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This week we review the latest albums from The Clean, Florence & The Machine, Wu-Tang Clan and Sunley
› The Clean. Mister Pop. Arch Hill.
4 stars (out of 5)
Some 30 years since they formed, the Clean continue to both surprise and up the ante on their particular form of musical freedom.
On the 10-track Mister Pop, they choose to open with the keyboard-laden, largely instrumental Loog, which is lifted from lumbering dirge and into the ether by the addition of female backing vocals; follow-up Are You Really On Drugs, with a reverb-soaked vocal refrain occasionally broken by blistering guitar runs by David Kilgour, lifts the bar even higher.
By song No 3, the chiming and breezy In the Dreamlife U Need A Rubber Soul, you're hooked.
Single download: Tensile.
For those who like: Air meets Velvet Underground
- Shane Gilchrist
› Florence & The Machine. Lungs. Universal Island Records.
3 stars (out of 5)
South London's Florence Welsh is feistier than Feist, a rocking redhead who taps the bold-as-brass energy of PJ Harvey and the wounded soulfulness of Martha Wainwright and Tori Amos.
Songs are pumped to the max with '80s-style production, which means layered choral backing vocals, gigantic drums and no shortage of peripheral synthetic fluff - think Tears For Fears meets Siouxie and the Banshees.
For all that, it's great to see a debutante come out swinging, and Flo won't die wondering whether she'd given it her all.
Some good songs here, especially among the snotty guitar tunes.
Single download: Dog Days Are Over
For those who like: Beauties with bite, dark themes, strong vocals-
- Jeff Harford
› Wu-Tang Clan. Chamber Music. Shock.
4 stars (out of 5)
Though not strictly a Wu-Tang album, from the first snatch of kung-fu flick dialogue, it's obvious that Chamber Music should be filed among the Staten Island crew's most essential releases.
The gripe that only six of the collective make an appearance seems churlish given the fact that Ill Figures, Harbor Masters, and Sound the Horns are vintage Wu - all murky, low-frequency menace - brilliantly recapturing the spark of debut release Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
The masterstroke lies in the live instrumentation provided by Brooklyn soul band the Revelations, whose supple musicianship leavens the claustrophobic intensity.
Single download: Harbor Masters
For those who like: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
- John Hayden
› Sunley. Apologies. Dunedinmusic.com.
Shuffling drums, smattered banjos, scratchy chugging acoustics and whimsical keys, Evan Sunley James has called in some favours from mates, and the results once again prove how impressive the Dunedin music community can be.
Bringing a deep-South shoe-gazing aesthetic to alt-country, the Sunley band's disarmingly low-key tracks seemingly drift into the ether.
But, given a few spins, Apologies reveals sing-alongs riddled with lyrical profanity, subtly strummed narcissism and wry relationship musings.
It's a rare treat.
Single download: I will break your heart
For those who like: The Cave Singers, Lambchop, Mercury Rev, Helldorado
- Mark Orton
› Tinariwen. Imidiwan:Companions. Independient
4 stars (out of 5)
Psychedelic desert blues? African folk/funk? World music on acid? The music of Touareg band Tinariwen defies easy categorisation, embracing as it does a soundscape that at times feels as large as Africa itself.
Multiple guitars snake over earthy grooves that form the bedrock of the album, underpinning call-and-response vocals that occupy a time and space somewhere between campfire and cottonfield.
Enseqi Ehad Didagh comes off as a John Lee Hookeresque talking blues, Lulla heaves with urgency, while Assuf Ag Assuf is Tinariwen embodied - grainy insistent and utterly compelling.
Single download: Tahult
In For those who like: Ali Farka Toure, Little Bushman, delta blues
- Paul Mooney