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MUSIC Album reviews

Latest releases from H.C. McEntire, The Flaming Lips and David Ian Roberts

H.C. McEntire
Eno Axis
(Merge)
★★★

HAVING announced her arrival as a solo artist with her superb 2018 debut album Lionheart, singer-songwriter HC McEntirereturns with her second record.

Emerging out of some downtime at a 100-year old farmhouse in the woods near Durham, North Carolina, Eno Axis has a pleasing old time, if not timeless, feel to it.

McEntire’sbrand of indie twang, taking in country, folk and rock, is deeply impressive, with cuts about the Eno river (River’s Jaw) and the Christian fundamentalism of her childhood (the intense One Eye Open).

Her wide vocal range is particularly striking, hitting a similar register to EmmylouHarris on Footman’s Coat and conjuring up the country soul of The Delineson opener Hands for the Harvest.

An atmospheric, deeply assured set of rural songs, McEntirehas established herself as one of the essential Americana artists working today.

The Flaming Lips
American Head
(Bella Union)
★★★★

AFTER a period of left-field musical choices, including an experimental set with Miley Cyrus, The Flaming Lips’ 16th studio album heralds a return to their monumental poptasticrecords like The Soft Bulletin and YoshimiBattles the Pink Robots.

The effect-laden music still sounds like it was beamed down to Earth from outer space but now the songs are nostalgically rooted in memories of growing up in the American Midwest.

Flowers of Neptune 6’s lyrics – “John’s still a greaser/And Tommy’s gone off to war” – are made up of timeless small town tales that could have appeared in the film American Graffiti or a Bruce Springsteen song.

Mother I’ve Taken LSD and At The Movies On Quaaludes both continue the wayward youth theme, the tracks full of melancholy and regret.

One of the greatest American rock bands of their generation.

David Ian Roberts
From The Harbour
(Cambrian Records)
★★★★

RECORDED at his home in Cardiff during the first couple of months of lockdown, singer-songwriter David Ian Roberts describes his new album as being “born of a necessity to have a creative outlet at this strange time.”

Like his marvellous Travelling Light record from last year, the introspective, soothing and sometimes jazz-inflected folk songs on From The Harbour create a lovely contemplative mood, with Roberts playing acoustic, electric and 12-string guitars, piano, cello, percussion and bass.

Echoing Nick Drake, his delicate vocals on tracks like the mobile phone sceptical Dream A Fallen (“The zeroes and ones pick you up/the screen gives you nothing but love”) only add to the subdued atmosphere.

Best of all is the unhurried closer Took My Time, which he describes as “all about feeling a kind of contented patience.”

A beautiful, mesmerising set.

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