Andy Gill

Andy Gill is The Independent's Music Critic.

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Album review: Antonio Pappano, Anna Netrebko, Ian Bostridge, Thomas Hampson, Britten: War Requiem (Warner Classics)

Britten's War Requiem has been recently recorded in at least two excellent versions – the other is by Paul McCreesh's Gabrieli Consort – to mark the composer's centennial. Both deal capably with the contrasting arrangements of traditional Latin texts, and more modern passages featuring the starkly corporeal imagery of William Owen's war poetry. But Pappano's interpretation profits from the quality of his soloists, Ian Bostridge and Thomas Hampson bringing a more natural delivery to the Owen texts, almost jauntily walking “quite friendly up to Death”, while Anna Netrebko's star power illuminates such testing passages as the “Liber scriptus proferetur”.

Download: Requiem Aeternam; Dies Irae; Libera Me

Album review: Lorde, Pure Heroine (Universal)

That arch album-title pun rather gives the game away: Lorde (aka Ella Yelich-O'Connor) is a 16-year-old New Zealand Lana Del Rey, with the subtle difference that her ennui-drenched attitude and accounts of enervated teenage life occasionally conceal implied critiques. She bemoans the paltry ambitions of contemporary life in songs such as “400 Lux” and the monster hit single “Royals”, admitting “we crave a different kind of buzz”. Her musical partner Joel Little drapes her weary delivery in dark electronic tones, with a few sparse electro warbles providing the most minimal of backings to accompany the premature anxieties of songs like “Still Sane”. It's impressive, slick alienation for the Y? Generation, but as with Del Rey, it's a one-trick-pony sort of act.

Album review: Juana Molina, Wed 21 (Crammed Discs)

With Wed 21, Argentine singer/actress Juana Molina delivers the most satisfying realisation of her Latin-tinged folktronica style. Opener “Eras” sets the tone, its woozy pulse and cymbal shimmer joined by a guitar part which seems to regard the rest of the melody askance. “Wed 21” is an infectious groove, Molina's gentle Spanish vocal hovering warmly. , “Ferocisimo” offers a sort of Tropicália psych-rock, while “Lo Decidi Yo” finds delicate guitar lines profitably sabotaged by electronic buzzes and rolling drums. Fascinating, enjoyable and original.

Album review: White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade (Downtown)

With Corsicana Lemonade, the rampant diversity of White Denim takes a turn away from the fiery acid-punk math-rock explorations of previous releases, into mellower territory which singer/guitarist James Petralli describes as “a barbecue record”. There are still bursts of virtuoso playing, broadened to include electric piano, organ and mellotron; but they're reined into more fluid, melodic songs that recall the Southern country-funk boogie of Little Feat and the Allman Brothers Band, and the goodtime grooves of Steve Miller, an influence audible in the twirling guitar riffs of “Come Back”. The lyrics dwell on age, family and endurance, but the backporch party vibe imparts a warm glow to proceedings.

Download: At Night in Dreams; Come Back; Distant Relative Salute; Pretty Green

Sole man: Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell: Just another record about murderers and revenge plots

Jason Isbell's new album explores the darker recesses of human nature. It's part of his therapy, as Andy Gill discovers

Album review: Arcade Fire, Reflektor (Sonovox)

Album of the Week: Knocking on heaven's door, at maximum volume

Album review: Don Cavalli, Temperamental (A Rag)

Sometimes unexpected combinations produce the most enjoyable results, as on this album from French swamp-funk genius Don Cavalli. Blessed with a psychedelic imagination and an earthy way with grooves, Cavalli sounds like Tony Joe White or JJ Cale transplanted to swinging '60s London, with electric sitar writhing through songs anchored by wah-wah guitar licks and backdropped by keening mellotron. Add in his latest oriental influence and the weirdly engaging result is both unique, and brilliant.

Download: Me and My Baby; The Greatest; Gonna Love You; Feel Not Welcome; You and My Zundapp

Album review: Matthew E White, Outer Face (Spacebomb)

Available as a vinyl mini-album or as a 2CD package with the reissue of the acclaimed Big Inner album, Outer Face finds Matthew E White trimming back his Spacebomb house band for this five-song rumination on love. There's no guitar, piano or drums, just a smatter of puttering percussion, a prominent bassline, sleek swells of strings and quirky backing vocals behind his murmurous baritone croon. The formula, overly restrictive in places, works best on "Hot Hot Hot" and especially "In the Valley", where the pulsing delivery of the chorus develops a hypnotic allure.

Download: In the Valley; Hot Hot Hot; Eyes Like The Rest

Album review: Teitur, Story Music (Arlo & Betty)

The plaintive pluckings of banjo and harp are blended with the wistful bathos of wind instruments on Faroe Islands enigma Teitur's latest album. The combination brings a wry tone to "Rock And Roll Band", but fails to evoke the thrill that surely leads the hapless band to pursue its ill-chosen path. The bland "Hopeful" and irritating repetitions of "If You Wait" make an underwhelming start to the album, but by the end the more textured collaging of ambient sounds and children's choir create satisfying mystery. Best of all is "It's Not Funny Anymore", an intelligent rumination on emotional uncertainty, to which Van Dyke Parks's orchestration lends appropriately thoughtful depth.

Download: It's Not Funny Anymore; Walking Up a Hill; Monday

Album review: James Blunt, Moon Landing (Custard/Atlantic)

Presumably to arrest a downward sales trajectory, James Blunt has re-enlisted Tom Rothrock, the producer of his successful earlier albums. But it's not the producer who needs changing; it's Blunt's own approach, which is increasingly threadbare – especially that little fluttery vocal tic that afflicts this album like a rash. To give him credit, Rothrock does a decent job of pumping life into Blunt's material, building a song such as "Bonfire Heart" from fingerstyle guitar opening to big, exultant conclusion by way of subtle accretions. Not that he has much to play with: maudlin plaints such as "Face the Sun" and "Sun on Sunday" are ironically bereft of light, while "Satellites", a clichéd lament for today's technologically mediated world, is simply insipid.

Download: Bonfire Heart; Postcards

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