Review: Florence Welch's globe-straddlingly successful epic-pop project has made its name largely through no-holds-barred emotion and rapturous melodrama, and although this third album has largely been trumpeted as a return to a more stripped-down and less over-the-top approach, long-term fans of the couture-clad siren needn't worry too much. 'How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful' remains true to her heart-on-sleeve approach and the cinematic splendour she's made her trademark. Crucially, even beneath the orchestral arrangements and the life-or-death vocal declamations, the songs on this record shone through as memorable and emotive enough to withstand the level of ornamentation around them, and fit to have Florence's fearsome pipes send them skyward.
Review: Few people adhere so gloriously to the old-fashioned idea of a pop star than Brandon Flowers, who more often than not comes across - in classic Ziggy Stardust fashion - much like an alien emissary who's landed on the planet designed solely for this purpose. By no means a master of understatement, he nonetheless maintains a positively effortless expertise in making the kind of stadium-ready barnstormers that many others struggle to create. Moreover, he's excelled himself on 'The Desired Effect', producing an uplifting, refreshingly unselfconscious selection fashioned entirely from bombastic pure pop glory; the influences of Pet Shop Boys and Springsteen may be manifest, but this confection is Flowers' and his alone.
Review: Inspired initially by the likes of Screaming Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits and Nina Simone, the Wicklow-born Andrew Hozier-Byrne nurtured his own unique voice, taking soulful gravitas and bluesy grit and using them to sculpt songs with both a soul-searching approach and an unusual earthiness. His first single Take Me To Church was a surprise hit, its existential crises and potent melancholy striking a chord via their intensity of delivery, and this debut shows that it was no flash-in-the-pan. In a world of young artists overly obsessed with overstating their own authenticity, it doesn't take long to work out you're in the presence of one with raw talent to render such concerns redundant.