”.


As if to announce the new direction, they kick things off with the steamy, new wave-cum-hip-hop jam "Pay the Man," which finds Foster diving headlong into a hip-sway-inducing rap. Similarly, cuts like the stadium-sized anthem "Doing It for the Money" and the sparklingly buoyant "Sit Next to Me," with their icicle guitar hits and bubbly keyboards, bring to mind an inspired mix of '80s Tom Tom Club and Prince, with just enough modern EDM flourishes to keep things from getting too nostalgic. Along those lines, we get the spacy electro-Motown of "Static Space Lover," the buzzy, blacklight-drenched house music anthem "Loyal Like Sid & Nancy," and the sexy, crystalline, digital hip-hop and R&B flow of "Harden the Paint." Ultimately, the beauty of Sacred Hearts Club is that it sounds like a Foster the People album without unnecessarily rehashing the sound that made them famous”.

DOWNLOAD: I Love My Friends; Static Space Lover; Loyal Like Sid & Nancy


Dizzee RascalRaskit


Label: Island Records

Genres: Hip-Hop; Grime; Hip-House

What Are the Critics are Saying?

The Guardian:

For all his assertions that things have changed since the days when he was “running round the manor like a hooligan”, a hint of his famed recklessness remains. Virtually everyone who isn’t Dizzee Rascal gets it in the neck, from the Tories on Everything Must Go, to old mentor turned adversary Wiley – who seems to have incurred Rascal’s wrath by trying to patch things up between them – to grime’s current crop of stars: “Too big for my boots, that’s the truth, no excuse for you new recruits, bunch of dilutes and a few flukes.” This seems a pretty risky move, but then, from its sparse sound to its defiantly un-nostalgic view of the past, Raskit is a risky album. Luckily for the man who made it, he has the skills to make the risk pay off handsomely”.


There’s arrogance and defiance on Raskit too. Once a grime MC, always a grime MC at heart, and there's no grime without boastful swagger. In "The Other Side", Dizzee ridicules grime’s bright young things "gassing up the dead rhymes", “fashion MCs [who] think they’re too cute”, enemies (Wiley) who won’t give his name a rest, and – a recurring theme – all the haters “acting like I never made bare grime”. (Fools!) No doubt the same critics who yearn for another Boy In Da Corner – squirming with consistent dirty beats, old-school instrumentals and every bar at 140bpm – will be disappointed by Raskit. But it’s time they stopped picking at the same scab and allowed artists to evolve and diverge from their original sound. Besides, at the core, it’s still the same old Dizzee: angry, cheeky, lonely and confident. A spokesman and an inspiration. The same old rascal”.


Of course, if Dizzee wanted to show his affinity with American hip-hop in 2017, then releasing an album so severely need of an edit is a note-perfect move. But grime at its best is defined by its steely economy, which makes Raskit’s rambling length and diluted focus frustrating. As a platform for Dizzee's flashy lyrical dexterity, Raskitdoes more than enough to shift the bitter aftertaste of The Fifth. With more of the laser-eyed focus that marked Boy in Da Corner, it could have been a triumph”.


Bloated at 16 tracks, it could have been a genuinely strong EP that formed a platform for Dizzee’s return to the sound he helped birth. Alas, whether fairly or not, he appears to disagree with the notion that he should have to take time in reintroducing himself. He’s done his graft, and wants the new plaudits. But if Skepta’s recent success is anything to go by (let’s not forget that he did his fair share of work in the early days before he went pop too), it’s that you need to do more than a live stream ‘reveal’ and some branded fried chicken boxes to convince people that your heart’s back in it”.

DOWNLOAD: Wot U Gonna Do?; Space; Business Man; Dummy (16 for the Juice); Man of the Hour

STANDOUT TRACK: Everything Must Go