New Releases 25th February 2008

by MV

I’m still playing catch-up…

Single of the Week: Les Savy Fav – Patty Lee
Aside from the odd song here and there, I’ve never really given Les Savy Fav the time of day. I’d probably written them off as overly arty. If that’s the case elsewhere, it certainly isn’t here. Perfectly judged dancefloor post-punk, with subtle, shimmying guitars carrying a great vocal, while once again proving that all the best songs have girls’ names in the title. The video is either beautifully minimalist, or entirely boring, depending on your point of view. The song is spot-on though, one of those great pop moments that shuffles away unnoticed, out of the glare of the general public on a limited vinyl release. More people should hear this, and I should hear more Les Savy Fav. Now where to start?

Tegan & Sara – The Con
These Canadian identical twins have been critically acclaimed for years, but have only started to break through in a big way in the past year or so. Last year’s lead single from this album, ‘Back In Your Head’, was one of the singles of the year, a bona fide pop classic. It’s also probably one of the few cases in which I’d actually advocate a re-release over here, as we finally get a release of the album, only 7 months after the Stateside issue. It’s easy to judge this as indie with pop aspirations, given the group’s roots and the presence of some guitars. In reality, this is first-rate pop music, albeit of a kind that doesn’t conform to expectations of what a pop song should supposedly sound like. File next to Robyn, in the ‘people making interesting pop music, thank God’ section.

Duffy – Mercy
Yes, it’s a little bit silly reviewing a ‘new release’ that’s been at number one for several weeks. That be the flaw in my system of reviewing physical releases, well and truly exposed. Although this is a far better stab at the post-Winehouse soul than Adele (probably an unfair comparison, in a way, in that they occupy subtly different ground in an admittedly crowded space) it’s still not the uber-pop hit that you might expect. As I have done in previous round-ups, I have to come back to Candie Payne again. Seek out Candie’s ‘By Tomorrow’ and put it on next to this – which is the more deserving pop smash? All in the timing…

REM – Supernatural Superserious
It’s hard to get through a mention of REM’s new stuff without hearing the three words ‘return to form’, or some reference to recapturing the glory of the 80s IRS years. In truth, barring a minor blip in 2004’s mono-paced Around The Sun album, REM have never really lost their magic. What this does do is effect a neat recovery from that perceived trench, with the help of Jacknife Lee (Snow Patrol, U2.) It’s got the power-chord crunch of something off their unfairly maligned Monster album, with harmonies that could have come off Green or Out of Time. In short, it harks back not to their critical highpoint, but their commercial highpoint, and it does this without any embarrassing attempts at recapturing idealised ‘glory days’ that marr many similar career moves (see also: Manic Street Preachers, U2 themselves.) Good, solid stuff.

Tiny Masters Of Today – Hologram World
Enjoyable stuff from a pair of well-connected 14/15-year old New Yorkers. This joyful glam/punk racket of a song features Karen O and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who also pop up in the video scaring a party of young kids dressed in zombie make-up. Fresher and more fun than anything the YYYs have done in a while.

Asobi Seksu – Goodbye
Re-release from New York-based shoegaze-revivalists whose name means ‘playful sex’ in Japanese. Falling somewhere in between the twee lightweight 80s indiepop of bands like Heavenly, and more intriguing ethereal noises drawn from the Cocteau Twins et al, this is a sonically pleasing track which can nonetheless work a little bit like aural wallpaper if not listened to with enough care. Not instant, but quite pleasant.

Natalia – Pretty Like Me
Natalia Druyts narrowly lost out in the 2003 Belgian Pop Idol finals, but has gone on to have an incredibly successful career in Europe. Not so much over here, but this lively pop stomp should make some sort of an impact. It’s out to support an anti-bullying campaign, which is very worthy, but also hints at the slightly painful ‘don’t conform’ lyrics. Still a good tune though.

Midfield General – Bass Mechanic (12′) [Limited]
Skint records mainstay, who’s certainly doing a better job than Norman Cook of staying in touch with the dance music times, if this is anything to go by. Good old fashioned big beats, as expected, but with a modern twist. Totally danceable and lots of fun. Nothing new, but worth a spin.

Marco Demark feat Casey Barnes – Tiny Dancer
Much like last week’s ‘Dance Away’ cover, very much a guilty pleasure. It’s a great song given a lightweight inoffensive ‘dance’ makeover. Not going to blow anyone’s mind, but hey, who cares?

The Cribs – I’m A Realist
The Cribs have been quietly emerging from the shadows of their famous mates, and surpassing their Strokes-indebted roots over the last few years. Now genuine major league indie stars in their own right, they’ve been impressing me more and more with each single. This is more of the same, solid stuff. Not a patch on lead track ‘Men’s Needs’ but still good fun. Does this mean the Kaiser Chiefs can go away now? Hope so.

BWO – Sunshine In The Rain
I’d probably have had more to say about this if it was still 2005, when this track saw it’s original release. Swedish pop, but not at its best. They have better songs than this, so a fairly inexplicable reissue.

Band Of Horses – No-One’s Going To Love You (7′)
Seattle indie-rockers on SubPop, back with a second major UK album release. This is a pretty little plug for Cease to Begin, which also works quite nicely as a standalone track. Hints of 70s prog-rock, particularly in the beautiful (over-)production. Echoes also of the Flaming Lips, if a slightly less unhinged version.

Menomena – Rotten Hell
Definitely worth filing next to Band of Horses. A little bit less glossy, and more quirkily individual, but somewhat less shiny as a result.

Team Waterpolo – Letting Go (7′) [Limited]
The chorus of this song is, it has to be said straight away, a direct steal from Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia.’ Apparently they’re getting compared to the Go! Team all over the place, but on the evidence of this I’m only really getting a kind of watered-down geek-rock/power-pop sound, with little of the joy of that particular reference point. Perhaps better to come, then.

Katie Melua – If The Lights Go Out
In among the pages of Adele/Duffy hype it would be easy to forget Katie Melua still existed. Well, here she is, with another addition to ‘this year’s thing’, being whimsical, inoffensive females (who mostly went to the same, ugh, performing arts school) singing pretty songs about relationships. In fact, this is more likeable than most of its competitors in the field. Hard to see how anyone could find any of them loveable though.

Colbie Caillat – The Little Things
Daughter of the producer of Fleetwood Mac’s massive Rumours album, Colbie is another one of those so-called ‘MySpace sensations.’ Big in the US for a while now, this is her first crack at the UK market. She enters an overcrowded market of female songwriters making pretty, but also pretty bland music, which could be either a blessing, or her undoing, whichever way you look at it. Not exactly thrilling.

Boggs – Arm In Arm (7′ + 12′)
New York band who’ve been around in various forms since 2001. This release is out on the back of a Shy Child remix which was recently featured in the trailer for upcoming video game GTA4. The remix adds a touch of interest to an otherwise sludgy garage-rock stomp.

Benga & Coki – Night
Minimal allegedly dubstep type thing, which I’m probably not very qualified to talk about in any depth. Enjoyable though in a background sort of way, and the video is basically a giant squid swimming around. Fair enough.

Alicia Keys – Like You’ll Never See Me Again
Pretty enough vocal acrobatics of exactly the sort you’d expect from Ms. Keys. Not much about it otherwise, but preferable to another British Adele-type.

The Whitest Boy Alive – Golden Cage
If you’re going to make music that isn’t exactly impactful, that works as background music and tends to wash over the listener, it’s probably advisable not to accompany it with an extremely distracting video about optical illusions. Then again, Erland Oye (Kings of Convenience, Royksopp) is probably playing some kind of trick on us all, and we’ll be humming this one in our sleep in three weeks time. Can’t see it at the moment, though.

Raveonettes – You Want The Candy
Danish duo the Raveonettes are a band that really should have got more attention earlier in their career. Previous album Pretty in Black saw them reaching out in new directions in search of pop success. Some of it worked, some didn’t. But it was interesting and had some stratospheric moment. Ultimately though, it didn’t sell and they left their label. Back now on an indie, latest full-length Lust Lust Lust harks back to their early days, by which I mean full-on Mary Chain worship. It’s a fan-pleasing collection, but limited in scope and lead single ‘Dead Sound’ (a stunner) pretty much exhausted the album’s single potential. This track adds nothing to what fans already know of the band, and is unlikely to convert newcomers. A shame.

Vincent Vincent & The Villains – Pretty Girl
Ludicrously retro skiffle-indie that at least isn’t pretending to be anything else. Mildly diverting fluff, but ultimately unnecessary.

Young Knives – Up All Night
Oxford/Leicester men-in-suits the Young Knives’ first album proper was a result of about five years of toiling around the Oxford scene, and picking up a vast array of distinctive and catchy tunes along the way (The Decision, Weekends and Bleak Days, etc.) This second single from their second album is, I’m sad to say, more of the same. Typical ‘rushed second album’ syndrome and a little worrying for their long term career prospects in this fickle market.

XX Teens – How To Reduce Chances Of Being A Terror Victim (7″)
Sounds sort of like the Fall, but instead of original thought, we have another recited advice-piece. If you’re struggling to understand what I mean, this is a bit like a pseudo-cool, pseudo-political version of ‘Wear Sunscreen,’ or ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ without the wit and originality. If you’re still intrigued by this song now, think how annoying it’s going to be in a few months time. Think.

Also listened to this week, but very little to say about them…
Laura Critchley – Sometimes I
Richard Fleeshman – Hold Me Close
Stone Gods – Burn The Witch
The Blackout – It’s High Tide Baby (7′)
The Blakes – Two Times (7′)
Lenny Kravitz – I’ll Be Waiting