Kismet Acoustic EP
With the really rather special album Hunting My Dress bringing Jesca Hoop fame as this year's best quirky female singer-songwriter, time perhaps seemed right to release an EP of acoustic covers of her own songs, largely drawn from her debut album, Kismet.
Everything's there - the wonderful better-than-Bjork voice, the interesting arrangements… And yet, it is hard to not wonder what's missing, and that thing is the excitement from the Tom Waits-like orchestration that the studio brought to Hunting My Dress. While the EP is lovely, and is a great way to gain additional perspective on the two albums, this is for those who've already fallen in love with those records, not someone who is checking her out.
ACE rating 7/10
Aqualung (well, Matt Hales, who is Aqualung) has done very well since breaking through on the back of a VW advert with Strange and Beautiful. Since then, he has had an occasional track (Easier To Lie, Brighter Than Sunshine) break through and find its way to TC series like Brothers and Sisters or Greys Anatomy. The music is smack-bang in the middle of bands such as Coldplay, Snow Patrol, or Travis, and like those bands, you're really not supposed to find it offensive - if you find it compelling, that's a bonus. Magnetic North continues the tradition on recent Aqualung albums of nice-nice and a track or two that could work on an iPod playlist, or a mixtape CD if you're trying to come across as sensitive. Probably best as singles, unless you really don't like it spicy.
ACE rating 6/10
Jesse Malin and the St Marks Social
Love It To Life
Jesse Malin came out from Ryan Adams' wing as a squeakier Bruce Springsteen, forging a more interesting space for himself while Adams went off to forage in country and singer-songwriter territory. Here he follows the wonderful (and under-noticed) Glitter In The Gutter with a more straightahead return to his older wannabe. Love It To Life (the second album of his to be so-titled - the first is a 2007 live album) sounds more like the mid-80s Springsteen knock-offs (like John Cafferty), and ventures no further than the white lines on the same road throughout. Energetic enough, but lacking anything resembling an idea or a change of gear, this is Malin-on-repeat.
ACE rating 7/10