New year, old bands, old hands. In music industry circles, January was traditionally treated as silly season or a musical dead zone and even now Britpop survivors Shed Seven can sneak in to the charts while no one else is looking and clamber to the topper-most of the popper-most with their sixth album A Matter of Time (Cooking Vinyl).
In fairness, this is as solid an effort as the York band has ever produced, foregrounding tunes and hooks and barely touching the ground with their opening statement of intent, Let’s Go. Talk of the Town and Ring the Changes keep things upbeat and brimming with confidence, if not exactly radiating inspiration. Only towards the end of the album do they drop the pace, culminating with the Pete Doherty-featuring ballad Throwaways.
Former Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys may have emerged from the same broad Britpop landscape as Shed Seven but he’s in a different universe on his latest solo album. Sadness Sets Me Free (Rough Trade) is his cure for “cosmic loneliness”, a post-Covid acknowledgement of the mess we are in – corrupt property practises, mendacious politicians, the usual – delivered in glorious psych pop style with a side order of bossa nova and easy listening country.
The Vaccines belonged to the next generation of bright young things. Indie pups no more, they return with their sixth album, Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations (Thirty Tigers) infused with the healthy rock star glow which comes from time spent in California, both literally and imaginatively. Like Shed Seven, this London outfit remain lean indie pop/rock operators but one might ask where’s the beef in their consistent, catchy but generic approach. We’re not asking for an overblown, orchestral concept album…or maybe we are.