Depeche Mode are ‘a music machine’

WHAT’S hot and what’s not in this week’s new releases. By Shereen Low

Depeche Mode - Delta Machine: After 33 years and 13 albums, Basildon synthmasters Depeche Mode remain largely unchanged. They’ve gone from a four-piece to a trio, and they’ve had their highs (Violator) and lows (Exciter), but on the whole they’re a fairly stable ship. Their latest, Delta Machine, features all the Mode trademarks fans could hope for - pulsating rhythms and multi-layered synth effects courtesy of Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher, as well as powerful baritone vocals from frontman Dave Gahan - and adds to them a sense of rejuvenated vigour not seen in years. Tracks such as divine opening number Welcome To My World, My Little Universe and The Child Inside boast introspective titles, suggesting the trio have done some soul-searching ahead of this release, and it has certainly paid off: this is their best in decades. Rating: 9/10 (Review by Rob Lavender)

Various Artists - The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver: If John Denver had been alive today, he’d be looking forward to celebrating his 70th birthday in December. But the singer’s legacy, whose life was cut short at 53, is very much alive and well, as this tribute album shows. Die-hard Denver fans consider him a true poet, whose lyrics about nature, love and life on the road can reduce the listener to tears. This album features a mix of stars putting their stamp on some of his classics, opening fittingly with his most famous song, Leaving On A Jet Plane, sung with just an acoustic guitar by psychedelic rockers My Morning Jacket. The album also includes The Lemonheads’ Evan Dando singing Looking For Space and Emmylou Harris and Brandi Carlile duetting on Country Roads. Allen Stone’s soulful version of Rocky Mountain High is another highlight in a strangely eclectic album that proves the enduring power of Denver’s genius. Rating: 8/10 (Review by Kate Whiting)

The Flaming Lips - The Terror: After Wayne Coyle and his band of psychedelic freaks went all MTV around the turn of the millennium, they won over many new fans. Following a couple of albums of joyous chart-baiting, the Oklahoma quintet fittingly released the unwieldy and “difficult” double-album Embryonic in 2009. The Terror continues in this vein. The frontman has described it as “bleak and disturbing”, and with its pummelling beats, low-slung bass, scratchy post-punk guitars and wig-out synths, it’s not The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song. But Coyle’s best vocals for years counteract all the hopeless bad acid vibes with sweet falsetto intonations breaking through the uncompromising yet compelling din. The hymnal Try To Explain, which recalls East 17’s Christmas No 1 Stay Another Day, is a particular highlight of what is definitely a return to form, just not the same form most will know them for. Rating: 7/10 (Review by Arj Singh)

Wiley - The Ascent: Godfather of grime Wiley is best known for his collaborations, which have included Mark Ronson and Emeli Sande, and his ninth album does not disappoint. The English rapper, whose real name is Richard Cowie, has teamed up with the likes of Tulisa (Contostavlos), Far East Movement, Tinchy Stryder and Chip among grime mates such as Lethal Bizzle, Kano and Skepta. While the bumper load of names could be distracting, it just heightens the musical level, with every song impressing in some way. The Ascent opens with an intro made up of a montage of disjointed clips and soundbites, which launches into a Wiley rap, leading into First Class with Kano and Lethal Bizzle. Ms D (formerly Ms Dynamite) has a hat-trick of songs here - the sunny No 1 hit Heatwave, Reload and Can You Hear Me? (Ayayaya). He’s a game-changer of his generation, but with The Ascent, Wiley has raised his game once again Rating: 8/10 (Review by Shereen Low)

The Leisure Society - Alone Aboard The Ark: Alone Aboard The Ark is the sound of a band at their “absolute peak”, according to lead singer Nick Hemming. Taking into account that the much-vaunted Leisure Society frontman can already boast two Ivor Novello nominations for his songwriting skills, this claim heightened anticipation for their third album. Opener Another Sunday Psalm and One Man And His Fug are reminiscent of Belle And Sebastian but it is the synth-lead Fight For Everyone, inspired by London Olympics 2012, and The Sober Scent Of Paper that really stand out. Rating: 7/10