The Very Best - MTMTMK
MTMTMK, the second release by London-based collaborators The Very Best (Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and Swedish producer Johan Hugo), is a wonderfully exuberant summer album, demanding barbecues and long, lazy afternoons. Elements of Black Eyed Peas shine through on Rumbae, a slower, grinding bass track, which has a cheeky reference to mambo classic Sway, while Kondaine deserves to be a club hit, and the penultimate We OK – co-written by Bruno Mars – is an anthem for carefree youth.
The mixture of traditional African beats alongside harmonising rhythms with electro-dance and hip-hop makes this an intoxicating collection of positive vibes. Even if the foreign lyrics are heartbreaking, the joyful delivery means it's impossible to resist dancing along to these tunes.
Daryl Hall - Laughing Down Crying
DARYL Hall is the blue-eyed soul singer who had hits aplenty with John Oates as Hall & Oates in the 1980s. Laughing Down Crying, his first studio album in 15 years, finds the 65-year-old in good voice armed with a guitar, a sharp band and some heartfelt songs. Drawing some inspiration from the death of best friend and bassist Tom 'T-Bone' Wolk, who died four days into the recording session, Hall's strengths lie in his soul roots. The best tracks are when he lets his R&B hair down: Eyes For You and Problem With You are stand-out songs, but the rest can be damned with faint praise – nice. This would be good enough for anyone else, but with a top-class pedigree, it just leaves fans craving vintage Hall.
Jess Bryant - Silvern
MULTI-instrumentalist Jess Bryant has bided her time with her debut album, having made sure she was happy with the material before its release on the highly respected Manchester-based Red Deer Label. In short, it has been worth the wait. The Londoner has produced a stunning record, with her melancholic yet mesmerising voice well to the fore. Cutting, In Deepest Blue and Stone Lady reach out and grab the listener from the speakers, demanding endless replays. Great stuff and a talent to watch.
Jimmy Cliff - Rebirth
STILL best known for the title track from seminal film The Harder They Come, reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff is back with a collection of new songs, as well as revisiting his past and including a couple of inspired cover versions. The pick of these is an excellent reading of the Clash's Guns Of Brixton, with the 64-year-old choosing to cover it in the wake of last year's London riots. One More, although far less angry in tone, is a perceptive reflection on life. With producer Tim Armstrong at the helm, Cliff has recorded one of his best albums in years, with the likes of World Upside Down, Cry No More and Ship Is Sailing matching the majesty of his earlier works. Age certainly hasn't lessened his anger at the world, but it has definitely given his work a new and wonderful perspective.