New Releases 14th January 2008
SINGLE OF THE WEEK: Robyn – Be Mine!
This is a week featuring a whole bunch of good singles, many of which would stand out in a slower 7 days. So how come a 2-year-old cut from everyone’s favourite Scandinavian popstrel has crept up and effortlessly nicked the Single of the Week spot from them all?
Is it the gloriously fresh, urgent-sounding production? Is it the anguish in the vocals which made ‘With Every Heartbeat’ the undoubted highlight of 2007, and is ramped up to 11 in the chorus here? Perhaps the irresistible Shangri-Las-style talky bit in the middle? It’s all of these and more. In 2006, this sounded a little alien. In January 2008, it sounds perfect, and sets a standard that every single released this year will struggle to reach.
RUNNER-UP PT. ONE: Sons & Daughters – Darling
Never boring live, the Scots band have tended to struggle to impress me on record. There’s a pleasing lightness of touch to Darling, though, which is on the verge of converting me. I’ve heard very good things about the upcoming album, and on the evidence of this charming, sassy B52s-lite romp of a single, I’ll definitely be investigating further.
RUNNER-UP PT. TWO: Kanye West feat Chris Martin – Homecoming
It’s a good week for high quality US pop. Chris Martin is used sparingly, and as such this is one of the better things he’s been involved in. As ever though, this is the Kanye Show. Based around a simple but catchy piano sample, this is jaunty, upbeat, and perfect for shaking off those winter blues.
Lupe Fiasco feat Matthew Santos – Superstar
You know this, you’ve heard this. It’s already in the top ten, due to those modern downloads. It’s a steamroller of a song, an obvious massive hit. It simply sounds huge. We’ll whisper quietly that it’s not a patch on Lupe’s sublime ‘Kick…Push…’ from last year, and that Santos’ whiny vocals become irritating after about the second listen. But it’s clever, it’s knowing… ‘If you are what you say you are’ indeed. This songs says ‘I am a massive hit,’ and hey presto, so it is.
Underworld – Beautiful Burnout (12 )
It’s easy to dismiss any Underworld single that doesn’t scale the dizzying heights of ‘Born Slippy’ or ‘2 Months Off.’ When you set the bar so vertiginously high, you’re always going to struggle to repeat the trick. This doesn’t, but it ambles along for a very pleasing eight minutes of atmospheric bleeps and whooshes, with some dark heavily-processed mutterings and intrusive tribal beats occasionally disturbing proceedings. As this blog is attempting to celebrate the art of the great single, it won’t be troubling the likes of Robyn this week, but as a nicely ambient piece of music, it’s most definitely worth a listen.
Supergrass – Diamond Hoo Ha Man (7 ) [Limited]
One of those bands that have gamely soldiered on, surviving the post-Britpop apocalypse and ensuing festival omnipresence/overexposure, but without ever successfully establishing a purpose for their existence. They’ve chucked out a pop song every few years, with the last highlight for this reviewer being 2002’s rollicking ‘Grace.’ But with last album, Road to Rouen, it seemed that they were quite literally slowing to a halt, with an underwhelming collection of acoustica.
The daftly-titled ‘Diamond Hoo Ha Man’ brings back a bit of the bite they’ve been largely lacking since In It For The Money, marrying their recently absent pop suss to a bit of a White Stripes sound and being all the more enjoyable for it. However, it does stray a little too close to Jet territory on occasion, and loses charm in the process.
Will I Am – One More Chance
‘Girl I be lovin’ you like la-la-la, but it be hittin’ you like blah-blah-blah’ begins Mr. Am on this latest cut from the definitely-not-lying ‘Songs About Girls.’ Relentlessly daft, but entertaining vocals from the Black Eyed Pea. It’s funky, it works, it’s enjoyable. In a week with Lupe and Kanye releasing undeniably high quality but slightly po-faced uber-hits, it’s nice to have someone offering a bit of fun. A bit close, as ever, to being filed under ‘novelty,’ but who really cares?
Madness – NW5
The title is deceptive – this is not some ‘Camden Town’-esque aimless stroll through Lahndon. Instead, it’s classic Madness, proving they can still cut it on record as well as live. Cheering stuff. Excellent Usual Suspects-style video too.
The Mars Volta – Wax Simulacra
I do try to be open-minded, but the Mars Volta are a band that usually fall well outside my sphere of interest. This is largely due to them being one of the most crushingly boring bands I’ve ever had the misfortune to see live. And this from people who were involved in Relationship of Command, one of the decade’s classic albums. They’re never going to release a great pop single, but I guess that isn’t really the point. This alternates between sounding a bit like Muse, and a bit like Battles covering System of a Down. And it’s really short. It’s much better than I was expecting, basically.
Presets – My People (12 )
One of those electro tracks that leaves you hunting for an instrumental version. The noises on this are fantastic, shifting between brutal stabs of distortion and twinkling keyboards, occasionaly combining to brilliant effect. It is, however, severely let down by unnecessary blokeish, repetitive vocals, which make it sound, on first listen, like a substandard ‘I Like The Way You Move’ as attempted by The Faint on an off day. Everything else about this single deserves better.
Fischerspooner – The Best Revenge (12 )
So Casey Spooner & co., still best known for 2002 electro/’clash’ classic Emerge return again. Once again, it’s a slice of polite, pleasant dance-lite that wouldn’t sound out of place on that massively overhyped and expensive debut album. Anything new? A variety of occasionally tasteful, occasionally incongruous horn noises. Hmm.
Still an entertaining live prospect, the fact that this has shown up on one of those rather trendy Kitsune compilations doesn’t make it sound any more relevant in early 2008.
Radiohead – Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Am I the only one that thinks that Thom Yorke has finally achieved his ambition of disappearing completely into a world of computers and weirdness? A surprise to find this on the list of the week’s single releases, as that seems like rather a conventional step after all the download-related hoo-ha surrounding In Rainbows. I don’t think there’s been any discernable decline in quality since the excellent and groundbreaking Kid A but its becoming increasingly difficult to care about this band in a human sense, rather than as something that simply exists, to be lapped up by blindly devoted fans and discussed on marketing blogs. Jigsaw Falling Into Place is a near-flawless piece of what we’ve come to know as Radiohead, but does it have any relevance as a single? You have to wonder.
Wombats – Moving To New York
It’s hard to really dislike these scouse indie-popsters. Everything about them really is quite loveable. The only downside is that the singles tend to be mildly unsatisfying. Here, you’re left learning for the slightly irritating novelty aspect of ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division,’ when presented with a solid but pretty characterless few minutes of generic noughties indie. If you like We Are Scientists, or Maximo Park, this is for you. If you’re left a bit cold by both of the above, probably best avoid.
Courteeners – What Took You So Long?
‘Do you know who I am, I’m like a Morrissey with some strings?’ Oh, sorry, you want a review by me, rather than the band themselves? OK then. More like a straighter Libertines with some strings, if I’m honest. Not offering anything radical here, but lyrics that occasionally raise a smile, an early sense of possibly grandiosity to come. This is not unenjoyable. Despite the terrible name, there’s potential.
Client – Lights Go Out
Client surfaced in about 2002 as a mysterious duo whose most exciting claim to fame was that one of them used to be in Dubstar. Peddling a curiously sexless brand of electro, without even the redeeming tunes of Sarah Blackwood’s 90s mid-tablers, it’s unsurprising that they never took off. This has a video which is trying very hard to tell you that Client Are Very Sexy. And indeed they are. With the sound turned off. The song sounds a bit like an inferior Goldfrapp circa ‘Train.’ Goldfrapp have moved on. Draw your own conclusions.
Lightspeed Champion – Tell Me What It s Worth
Lots of critical buzz around this man, previously best known for fronting a Nathan Barley-esque joke of a band with the worst name in living memory. Bettering the entire output of Test Icicles was hardly going to be a challenge, and this is certainly very nice. The girl backing vocals are a highlight, but otherwise this is entirely lacking in colour or character. Perhaps a few too many steps back from the preceding riot of silliness, Mr. Hynes.
The Grit – Surrender
The Grit have a trailer for this on YouTube that keeps bringing up a logo which says ‘The Grit: Punk n F*ck n Roll.’ From this I take it that they are a hard-living, RAWK band who like girls and possibly the occasional shandy. Beyond that: rockabilly quiffs, double bass, with a bit of a punk edge? If you like Dropkick Murphys and such, you’ll probably enjoy this.
David Ford – I’m Alright Now
This is what I believe some of my friends would dismissively describe as ‘lyric indie.’ Mr. Ford used to be called Dav because he was in a quirky band called Easyworld. They turned out to be a little bit embarrassingly unfashionable, and appealled to about 12 people, most of whom were stray King Adora fans. He’s now gone serious, reclaimed his ‘id’ (ooh, profound?) and, truth be told, become a bit boring. For all their flaws, Easyworld were fun, and had some early ambitions to take their indie roots in a more pop-friendly direction. This is undoubtedly more classy, but it’s far too safe to be interesting.
Daniel Rachel – Let It Be Mine
Some sort of charidee single, so hard to bash. Not one to trouble the pop charts, and reeks a little of the OCS/Cast school of workmanlike Britpop. Like this, but want something a bit more subtle? Try some I Am Kloot, or Liam Frost.
Ernesto Vs Bastian – Unchained Melody (12 )
Disappointingly, nothing to do with the Righteous Brothers. Generic EuroBosh. You know already if you like This Sort Of Thing or not. S’OK, I suppose.
Subliminal Girls – Hungry Like The Wolf / Self Obsession (7 )
Double A-side. Always fun. A-Side: simple question is obviously ‘Why?’ A pretty straight Duran Duran cover. They’re obviously having lots of fun. The original is obviously better than everything released this week. But who exactly needs this? Answers on the proverbial, please. AA-Side: oh, this is more interesting. A blast from the past in a much better sense, this sounds like one of those subtle, glam-influenced tracks that were popular are the Britpop period (Marion, Subcircus, Strangelove? That sort of area, at least) with a slightly irritating but charming vocal. ‘Mirror’ on their Myspace is good for a bit of a giggle too.
Dave Gahan – Saw Something
Depeche Mode man on another solo outing which sounds remarkably like Depeche Mode. This time it’s possibly Depeche Mode on ketamine. Quite painfully slow, doesn’t really do anything, and will appeal to interested parties only.
Joss Stone – Baby Baby Baby
Some time last year, around the point she unveiled her hilarious transatlantic accent on an unsuspecting and previous unfussed public, it became very difficult to take Joss Stone seriously. To recover, she was going to have to come back with something very special indeed. This half-arsed slice of dated sounding ‘soul’ fluff simply will not do.
Jack Johnson – If I Had Eyes
OK, let’s get this out of the way. I dislike Jack Johnson. I really dislike Jack Johnson. This song sounds like Jack Johnson. By which I mean, this sounds like a lightweight Chili Peppers track, with all the pain and horror that entails. On top of this, surely Jack Johnson is a seasonal novelty act for horrendous orange people pretending to be surfers, or something? Why is this coming out in January? I guess people have to reminisce. Futile.
Eastern Conference Champions – Single Sedative
I overuse the description ‘generic indie.’ But it’s really hard to come up with anything else to describe this, even after about twelve quite painful listens. Their name hints at their lack of ambition, but doesn’t quite nail it. Should have gone for Eastern Conference Plucky Relegation-Battlers, maybe?
Also out but I couldn’t track them down this week..
Stephen Fretwell Now (7 )
Furry Phreaks feat Terra Deva – All Over The World