New album reviews for y’all

High as Hope (Universal)
4 stars

FOR someone who drapes themselves in metaphors, High as Hope is the most honest Florence Welch has been on record.

Only her fourth album, ironically the record that lobs as she’s outgrown arenas is the most intimate and personal.

It starts with Hunger’s opening line “At 17 I started to starve myself …” Welch wrote this album sober — new producer Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey) helps craft a lush safe space for Welch to open up.

Hunger then steers through drug use and the emptiness of fame, yet the chanted chorus “we all have a hunger” winds up being a uniting rally cry.

Hunger is one of the few bangers here to sit alongside Shake It Off, Dog Days are Over and Ship to Wreck live.

Patricia (her ode to Patti Smith) fires up before winding down with the powerful outro “it’s such a wonderful thing to love”; 100 Years builds up gently before a huge brass and string tidal wave and the harp is back.

June snapshots when “love became an act of defiance”.

The album’s more subdued moments really connect.

South London Forever rewinds to her days as a college student (“everything I ever did was just another way to scream your name”), the deconstructed Big God (arguably her most Kate Bush moment to date) was written with Jamie xx. Well, actually The End of Love is pretty damn Bush-like too, while Grace is an apology to her sister done in that truly British manner — in a song, not in person.

The album closes with No Choir, a song about writing a song about finding the happiness in silence. It probably won’t work in a live show, but it’s a literal happy ending.

Florence knows that albums still matter if they’re done well./ CAMERON ADAMS

Expectations (Warner)
3.5 stars

Bebe Rexha is renowned as a gigging songwriter and feature vocalist. But, following that odd country mega-hit Meant To Be, she’s aiming for pop diva ubiquity. This debut is bursting with radio bangers and playlist ballads. Bebe’s wryly bleak personality is beguiling. She emerges as cloud rap’s Alanis Morissette on Ferrari, I’m A Mess and Sad. Yet, for all her versatility, Bebe can be overly trend-conscious. 2 Souls On Fire with Migos’ Quavo is predictably generic./ CYCLONE WEHNER

Scorpion (Universal)
3.5 stars

DRAKE’S Instagram — and his previously secret son — are recurring themes on this 90-minute double album. More musical and less dance hall than Views, the Marvin Gaye sample on 8 out of 10 is typical of the recycled soul throwbacks as Drake dusts off his singing voice. Summer Games throws up some dark electro beats, but the hyped Michael Jackson collab Don’t Matter To Me (using an unreleased 1983 MJ cut) is a little underwhelming as the album’s money shot. / CAMERON ADAMS

To a Stranger (EMI)
3.5 stars

TAKING her cues from Rihanna, Sylvia Plath, John Keats and Maya Angelou (who she samples elegantly on Watch Me Read You), 21-year-old Odette is a proper artist. The Sydney singer goes for thoughtful ruminations over rumbling basslines, choppy drums (think FKA Twigs but less abrasive), and pretty, sparse piano arrangements. Her husky, bluesy tones give Come Close gravitas as she sings her poetry: “And darkness where I like to sleep, it feels like I can levitate”. Check the Des’ree moves on Do You See Me./MIKEY CAHILL

The Now Now (Warner)
4 stars

Gorillaz rarely slip on a banana peel. However, their last record, Humanz, was all over the shop, as if a waiter had tried to serve everyone in a restaurant at the same time and taken quite a spill, meals flying everywhere. Humanz wasn’t that bad it just wasn’t that good.

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett refocus on LP six, pasteurising (applying light heat to extend shelf life) 11 tracks without homogenising them. To milk the metaphor further, Gorillaz take that discarded banana and make a smoothie. The whole record has a very loungey, slow-grooves, funk feel. Reeeal smoooooth.

You can move around in these songs knowing an unwanted guest won’t be popping in unannounced.

The Now Now is refreshingly low on featured artists, only three singers/rappers appear.

Opening cut Humility may refer to Gorillaz’ back-down-to-earth moment with Humanz, they use George Benson to lay down some rest-stroke licks. Humility has a yacht rock sensibility, taking your shoes off as they re-welcome you to the world of the Plastic Beach. Albarn employed James Ford (Arctic Monkeys) as the “sense police” on The Now Now — his job was to bring cohesion and meaning to the work. Tick.

Hollywood feat. Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle lopes along, hugging it out on the dancefloor as a very Rick James vibe permeates the room. Sorcerer and Lake Zurich sustain a mood.

Lyrically, Albarn’s never-far-off pensiveness hangs around like he’s still On Melancholy Hill.

“Why you looking so beautiful to me now, when you’re so sad?” he ruminates on the simply gorgeous album closer Souk Eye. It is the most tactile, driving song on the record, a new hope for the next chapter of a band now 20 years (yes, really) old. Evolutionary./MIKEY CAHILL

Bad Witch (Caroline)
4 stars

This album (not EP, OK?) is a 30-minute shot of industrial-strength brilliance. S--- Mirror pummels you, takes a breather, then reloads for an aggressive, unhappy ending. Ahead Of Ourselves is a hectic, distorted groove, think LCD Soundsystem on the blink. The jazzy mayhem of Play the Goddamn Part and haunting God Break Down the Door (both with NIN’s Trent Reznor on saxophone) sound like Reznor’s nod to his mate David Bowie’s final masterpiece Blackstar./ CAMERON ADAMS