New Releases 28th January 2008 [late]
Single of the Week: Hot Chip – Ready For The Floor
Another effortlessly brilliant pop single from the ‘Chip. With each release, the production seems to get more and more subtle, yet each is more irresistibly catchy than the last. They’re unlikely pop stars, at best, and here they are, starring in another video trying its hardest to present them as the modern-day Devo. Madly inspired as the video is, it almost dilutes the sheer perfection of hearing it on the radio. On the other hand, their production skills are so exquisitely perfected, so now, that it would be easy for them to retreat behind a desk and get a conventional ‘pop star’ to front their tracks. This is much more fun.
The Duke Spirit – The Step And The Walk
Up until I first heard this track I didn’t rate the Duke Spirit. Their singles hadn’t made much impact on me, they were pretty boring live. This, however, is something else. A sublime, insidious melody that creeps up on you over repeated listens; spot-on production that somehow manages to be 80s-slick and beautifully dirty at the same time; capped with a vocal performance that brings to mind a possessed Debbie Harry. This gets a gold star for ‘most improved,’ definitely.
The Mae Shi – Run To Your Grave (7″)
Not a band, I’ll admit, that I’ve come across before, The Mae Shi are an LA band who’ve been putting out albums for most of the decade. This is a taster for their fourth, and most straightforwardly commercial. The neon t-shirts employed in the hugely enjoyable video may nod to current fashions, but the track has a euphoric energy bringing to mind the best moments of the Polyphonic Spree, even Tilly & the Wall, without the cloying tweeness of either. Excellent stuff.
Clicky ‘more’ below for the rest of the week’s single releases…
Mary J Blige – Just Fine
First Blige single in a good few years now, and thankfully it’s an upbeat track that makes Mary want to move, have fun, and go ‘waaaah’, apparently. Which is exactly what it’d make most people do if they heard it in a club. Possibly without the ‘waaaah.’ It’s been creeping up the charts for a few weeks now prior to its official release, and is a pretty good effort from an old-timer, putting some of her younger imitators in the shade. Speaking of which….
Kelly Rowland – Work
There’s nothing wrong with this track as such. In fact, the song’s pretty good. It’s just that Kelly still seems to be struggling to step out of Beyonce’s shadow. The vocals aren’t strong enough, she doesn’t seem sure of herself. It’s fun enough, but never really takes off.
Richard Hawley – Valentine
I’ll admit straight away that I love Hawley. The nicest bloke in music, and a proper Sheffield legend. To me, though, ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ was his sole concession to sounding a bit more modern, relevant and pop. Almost the entirity of the rest of his output is one long period piece. This is no exception, and the video, which begins with Richard performing in an old people’s home, is happy to acknowledge that. There’s plenty of music out there which owes a debt to the past, but few singers so openly embrace their influences. It’s an immaculate recreation of an otherwise lost sound, and a soaring, romantic one at that. But from time to time it might be nice if Hawley accepted that, like it or not, the sixties happened, and that’s OK…..
Bob Mould – The Silence Between Us (7″)
Classic Mould here, a Sugar-esque chugalong with a rousing, anthemic chorus. Nothing new, but sometimes the old tricks is the best tricks.
Laura Marling – Ghosts
I had this feeling, up until recently, that Marling was going to be another one of these Allen/Nash accent-afflicted popstrels. This is really nothing like that at all. Quite twee, folky, and with a pleasingly weird video. Pleasant, catchy and sweet.
School Of Language – Rockist (7″)
If, like me, you listen to BBC 6Music rather a lot, you might be a bit sick of this track. It’s the guy from Field Music making some interesting noises with his new project, and it’s got a pretty good tune. Quirky, but nothing special.
Avenged Sevenfold – Afterlife
Serious young metallers who’ve been kicking around for a few years now and are supporting Iron Maiden in the summer. Melodic, with some old-skool widdly solos and a big chorus. Good in its field, if not entirely my cup of tea.
Cobra Dukes – Airtight (12″)
Quite an interesting one this. Former Vogue models, and thus potentially Proper Pop Stars in the old-school sense. It’s electro(-rock/pop) but sounds quite deliciously out of step with their contemporaries. Very early-eighties synthpop/new-wave, with echoes of the Human League and the Associates (vocally.) The single doesn’t quite hit the spot but bags of potential and lots to look forward to from this London duo.
Elliot Minor – Still Figuring Out
A band (not a bloke called Elliot) featuring classically trained musicians, including an ex-Cambridge head chorister, playing lightweight emo-esque fluff? Er, why, exactly? The first twenty seconds or so of this song are the most irritating thing I’ve heard so far this year, and the rest of fades away into a generic zzzzhh of emo-noise, only punctuated by the occasional guitar wibble and those painful G4-esque vocals. Bafflingly, they’ve already had three top 40 hits. Mystifying.
The Mouth – Just Passin’ Through / Cocaine Lane (7″)
“The Mouth are part of that long tradition of young men hell bent on salvation through that heady mix of good times, hummable tunes and good haircuts. The five-piece continue knocking out terrace-anthems in waiting, the sort of thing your milkman could whistle.” File under ‘lad-rock.’ On the evidence of these two songs, here are five men who really, really like Definitely Maybe. Do we need any more of these bands. I mean, really?
One Night Only – Just For Tonight
Horrible name for a band who’ve yet to prove they have more than this one song. This is getting hammered by every radio station, mainly because they’re (very) young lads doing a passable Killers impression. It’s also quite catchy, if a bit unthrilling.
Operahouse – Born A Boy (7″)
More bands that sound like this than there are red buses in London, but this isn’t a bad effort in its field. Jamie T/Jack Penate face-off if you’re feeling kind, sub-Kooks if less so.
Primary 1 – Hold Me Down (12″)
Tipped by Erol Alkan et al, this is fun, schlocky, funky stuff. A tad irritating in places, but there’s a nicely boshing remix from Yuksek that sorts that out.
Rascal Flatts – What Hurts The Most
Big-selling US country band. Supremely punchable, in a taking itself way too seriously, clenched fist on heart sort of way. It even has horrible talky bits in the video, with attractive young types spouting clichés at each other. No thanks.
Tin Man – Tonight
Solid indie-rock from Norwich. Competent, and with occasional hints of better things to come, but otherwise hard to differentiate from a thousand other bands of their ilk.
Urbnri – Young Free & Simple
Frankly, I’m a bit scared to review this, given that its author has served time for gun-crime, according to Myspace. As you’d imagine, it’s man-of-the-people stuff, but with a surprisingly lightweight melodic guitar backing track which doesn’t quite gel with the hard-as-nails image. They also have a name which is quite hard to pronounce.