Albums: new music from Silvertwin, Stephen Fretwell, Blondie and Vince Staples

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SILVERTWIN – SILVERTWIN

London-based band Silvertwin pulled together the best soft rock of the ’70s and’ 80s for their self-titled debut album – with excellent results.

Like the perfect soundtrack to a sunny road on a California highway, songs like The Night Is Ours and Ploy, which opens the album, combine expansive writing with uniquely British lyricism.

Wings, Paul McCartney’s Supertramp, and Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra are obvious touchstones on the 10-track effort, but the band also draws on less enduring figures such as Scottish folk-rocker Al Stewart.

Designed by songwriter Isaac Shalam and recorded at Electro-Vox Recording Studios in Los Angeles, piano and three-part harmonies take center stage.

Jonathan Rado of Foxygen brings a skillful twist to the production, making the band’s retro sound fresh and modern.

Silvertwin’s beginnings are warm, nostalgic and downright fun.

Rating: 3/5
Alex Green

STEPHEN FRETWELL – BUSY BOY

ALMOST 15 years ago, Stephen Fretwell gave up the guitar to become a stay-at-home dad to his two sons in Brighton.

The Scunthorpe-raised musician was rising quickly, having supported Oasis and Travis, but instead opted for a quiet family life, redoing his A-levels and working in a Wetherspoons pub.

Now, at nearly 40, he’s decided to return to the limelight with his third album, the sardonically titled Busy Guy – one of the best records of 2021 to date.

Busy Guy manages to combine both the weary desire of the middle-aged world and the repressed musicality of a man too far from his guitar.

It feels like a debut album in all of its raw creativity.

If the world is a just place, it will elevate Stephen Fretwell from cult figure to household name.

Rating: 4/5
Alex Green

VINCE STAPLES – VINCE STAPLES

VINCE Staples has reached a devoted following despite the fact that he has never had any major success – in the UK he is perhaps best known for his collaboration with Gorillaz on the Humanz album Ascension.

“I’m a real beach boy,” he notes in the first episode of Are You With That, reflecting on his difficult upbringing in North Long Beach, far from the stereotype of the Californian dream.

It rarely repeats itself and on this album – his fourth, with 10 tracks in under 22 minutes – leaning heavily on G-funk, the laid-back genre of early ’90s rap started by people like Snoop Dog and Warren. G, both also from Long Beach, making it ideal for summer listening.

His masterpiece is yet to come, possibly with another full album, Ramona Park Broke My Heart, due next year, and while Staples could go anywhere from here, one thing is sure – he will do it his own way.

Rating: 3/5
Matthew Georges

BLONDIE – LIVING IN LA HABANA

LIVE music has been absent from our lives most of the time.

Instead, live albums offered a much needed connection to the common experience that is a rock concert.

In this regard, Vivir En La Habana, which documents Blondie’s 2019 trip to the Cuban capital as part of a cultural exchange, fits the bill perfectly.

The six-track EP and accompanying film capture the band in great shape, supported by Cuban singers, percussionists and horn players.

Debbie Harry’s sometimes temperamental voice holds up and excels on more melodic tracks like The Tide Is High, where she is joined by members of veteran Cuban rocker Sintesis.

Classic cuts like Heart Of Glass and Rapture sit alongside newer materials like Wipe Off My Sweat in the Spanish language.

Harry’s back-and-forth trips with an adoring audience helps foster a sense of intimacy.

It’s a transport and time trick. A short, sharp, and much needed blow.

Rating: 3/5
Alex Green


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