New Releases 7th April 2008
Single of the Week: Miracle Fortress – Maybe Lately
What I tend to look for on here is not necessarily the mainstream, crossover, popular potential in pop songs, although that can be a factor, but rather the indefinable something that makes great pop music. This slice of loveliness from Montreal is never going to top the charts, and could have been made at any time in the last few decades, but it has that spark. It has that shimmering, spine-shivering quality about it that wakes you up from the mundanity of whatever you’re doing and says ‘hey, listen to this, things aren’t that bad.’ On a more descriptive note, it mines the same lo-fi take on the Beach Boys (with a bit of Spectorism thrown in) that has characterised great indie-pop for twenty years. But it does it beautifully.
Efterklang – Caravan (7”)
Another promising Scandinavian band, making a big impact on UK audiences after being around since 2001. This Danish group style themselves as post-rock, but can’t quite shake that Scandinavian knack for crafting beautiful melodies, and this is really very pretty, lovely stuff. Unusually, the quirky, loose jazzy structures on show don’t detract from its essential alternative-pop quality. Excellent.
Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
Another band with a massive amount of hype behind them, thankfully this time it’s at least part-justified. Not massively original – it’s heavily Cure-indebted – but it does pack an industrial-strength kick, and is bolstered by some bursts of shouting and energy that should please fans of Los Campesinos. The acid test is the tune though, and as its been near-permanently lodged in my brain since first hearing, I’d say it’s pretty good.
Akala – Comedy Tragedy History
Ms. Dynamite’s brother, and an ex-Wimbledon footballer, Akala also won a Mobo award for best hip-hop artist in 2006, beating some big US names in the process. Good on the Mobo organisers, I say. This is likeable, fast-paced, typically British stuff. Like a slightly more commercial take on Dizzee Rascal, it’s a class above most tracks in its field.
Cheri Dennis – Portrait Of Love
Solid, glossy US R’n’B from this Ohio-based vocalist on Bad Boy Records. She’s worked with Mase and P.Diddy in the past, and while this is a bit lightweight, lacking any fresh thrills, it is pretty, and pretty sexy. More Kelly Rowland than Beyonce, but with the right collaborations, could still produce some good stuff.
Muscles – Ice Cream (7”)
According to his Myspace page, Melbourne electronica artist Muscles has influence including: ‘S Club 7, Architecture in Helsinki, Peter Griffin singing Rock Lobster, Sash!, Blonde Redhead, and Sister Act 2.’ This commendable eclecticism disappointingly doesn’t result in some kind of manic free-for-all with tunes falling out of its eyeballs. It is an enjoyably sparkly bit of vocal electro though, and definitely one of the better things out this week.
Metronomy – My Heart Rate Rapid (12”)
Melodic, slightly bonkers electronica from Brighton remixer Joseph Mount. There’s a touch of Hot Chip about this, with some great tunes packed in to an eclectic three minutes. It lacks the killer pop suss of Hot Chip though, and is less likely to cross over into the mainstream due to a tendency to bury the tunes under a glut of daft, but enjoyable, noises. Worth persevering with though, as once it settles in the brain its hard to remove.
Future Of The Left – Manchasm (7”)
I always had a soft-spot for Mclusky. Slightly deranged but still very tune-heavy indie-rock. Future of the Left carry on where their singer’s old band left off, and that’s very definitely a good thing. Cat-lovers should skip through to the last section of this video, and watch the adventures of Colin, one of the band’s cat. Apparently the song is written from Colin’s perspective, and bemoans their heavy touring schedule which leaves poor Colin feeling a bit lonely at home. Aww, not so scary after all, hey?
Natasha Bedingfield feat Sean Kingston – Love Like This
Beddo 2 is back with a slicker, more US-friendly sound. Less quirkily English than her earlier tracks, but probably more marketable. It’s OK enough, but I think I preferred the old Natasha.
Boys Like Girls – The Great Escape
US rock band which I’m going to struggle to describe as anything other than emo – hopefully the emo police aren’t going to descend on me again for misattribution. This is actually not all that bad, and reminds me of the olden days of emo, relatively cheery stuff with a lightness of touch about it (early Jimmy Eat World, the Promise Ring, etc.) rather than the stadium-filling bombastic whinging that seems to have taken over these days. Of course, nothing new, but quite hard to hate.
Computerclub – Electrons & Particles
Slightly above average indie guitar-pop. Intro sounds promisingly like Ash, before cutting into an Editors/Interpol-style dark brooding melody. Lacks original ideas, but does what it does competently enough.
Sam Sparro – Black & Gold
LA vocalist with a radio-friendly synth-based sound. Like many similar tracks, it draws from slightly dated reference points (Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry singles, here, not unexpectedly.) Sam has a distinctive and powerful vocal style, which helps. It’s sellable, but not special.
Blood Red Shoes – Say Something Say Anything
Brighton-based duo’s second single of the year, and once again it’s a case of heart in the right place, decent tune, but lacking that extra special something to elevate it above the generic indie-rock station.
Elliot Minor – Parallel Worlds
I had no trouble slating this lot’s previous single ‘Still Figuring Out’ – undoubtedly one of the most painful listens of the year. This is far less offensive, and has quite a decent energetic backing track. The vocals still grate and it’s far from being my cup of tea, but a definite improvement.
Forward Russia – Breaking Standing
Apparently Forward Russia’s songs now have titles instead of numbers, which is nice. Unfortunately they also seem to have toned down the frantic wild experimentalism of their earlier material, and settled on a slightly irritating melodic vocal style. Not a step in the right direction, to my ears.
Scouting For Girls – Heartbeat
The best thing I can say about this is that it’s nowhere near as bad as the band’s previous singles. It’s still sounds like gurning joyless nonsense to me, though.
Fragma – Toca’s Miracle 2008
The definition of ‘pointless dance remix.’ The joyful vocals of the excellent original are buried underneath a sludge of what the remixer imagines to be ‘modern sounding’ gentle pulsing synth sounds. Do yourself a favour and go watch the original, which actually has some life about it.
A Fine Frenzy – Come On Come Out
A Fine Frenzy is American singer-songwriter Alison Sudol. She’s pretty big in the States as a result of her tracks appearing all over CSI, House, One Tree Hill and the likes. I suspect a little too bland for UK tastes at the moment, though it’s pleasant enough.
Jose Gonzalez – Killing For Love (7”)
We may have been suckered in by colourful bouncing balls and a pleasant take on the Knife’s super-fantastic Heartbeats, but each subsequent Jose Gonzalez track just seems to be even duller than the last. This is no exception.
Leon Jean Marie – Bed Of Nails (7”)
Apparently this South London singer-songwriter has been described as ‘funk’n’roll.’ Undeterred by this evident warning sign, I proceeded to listen to his latest single. There’s actually very little funk in sight in this lazy Beatlesy strum. Not awful then, but not exactly anything special either.
Ebony Bones – Don’t Fart On My Heart (7”)
I’m really quite convinced that I could never enjoy a song with a title quite as off-puttingly awful as this. Ebony used to be an actress, best known for being on long-running Five soap Family Affairs. This is try-hard, overly quirky stuff, that neglects to include a decent tune. And what on earth is that sub-Nathan Barley title all about?
Soulja Boy feat Arab – Yahhh!
Again, what can you do when a song seems to be actively trying to piss you off? Pretty much designed to be played by antisocial youths on their mobile phones on the bus. No, you get out of my face, and go and make your Timmy from South Park noises elsewhere. Novelty records: just say no.