It's been a while since I've heard an album this good. Planningtorock, or Janine Rostron to her parents, seems to have become something of a sensation over the past few months with her sophomore album creating a bit of a storm. Rostron is the the kind of artist I overhear in a record store and then go to check out only to find I've already downloaded three songs from a selection of blogs. Which isn't to say I'm cool - just that she must have had particularly good write-ups for me to download something without hearing of her first.
Well it turns out that Planningtorock more than deserves those write-ups. W is as a complete an album as you could hope for, drawing the listener in gently and then refusing the let go. The opening tracks come are seductive, at first ballsy and brash ('Doorway', with a full-on, strutting bass line) before becoming isolated and nervy (’The One'). Over the course of the album Rostron gradually winds the screws and it becomes clear just how much she has to offer.
The thing is: W is what people try and pretend good pop music is. Take everything Beyoncé ever released and it wouldn't touch this, simply because Planningtorock actually has the ideas and passion that a multi-million-dollar marketing budget promise but can't deliver. Check 'Manifesto' - if Beyoncé had released it people would be falling at their feet. Built on slices of samba rhythm and boasting a melt-in-the-mouth break in the middle, it challenges and rewards in ways that a Major Lazer sampling hit single only has wet dreams about.
'I'm Yr Man' is a woman being more Mick Jagger than Mick himself, the persistent drum beat hammering into you skull like a nagging naughty thought you just can't put away. Is Janine dreaming of what she wants or what she wishes she was. Or, more likely, just exemplifying the contradictory needy arrogance at the heart of the male ego? Probably all three.
And if 'I'm Yr Man' is a modern twist on cock rock then 'Living It Out' is disco re-imagined - a thunderous statement of intent. As Planningtorock sings about "Living it up, living it down, living it in, living it out" she sounds unstoppable. "My head's on fire", she wails: that familiar feeling of the pursuit of hedonism at the expense of rationality.
W is an album of nooks and crannies, ideas and ideals, promises and revelations. Constantly leaving you guessing what is next, it rewards in a way I haven't experienced all year.