Michael Head, former frontman of the Pale Fountains and current co-leader along with his brother John – who is also a Strand – of Brit pop outfit Shack, turns in a stellar chamber pop performance with Magical World of the Strands. Head, who is no stranger to either classy, baroque pop or neo-psychedelia, has composed an album of gorgeously illustrated songs that are lushly orchestrated by a standard rock quartet augmented by a flutist (Leslie Roberts) and a string quartet. The result is an album that, while little known, is a classic, a masterpiece of modern chamber pop.
The National have worn a lot of hats since their 2001 debut, but they’ve never been able to shake the rural, book-smart, quiet malevolence of the Midwest. The Brooklyn-groomed, Ohio-bred indie rock quintet’s fifth full-length album navigates that lonely dirt road where swagger meets desperation like a seasoned tour guide, and while it may take a few songs to get going, there are treasures to be found for patient passengers. The National's profile rose considerably after 2007’s critically acclaimed The Boxer, and they have used that capital to craft a flawed gem of a record that highlights their strengths and weaknesses with copious amounts of red ink.
This is the fourth instalment in Deutsche Grammophon’s new Mozart cycle. In the end this will encompass the seven great operas, from Idomeneo forwards. I haven’t heard the previous three, but from the reviews I have seen the reception has been rather mixed. Concerning this latest issue I am also in two minds. The problem, as I see it, is that Nézet-Séguin hasn’t quite decided what he is up to. He has the excellent Chamber Orchestra of Europe at his disposal.
Enno Poppe studied composition and conducting at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin with Friedrich Goldmann and Gösta Neuwirth, among others. He studied further at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe. Since 1998 he has conducted the ensemble mosaik for contemporary music in Berlin. He taught from 2002 to 2004 at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler".