This week’s album reviews from The Courier-Mail (ratings out of five stars):
Ben Harper, Bloodline Maintenance
“Whoever said time heals all wounds wasn’t a slave, I’m guessin’,” Ben Harper sings on his new album. “With 12 million taken/Not one single reparation.” No, he’s not about to let Black Lives Matter pass. The opening two tracks feature gospel-ish choral backing, including a capella climate change alert Below Sea Level. “It’s an emergency, try to remain calm,” he sings on the incongruously funky, upbeat Where Did We Go Wrong. It’s a grab bag of styles, with the common thread of blues running through it. He channels Sam Cooke on More Than Love, Marvin Gaye on new single Need to Know Basis, and the Stones on the keyboard-soaked Honey, Honey. The rappier Problem Child takes aim at the cycle of disadvantage and criminality, then there’s the ragged Knew the Day Was Comin’, and he ends on a haunting note with the stripped-down Maybe I Can’t.
Alex the Astronaut, How to Grow a Sunflower Underwater
She may be an astronaut, but as the title suggests Alexandra Lynn’s all-important sophomore album is more SeaQuest than Star Trek. She waxes aquatic on the first few tracks, with references to yellowfish, octopii and other colourful life beneath the waves. It’s a set of often intensely personal songs, from childhood reminisces (Growing Up with its shimmering strings, South London, Ride My Bike) to waiting for a loved one to die (Sick) and reuniting with one for whom you finally know your feelings (Airport). There are references to Carly Simon and Paul Simon, and like Missy Higgins, Alex has a certain Aussie twang. This is her at her most open, vulnerable – and mature.
Superorganism, World Wide Pop
Speaking of astronauts, space travel is a dominant theme on Superorganism’s latest studio effort, from opener Black Hole Baby (which even recalls the Welcome Back, Kotter theme tune) to Into the Sun with its eight-bit-videogame effects. Heavy synth is offset by lofty vocals on Flying, while they wax interstellar on Solar System. They like to self-reference, as heard on the first two tracks. And it’s not all hi-tech. “I turned on airplane mode, felt a sense of control,” they sing on Put Down Your Phone, replete with old-school modem sounds. “Jeff Bezos is making $3k a second.” All in all, it’s a heady cocktail of melody, harmony and synth-pop goodness with a cavalcade of collaborators.
Originally published as Ben Harper, Alex the Astronaut, Superorganism: New album reviews
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