It's been three years since Dua Lipa's genre-redefining New Rules topped the singles chart, and since then she's all but entered the mainstream, as is confirmed by the smorgasbord of collaborators on this album, each offering a remix of a track on last year's Mercury-nominated Future Nostalgia.

So she chooses Jacques Lu Cont to work his magic on That Kind Of Woman, gets Horse Meat Disco in for Love Again, while Zach Witness and J-Pop producer Gen Hoshino both have a crack at Good In Bed.

The focus is on sustaining a groove, so diehard fans might find some tracks become a little anonymous in the process.

The tracks are sequenced to encapsulate the spirit of a live concert by inserting snippets of dialogue from showbiz pals in between songs: Mark Ronson, for instance, leaves a rambling voicemail requesting Neneh Cherry's Buffalo Stance, and Lipa duly obliges.

And it's all fairly coherent as we move from one producer's remix to another - a la Radio 1's Essential Mix - but there's little in the way of variety, the approaches of each DJ being broadly similar.

It's all good clean fun, but inessential for all but the most dedicated fan.

Rachel Farrow


In the two years she's been making Smile, Katy Perry has experienced enough major life events to pick and choose from an array of rich lyrical content she's amassed, such as a spell of depression, her break-up and reconciliation with fiance Orlando Bloom, and now pregnancy. All have a strong hold over the upbeat, poppy tracks that in different circumstances would have been certified dancefloor classics.

Certainly Perry doesn't shy away from being honest, with lyrics such as "I'll cry about it later, tonight I'm having fun", and "Just keep on dancing with those teary eyes", flowing over disco beats and electronic sounds.

But there's a triumphant edge to the album, and Perry brings her lighthearted trademark sound to the proceedings, "I'm faithful, baby" is an uplifting lyric that will compel you to sing along at the top of your voice, and "I'll regrow right through the cracks" is the audio equivalent of a joyful plateau after rising out of a depressive episode.

While Smile isn't 100% cohesive as an album, it's a collection of singles that were made to be sure-fire number ones, and if they can't pack a dance floor thanks to social distancing, they'll have you singing along, revelling in their powerful message.

Sophie Goodall


Use Me is the album that sees PVRIS step out of the shadows while retaining the darkness that has always surrounded them.

"Wide awake, just cut the head off of a snake", Lynn Gunn sings on opener Gimme A Minute, to dramatic synth chords and urgent bass.

The Lowell, Massachusetts band have come a long way from their metalcore beginnings, with their third full album completing the journey into stadium electropop.

That's not the only change, as Gunn this year found the confidence to step out as the sole creative force behind PVRIS - pronounced Paris, the original name before being changed for legal reasons.

Drummer Justin Nace left in January, with guitarist Alex Babinski and bassist Brian Macdonald fading into the background on videos, artwork and merch.

Use Me is delayed from May and while its release at the end of summer fits the goth elements, PVRIS missed out on a summer of touring and festivals that would have surely lifted them to the next level.

The tour is delayed to spring but the charismatic Gunn is a star in waiting and there is no reason why PVRIS should not be huge after this supremely confident album.

They embrace pop fully on Stay Gold, Hallucinations and Wish You Well, while the title track has an alternate version featuring rising New Jersey rapper 070 Shake, hinting at future new directions.

The shadows remain, and on Good To Be Alive Gunn sings "feels good to be alive, but I hate my life", while other tracks are called Death Of Me, Old Wounds and Loveless, an acoustic ballad, but they never sound miserable, saved by panache and some jet-propelled choruses.

2020 may have been a washout for live music, but thanks to Use Me, we'll always have PVRIS.

Matthew George


Germany's Giant Rooks offer more than just an intriguing name on their debut album, which melds classic indie with modern soul flavours.

Album opener The Birth Of Worlds, a shock of cascading drum rolls and cinematic synths, suggests a more experimental album than ever materialises.

But it is a fine showcase for frontman Frederik Rabe's throaty voice, which takes centre-stage throughout Rookery's 12 songs and holds up some of the weaker cuts.

Rabe's swaggering, half-sung delivery hints towards a confidence that never quite shows up in the songwriting.

Subsequent songs like Watershed and Wild Stare stray towards the derivative, drawing from the sanitised R&B of Jungle and the quirky aesthetics of Alt-J.

This formula works better when Giant Rooks go full pelt like on Heat Up, which features a taut disco beat.

There are plenty of lyrics - some nonsensical - about hip-swinging clubs and souls being set on fire by love.

Into Your Arms unexpectedly transforms into an auto-tuned slow jam and, oddly, works.

You have to admire their bravery.

It is a promising debut that would have helped Giant Rooks storm festival stages worldwide in pre-Covid times.

Alex Green


The trend for artists reinventing their songs with the help of an orchestra has produced a mixed bag.

Yet thrash metal titans Metallica's 1999 concert with the San Francisco Symphony at The Berkeley Community Theatre stands as a benchmark in vibrant, madcap quality.

Two decades on, the proud San Francisco natives reunited with the Symphony for another performance, this time to mark the grand opening of the city's Chase Centre.

James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich's band of merry men remain total strangers to subtlety.

Their music worships at the altar of maximalism and this is perhaps why their never-ending riffs and pattering, machine gun drums fit so well with the bombast of the San Francisco Symphony.

Opening with The Ecstasy Of Gold, the simmering energy of the room is almost audible.

And from The Call Of Ktulu, which takes on the pomp of a James Bond theme, it is full pelt, with the band working their way through their heaving back catalogue, ending with Enter Sandman, of course.

Alex Green