Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales | Room 29 (Deutsche Grammophon) | Rated 8.5
Legendary label Deutsche Gramophon have published a collaboration between Chilly Gonzales and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker. An album entirely inspired by a specific room at the Chateau Marmont hotel in LA may not seem appealing. However, the music and lyrics make it an engaging record. It’s one which demands listener attention, as would any record which features spoken word segments about Howard Hughes and is ultimately a stage production playing at the Barbican later this month.
The recording makes it feel as though Cocker is speaking just by your ear as the album starts, imploring the listener to try the free pretzels in the hotel room, and moves from spoken word into his familiar Yorkshire singing voice, with greater prominence than when he is backed by a band. Gonzales’ piano arrangements are delicate and precise, and when augmented by The Kaiser Quartett’s strings the music is compelling, lush and emotive.
As is typical with any Jarvis Cocker lyrics, there’s plenty of sex, including on “Belle Boy”, which documents a hotel worker delivering towels to an exhibitionist haberdasher, who he finds “laid on a lady”. The album highlight is the final track “Ice Cream As Main Course”, Cocker singing a song that only he could’ve written, including the line: “Tank top. No bra, No class. You’ll go far”.
Favourite track: “Ice Cream As Main Course”
Real Estate | In Mind (Domino) | Rated 7
Hailing from New Jersey, Real Estate are experts in clean, dreamy guitar pop. While returning listeners may find the album very much the same, that isn’t a bad thing. It’s easy-going music with no hard edges. It may just be too perfect for a lazy Sunday, but it’s hard to not like them.
Lyrically, we spend a lot of time in vocalist Martin Courtney’s head. In Mind in name, in mind in nature. In “Darling”, for example, Courtney sings about his impatience at waiting for his partner to get home. He’s also got an obsession with the sun, mentioning it on multiple occasions on the album. “Diamond Eyes” sounds like a track that could’ve been recored by The Byrds. “Saturday” is described by Courtney as “quintessential Real Estate”, so for first time listeners, it’s best to try that.
Favourite track: “Darling”
Spoon | Hot Thoughts (Matador) | Rated 7.5
This is the Austin band’s ninth album, following 2014’s They Want My Soul. Lead singer Britt Daniel’s voice at times is desperate, lustful. Jim Eno’s drumming, as ever (including in last week at Hamilton Leithauser’s gig) is brilliant. The pop-rock veterans are continuing a run of solid albums, and the band clearly revelling in their ability to try new directions (slightly) in the knowledge that they have a dedicated, long-term fan base. The album closer “Us”, a moodier, jazz track, suggests a band accepting their maturity. But only after the fun that takes place before it; “Shotgun”, the standout track from the album is a blast.
Hot Thoughts plays out like the record Maroon 5 wished they could have released as their first album. Funky, at times sleazy, and featuring tracks like “Can I Sit Next To You?”, which beg to be heard by a wider audience, but still keeps their fanbase happy.
Favourite track: “Shotgun”
Tracks of the week
Frank Ocean: “Chanel” – Questions are rattling around the internet as to whether the fashion house and Ocean are actually collaborating and this is all part of the project.
Feist: “Pleasure” – The Canadian singer returns after six years away with a ferocious track, with a brilliant ending.
Benjamin Booker: “Witness” – Politically charged soul, featuring legend Mavis Staples.
Michael Nau: “Good Thing” – Fuzzy, warm and melodic return from the Maryland singer.
And here’s the full Picks of the Week Playlist from Reaction
Live this week: The XX | Brixton Academy | 15 March | Rated: ★★★☆☆
The South London band concluded their seven day tenure at the Brixton Academy having completed a record run at the venue. It shows just how popular they have become, selling out each night in minutes.
Their first album (self-titled), with guitars appearing out of a vacuum and breathy voices, is one of the strongest debut albums by a band this millennium. Follow-up Coexist tried more of the same with a few small evolutions. Their third album is a complete departure, taking influences from band-member Jamie XX’s solo dance music project.
Playing live, many of the tracks had clearly been influenced by that evolution – high-speed arrangements of older tracks, for example, or extra instruments added. For fans of Jamie XX’s In Colour, this would’ve been welcome, but for anyone delighted by their first record, it was a disappointment. Jamie XX’s solo endeavours have clearly put him in an even more influential position in the band.
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine joined the band for her cover of Candy Staton’s “You’ve Got the Love”.
See below for a playlist of all the tracks from the evening: