James Blunt is here to make you think deeply but feel pretty darn positive at the same time. The You're Beautiful crooner has taken a personal edge with his sixth album, but despite its depth and candour (Blunt sings to his ailing father and his far-away family in some of the touching odes to his relatives), there's a palatable peppyness to the record, the largely cheery-sounding folksy-pop songs spiked with jubilation. Having dabbled with electronica on his previous album, Blunt is back to what he does best - combining his emotions with radio-friendly bops.

It's when you listen to Blunt's sometimes woeful words that you're brought back down from cloud nine, such as on Monsters, where he sings to his unwell father: "I'm not your son, you're not my father, we're just two grown men saying goodbye."

From the euphoria of album opener The Truth, an upbeat song that would perfectly accompany a long, sluggish drive, to the anthemic and bold, lyrical hug that is Champions and the dramatic, piano-laced How It Feels To Be Alive, Blunt is better than ever.


(Review by Lucy Mapstone)


I wasn't sure what to expect from Stereophonics this time around because I've felt their last two offerings were a bit hit and miss. However, when hearing the album's first single Fly Like An Eagle a couple of months ago, the excitement of listening to them 20-odd years ago came flooding back.

One thing frontman Kelly Jones has always excelled at is his ability to tell a story in his lyrics, and this shines throughout Kind, as you get the feeling this offering is more personal to him than others have been. The excellent Street Of Orange Light pushes the country twist on the album to the forefront, along with Make Friends With The Morning, which is close to being a favourite song on the album, just behind the aforementioned Fly Like An Eagle.

For those who love the anthemic rock choruses and stirring guitar solos of which we've come to expect from the 'Phonics, Don't Let The Devil Take Another Day and I Just Wanted The Goods are others to add to their list of classics and will surely echo around the arenas of their forthcoming tour.

You get the overall feeling that the album is about searching for answers, and maybe even a fresh start - they may have just found it as this is Kelly back to his song writing best.


(Review by Nick Hayward)


The soundtrack of an existential crisis may not sound enjoyable, but with Pony, Rex Orange County has beautifully captured the tensions of being young.

Rex Orange County, known to his parents as Alex O'Connor, jumps between jazz, balmy R&B, acoustic and 80s synthesiser-inspired pop with his anticipated third album

O'Connor's first album with a record label, Pony starts triumphantly, hooking you in before it flows between rough break up tunes and whisper soft melodies.

With the variety of genres and moods involved in Pony, you might think the album would be dissonant and unable to hold itself together.

But the album's unifying feature is the raw emotion underneath each track, linking it together with emotional depths well beyond O'Connor's 21 years.

O'Connor toys with the limits of genre and the result is sublime as he starts strong and holds your attention throughout.

The album, almost entirely performed and written by O'Connor, is a masterclass in empathy.

It is a paradox of existential crisis and joyfulness in turns which truly encapsulates the experience of being young in 2019.


(Review by Jess Glass)


Drift Series 1 marks the end of a year-long experiment for Underworld. Singer Karl Hyde and modular maverick Rick Smith have released weekly "episodes" combining music, film and writing.

It's a brilliant move. Their live shows have never faltered but recent releases failed to hit the high notes of their mid-90s pomp, or rival the quality and breadth of today's laptop-crafted electronica. The space offered by the spontaneity of weekly release handed the pair, who formed four decades ago in Cardiff, to stretch out and take risks. Over 52 episodes they revisited older tracks, released forgotten material and collaborated with today's stars such as London techno producer 0 [Phase] and Australian jazz band The Necks.

They have also profited off the inevitable profile boost caused by the release of T2 Trainspotting which, of course, featured a chugging new version of the ubiquitous Born Slippy. Thankfully, the band have condensed their hectic year into a 10-track album of variety and clever pacing.

It's no substitute for having followed Underworld on their year-long journey. But as a record of what letting go and taking risks can do to a band, it's a must listen.

Here's to next year.


(Review by Alex Green)


On his third album, You, X Factor alumnus James Arthur finally starts to hit the right notes.

Flash back to 2012 - he triumphs on Simon Cowell's pop-factory and releases Impossible, the most successful winner's single in the show's history. But a series of scandals over his use of homophobic language, as well as a well-documented battle with mental health, put the brakes on his ascension.

You takes these issues and puts them centre-stage. Its 17 tracks tackle redemption and anguish with an admirable deftness - there's some good song-writing here.

Marine Parade and the title track, featuring Travis Barker, successfully position Arthur as a soulful, troubled troubadour, even if they do feature some questionable rapping.

But make sure to pack your tissues. You is one-tone and there's no relief from the sadness. Still, it's an improvement on 2016's Back From The Edge. Arthur might soon be back on the up.


(Review by Alex Green)