Years & Years: Night Call (Polydor).


Verdict: Use the correct numbers  

Janis Ian: The Light At The End of the Line (Rude Girl).


Verdict: An elegant swansong 

John Mellencamp: Only A One-Eyed Jack (EMI ).


Verdict: Blue-collar rock… with help The Boss

Once an electronic trio, Years & Years is now the vehicle for a solo Olly Alexander.

An enthusiastic multi-tasker who is juggling an acting career, television presenting roles and pop, the Gloucestershire-raised singer is becoming a force to be reckoned with on all fronts.

Elton John has sung at the BRITs with him, and he’s appeared on Strictly Come Dancing. He’s also been highly praised for his role in the Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin about the Aids epidemic that occurred in London in the 1980s.

He hosted the BBC One New Year Celebrations and starred on Christmas Day in an episode of Bake Off. He is not the only one who thinks a full schedule can be detrimental to his music. 

An enthusiastic multi-tasker who is juggling an acting career, television presenting roles and pop, the Gloucestershire-raised singer is becoming a force to be reckoned with on all fronts

An enthusiastic multi-tasker who is juggling an acting career, television presenting roles and pop, the Gloucestershire-raised singer is becoming a force to be reckoned with on all fronts

Night Call is the third Years & Years album (his first without former bandmates Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen) but it refines his approach by avoiding anything too esoteric in favour of a heady rush to the dance floor.

For the 31-year-old singer, it’s an impressive step. His personality is evident in the music. Night Call was produced by Mark Ralph (British producer). It’s not groundbreaking, and occasionally veers into parody.

The music is clearly influenced by 1970s disco and electronic pop, as well as the disco and electronic dance that fueled Kylie’s Light Years in 2000s and Madonna’s Confessions On A Dancing Floor in early 2000s.

Alexander is the one who leaves his mark. He tried and failed to compose songs while touring, but he was inspired by It’s A Sin. Goldsworthy still plays live, but the band broke up in 2020. He started afresh.

Instead of writing about lockdown, the author chose instead to examine the ‘fantastical realm’ of feel-good music.

Track of Week 

Simple Minds Act of Love 

Charlie Burchill, guitarist and singer Jim Kerr turn the dial back on their single which remasters Simple Minds’ early live song. Act Of Love was released to commemorate the band’s 44th anniversary in 1978. It features showy synths, grandiose guitarists, and bridges the past and the present.


This is the end result of a coming-of age adventure that touches upon love and how Alexander is discovering how to be happy.

Although the title track is a song about night-time desires, it also serves as a metaphor for his return. His songs were co-written with his producer and include sly twists among the beats.

Consequences relies too heavily upon auto-tuned vocals. Starstruck however is easily hummable with its combination of club-ready beats as well as bubblegum hooks. Olly sings, “Baby lets dance, and we can dream until dawn,” but the song also offers room for reflection. He wonders whether a toxic relationship worth it, and electronic song Intimacy expresses his desire for more. He declares that he is not one to enjoy casual intimacy. Although the songs are slow, some surprising twists can be found later.

Strange And Unusual’s slow pace is the result of Vicki, his mother’s passion for Morcheeba. Make It Out Alive is written in collaboration with Ilsey Jber. Olly will be there for many years on screen and stage.

n SHE’S best known for her Grammy-winning single At Seventeen — the ultimate ode to high school growing pains — but New Jersey singer Janis Ian, now 70, has been quietly honing her songwriting craft for the past five decades. The Light at the End Of The Line, which is her first album in fifteen years, will be her last. She says, “I have created an album that I am proud of.” ‘I’m not calling this retiring — it’s rewiring.’ The song was dedicated to the “fierce women who inspire” me. It is performed by a classy band and features American folk songs and the classic acoustic songwriter sounds of the 1970s. These songs are both poetic and profound, but they’re also well-lived.

The opening track, I’m Still Standing, is about growing older and wiser. There’s also a bite to her writing. The punchy, honky tonk-rocker Resist has a feminist message. A protest song, Better Times Will Come featuring Vince Gill (Eagles tour musician), is this idealistic one.

Ian is a folk singer, although many of her songs are urban. Summer in New York, a piano-led jazz homage to Fifth Avenue and Central Park, is an unabashed tribute to the city that’sin meets sidewalk’.

Nina Simone’s eloquent tribute is Nina Nina. Her song is titled “When you hit that mark, I stopped my heart,” Similar sentiments apply here.

When John Mellencamp broke through in the 1980s with blue-collar rock anthems such as Jack & Diane, he was dubbed ‘the poor man’s Springsteen’.

His new record is raw and gritty, his nicotine-roughened voice now close to the gruffness of Tom Waits or Willie Nelson

The new album is gritty and raw, with his nicotine-refined voice not far from Willie Nelson or Tom Waits.

This comparison was a disservice to him, but he flips the script on Strictly A One Eye Jack. . . by asking The Bosss to take on the role of supporting.

Mellencamp is 70 years old and has been more sophisticated than some of his songs about the American south might have suggested. He’s written a musical with Stephen King and is turning Jack & Diane into another stage production.

The new album is gritty and raw, with his nicotine-torched voice now reminiscent of Willie Nelson or Tom Waits.

His good fortune has not been affected by his lockdown existence. His hard-bitten optimism gives way to cynicism on I Always Lie To Strangers — ‘This world is run by men much more crooked than me’ — and the bruised I Am A Man That Worries.

His outlook improves after the Sweet Honey Brown.

The Boss is here to give us another boost. His harmonies bring brightness to Did You Say Such a Thing. The powerful Duet Wasted Days is about seizing every moment. Springsteen also adds some sparkle to A Life Full Of Rain with some stunning guitar.

Bruce may be now Mellencamp to the poor.

All albums available today. Years & Years start a UK tour at the Brighton Centre on May 19 (