Wild Beasts are a British band who take their name, and their cue, from the French expressionist painters the Fauves—rendering their songs in lurid hues. On their debut album in 2008, Hayden Thorpe's quivering counter-tenor told boorish tales of huffing and puffing on mattresses, the biting of fruit and manly bulges, in the soft accent of his native Kendal. Over the next two albums, their perverse poetry won friends even as its peculiarities faded into prettier songs that tackled more universal themes of nostalgia and romance. With "Present Tense", Wild Beasts return to their essence. Songs are pared down to strict rhythms and bold synths, and words wielded like blunt instruments. The music is simple, almost pop, but it makes political points—ranging from the class system to the commoditisation of art—and also dwells on intimacy and loss. "All we want is to know the vivid moment," Thorpe sings, like an artist squeezing paint straight from the tube. ~ Hazel Sheffield
Present Tense, Domino, Feb 24th. Wild Beasts on tour (America, Britain, Europe), Feb 18th to Apr 15th
ROCK AT A GLANCE
Neneh Cherry (album, Feb 24th; European tour, Feb 25th to Mar 7th). Once raw like sushi, now about to turn 50. This is her first solo album since 1996.
Joan As Police Woman (album, Mar 10th; European tour, Mar 13th to May 4th). Joan Wasser was always cool; now, with her fifth album, she adds warmth, leaning towards neo-soul.
Metronomy (album, Mar 10th; British/Irish tour, Mar 12th-28th). Time for Joseph Mount and co. to follow up the twinkling charm of "The English Riviera".
Elbow (album, Mar 10th; British tour, Apr 5th-16th). The album glimpsed in our Jan/Feb cover story. Guy Garvey calls it their "proggiest" yet, which suggests it could go either way.
Johnny Cash (album, Mar 24th). Songs he left behind—so this could go either way too.
Damon Albarn (album, Apr 28th). Blur, Gorillaz, Chinese opera, Malian road trips: Albarn has done almost everything. But he has never made a solo album, until now. The title is "Everyday Robots", the music folk-soul. ~ Tim de Lisle
Intelligent tunes: six good songs to slip into your pocket
Elbow: New York Morning. Subtle, stirring, excellent.
Asgeir: Torrent. Rousing folk-pop from Iceland’s bright new star. His album, “In the Silence”, is outstanding.
Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots. Refreshingly odd.
Darlene Love: Lean on Me. One of many reasons why “20 Feet from Stardom”, the tale of Love and other backing singers, deserves its Oscar.
Joan As Police Woman: The Classic. Time for something we didn’t know we were waiting for: the doo-wop revival.
Neneh Cherry: Across the Water. Just voice, drums and a rap, which turns into a beautifully stark ballad.
All songs at iTunes and Spotify (enter IntLifeMag)