New albums from Natalie Prass, Father John Misty and Ben Howard and this week's best gigs

Natalie Prass

The Future and The Past

ATO

Virginia singer Natalie Prass was about to enter the studio to record her second album when something terrible happened - the result of the 2016 US presidential election. But relax - The Future and The Past is no exercise in Trump bashing - that would be far too easy for an artist as enigmatic and inventive as Prass. She determined to make an album that would lift her spirits and, as she says, lifts other people’s too. She’s certainly succeeded with a set of thought-provoking songs that also have the dancefloor at their heart. This is also possibly the most sophisticated album you’ll hear all year. It flirts with exacting, almost metronomic funk slickness, the melancholia of Abba, and on Far From You, a flawless Karen Carpenter impression, which nearly outdoes that sorrowful siren. The Fire could be an eighties FM hit and there’s nineties r `n’ b on the superb Short Court Style while the slow groove of Hot For The Mountain is embellished by piano, sumptuous strings and the faint tinkle of bells. Elsewhere, Prass sounds like Haim trading harmonies with Wilson Phillips on Nothing to Say, which glides along on glissandos of harp and is one of the few directly political songs here.  Prass’ second album is already up there as one of the records of the year. And oh, what a voice. ****

Father John Misty

God’s Favorite Customer

Bella Union

With an album title straight out of the Elvis Costello songbook, former Fleet Foxes man Josh Tilman presents another droll collection about life’s manifold inanities and inequities. His fourth album is born out of personal upheaval but this customer, who has just completed a rapturously received three-night stand at Dublin’s Vicar Street, has the good grace not to bore us with singer songwriterly clichés and pieties. As ever with Tilman, sardonic humour is the fore. "Last night I wrote a poem, man, I musta been in the poem zone." he sings reprovingly on We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That), a song on which he contemplates his navel and his aching heart. His knack for sweet melodies and cutting words are present and correct on Please Don’t Die, wherein he rues countless nights of ‘pointless benders with reptilian strangers’. Tilman sings in a rich baritone and the songs are enveloped in a warm, seventies sound that recalls Elton John at his seventies prime. Late period Beatles and Harry Nilsson can also be detected on Hangout at the Gallows, while on the vaguely psychedelic Date Night, he bucks the overall feel of detached self-reproach and sounds genuinely broken up. Tilman doesn’t quite have the scything wit of a Costello or, for that matter, a Randy Newman and God’s Favorite Customer can drift off into a kind of tasteful and knowing wryness.  ***

Ben Howard

Noonday Dream

Island 

Ben Howard adoration of John Martyn takes its logical next step with this revelation of a third album. Noonday Dream is full of the kind of soundscapes and exploratory ambience of Martyn’s late seventies albums like One World. Lyrically, Howard also ventures into a far more inventive and mercurial seam of songwriting with songs like the rippling Someone in the Doorway and What The Moon Does catching you off guard with each listen. Abstract interludes such as All Down The Mines echo the twilight weirdness of King Creosote and standout track The Defeat picks up the pace and the heat with echoing slivers of guitar, rhythmic flourishes and a forward motion that underpins a new direction from a talented artist who is really becoming unmoored from his more prosaic beginnings. ***

Gigs of the week

Saturday, June 2

Forbidden Fruit Festival, Royal Hospital, Kilmaimham, Dublin - Justice, Richie Hawtin, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Novelist 

Microdisney, NCH, Dublin

Marlene Enright, Cork Opera House

Robyn Hitchcock, Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Ireland

Sunday, June 3

Forbidden Fruit Festival, Royal Hospital, Kilmaimham, Dublin - Bonobo, Four Tet, Earl Sweatshirt, Floating Points

Monday, June 4

Forbidden Fruit Festival, Royal Hospital, Kilmaimham, Dublin - The War on Drugs, Grizzly Bear, Warpaint, Thundercat, Spoon 

Tuesday, June 5

LCD Soundsystem, Malahide Castle, Dublin

Sam Amidon, Tralee,

Wednesday, June 6

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin

Thursday, June 7

The Beat, The Button Factory, Dublin

Music on TV

Friday, June 1

Africa: A Journey into Music, BBC Four, 10.00pm

Glam Rock at the BBC, BBC Four, 11.30pm

Saturday, June 2

Kate Bush at the BBC, 12.50am

Sid Vicious: Who Killed Nancy, Sky Arts, 9.00pm

Anarchy: The Mclaren-Westwood Gang, sky Arts, 12.00am

Sunday, June 3

The History of The Clash, Sky arts, 10.00pm

Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits, Sky arts, 10.00pm

Manic Street Preachers; Escape From History, Sky Arts, 11.55pm

Thursday, June 7

Prince: Sign O’ The Times, Sly Arts, 11.15pm

Friday, June 8

Prince: A Purple Reign, BBC Four, 9.00pm

Africa: a Journey Into Music, BBC Four, 10.00pm

When Pop Went Epic: The Crazy World of the Concept Album, BBC Four, 11.00pm

Ireland's Top 10 albums 

New 1 Wildness - Snow Patrol (Polydor/Universal Music)  

New 2 Shawn Mendes - Shawn Mendes (EMI/Universal Music)

3 (last week) 3 (this week) The Greatest Showman Motion Picture Cast Recording (Atlantic/Warner Music)  

1 4 Divide - Ed Sheeran Asylum (Warner Music)  

2 5 Beerbongs & Bentleys - Post Malone (Republic Records)

4 6 Speak Your Mind - Anne-Marie (Asylum/Warner Music)

New 7 MTV Unplugged - Live At Roundhouse - Biffy Clyro (14th Floor/Warner Music)

7 8 Staying At Tamara's - George Ezra (Columbia/Sony Music)

5 9 x - Ed Sheeran (Asylum/Warner Music)

New 10 Testing - ASAP Rocky (ASAP Worldwide/Polo/RCA)

Ireland's Top 10 singles

1 (last week) 1 (this week) One Kiss - Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa (Columbia/Warner Bros)

2 2 2002 - Anne-Marie (Asylum)   

3 3 Nice For What - Drake (Cash Money/Republic Records)

4 4 No Tears Left To Cry - Ariana Grande  (Republic Records)

5 5 Friends - Marshmello & Anne-Marie (Asylum/Atlantic/Warner Music)

14 6 Solo - Clean Bandit Ft Demi Lovato  (Atlantic)

7 7 Better Now - Post Malone (Republic Records)

8 8 Paradise - George Ezra (Columbia) 

9 9 Lullaby - Sigala & Paloma Faith (Ministry Of Sound/Sony Music)

11 10 Answerphone - Banx & Ranx/Ella Eyre/Bane (Parlophone/Warner Music)

Chart courtesy of IRMA

Alan Corr @corralan