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Album of the Month February 2017

Music Critic's Album of the Month for February 2017 is Little Fictions, the latest release by British band Elbow. The 7th full album release by this Manchster band is the next step in their slow but unrelenting path to the top - they originally formed in 1990, and it was a full 19 years later when they finally won the Best British Group award at the Brits.

The first track released was the instantly gripping 'Magnificent (she says)' link to song , simultaneously a song of great and soaring beauty while remaining an intimate melodic portrait. This sets the tone for an album that combines big-hearted lyrics, a surprising tenderness of northern vocals and rich, sweeping layers of music.

Describing the sound and spirit of the new record, frontman Guy Garvey said: “It’s really quite chunky and beat-heavy. There’s a sparseness to the songs which perhaps we’re not known for. The themes are ranging as always, great big themes and concerns for the world at the same time as falling in love, looking forwards and backwards and all of the things.”

There is a quiet confidence in every song on the album, even those that are slower-growers. Eventually everything falls into place and the whole is more than the sum of its parts. 'Little Fictions' shows Elbow are still capable of creating an album that is a thing of beauty. Highly recommended.

The Music Critic Album of the Year 2016:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree

Music Critic Album of the Year 2016 has been awarded to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for their hauntingly poignant Skeleton Tree.

Deeply meaningful in its exploration of grief and the human condition, it may be a million miles from the most accessible of the year's big releases, but Skeleton Tree stands tall as a magnificent work by an accomplished band.

It is also likely to be one of the most misunderstood releases of the year - and it's only too easy to see why. The album opens with a line about a body falling from the sky and crash landing, a young man waking covered in blood and the theme of futilely addressing God runs through the tracks, leading many fans to drawn the conclusion that the album is a tribute to Nick Cave's son Arthur who tragically fell from a cliff at Ovingdean, near Brighton, England, and died from his injuries on 14 July 2015.

The truth is that the majority of the tracks were written prior to this event, and Nick Cave himself has been at pains to emphasise that bizarre coincidences in the lyrics are not premonitory but just that - coincidences.

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Selected Reviews

Better Than Ezra - Paper Empire
Better Than Ezra has found their groove. Lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Kevin Griffin has been writing about broken hearts and seizing the day for over 15 years and on the band's latest "Paper Empire," Griffin takes his formula and runs with it with little variation.
Emerson Hart - Cigarettes and Gasoline
Tonic was one of the seminal alternative groups of the 90s. Their pop-rock style, along with groups like Better Than Ezra, Blues Traveler and The Wallflowers, ruled the radio during the mid-to-late 90s. Now Tonic's lead singer Emerson Hart has gone out on his own and left behind some of the grit of his band and embraced the mid-tempo pop on his debut "Cigarettes and Gasoline" to mixed results.
 
Neil Young - Sugar Mountain - Live at Canterbury House
I feel a little uneasy. Looking around the room I can see I'm surrounded by hippies, and my blinding-white Nikes and frutti-frappe-super-skinny-latte seem a little out of place. Still, the cover charge was paid and they seem a passive bunch.
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Master and Everyone
You're on a Greyhound bus in the American mid-west, and only you and the driver can't sleep. As you stare out across an unpopulated expanse, Will Oldham's sometime alter ego, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, settles into his chair and clears his throat.
 
Clinic - Do It!
Take all the rides in the middle of the park, the popular ones. Everyone likes them because you get exactly what you expect. That's why they're popular.
Pete and the Pirates - Little Death
Is it inevitable though? The first hit that caught you off guard, half a song on the radio, a support slot you didn't expect to matter, can't be matched when you gladly go back for more.