There aren't many good albums that could mix Greta Thunberg, 80s-inspired pop and intense punk vocals, yet Notes On A Conditional Form is the exception.

The 1975's fourth album is a masterclass in the range of the alternative genre.

Its traditional The 1975 opener is given to a Greta Thunberg speech set to gentle piano music, outlining the tone of the radical album.

Unsurprisingly for The 1975, it does not shy away from issues of justice - from the shouty, infectious punk of People to the sweetly subversive Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America, where Americana and queerness collide.

Clocking in at just over 80 minutes, the 22-track album is a commitment but would be well worth dedicating the time to, even without a lockdown.

Sung tracks are interspersed by swelling orchestral breaks before the album closes on an affectionate tribute to friendship in Guys.

The album does have its lulls, and Shiny Collarbone is simply bizarre, so you could be forgiven if your attention wanders once or twice.

Infrequent low points aside, Notes On A Conditional Form is another hit from the darlings of the alternative genre and demonstrates the quartet's sheer talent across the board.

(Review by Jess Glass)



Fully conceived and created amid the pandemic, how i'm feeling now (stylised in all lower case) is perhaps the first truly important quarantine album.

Charli XCX's pop futurist sensibilities make her the perfect artist to document the unsettling, often contradictory, emotions prompted by living through this global event.

The British pop maverick, 27, worked on the album from her home in Los Angeles, giving fans unprecedented access to her creative process.

The result? A heady mix of nostalgia, joy, longing, anxiety, desperation.

While Charli XCX's work usually exudes rigorous, sometimes scathing, self examination, it's usually balanced by a party-girl escapism.

Here there is no escape.

Forever evokes the longed-for day when friends will reunite and embrace, cocooning the listener in a sedative blanket of auto-tune.

But even the word "forever" is transformed by the pandemic, as she sings "I will always love you/I love you forever/I know in the future/We won't see each other."

Despite taking strides towards the mainstream on 2019's Charli (an album that featured Haim and Christine and the Queens) her music is certainly not for everyone.

She remains committed to the abrasive production of long-time collaborator AG Cook, who ensures even her sweetest tracks are never far from erupting into a cacophony of bassy blasts.

Charli XCX has create something singular, an album that encapsulates the here and now in all its glory and banality, whilst also looking to the future.

(Review by Alex Green)



We're living in strange and uncertain times, where normality ceases to exist.

And in this new "normal", an array of quirky and strange art forms have sprung seemingly from the ground.

But at least we've got Tim Burgess to give us stability and familiarity, right?

A twitter stalwart, Tim's Listening Party has provided respite from current events and provided a platform for a horde of Gen Xers to indulge in listening to some good old-school British classic albums.

But what can fans expect from I Love The New Sky, his fifth solo album from the Charlatan himself?

Well, it's strange to say the least. There are some funky, sunshiny, psychedelic parts as Tim half-heartedly sings, a little bit off-key, musing.

He brings the childlike, quirky charm that he's trademarked, over swooping, psychedelic sonics, with Beatles-style backing harmonics and plenty of organ, making you feel like you're transported to a time where things were more carefree, summery and free.

The music often swings into sections of strange, synth experimentation, and at times, the album turns a little bit lounge music, a little bit film score.

But the best bits are the weird, futuristic instrumentals, which feel pioneering at best, and grandiose at worst.

Sunshiny, upbeat, and a familiar, friendly voice. It's cheerful weirdness and great escapism for these trying times.

(Review by Sophie Goodall)



Badly Drawn Boy's eighth album in the 20 years since the Mercury Music Prize-winning The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, and first studio LP in a decade, is a sparkling return to provide solace in these difficult times.

Damon Gough played four of the tracks, I Just Want To Wish You Happiness, I'll Do My Best, Is This A Dream? and Never Change, at a joyous gig at London's Roundhouse in January, before the world went dark, and the remaining 10 are equally strong.

"Press play" he says at the start of album opener and first single Banana Skin Shoes, which bounces by in a skitter of bass, keyboards and treated vocals, while the lyric "It's hard to start a fire when it rains" in I'll Do My Best nods to his hero Bruce Springsteen, his specialist subject on Celebrity Mastermind, and I Need Someone To Trust echoes Chicago's soft rock epic If You Leave Me Now.

Is This A Dream? has one of the irresistible choruses he specialises in, as he laments "I'm running out of caviar, had to sell the supercar" and I Just Want To Wish You Happiness quotes Alfred, Lord Tennyson ("Is it true that it's better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all") in a warmhearted thanks to an ex-lover "for the time that I was with you, and the rest".

Tony Wilson Said hymns the Factory Records maverick, "a king with no crown" who "left more than a million footprints all over this town", with Gough singing "wrong number Chicago and New York, dial Manchester instead", going via Rusholme, Moss Side, Whalley Range and Strangeways, to the Cottonopolis music venues - Apollo, Boardwalk and Wilson's Hacienda "on the corner of Whitworth Street".

It's not a radical departure from previous albums, but the best tracks here are as good as anything he's released, which is a high bar, and will soundtrack the better days to come.

(Review by Matthew George)



Ghosts Of West Virginia by Steve Earle And The Dukes is a powerful concept album that brings to life an historic tragedy through the gritty twang of Americana music.

The tragedy in question is the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in April 2010, which cost the lives of 29 men, making it one of the worst in America's history.

The anger, sorrow and other raw emotions conjured up by the fallout are at their starkest on the tracks such as Devil Put The Coal In The Ground and It's About Blood, punching out through the pounding, repetitive percussion and droning fiddle slides that underlay Earle's lyrics.

Other tracks use pattering snares and plucky banjo riffs to bring a hard-working community to life, making references to individual miners and the collective loss more tangible and sad.

GOWV is concise, delivered through 10 tracks, the majority of which are under three minutes long, though this only makes their messages clearer and more striking.

The story behind the studio album, which is Earle's 20th and was created in collaboration with playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, is an appropriate reminder that in times of pain and hardship the importance of community is paramount.

(Review by Michael Bedigan)