Melanie C, who first caught the public's attention in the mid 90s as the Spice Girls' athletic Sporty Spice, admits she has not always felt comfortable in her own skin despite coming across as talented and likeable.

More than two decades later and, after last year's successful Spice Girls reunion, Melanie, now 46, says one of the positives about getting older is that she cares less about what others think.

Her celebratory eighth solo album tells the world she now accepts - even likes - herself for who she is.

It's an upbeat listen with singles Who I Am, Blame It On Me and In And Out Of Love as stand-out tracks to get people dancing.

The atmospheric Fearless wouldn't sound out of place on a Spice Girls album, with rapper Nadia Rose - a childhood Spice Girls fan - adding power, while Here I Am is a singalong anthem about finding inner strength.

But despite the upbeat music, Melanie C pulls no punches in discussing the darker side of life with panic attacks in Nowhere To Run, toxic relationships in Good Enough and, finally, the relief that can come with a new start in End Of Everything.

(Review by Beverley Rouse)


I thought I knew what I was in for when I cranked up the volume for Corey Taylor's debut solo album.

You'd be forgiven for thinking the Slipknot frontman would take the aggressive heavy metal with him, but then Taylor is also part of Stone Sour - a much more mainstream rock band.

This self-titled album CMFT (being his initials) meets somewhere in the middle.

There is a mix of bluesy country in HWY 666, don't be forgiven if you find yourself at a crossroads looking for a demon - because just by this opening track I swear he has sold his soul to something, Black Eyes Blue and Kansas have elements of soft rock from days of yore.

Single CMFT Must Be Stopped (feat. Tech N9ne and Kid Bookie) is all drums and guitar riffs - think Run DMC mixed with Beastie Boys and throw in some tongue-tripping rap.

This mix of rock and hip hop has the potential to generate some real staying power.

Overall, I love the feel of the whole record, as it slips effortlessly from one track to the next.

The driving riffs are apparent throughout, and the drums build up the momentum and even coaxed a mini-mosh from this hardened soul!

(Review by Rachel Howdle)


Sufjan Stevens was on a voyage of space discovery until the death of his mother stopped him in his tracks and led to his heartbreaking magnum opus Carrie And Lowell.

It was a return to the sort of stripped-back modern folk that first earned him his legion of fans, offering up a magnifying glass to the soul.

Five years on, though, the interstellar adventure is recommencing in the form of his latest full-length - the 80-minute epic The Ascension.

Much like 2010's The Age Of Adz, this latest record fuses Stevens' knack for piercing-yet-folksy melody with his more recent penchant for sci-fi infused electronica.

That means there is a bit more that can be enjoyed purely on face value.

But grief and an obsession with the big questions are all still in plentiful supply - indeed Stevens' grapples with faith and the universe he inhabits dominate much of the record.

Fans of this more esoteric Sufjan will be drawn to the album's climax, with the stunning title track Ascension followed by the overtly political America - no spoilers, but it offers quite the counterpoint to the quirky Americana that helped him make his name.

(Review by Stephen Jones)


Britain's Got Talent judge, a sideline as a DJ on Heart radio, a loving family, a surprisingly varied acting career - Amanda Holden has ticked off much of life.

Where to go for the woman who has done it all?

For 49-year-old Holden, the answer is, apparently, an album.

Songs From My Heart is a collection of show tunes and musical classics taking in Somewhere from West Side Story and I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables.

These are family-friendly choices, not a curveball in sight, and aimed squarely at the middle-market.

Holden's voice is, without a doubt, strong - you would hope so given she judges singers for a living on BGT.

But on her debut album, Holden lacks the one thing that has defined her TV career - personality.

(Review by Alex Green)


From the first seconds of Wading In Waist-High Water, the first track, it could only be Fleet Foxes - acoustic guitars, wheezing keyboards, a children's choir, over almost before it has begun.

But the vocals, starting with "Summer all over" are by Uwade Akhere, rather than frontman Robin Pecknold, a literal attempt to take himself out of the spotlight, a symbol of the anxiety he says he's felt since the unexpected success of the first Fleet Foxes album 12 years ago.

He then does sing second track Sunblind which references Richard Swift, the cult singer-songwriter who died too young a couple of years ago, and a host of other artists like Arthur Russell who are no longer with us but whose legacy Pecknold continues.

Can I Believe You, like all classic Fleet Foxes, sounds like it could have been crafted during sessions for Neil Young's 1972 Harvest, without in any way seeming like a museum piece.

Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman samples Brian Wilson's voice from Pet Sounds outtakes, the Beach Boys a clear influence.

Shore, which comes with an accompanying 16mm road movie of the same name shot by Kersti Jan Werdal in the Pacific Northwest, was released suddenly, again perhaps in an attempt to avoid the hype.

Pecknold says this fourth album was recorded as though it might be the last the band records, and not knowing if the 15 songs will ever be played live.

At once tinged with melancholy yet life-affirming, Shore may not be a radical departure for Fleet Foxes, but it's good to have them back.

(Review by Matthew George)