Avant-pop's first lady Lady Gaga returns to form on her latest album, while there is new music from Dion, Janet Devlin and Hinds.


While Ariana Grande pioneers a new trap-based pop sound, Lady Gaga has been, along with producer BloodPop, digging deep into the past, with Chromatica's signature texture being house beats so 90s they would make Bobby Brown blush.

It's a mark of the calibre of Gaga's songwriting that if this were the work of a new artist, this would be one of the most promising albums of the year, but for Gaga, tunes like Stupid Love and Rain On Me (featuring the aforementioned Grande) are all in a day's work.

Her Little Monsters will welcome easily the campest Gaga album for a long time, with the Vogue pastiche Babylon serving up an atrocious "babble on" pun that shows she is not taking herself too seriously.

It might not be too extravagant a prediction that Sine From Above - a curiosity which features no fewer than 12 songwriting credits - will be the only song Elton John will be appearing on this year that features a jungle breakdown.

(Review by Rachel Farrow)


If you know a man by the company he keeps, then Dion DiMucci can produce Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Van Morrison, who are among the friends on his new album.

One of very few first-generation rock 'n' rollers still standing, he first found success as lead singer of New York City doo-wop group Dion & The Belmonts before solo hits like Runaround Sue and The Wanderer and the cult 1975 Phil Spector-produced album Born To Be With You.

Now 80, with his voice as strong as ever, Dion releases 14 original songs on Joe Bonamassa's label KTBA, which stands for Keeping The Blues Alive, with liner notes by Bob Dylan.

First track Blues Coming On starts in classic fashion - "I'm at the station, you take a train, standing waiting in the rain" - with Bonamassa providing raucous guitar.

Uptown Number 7 featuring Brian Setzer of Stray Cats is a gospel song set on a train while Can't Start Over Again slows it right down, Dion's world-weary lament accompanied by Jeff Beck.

John Hammond Jr provides harmonica on My Baby Loves To Boogie, Morrison adds vocals to I Got Nothing and when Patti Scialfa sang on Hymn To Her, the album closer, Springsteen, her husband, showed up and asked to play a solo.

It covers all types of blues but the standout is Song For Sam Cooke (Here in America), inspired by playing in Memphis with the King of Soul in 1962 at the height of the civil rights movement.

The lyrics about segregation and discrimination "here in America" hit hard in a song released as America burns again over injustice.

(Review by Matthew George)


Hot on the heels of the fine new album by Montreal's The Dears come the Madrid indie band originally called Deers, who were forced by the Canadians to change their name - Hinds are of course female deers.

The two groups were hardly alike, with Hinds a gloriously ramshackle racket of spiky guitars and yelped vocals, and this third album smooths off some of the rough edges, adding samples and more keyboards, without losing the raw excitement.

Opener and new single Good Bad Times exemplifies the change, introducing a more poppy, 80s sound that could soundtrack a John Hughes film while Boy finishes with an anthemic chorus of "all I want is my boy".

Hinds sing in Spanish as well as English this time as they burn through 10 songs in just 33 minutes, ending with This Moment Forever, a slow reflective track stretching out to almost four minutes.

Amber Grimbergen, Ana Perrote, Carlotta Cosials and Ade Martin aren't reinventing the wheel but the exuberant mix of earworm melodies and unapologetic indie attitude makes for joyous summer listening.

(Review by Matthew George)


Janet Devlin's sweet voice hides a bevvy of dark secrets on her second album, the enticing and troubling Confessional.

Six years in the making, its 12 tracks recount the trials and tribulations the Northern-Irish singer-songwriter has faced since debuting, aged 16, on The X Factor in 2011.

Lifted by in-demand producer Jonathan Quarmby's warm style, Confessional addresses Devlin's experience of poor mental health, an eating disorder and an abusive relationship.

Devlin's voice - fragile yet powerful - does a lot of the heavy lifting on songs such as Honest Men and So Cold, where the tone strays towards the grandiose and overdramatic.

She is at her best when she tackles her demons with a sense of restraint, dancing around the tough subject matter with metaphor and symbolism.

Cinema Screen is reminiscent of Florence Welch at her most serene, and the subject matter of an eating disorder posing as a lover is both clever and unsettling.

Unexpectedly, Love Song channels pure pop, in the vein of Spears or Stefani, through the prism of traditional Celtic music.

"Holy water on the tip of my tongue/There's so much sin for just 21," she sings on the title track.

Confessional is a searing, imperfect document of a young woman confronting her pain head on.

(Review by Alex Green)


All Time Low took a left-turn on their last album, 2017's Last Young Renegade.

The record's abstract lyrics, atmospheric songs and sleek production suggested they were finally giving up on the pop-punkery that had served them so well since the early 2000s.

Last Young Renegade was no seismic shift. But it hinted that the Maryland-formed quartet were willing to experiment.

It's a surprise, then, that Wake Up, Sunshines returns them to their two-decade-old template: bright, buzzing guitars, emo lyrics and three-minute songs.

Some long-standing fans may rub their hands with glee.

This is All Time Low at their tightest, and songs like Getaway Green and Glitter & Crimson capture the rollicking spirit of their live shows.

Yet there's no escaping the fact that listeners will find little new here.

As closing track Basement Noise comes to close, lead singer Alex Gaskarth and his band are left singing a capella: "Just stupid boys making basement noise in the basement."

Many will continue to love them for this reason exactly.

(Review by Alex Green)