Gruff Rhys – Babelsberg
The fifth album by the Super Furry Animals frontman, features orchestral scores by Swansea based composer Stephen McNeff and the incredible work of the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which brings magnificent richness and swirl to these outwardly simple songs that echo the work of Jimmy Webb for Glen Campbell in the early 1970s - the likes of Wichita Lineman or Galveston. Rhys describes it has krautrock played by a 50s orchestra. But this is truly engaging, beautiful, mdoern dystopian work from Rhys and one of his best to date, with the orchestral work inextricably interwoven, and his songs coloured with concerns over middle-aged illness in laid-back melancholy. Out on Rough Trade.
Gruff Rhys – Frontier Man
Lily Allen – No Shame
Shamelessly honest indeed, as the singer returns with her special brand of frank pop, including details of the collapse of her marriage, and the difficulties of being in the public eye. It could be excruciating, but this is tuneful, funny and very engaging. Allen can be annoyingly narcissistic but she’s also humorously sharp and undeniably down to earth. Out on Parlophone.
Lily Allen - Lost My Mind
Lykke Li - So Sad So Sexy
Sweden’s modern queen of melancholy returns after having a baby, losing her mother and a four-year gap since 2014’s I Never Learn. It comes after the release of no less than six singles - Deep End", "Hard Rain", "Utopia", "Sex Money Feelings Die" and "Two Nights”. This is a mixture of dancey pop and R&B. It’s hard to get a handle on where it’s going, but if you want your despair serious and dark, Lykke’s your woman. Out on RCA.
Lykke Li - Hard Rain
Boy Azooga – 1,2, Kung Fu!
Upbeat, wonderfully titled debut album by the band formed by Cardiff’s multi-instrumentalist and singer Davey Newington, who has previously played drums for Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon and triangle for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. It’s very engaging mixmash of rock-indie, with a dash of Can krautrock, Happy Mondays dance music and the wistful lyrics of someone like Badly Drawn Boy. Out on Heavenly Recordings.
Boy Azooga - Loner Boogie
Jorja Smith - Lost & Found
The singer from Walsall has worked with Drake, Stormzy and has supported Bruno Mars, and there’s no doubt she the voice. So it’s time she had a solo album and this is it - releasing frustration, engaging in wonderfully multiple-syllable warbles, catchy pop hooks to the husky and hoarse and the sometimes perhaps too sparse and repetitive writing. She probably doesn’t fully have the songs yet to back this up, but the quality and potential is definitely there for success. Out on The Orchard.
Jorja Smith - Lost & Found
Echo Ladies - Pink Noise
An eight-track debut album of shoegaze from the Swedish trio has echoes of synth pop in the Cocteau Twins zone, plus the kind of joy you’d find in Joy Division, with other echoes of The Cure and Saint Etienne. A promising start that’s not yet the finished article, but worth dipping into. Out on Sonic Cathedral.
Echo Ladies - Bedroom
This week's selection is by The Landlord.
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This is only a selection, not a catalogue of releases. Feel free to recommend more and comment below.