By BRUCE DENNILL
Sohn: Tremors 4
James Blunt: Moon Landing – Apollo Edition 7.5
Meghan Trainor: Thank You 6
Naming James: Into The Night 6.5
A producer as well as a singer, Vienna-based Englishman Christopher Taylor, aka Sohn, is partial to gentle electronica anchored by his own, high, Maxwell-esque vocals. His lyrics are almost universally melancholic, so Tremors as a whole becomes more mood music than standalone singles. That said, listening to the compositions in isolation helps to draw out their individual strengths, such as the empty hallway piano of Paralysed or the relative drive of the rhythm of Artifice, which also has a neat vocal hook. For the most part, though, this is pleasant music that’s easy to drift away from or ignore if something else grabs your attention.
This souped-up version of James Blunt’s 2013 album Moon Landing is a very generous package – 19 tracks on CD (versus 11 on the original album) plus 19 tracks on a DVD, which is a live recording of a performance at the Paleo Festival and includes many highlights from the singer-songwriter’s back catalogue. If nothing else, it’s a powerful argument against the odd trend in Blunt-hating, the basis of much of his social media notoriety (he takes obvious joy in tackling hecklers on Twitter). On the CD, there is perhaps 10 or 12 minutes of relative filler in the nearly 70-minute running time, with Satellites, Bonfire Heart, Miss America and Sun On Sunday just some of the highlights. And the DVD is just as strong, further backing up Blunt’s talent as not only consistently good songwriter, but as a bluff, engaging stage presence. This is an excellent option if you want an introduction to his work or don’t already own other versions of these recordings.
There are two distinct sounds embraced by Meghan Trainor on this collection: contemporary R&B of the sort showcased by Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and the like, and polished mainstream pop that nods towards Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Trainor, courtesy initially of her huge hit All About That Bass, and now with the quality of these songs, all of which she has a hand in writing, has earned the right to be mention in that exalted (in commercial terms) company. But it’s still a little jarring to leap from something as rap and R&B-driven as No to the Sixties-inflected bounciness of Mom, and with 17 tracks on Thank You, it does feel like this is an artist trying to cover all the bases. That’s smart business, though, and the quality of the songs means any concerns about artistic commitment can be largely ignored. Me Too is funky and catchy; Hopeless Romantic a quiet, buskable ballad; and I Love Me another great example of Trainor’s laudable positive self-image lyrical theme. Thank You will further help entrench the singer in a couple of markets, and it’ll be interesting to see what direction she takes next.
Half of Naming James – guitarist Jay Bones and drummer Leighton Powell – is also in Rambling Bones, so it’s not surprising that the two bands share a rough-edged, ramshackle sound, driven by acoustic guitar and an in-your-face vocal delivery style. Opener Clap Hands borrows from a long line of songs based on the American children’s rhyme Once Upon A Time (The Goose Drank Wine) – interpreted in the Thirties as Little Rubber Dolly and in the Eighties as The Clapping Song. This version is earthier, bringing the rock and roll lifestyle into the frame more centrally. Best Days is as sunny as its title suggests, a more playlist-friendly option than perhaps anything else on the collection and possessed of an anthemic (if brief) chorus hook. Winds Of Change is not far off, suggesting the musical DNA of great South African bands like Bright Blue and Sons Of Trout. Mr Kink is an engaging ballad rather than a punk shout-out to a sex superhero, before The Kitchen again wanders happily into mainstream, albeit with the slight introspective mood imparted by its minor key. This is easy, natural musicianship, channelled into appealing storytelling packages.