Albums reviews: David Byrne, Young Fathers, Lonely Tourist, How To Swim

Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar

Despite being critics’ choice with their Mercury Prize win, Young Fathers have always considered themselves to be a pop band. Not make pop music as the mainstream would understand it, but their sad, soulful tunes act as a hook to draw the listener into their distinctive soundworld. Their third full-length album is as intriguingly warped as ever in its blend of mercurial, unsettling rhythms, melodic clarity and ambiguous lyrics.All of these elements come together particularly on ’In My View’, an unadorned, soulful lament, and ‘Lord’, a downbeat gospel number with an increasingly foreboding synth backing. Cocoa Sugar veers all over the map but there’s a strong curatorial hand on the tiller throughout. (FS) ****

How To Swim - HTS! 15

Its sleeve looks like - if you squint a little - the ‘Hits’ of this multi-faceted Glasgow act. Sadly, chart success eluded the cult combo, its rolling, football team-sized cast led by the charismatic Ink Wilson.In some ways it’s easy to see why - ‘Diego Whirlwind’ a flamenco-infused vaudevillian sword-swallower tale, ‘Bones’ propelled by brass and woodwind for its New Orleans funereal stomp. But it’s clever, toe-tapping stuff - if at times they’re an anti-Belle and Sebastian, ‘Logical Man’ sashays a different route once again, a joyous carnival of a tune. This retrospective, which charts the band’s 15th anniversary and recent dissolution, is a fitting tribute. (SMcH) *****

Lonely Tourist - Remuneration

Following the pub-themed Plume of Feathers album, Paul Tierney adopts his Lonely Tourist guise once again for this set of 13 tunes themed around the business of work. His whistle-stop tour of the UK’s workplaces takes us from the barber’s to the ‘Luxury Coach’ where “nine to five is a luxury”, all the way to the word-juggling, laugh-out-loud ‘Stunt Double’, where the narraotor is ”thrown off a bridge by Daniel Craig”.In a fine mix of acoustic songs and more produced numbers with former bandmate Jim Lang, ‘Last Day At Tony’s stands out, a noise-strewn anthem in the the vein of their old band Odeon BeatClub.Again Tierney has proved himself to be a talented observational songwriter full of wit and insight but never stinting on a hook and a tune. Surely soon the fruits of his labour will be rewarded - handsomely. (SMcH) ****

David Byrne - American Utopia

Fresh from writing a musical about Imelda Marcos (with Fatboy Slim), the former Talking Heads mainman’s first solo album since 20904 is part of a wider project entitled “Reasons to be Cheerful”. And opening gambit I ‘Dance Like This’ confirms this optimism, oscillating between whimsical piano ballad and industrial intoning. Add to this the far eastern chimes of the cool, meditative ‘This Is That’ and some flinty Latin-flavoured funk on ‘It’s Not Dark Up Here’, which asks questions like “Must a question have an answer? Can’t there be another way?” To pose an additional question on encountering the catchy rhythmic quirks of Brian Eno co-write ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ – on this fluent, infectious form, why wouldn’t they? (FS) ****

Reviews by Fiona Shepherd and Stuart McHugh