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As someone who hasn’t heard any Marilyn Manson since Holy Wood, way back in 2000, it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I listened to Te Pale Emperor. After being reliably informed by a friend that his last three albums had been pants, and knowing that my favourite Manson album was his debut in the Nineties, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In short it’s great. Not in a typical Manson, media-provoking comment-on-the-world kind of way, but in a decent album kind of way. Manson, on this his ninth studio album, has exercised restraint and as a result has achieved a more mature sound. His anger and loathing is still there, but for many of the songs it’s turned inward rather than out at the world. He sounds slightly tired of it all, in a fabulously bluesy way, but retains his sleazy twisted slant on things. Te Beautiful People drums and guitar chug still pop up, the off-tune guitar and screamy chants make an appearance, but the typical MM ‘sound’ has developed into something more. Tere are no singular ‘hits’ but no filler tracks either. Rather than creating shock or disappointment he has successfully created a decent album as a whole, one that needs to be listened to from beginning to end.



Years ago, I heard something by Rachel Unthank & Te Winterset. It brought to mind historical re-enactments, Morris dancing, bad cider and worse real ale so I pretty much ignored Te Winterset and Unthanks. Based on Mount Te Air, I’ve been a fool. Released on Te Unthanks own label, two years in the making, recorded in an old granary building, written and produced by Rachel Unthank’s pianist husband Adrian McNally, this may be the most beautiful album I have heard for a long time. Tis isn’t folk but uses folk as a starting point to jump into classical- and jazz-tinged territory. Like Talk Talk’s Spirit if Eden this is inventive, a group satisfying their own artistic desires. Te title track is a thing of beauty based around strings, bass, gentle percussion, trumpet and gorgeous vocals. With the exception of Magpie, all of the songs on the album more-or-less follow this template. Magpie stands out with its almost a cappella vocals over drones that fade in and out. Te musicianship is never flashy but is of the highest standard throughout. Tom Arthurs’ stunning trumpet warrants special mention. At times, this is a bit New Age, a bit Enya. It isn’t perfect but it gets pretty close.



Tree years after releasing Smoking in Heaven, the Durham siblings are back with the appropriately named Kitty, Daisy & Lewis the Tird, the long-awaited follow up for fans of their live performances, but also confirming their credentials as songwriters. A tour with Coldplay, a move from their crowded front room into a disused Indian restaurant in Camden to create a more spacious analogue studio, and bringing in Mick Jones (Te Clash) as producer have all contributed to an album of maturity and direction, but without losing their authentic live energy. Te end product has a new more confident sound, with Daisy sounding deliciously like Paloma Faith on Never Get Back and Feeling of Wonder, and Kitty assuming an air of carefree freedom in the ska vibe of Turkish Delight. Lewis, meanwhile, remains true to his timbre on the single Baby Bye Bye, Good Looking Woman and the skiffle lament to London town Developer's Disease. As the family, including mum Ingrid on double bass and dad Graeme on rhythm guitar, prepare for three UK dates before jetting off around Europe and America, we eagerly await the inevitable festival appearances this summer to further spread the gospel according to Durham. Tis album has reverence for the past, but with one ear now firmly on the present. A crowning glory.

46 / February 2015/

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