The seven best albums released in January

rish Independent music critic John Meagher has all the records you need to hear this month.

The Murder Capital – Gig’s Recovery

Human Season

Following up a hugely acclaimed debut is no easy task, but the Irish post-punk quintet have done so with aplomb. This concept album of sorts sees them expand their sonic palette while retaining the urgency and sense of mystery that was their stock in trade early on. Much revolves around James McGovern — the frontman is a commanding presence and a lyricist of distinction. He’s abetted by great players, and that’s evident on the wonderfully atmospheric A Thousand Lives and the bewitching, intense Ethel. The in-demand John Congleton, on production, helps elevate already excellent material.

Belle and Sebastian – Late Developers


The Glaswegian collective have been in productive mood — this is their second album in under a year — and it’s their best since 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. It’s a gloriously genre hopping affair, and an album with pop at its heart. Several of the songs are hook-laden and irresistible, not least I Don’t Know What You See in Me — a synth-pop confection redolent of Abba — while When We Were Very Young finds Stuart Murdoch at his idiosyncratic best: “I wish I could be content with the football scores/ I wish I could be content with my daily chores.”

Iggy Pop – Every Loser

Gold Tooth/Atlantic

More than half a century on from the Stooges’ incendiary arrival and Iggy Pop’s raw power shows no sign of abating. This is a thrilling album of lairy punk rockand a rip-roaring ride through society’s scuzzy underbelly. Now 75, the Michigan veteran seems to be enjoying himself hugely whether he’s lambasting his enemies as “douchebags” or whipping himself into a lather on the aptly named Frenzy. He has released uneven albums in the past, as well as experimental jazz-inspired confections, but this no-holds-barred 36-minute affair is as lean and sinewy as he is.

John Cale – Mercy


A totemic figure for those who prize experimentalism in music, the 80-year-old is still confounding expectations. Mercy sees the Velvet Underground co-founder collaborate with a host of contemporary —and much younger — artists in a collection of songs packed with ideas. If there is a common thread, it’s the hunger for connection in a world that can be cold and impersonal. There’s a remarkable roll-call of guests, including Animal Collective, Weyes Blood, Sylvan Esso, Dev Hines, but none upstage Cale. Standout I Know You’re Happy — a gorgeous marriage between Cale and Laurel Halo — epitomises the album’s charms.

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Little Simz – No Thank You

No Thank You

The current holder of the Mercury Music Prize wasted little time in following up Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. This potent, challenging album arrived without fanfare before Christmas and cements her place as one of the most vital figures in British hip-hop Her flow is assured, articulate and arresting. Whether she’s exploring the intricacies of day to-day existence or taking pot shots at the music industry, she has something fresh to say. She delivers one uncompromising song after another. Quasi-gospel closer Control surprises with its tender sentiments and bare-boned piano.

Ladytron – Time’s Arrow

Cooking Vinyl

Not much has changed, sonically, over the past 20 years for the Liverpool-formed electro-pop quartet, but few contemporary bands mine such a rich seam from both early 1980s ‘new pop’ and the shoegaze movement of that decade’s end. Time’s Arrow is full of sparkling, smartly produced synth-led songs such as Misery Remember Me — a catchy riddle of a tune centred on Helen Marnie’s ethereal vocal and built on a veritable wall of sound. We Never Went Away — a nod, perhaps, to the band’s lengthy hiatus in the 2010s — sounds like a long-lost Tubeway Army song.

Joe Chester – Lucia

Bohemia Records

The Dubliner may not be a household name but he has delivered several excellent albums, played in numerous acclaimed bands and been an in-demand producer for years. This album offers something entirely different: it consists of classical guitar with strings to the fore and showcases Chester’s ability to craft bewitching instrumentals that reward the attentive listener. It’s inspired by James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, a troubled soul, and the music— ornate and elegant — flits from spry to haunting. A quietly beautiful triumph.


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