New Music Reviews: Cleo Sol, Squid, and Andy Partridge

Just over two years ago, I reviewed new releases by Cleo Sol, Squid, and XTC’s Andy Partridge. Coincidentally, Squid and Cleo Sol just released new albums. To complete the symmetry, I realised that I missed Partridge’s 2022 EP the first time around. All three are arguably weaker than their predecessors, but still worth your time.

Squid

O Monolith

2023, 7.5/10
It’s sometimes hard to keep up with all the acclaimed music emanating from the current crop of post-punk bands in the UK. Squid’s debut album, Bright Green Field, was one of my favourites from the movement. Their second record, O Monolith is more insular and less accessible than their debut, but it also expands the band’s range, hopefully setting them up for a long career. They recorded the record at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Wiltshire.

Real World is a James Bond baddie base from which Peter Gabriel is planning on taking over the world. Dan [Carey]’s studio is an old Post Office room in south London.

The funky beat of ‘Undergrowth’ is an unexpected direction for the band, but it works, backing their squiggly riffs. Squid have cited Talk Talk and These New Puritans as influences, and the more textural moments on songs like ‘Swing (In a Dream)’ and ‘Green Light’ reflect this. There’s less post-punk intensity than before, but songs like ‘The Blades’ build to cathartic climaxes.

I found O Monolith difficult to access, but there’s a solid record here, suggesting possibilities for the future.


Cleo Sol

Heaven

2023, 7/10
It’s not just Sault who have been prolific over the past few years – co-lead vocalist Cleo Sol has just released her third record of the decade. She’s reliably classy – her vocals are soulful and smooth, while she also has the low-key intimacy of a singer-songwriter. I loved her first two records – they’re both on my top-rated albums list. Heaven is predictably enjoyable, but it feels more modest than her first two records.

It’s brief, at just over half an hour, and often feels slight, but there’s a great stretch of songs in the middle. The jazzy touches on the title track work well. ‘Old Friends’ is a delicately delivered tale of failed friendship. Sol also dispenses sisterly wisdom on ‘Miss Romantic’, affirming the self-worth of a woman in an unsatisfactory relationship. The production from her creative and romantic partner Inflo is as gorgeous as ever.

Lukewarm on this record? No worries, Sol is scheduled to drop another solo record later this week.

ANDY PARTRIDGE

MY FAILED SONGWRITER CAREER, VOLUME 2

2022
My Failed Songwriter Career, Volume 2 is another four-song EP, rehabilitating songs that Partridge wrote for other artists. It’s maybe half a step down from Partridge’s first volume, but it still showcases a songwriter who’s better than almost anyone else in pop/rock. This time around I like the swing of ‘Let’s Make Everything Love’ and the psychedelic, sophisticated pop of ‘Love is the Future’. I hope Partridge keeps releasing these.

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3 Comments

  1. While I was only aware of Andy Partridge in the context XTC and, as such, he’s as new to me as a solo artists as your other two picks, initially, I feel mostly drawn to him. Most of contemporary R&B/Soul isn’t so much my cup of tea, but I like Cleo Sol’s vocals as well as the jazzy vibe in some of these tunes. Squid’s album doesn’t grab me initially.

  2. “Undergrowth” is sprawling, but also melodically complex & intriguing, so I’ll have to check out more of Squid’s album. Cleo Sol’s “Heaven” is a nice, mellow and soulful tune, and I like the cool jazzy groove of Andy Partridge’s song.

  3. Andy Partridge is who of course I like a lot. Let’s Make Everything Love is a very breezy song…coming from the man who wrote I’m The Man Who Murdered Love.
    I like Love Is The Future- as well… totally different.

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