In a year of social unrest in America, Alicia Keys' seventh album is both a soothing balm and a rousing call to arms.

ALICIA - stylised in all caps - sees the 15-time Grammy winner continue to excavate her own life and experiences for material.

According to Keys, these 15 songs are her most personal to date.

This is some claim, coming from the artist who named her second album, released in 2003, The Diary Of Alicia Keys.

Across a dizzying array of genres, we see an artist in full flight, shackled by nothing apart from her imagination.

Time Machine offers a deep, introspective groove beset by swirling atmospherics, as Keys sings about her angst and regrets.

Underdog is a more straightforward ballad - a paean to the "hustlers trading at the bus stop, single mothers waited on a cheque" backed by exquisite guitar and piano.

The mood is overwhelmingly contemplative, sometimes even sombre, but always buoyed by an uplifting message.

The album is meant as a counterpoint to Keys' memoir More Myself: A Journey, which was published in March on Oprah's imprint.

Those looking for revelations about Keys' personal life here will be disappointed, but those in search of undeniable songwriting and an unparalleled voice will leave satisfied.

(Review by Alex Green)


What do you want from a new Idles album? Pounding drums? Head-banging riffs? Angry and politically charged lyrics?

Great news, Ultra Mono, the latest showing from the Bristol five-piece has it all!

Described by the band as "the sound of Idles heading into battle, battering ram in hand," the album gets off to a frantic and heavy start with War and, honestly, doesn't really slow down much from then on.

Big beats and powerful riffs drive almost every song, contrasted with the classic tongue in cheek, darkly comedic lyrics that fans are well accustomed to.

There is also a joyous positivity and self-belief to the album which comes through on songs like Mr Motivator, previously released as a single, and in the recurring phrase "I am I" which serves as a "lyrical and spiritual mantra" throughout.

But Idles are keen to show they're not all just about battering your eardrums with anti-Tory vitriol, as A Hymn aptly demonstrates, with tender introspective vocals from frontman Joe Talbot overlaying a more reverent soundscape.

In a crowded field of bangers, stand-outs include Grounds, Model Village and Kill Them With Kindness.

That being said, choosing favourites is like deciding on a favourite child - you love them all equally and unconditionally.

(Review by Mike Bedigan)


Behold the year's most appropriate album title.

An irresistible force transmitting via a disembodied electronic voice, Ireland's disco queen inhabits every definition of the phrase.

This fifth studio album, recorded in collaboration with Sheffield-based DJ Parrot, is actually bookended with tracks previously released as stand-alone singles, opening with the pair's 2012 team-up Simulation and concluding with 2015's Jealousy, but in between are eight fresh slices of disco goodness.

Something More, the single Murphy's Law and Narcissus give a taste of this unabashedly over-the-top collection - "I live my life with no regret", she proudly sings on the former - while on Shellfish Mademoiselle (yes, really) she demands: "How dare you sentence me to a lifetime without dancing?"

There is no danger of that, and We Got Together provides perhaps the album's most nightclub-ready moment - even if coronavirus restrictions may leave fans gyrating around their own kitchens instead.

(Review by Tom White)


At the best of times, jazz is an acquired taste, and the newest album from Canadian jazz pianist Diana Krall is no exception.

This Dream Of You features soft, intimate vocals alongside bouncier, refreshing tracks that allow Krall's talent to shine on this sophisticated record.

Almost Like Being In Love is a delightful, upbeat tune, and the album opens and finishes on high notes.

At its best, these songs are emotional and a testament to the jazz ensemble, with Krall's voice a fitting compliment.

However, while the album is a respectable 12 tracks, it feels much longer than needs and starts to drag.

More Than You Know in particular takes the slow, contemplative nature of the album into the glacial and dirge-like.

This Dream Of You is sweet and poetic but encapsulates the overarching flaw of the album - clocking in at seven minutes long, it manages to feel much longer.

This is perhaps a strength for the dedicated fan, forcing the listener to slow down and marinade in the sound.

But ultimately while the album will capture a listener's attention, only a committed audience will see it through.

(Review by Jess Glass)


The third album from the married duo from North Carolina starts with the 85-second What If, Amelia Meath singing "the falling of others would be like the first leaves of flowers", a folk song backed by minimal glitchy electronics.

Ring adds low-key beats and backing vocals while first single Ferris Wheel has bursts of flute and call and response as Meath references "when I'm slamming in my dancing shoes, asphalt's hot and my knees all bruised".

If this sounds something like Sandy Denny backed by The xx, it makes sense that Meath is part of Mountain Man, an Appalachian-tinged folk trio who often sing a cappella.

Meanwhile, Nick Sanborn is an electronic producer who was bassist in freak folkists Megafaun, formed with the remnants of DeYarmond Edison, Justin Vernon's band before Bon Iver.

Meath sings "shaking out the numb, let me feel something" backed by mournful synths in Numb while Rooftop Dancing is an ode to hot nights in the concrete city.

The album evokes neon lights as a long hot summer fades away, a mix of joy, melancholy and instant nostalgia for times only just past.

Free Love clocks in at less than 30 minutes, and is an album that can fade into the background at first, but reveals its charms through repeated listening.

(Review by Matthew George)