Alison Moyet, “Hometime”

“Hometime” seems an appropriate album title for a woman who hasn’t released any music since her 1995 “Singles” compilation. However, most of the songs here allude neither to hibernation nor domestic pleasures but to the final, crumbling stages of a relationship and its aftermath (though not necessarily in that order.) “Hometime” teems with heartbreak, turmoil and loss, and yet it’s often strangely, beautifully uplifting. This is the sound of a woman sifting through memories, considerations, disappointments and misunderstandings. Although the devastation in Moyet’s still exceptionally soulful voice is loud and clear, she sounds remarkably stronger than ever, devoid of pity or lethargy.
Conceived and recorded with a collective of musicians called The Insects, “Hometime” often feels like an earthier Massive Attack, augmenting subtle electronics with strings and more guitars than Moyet has ever had on any of her recordings. These songs cunningly sneak up on you. Take “Say It”, where she steadily, delicately lays out each line until letting loose in the chorus, tumultuously repeating the song’s title a memorable seven times in succession. You hear not so much the ghost of Billie Holiday on the title track as her influence on Moyet, who takes inspiration from Lady Day’s phrasing but transforms it with her own sensibility. “Should I Feel That It’s Over” has a keen sense of dynamics as its opening acoustic guitars are gradually enhanced with strings, and its lyrics envelope tragedy with a beckoning sense of discovery. And “You Don’t Have To Go” is a stunning, gospel-flavored closer; Moyet’s fluent, urgent plead is startling in its immediacy, especially as it threatens to careen out of control against an effectively building, Hammond organ-accented arrangement.
On this dazzling release, Moyet keeps all her strengths intact--there’s no mistaking this album as coming from anyone else--but refines her sound and approach so that everything comes together masterfully. For those who thought Moyet would never record again, “Hometime” is a grand return to form and it reaches a zenith that her discography only previously suggested.

The Go-Betweens, “Bright Yellow Bright Orange”

Does the world really need any more literate, jangly guitar pop? Robert Forster and Grant McLennan make a strong case for it with this charming follow-up to their unexpectedly successful reunion album, “The Friends of Rachel Worth” (2000). Like that record, this one is much more low-key and acoustic-driven than their seminal 80’s work. Thankfully, it still has all the essentials: hooks both obvious (the two-finger keyboard that opens “Old Mexico”) and understated (the piano beneath the multi-layered guitars in “Poison in The Walls”), intricate character sketches (“Mrs. Morgan”), exuberant love songs (“Make Her Day”), and ringing guitars (all over the place). These ten songs do sound a little too similar at first, much more so than the ten on “Rachel Worth”. Fortunately, the best, like Forster’s “Two Much Of One Thing” (which compellingly comes off like a quirkier Simon and Garfunkel ditty) or McLennan’s jaunty, sparkling “Old Mexico”, suggest that this reunion is starting to look more like the laudable second phase of a career.