Albums of the week: Flock, Little Oblivions, and Violin Concerto, Violin Sonata
New releases from Jane Weaver, Julien Baker, and Elgar
In a career encompassing everything from grunge to folk, psychedelia to electronica, Jane Weaver has spent almost two decades making classy “off-kilter pop”, said Will Hodgkinson in The Times. This latest album, she tells us, was inspired by a diet of “Lebanese torch songs, 1980s Russian aerobics records and Australian punk”. If that sounds like a musician disappearing down a “wilfully obscure record collectors’ rabbit hole”, fear not. Flock is a “surprising accessible” collection of smart, imaginative “multicoloured” pop, incorporating funk, disco and catchy melodies.
There are “hookily commercial” tunes and beats on here that wouldn’t be out of place on a Dua Lipa or Kylie Minogue album, said Alexis Petridis in The Guardian. Yet Weaver retains her ability to “twist pop music to her own ends”. The staccato chorus of Sunset Dreams, for example, sounds like something Radio 1 might play, but it’s set to a “gently hallucinatory” and at times “strangely ominous” collage of sounds. Flock is pop, yes, but it’s “genuinely different and exhilarating”.
The 25-year-old Tennessee singer-songwriter Julien Baker is known for her two acclaimed albums filled with “acutely observed confessionals”, said Kitty Empire in The Observer. These have been “sombre love songs” referencing her Christian upbringing and background of substance abuse. But on her third album, she “goes large, in every sense”. In these songs, she talks about “falling off the wagon, spectacularly”; “hurting herself and other people, repeatedly”; and wrestling with her faith. And musically, she has ramped up her sound with bass, drums and synths. “Where her previous records tiptoed, Little Oblivions stomps on effects pedals.”
The album is a “magnificent” step forward, said Lindsay Zoladz in The New York Times. “Driving beats, layered guitars and a whole, wondrous aurora borealis of electronic noise” bring a “sweeping dynamism” to her music. And it makes those tracks which strip back to the “familiar, transfixing power” of Baker’s voice, with minimal accompaniment, all the more powerful.
Violin Concerto, Violin Sonata (cond. Simon Rattle)
Having previously recorded Elgar’s Violin Concerto with Nigel Kennedy and Ida Haendel, says Hugh Canning in The Sunday Times, Simon Rattle has now tackled the work with the “leading French violinist of the day”, Renaud Capuçon. It’s an “outstanding release”. Capuçon makes “less of a meal of the beautiful andante” than Kennedy did, while “capturing the work’s authentic nostalgia with his scrupulous use of portamento and rubato”. But the real treat is the sublimely sad Sonata, with the pianist Stephen Hough.
The “sheer beauty” of Capuçon’s playing is undeniable, said Andrew Clements in The Guardian. But Rattle’s unusually “interventionist” conducting of the LSO on the Concerto sometimes draws the attention away from the subtlety of Capuçon’s rendition. The upshot of this is that it is not quite as involving as it might be. However, Capuçon’s partnership with Hough on the Sonata is a “true meeting of equals”. It’s a “wonderfully flexible performance with just the right sense of veiled nostalgia about it”.