ADRIAN THRILLS: No wonder he’s so Keane in middle age

TOM CHAPLIN: Midfielder (BMG)

Assessment: Crisis? What midlife crisis?

Evaluation:

VALERIE JUNE: Under Cover (Fantasy)

Verdict: standards with a country-soul twist

Evaluation:

NINA NESBITT: Älskar (Kitchen Vinyl)

Verdict: Scandi-pop and ballads

Evaluation:

Few bands have sung about the innocence of youth as persuasively as Keane did with his 2004 debut album, Hopes And Fears.

The Sussex band brilliantly framed their salad days on tracks such as Somewhere Only We Know and Everybody’s Changing, launching a career that saw their first five LPs top the UK charts.

Capturing the mood swings of a battered but rebellious forty-something is less glamorous, but that’s what Tom Chaplin tries to do on his new solo album, Midpoint.

The singer, 43, found himself distraught when Keane’s Cause And Effect tour was cut short by the pandemic, and he began writing songs summarizing his feelings as he approached middle age.

Capturing the mood swings of a battered but rebellious forty-something is less glamorous, but that's what Tom Chaplin tries to do on his new solo album, Midpoint.

Capturing the mood swings of a battered but rebellious forty-something is less glamorous, but that’s what Tom Chaplin tries to do on his new solo album, Midpoint.

“There’s room for something nuanced that explores a part of life that everyone goes through,” he explains, and he wears his heart on his sleeve here. There are plenty of confessional musings from a man who has been sober and sober for seven years after treatment for cocaine and alcohol addiction – but his lingering hopes ultimately outweigh any lingering fears.

It also has something to feel good about. After surviving his “disastrous collapse”, as he puts it, he now lives in Kent with his wife Natalie and their two children.

Earlier this year he showed his lighter side by appearing on ITV’s The Masked Singer. . . dressed as a seven-foot poodle. And his unmistakable and striking voice is clearly still in good shape.

Midpoint was made with producer Ethan Johns, the multi-instrumentalist son of Beatles and Rolling Stones recording engineer Glyn Johns, and many of the 13 songs have an old-school analog feel.

Six years ago, on his first solo album The Wave, Chaplin moved away from the piano melodies that were Keane’s trademark, but there is no such reluctance this time.

On an album dominated by ballads, there’s plenty of ivory tickle, while producer Johns, who also plays guitar and drums, brings light and shadow by adding vintage electronic instruments such than the Chamberlin and the Mellotron.

Some songs have a subtle, jazzy edge; others turn to the laid-back arrangements of Jackson Browne and James Taylor.

There are reflections on mortality. The title track, a guitar-driven ballad that turns into a full-tilt rocker, finds Chaplin unfurling his shrill falsetto as he ponders “quicksand in the hourglass.”

But he is a philosopher. “Grief and unhappiness, they come and go,” he muses on Rise And Fall. On Colorful Light, he “still dares to dream”. . . that’s the problem with me. He pays tribute to his children and sings of his love for his wife, though the most telling song is It’s Over, which seems to be about his rewarding but enigmatic relationship with Keane bandmate Tim Rice-Oxley.

Longtime fans of the band will love the track’s boisterous melody and soaring chorus, but they might be concerned about the title’s implications. The band took a six-year sabbatical between 2013 and 2019. Could another long hiatus be on the cards?

With over 55 minutes of music and an emphasis on slower songs, there are times when Midlife quiets down. Some numbers will take a while to make their mark, but the album is not without upbeat moments.

Black Hole is lyrically dark – “big black hole, come take my soul” – but its piano and brass band accompaniment is distinctly cheery. The same goes for Cameo, a rattling guitar rocker on which Chaplin lays out his determination to go out with a bang when his time comes. “My last role will not be a cameo,” he sings.

So far, however, his quarantine report has yielded a warm and engaging review that suggests his solo career still has a long way to go.

Valerie June revived her growing reputation with her frenzied set at the All Points East festival last weekend in London.

Valerie June revived her growing reputation with her catchy set at last weekend's All Points East festival in London (she is pictured on stage at the festival in Victoria Park on Friday)

Valerie June revived her growing reputation with her catchy set at last weekend’s All Points East festival in London (she is pictured on stage at the festival in Victoria Park on Friday)

Singing with a Dolly Parton-esque Tennessee twang, the American singer-songwriter led a tight rock ‘n’ roll band with soulful aplomb. The 40-year-old traditionally sprinkles her concerts with covers – last weekend, she sang What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong – and she goes even further with Under Cover, an eight-track mini-album on which she tackles classics in John Lennon, Nick Cave and others.

Those studying his music for the first time would do well to start with last year’s sublime The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers, but Under Cover remains a reliable guide to his freewheeling approach.

June, who plays guitar, banjo and ukulele, has won the admiration of Bob Dylan, and she returns the compliment here with a catchy country version of Dylan’s love song, Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here. With You. Some of his covers are too obvious – do we really need another version of Lennon’s Imagine? – but the more ambitious choices work a treat.

Rapper Frank Ocean’s breakup ballad Godspeed is treated with tender reverence, and rockers Mazzy Star’s MTV anthem Fade Into You is given a sassy, ​​Southern twist.

Edinburgh singer Nina Nesbitt delves into her part-Swedish heritage on her third album, Älskar

Edinburgh singer Nina Nesbitt delves into her part-Swedish heritage on her third album, Älskar

Fresh off of a duet with Chris Martin on Coldplay’s UK stadium tour, Edinburgh singer Nina Nesbitt delves into her part-Swedish heritage on her third album, Älskar. The title means “to love” in Swedish, and Nesbitt began writing while visiting her grandmother in Scandinavia before the pandemic. She then finished the album on Zoom.

She’s at her best on the smart electro-pop of No Time (For My Life To Suck), playfully tossed between Taylor Swift and Sigrid, while the empowerment anthem Pressure Makes Diamonds includes a celebrity search that find fame through family ties. . “I’m not a rich girl,” she sings. “My dad wasn’t famous in the 80s.”

His ballads, more prominent as Älskar progresses, are haphazard. Dinner Table deftly details a conversation between three generations of women from the same family, but Colors Of You falls into romantic cliché.

Nesbitt fails to fully impose her own musical style, but she is a witty and inventive lyricist. One to watch.

Tom Chaplin kicks off a UK tour on October 6 in Leicester (ticketmaster.co.uk).

Nina Nesbitt kicks off a tour on November 13 at Stylus, Leeds (ticketmaster.co.uk).

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