Mattthew E. White - Big Inner (****)
There are hints of Lambchop circa Nixon in the instrumental interplay and bittersweet air, while Jason Pierce’s gospel blues are echoed in Big Love’s lifting choir. But for the most part, White recalls an earlier songwriting vintage, with opener One of These Days unfurling smoothly like an old spiritual, and the warm chorus of Steady Pace displaying White’s self-confessed and oft-noted affinity with seventies storytellers in the Randy Newman mould. Both indebted to and reflective on its patrimonial past, this is the kind of debut on which devotional followings are founded.
Out 21st January
Cuddly Shark - The Road to Ugly (***)
Body Mass Index returns as bonkers as before, furnishing the album with its title and supplying its most marmite moments. Indeed, throughout the record, Colin Reid’s off-key yaps take a bit of acclimatising to (particularly the pretty fly Dexter-echoes on Pull the Finger Out), but their distinctive flavour soon convinces. Elsewhere, more straightforward numbers like My iPod Made Me Do It give a good account of the accomplished rock chops that lurk beneath the quirk, its dynamic riffage confirming the seriousness of Cuddly Shark’s abilities.
Out 28th January
A Band Called Quinn - Red Light Means Go (**)
Unfortunately, it has to do so with regrettable frequency, and even on the tracks that do more-or-less hit the mark – soulful torch song Gene I’m Starting to Remember; the sassy Sayonara; Can You Swim?’s gentle sway – Quinn invites monotony by adding superfluous repeats of every chorus, sabotaging otherwise concise pop songs by overstretching them. Proficient but never spectacular, Red Light Means Go isn’t an embarrassment, but nor does it shower its creators in glory.