New Releases 24th March 2008
Single of the Week: MIA – Paper Planes
This song actually feels like it’s been around forever now. Thankfully it’s finally seeing a physical single release, and so I can finally award it its thoroughly deserved Single of the Week. You’ve almost certainly heard it by now, and if you haven’t, well, click the link above because it’s pretty much unmissable. As a card-carrying Clash-obsessive, I was initially sceptical about any song sampling the sublime ‘Straight to Hell’. This one uses that classic as a basis, and transforms it into a new song that’s, improbably, equally great. The bullish use of cash registers and gunshots as rhythmic/lyric-replacing samples is initially distracting, but on repeated listens makes perfect sense. I’d imagine the repeated release date delays were in order to push this song closer to the summer, as that’s when it will really come into its own. Laid back, yet not lacking in energy, an instant classic on release, and easily one of the best singles of the year. 10/10.
Estelle ft. Kanye West – American Boy
A lot of talk at the moment about the fact that Estelle needed to go to America in order to make it over here. The argument being that it displays an intrinsic racism on the part of the British music industry. There’s certainly sense in the argument: debut single 1980 was good enough on its own to justify not being dropped after one album, and the scene which a few years ago also featured prominent talents like Jamelia and Miss Dynamite is now worryingly dominated by characterless white ‘soul’ (probably no need to list the prime culprits here). It’s a debate best held away from a singles blog, though, and the positive thing is that Estelle is now back over here, and has scored a number one with this excellent single which has more life to it than any number of Adeles and Duffys. The golden touch of Kanye West certainly contributes to its quality – but it also showcases the fact that Estelle is a first-class performer who’ll hopefully now be given a proper shot at the pop superstardom she deserved first time around.
Long Blondes – Century
There’s been a lot of talk about the new album from these glamorous Sheffield-based ladies. I’d heard the talk, but not the tunes. The talk goes something like this: Erol Alkan production; less guitars; more synth; loss of ‘raw energy’; angry fans. I have to admit that, in spite of this, I’d been rather looking forward to hearing the new material. To me, it sounded like a step in the right direction – the synthed-up ‘Giddy Stratospheres’ on the previous album was an improvement on the twitchy original, and a high point. Some of the faster, guitar-based tracks on Album 1 were a little too abrasive for my tastes and reduced the repeat-listening potential of the album. So, how does the first single stack up against expectations? My fears were that it would be a well-intentioned step that wasn’t backed up by the quality of the songs, and unfortunately that does seem to be the case on the first few listens of this single. The production is superb – glossy, modern (/modern-retro?)-sounding and with a great burst of bleepy goodness in the middle. The melody, though, is unmemorable. That’s not to say it’s bad: it isn’t, it’s a listenable slice of 80s-influenced synth-pop with its heart in the right place. Time will tell whether the lack of instant thrills will translate into a longer-term appeal – but this blog’s called Instant Hits for a reason – and to my mind this doesn’t quite cut it. Shame.
(Offical Video not available on YouTube)
Black Keys – Strange Times (7”)
The new Black Keys tracks, produced with Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley/ Gorillaz fame) were originally intended to be for Ike Turner. Then he went and died, which is a shame. Luckily, they’ve salvaged something pretty good out of the sessions anyway, which is leagues ahead of anything the Keys have previously done. It’s still entirely retro, Led Zep-lite, here, but it’s well executed and pretty catchy.
Yael Naim – New Soul
Since I first noticed this track popping up unannounced in the charts a few months back, it’s gone overground with a prominent ad appearance. Still a very pleasant tune, though, if a bit lacking in identity – probably a touch too slick for quirky indie fans, and a little bit too twee for the mainstream? Nice enough, though.
Flo Rida feat T-Pain – Low
Only a brief comment here: this is pretty good US hip-hop. It’s not blowing my mind, it’s nothing new, but it’s decent. Perhaps an area I’m not quite well-qualified enough to describe, but it’s a decent upbeat, enjoyable listen with some good bleepy electro backing. I apologise for the crapness of this review. Ahem.
Cascada – What Do You Want From Me
Disappointingly, not a ludicrous glowstick-waving cover of he 1998 ‘classic’ from Peter Hook’s Monaco. Cheesy bosh though, boshy cheese. You can’t hate it, can you?
Clinic – The Witch (Made To Measure) (7”)
This was never going to be anything other than weird, obviously, but it’s a decent sort of weird. Back on upbeat, bouncy form not seen since their early years, this is good Clinic for fans of Clinic.
The Indelicates – America
Very much of the Eddie Argos/Luke Haines school of grumpy but witty cynicism, the Indelicates also feature an ex-Pipette who seems to have been mentally scarred for life by the experience. Sadly, this is all bluster, little substance, and not a patch on previous singles like ‘Sixteen‘ and ‘We Hate The Kids’.
Chris Brown – With You
Catchy, slick R’n’B. It does seem to steal its vocal melody from Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable‘, though. And isn’t as good.
Look See Proof – Do You Think It’s Right?
You can tell a lot about a band from their touring companions. This Hertfordshire bunch have been out on the road with: The Fratellis, Foals, The Dykeenies, Good Shoes, The Twang. Take a pinch of each of these, mix around a bit (a little less awful than the Fratellis, a little less ‘edgy’ than Foals) and you’ll get a good approximation of what Look See Proof taste like. Needs a little more of its own flavour in order to be palatable.
Kate Nash – Merry Happy
There’s a fine line between great pop and utter, vomit-inducing irritation. This straddles it, and on most listens leans towards the latter. Here we still have the same excruciating over-accented vocals, less of a tune than ‘Foundations’, and mind-blowingly painful lyrical couplets like ‘dancing at discos/ eating cheese on toast.’ But then, for every person like me that cringes at such forced inanity, there’ll be someone else who thinks it’s cute and lovely. Fair play.
(Offical Video not available on YouTube)
Bob Sinclar feat Steve Edwards – Together
Here’s Bob again, following up 2006’s ‘Love Generation’ and, er, that other one that sounded like Love Generation. This sounds slightly less like Love Generation, and has no whistling. It’s less catchy, but not less annoying. Lose lose.
Cage The Elephant – In One Ear (7”)
Surprisingly Arctic Monkeys-influenced, at least in the fast-talky vocal style, for a band from Kentucky. The energy doesn’t really translate, and is that another ‘My Sharona’ riff rip-off I’m hearing in the background? Not great.
My Federation – Don’t Wanna Die (7”)
The 80s-animation (think ‘Money For Nothing’) video which accompanies this single is probably the most interesting thing about it. In second place is the fact that the singer is a former James-associate. The fact that they’ve supported (recont Hutchence-less) INXS a worrying third. The song? Somewhat less interesting, droney repetitive indie with a bit of synth slapped on to no real effect.
Snoop Dogg – Sensual Seduction
Absolutely no idea what Snoop’s playing at here. Vocoder-based ‘singing’, for the most part, over an anonymous and excessively slick porn-soundtrack tune. Precious little of his excellent distinctive rapping style, which is really the only point of Snoop’s presence on any record. And he’s been on many. Far too much weed, one suspects. And for Snoop, that must mean a lot of weed. Probably at his best when working with greater talents (Dre, Neptunes, etc.).
If you can’t say anything nice…
Big Linda – Golden Girl
Cantaloop – In The Frame
Ed Zealous – Pretty Face
James Blunt – Carry You Home
Lo-Star – Wake Up (7”)