It’s been a bit of a dead week for new releases, but if you’re still eager to add some hot new records to your discography, Long Live Vinyl has a handy top 4 for you… 

Wilco

01 Wilco – Ode to Joy

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy has had a busy couple of years, releasing a pair of solo albums and a memoir during that time, and this latest album feels like a continuation of that productive spell. The slower, more acoustic and languid music Tweedy makes as a solo artist is the fundamental tone on Ode To Joy. Slow, shuffling drum beats that march through the record and folk-like acoustic explorations atop. Tweedy’s voice, meanwhile, is ever enticing, that perfect blend of sugar sweet and subtle husk. It’s not the band’s most sonically adventurous album – although the On The Beach-esque We Were Lucky is a nod to less predictable Wilco days – and it does plod in pace a little bit at times, even if the production hums with a warm glow and the musical accompaniment feels thoughtful, subtle and restrained. – 7/10

Penguin

02 Penguin Cafe – Handfuls Of Night

Inspired by both a trip copying his (sort of) relative Robert Scott’s Antarctic journey and a Greenpeace campaign to protect penguins, Arthur Jeffes’ fourth album continues his late father Simon’s Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s legacy in unusually minimal fashion. Handfuls Of Night works as an extended mood piece but lacks the fizzing ideas of most of the Jeffes family’s best work. Among the appropriately glacial atmospherics, only Pythagoras On The Line Again feels contemporary – and that’s a continuation of a Penguin Cafe Orchestra song from 1993. – 6/10

Swim Deep

03 Swim Deep – Emerald Classics

With its uplifting choir and blissful synths, To Feel Good provides a perfectly titled intro to this quintet’s third album. But though the choir returns for Father I Pray, and 0121 Desire begins like Madonna’s Holiday, both are too feyly dreamy to sustain the mood, while Sail Away, Say Goodbye falls short of an A-ha anthem. Nevertheless, Top Of The Pops recalls the underrated Northern Picture Library’s bittersweet, 90s indie-synths, and Never Stop Pinching Yourself offers a stripped-back response to Screamadelica’s quieter raptures. – 6/10

Mika

04 Mika – My Name Is Michael Holbrook

The title might imply Mika is about to get confessional but, thankfully, Mr & Mrs Holbrook’s little lad is back to the extravagant pop that first made him a star over a decade ago. Mika lost his way approximately 10 seconds after getting famous. It’s taken until album five to get back, but the results are spectacular. Mika is back to being the unique proposition from his Grace Kelly days again.

Having apparently gone through hard times before the album, Mika writes his way out of them, whether in the celebratory Ice Cream and San Remo or the more desolate Ready Yet. Best of all, Platform Ballerinas circles like a charming ballad until exploding into absolute euphoria in the chorus and continuing with heady abandon for the rest of your week.

The messy Tiny Love tries far too hard for Bohemian Rhapsody status. Blue is sombre-by-numbers. The rest is a thrill, Mika’s skyscraping voice more versatile than ever as he rediscovers personal and professional happiness. Anyone who found Mika too full-on first time round, forget it: pop is about celebrating extremes, and it’s to be cherished that Michael Holbrook has finally become Mika all over again. – 9/10

John Earls, Wyndham Wallace, Daniel Dylan Wray

 

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