New Releases 3rd March 2008

by MV

Single of the Week: Hercules and Love Affair – Blind
Another tough week to choose, with excellent pop (Alphabeat), top-notch indie (MGMT, Vampire Weekend, Late of the Pier), and other-worldly beauty (Martina Topley-Bird) that would all have been contenders in another week. Sometimes you go with your personal indulgences, and sometimes you just know that however enjoyable the rest are, one single is clearly the best. By virtue of it sounding entirely, fantastically new. This week’s top record is based on the sort of idea that can’t really fail: quirky but poppy disco with Antony (and the Johnsons) Hegarty on vocals. It’s subtle rather than stomping, but like nothing else you’ll hear this year. Predictably, but gloriously, excellent.

Many more great singles, and a bit of a reviewing system cop out from me, if you click ‘more’ below…

Alphabeat – Fascination
Excellent postmodern scandi-pop (this time from Denmark). Starting with the drumbeat from the Cure’s ‘Close to Me’ and barrelling into a joyful romp that’s basically a compilation of every cheesy 80s pop-rock hit. Great, cheerful, grin-inducing pop fun.

Late of the Pier – The Bears Are Coming
Wow. This is far, far better than it has any right to be. Coming on like a darker Klaxons covering Prince, it then shifts sideways into a bit of slowed-down glam-rock pomp and then back into a bit more Prince-aping and then a bonkers finale which could have come straight off an 80s arcade machine soundtrack. All backed by a superbly weird video. Mad but oh so good with it.

Little Dragon – Constant Surprises
Sometimes you think you know what to expect from a country’s music. Sweden, right, it’s all various family-lines running down from Abba? Whether unashamedly euroPOP or tragic indiePOP it’s all pretty much predictable, yeah? So Little Dragon are Swedish, and they are basically trip-hop. I can’t work out if this is a particularly great thing, but it’s certainly good, and they’ve not forgotten the scandinavian knack for a tune.

Martina Topley-Bird – Carnies
Did somebody say trip-hop? HELLO THERE it’s Tricky’s old pal Martina come back in for a slice of the action. Except this isn’t especially trip-hop. It’s still got a touch of that influence about it, in the dreamy way it shuffles along, all wide-eyed and blissful. But really it just draws on the best female singer-songwriters (I hear a bit of Kate Bush here, a bit of PJ Harvey there, and the overall vibe is quite Bat For Lashes) and creates something quite beautiful and almost magical. I’m not sure I’ve explained it adequately, but while this doesn’t smack you round the face with its newness or popness, this is a very special single indeed.

MGMT – Time To Pretend
Readers of this blog, and especially people who know me, will be well and truly sick of me going on about this song now. It finally sees a ‘proper’ release after first getting exposure late last summer. For the re-release reasons alone, this isn’t my single of the week. It is still utterly fantastic though. Ridiculous psychadelic pomp-rock that views the 70s rock dream through a similarly enjoyable lens to Almost Famous. Nothing else on their record is quite this good, but as a standalone this really is essential.

Vampire Weekend – A-Punk
This feels almost as ancient as the MGMT single, but still sounds as fresh as ever. It’s great, brief, punchy stuff, with a feather-lite touch that’s missing from much contemporary indie music. It’s also blindingly colourful, and gets through quite a lot in just over 2 minutes. There’s dancefloor potential in there, there’s also emotional pleasures to be had. And, of course, the video is excellent. Even better stuff to come on the album, too. Winner.

Taio Cruz – Come On Girl
London-based producer and writer with an impressive CV which includes work with everyone from Britney and Usher to Will Young and Nitin Sawnhey. This is high quality contemporary electro-influenced RnB, which is a class above most others in its field. Parituclarly good when Luciana’s vocals kick in, all too briefly, towards the end.

The Ting Tings – Great DJ
There seems to be a lot of easy-target mockery being pointed in the direction of this band. Sure, they have a crap name, sure they’re a bit over-hyped, but is that a reason for all the hate? The ‘cool’ exterior is not without a wry, knowing smile, but this doesn’t turn it into pure ironic novelty. Solid, enjoyable stuff that will fit it nicely at yr late 2000s indie disco.

We Are Scientists – After Hours
After a patchy first album (great pop-punk influenced singles, dirgey album tracks), WAS return with a slightly more rounded sound, which draws on 80s REM (in vocal stylings as well as sound) and kicks it up the arse a bit with some buzz-saw guitar riffs and a driving beat. Not reinventing the wheel, but pleasingly catchy

Shocking Pinks – Emily
More weird but undeniably trendy noise on the ubercool DFA label. Somehow manages to sound like early New Order covering Belle & Sebastian, which I think is quite a good thing – you may disagree, I won’t hold it against you.

Cazals – Life is Boring
These characters win a review this week just so I get to muse on the fact that they seem to be all over trendy compilations like the Kitsune series, while essentially being a 3/4-years out of date crap London indie band. This really does nothing to improve their standing – genuinely hard to figure out what this sub-sub-Rakes is trying to achieve, or who’s listening.

Children of Bodom – Blooddrunk
Oh, I couldn’t leave out something this enjoyably ridiculous, could I? Grargh! Rargh! Urggghh! Heheh. As fun as Alphabeat, in its own way.

The Conspirators – Take Me To Your Leader
Interesting for the fact that this Yorkshire band have managed to rope in Judy Dyble, ex-Fairport Convention, on backing vocals. It’s not mould-breaking stuff, but there’s some nice singing on there, both from Judy and the band’s own Genevieve Parker. Reminds me of a few years back when the Crocketts (those of ‘now The Crimea’ fame) got Mary Hopkin out of the cupboard to sing for them. But that’s an aside.

Delinquent ft. KCat – My Destiny
More bassline then. Good news for those missing UK Garage, as it’s still basically the same thing, to my ears at least. This is pleasant enough, but as with everything else in this ‘new’ genre, a little bit thin-sounding and a little bit tame.

Envy & Other Sins – Highness
Winning a competition called ‘Orange Mobile Act Unsigned’ (what does that even mean?!) would once have been the death-knell for a band’s career before it had even started. However, now bands like the Hoosiers and the Feeling exist, the consensus is that This Sort Of Thing seems to be OK now. This is jaunty, post-Britpoppy stuff (sometimes you wonder if Supergrass have more to answer for than you’d think…) It won’t win much critical approval but should sell well enough.

Frightened Rabbit – Heads Roll Off
Glasgow band, which these days can apparently mean inspired by bands other than Orange Juice and Belle & Sebastian. This has a heavy US-leaning old-school emo sound about it, and would probably sit well in a heartfelt low budget romantic indie flick over there. It’s not blowing me away, and lacks the depth of more interesting contemporaries like (most obvious reference point) The Twilight Sad.

Hatcham Social – So So Happy Making
This was in danger of not getting a review as I don’t have much to say about it. However, I do like it. It sounds like something off Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut. Slightly wonky but cheerful shuffle-along leftfield indie. Which is no bad thing.

The Kills – Cheap and Cheerful
Annoying at first, this track has worked its way into my head. Infectious stuff, then, but you can’t help but get the impression that the Kills are still going for 90% style over any kind of substance. Each album they’ve done so far has featured a couple of tracks showing what they could do if they put the effort in (Cat Claw, Rodeo Town) but lots of ‘one listen then ENOUGH’ filler. At least this one works well, in a superficial way. Probably need to do a bit more to avoid the ‘Moss’s boyfriend’s band’ pigeonhole following them around for the rest of eternity, though.

And now…. The ‘sorry, I’m 3 weeks behind and need to catch up section’…

File Under: Competent/ Not Bad/ Good In Its Field/ Worth a Listen

Amy MacDonald – Run (for fans of: Adele, Katie Melua)
Editors – Push Your Head Towards The Air (Interpol covering Snow Patrol, with a bit of a U2 vibe about it, un-shockingly enough)
Fish – Arc Of The Curve (It’s Fish from Marillion! What do you thing it sounds like?!)
Go Audio – Woodchuck (Off on tour with Scouting For Girls – though this lot are a bit less annoying and a bit more fun)
Jacob Golden – Out Come The Wolves
Janet Jackson – Feedback (Not as good as it should be)
Jimmy Eat World – Always Be (quite far from their best)
KT Tunstall – If Only (Far less interesting than any of her first-album singles)
Royworld – Man In The Machine (Somehow sounding like Dave Bowie fronting Daft Punk can still sound a tiny bit wrong… don’t ask me how?!)
This City – Kids With Fireworks
The Von Bondies – Pale Bride (From EP)
YouthMovies – The Naughtiest Girl Is a Monitor

File Under: Genuinely Nothing To Say About This Song (Or, Not Really My Cup of Tea)
Fightstar – Floods
Flyleaf – I’m So Sick
Gallows – Just Because You Sleep Next To Me Doesn’t Mean You’re Safe
Get Cape Wear Cape Fly – Find The Time
Isis – Holy Tears
Linkin Park – Given Up
Levy – So Hard
OneRepublic – Stop And Stare
Plies ft. Akon – Hypnotized (Did I mention how much I hate Akon? No? I did now)
Sherwood – Middle of the Night
Westlife – Us Against the World

I also have a confession to make: for these weeks that I’m playing catch up on a major scale, I won’t be listening to tracks that don’t have any kind of YouTube presence. Sorry! Normal service should be resumed in April, hopefully.