The Charlatans - Who We Touch ****
Two decades after they first stormed onto the British indie scene, The Charlatans cannot be accused of having run out of steam. Their latest album gets off to a promisingly energetic start with Love Is Ending, an up-tempo number that is no worse off for its Britpop-era throwback quality. Nor is the band afraid to deploy old fashioned anthemic choruses. And for every melancholy Tim Burgess vocal there is, as on previous offerings, a hint of 1960s-style psychedelia, notably on melodic Oh! and the Pink Floyd-like You Can Swim. There is enough of interest here to make it worthwhile, even if the album wins no prizes for startling originality.
Maria Mena - Cause And Effect ****
NORWEGIAN Maria Mena may only be 24 but the singersongwriter has endured her fair share of heartbreak - judging by the lyrics on offer here. Opening track Power Trip Ballad sets the tone of the album with its quirky outbreaks of laughter during the chorus. It's followed by Belly Up which is the outstanding track on an excellent collection. With the right promotion, Mena could become a major international star.
Magic Kids - Memphis ****
THIS surf-splashed debut from Tennessee's Magic Kids captures the spirit and soul of the early-1960s Beach Boys. The record opens with the twee Sesame Street-inspired Phone and retains a youthful innocence throughout. Hey Boy captures the naivety of young love with the help of a schoolgirl choir. There are also hints of sadness in Candy. Magic Kids have built on their irresistible hooks to create a collection of 11 perfectly-polished baroque pop songs.
Heart - Red Velvet Car ****
THE first release of original material by the Wilson Sisters since the 2004 LP Jupiters Darling shows a fine return to form. The combination of the rocking WTF and the slinky vocals of the title track will remind their fans just what the band do best. There is a touch of country rock about Queen City and Safronia's Mark and even some blues make an appearance. However, in essence, this is an album of modern AOR. Given enough airplay in the UK, this could make a minor dent on the charts, but it will most likely appeal just to true fans.