New Releases 14th April 2008

by MV

Single of the Week: Ladyhawke – Back Of The Van
This is not the most innovative single released this week, nor is it the most outright beautiful. It is, however, the one that made me sit up, almost spit out my coffee, and go ‘YES!’ It’s derivative in oh so many ways.. the video is all Pat Benetar, the vocals are Stevie Nicks all over, there’s modern touches borrowed from Feist… but it all gels into something that works perfectly. A refreshingly non-ironic take on the 80s, for once, and a deserved best of a good bunch this week. She’s signed to Modular and plays the Camden Crawl this weekend – catch her now, as she’s surely a star in the making.

Click below for the rest of the week’s UK single releases…

Kanye West feat Dwele – Flashing Lights
This actually came pretty close to being a single of the week contender. There’s something impressively epic about everything Kanye West touches, and this is certainly no exception. The video ramps up the drama to the max, with a lingerie-clad supervixen performing unspeakable acts with a spade. (No, not like that…) There’s something quite pleasingly dark about the whole affair, yet there’s also a restrained subtletly. Definitely one of my favourite US hip-hop tracks released in 2008.

Malcolm Middleton – Blue Plastic Bags (7”) [ Myspace link]
I don’t generally go in for reviewing tracks without a YouTube link, as it makes my mammoth weekly task a bit harder. But there’s absolutely no way I could overlook this work of melancholic beauty from the ex-Arab Strap man. I strongly urge everyone to go and listen to this, and hear it through. The genius of Malc is that the real hook of his songs tends to be hidden somewhere towards the end. Here, it kicks in with the outro refrain just after the 2 minute mark. Life-affirming stuff, ably assisted by the vocals of the incomparable Jenny Reeve. Listen, listen, listen!

Goldfrapp – Happiness
More top notch stuff from Alison & co. While it’s not as hauntingly beautiful as A&E, it’s definitely as smile-inducing as its title suggest, particularly when coupled with the absoutely joyful video (definitely worth a click!) In places, it reminds me of a modern take on the simple lovely pleasures of early Saint Etienne, and that’s more than fine by me.

Portishead – Machine Gun (12”)
Credit to Portishead – they’ve spent 10 years doing something that’s actually worthwhile. Still recognisably them, it’s also like nothing they’ve done before. Eschewing the coffee table misery in favour of something altogether more disturbing, it’s driven by a motorik/semi-industrial beat that almost overpowers Beth’s sublime vocal performance. Dark, harrowing, but incredibly special. Worth the wait.

Jamie Lidell – A Little Bit Of Feel Good
Cambridgeshire-based white soulster Jamie Lidell is going to have to go a long, long way to top his sublime 2006 single Multiply. This doesn’t do it, by any stretch, but is still a lively bit of summery soul that will brighten up your day. It has the same lightness of touch that informed his recent collaborations with Feist, but slightly ruins it by playing too heavily on Jamie’s (obvious) vocal prowess. Multiply was great for reasons far beyond the initial impact of his voice. I’ll take a dancing unicorn any day though…

Keyshia Cole feat Missy Elliott & Lil Kim – Let It Go
This, on the other hand, despite throwing three great female vocalists/rappers into the mix, doesn’t really work for me. Less than the sum of its parts, it bubbles along pleasantly enough, but Missy is unusually dull, and Kim’s presence barely registers.

Britney Spears – Break The Ice
Another single from Britney’s consistent latest record. It’s not up there with ‘Gimme More’ but it does what you expect of it – perfectly produced modern pop. Perhaps wisely given her current state, she’s been turned into a cartoon for this vid.

The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement
The best thing about this collaboration between Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and that guy from the Rascals is the size of its balls. Cocky, blustering pomp, in which the boys get to play with tanks on a snowy wasteland, all while coming on like a Muse-of-the-people. It’s not perfect, but it’s great fun. Watch the ludicrously expensive video to appreciate its full-on glorious nonsense appeal.

Against Me! – Stop
US punk band that have been around since 1997 and, I have to admit, have passed me by somewhat. While this has still got some of the raw energy of punk/hardcore, it comes out sounding a bit Franz-esque, jaunty, entertaining indie-rock at its best. Not especially distinctive, but pretty good fun.

Black Ghosts – I Want Nothing
You’d imagine you’d have a pretty good idea of what a band composed of ex-members of Simian and the Wiseguys would sound like, and you’d probably be pretty close to the mark: solid, hummable melodies backed back some tasteful beats. Trouble is, it’s just a little too tasteful. Previous single ‘Any Way You Choose To Give It’ benefitted from a bunch of remixes which ramped up the beats and made it into something a bit more dancefloor-friendly. There should be some around of this soon enough. As it stands, it sounds like nobody so much as…

Infadels – Make Mistakes
…the Infadels, who by coincedence are back with this first single from their second album. They seem to have found another gear this time around, though, with a shinier, sparklier sound and bigger choruses. What it lacks in originality it more than makes up for with big tunes and energy.

Fedde Le Grand – Get This Feeling (12”)
Follow-up to a couple of chart-dance uberhits, including the omnipresent ‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit’ and that one with Ida Corr, this is less immediately catchy, and unlikely to emulate its predecessors’ success. Good dancefloor fun though.

Funkerman – Speed Up
Interestingly though, here we have another Dutch DJ who has worked with Fedde Le Grand in the past. This radio-friendly disco-tinged vocal track has much more chart potential about it.

Goldielocks – Waste Man (7”)
With Akala last week, and this Croyden-based female MC this week, it’s good to see that UK hip-hop is in good health. While it’s a bit lacking in hooks for my liking, its originality and local colour makes it infinitely more appealing than most of the stuff coming out of the US at the moment.

September – Cry For You (You’ll Never See Me Again)
September is Petra Marklund, a Swedish pop/dance artist who’s enjoyed big success across Europe. This is solid, radio-friendly pop, but lacks the unique twisted melodic spark that Scandinavian artists usually bring to the mix. Entirely enjoyable, but not all that.

Scooter – The Question Is What Is The Question
Oh, Christ, what to say about this? It’s ludicrous, camp, ludicrously camp, impossibly dated, but somehow quite catchy. Scooter, hey? Ringtones available, no doubt.

Bjork – Wanderlust
Like Radiohead, Bjork has disappointed me in recent years, straying from the melody and vim of her Sugarcubes/Debut/Post days into an increasingly experimental furrow. Her latest album has been something of a return to form – the melodies are defintiely back. It’s all quite dark and disturbing though, and makes me a little bit uncomfortable and jittery.

Sirens – Club La La
The kind of UK-based R’n’B girl group that we haven’t seen the likes of for a few years. In fact, Sirens were formed in 2001, originally featuring one Michelle Heaton, later of Liberty X. Their biggest hit so far way ‘Baby’ in 2004, which reached the dizzy heights of number 49. This is a comeback single that resulted from a trip to the US and work with some big names, including Dave Pensado (XTina, Black Eyed Peas.) It’s slick, marketable stuff, which wears its US influences on its sleeve. It never really takes off, but there could be more to come here – ones to watch as the year develops.

Gay For Johnny Depp – Belief In God Is So Adorable
Wins prizes for ‘band name of the week’ and ‘song title of the week’, but little else. Hardcore/metal (and, apparently, ‘spazzcore’) stuff which will appeal to a certain demographic which doesn’t really include me. Certainly interesting novelty shock tactics though, and definitely anything but dull. Which is always a good thing.

Brandi Carlile – Turpentine
Folk and country indebted singer-songwriter stuff from this young American who’s had, surprise surprise, lots of songs featured on Gray’s Anatomy. More worryingly, she supported Newton Faulkner over here. Warning bells. It’s nice enough but totally forgettable.

Dreadzone – Love The Life
Dub/dance/eclectica band formed from the ashes of Mick Jones’s post-Clash band Big Audio Dynamite, Dreadzone are still around, and still pulling in the crowds at festivals. This is more of the same, only less good. Check out their career highlight, Little Britain, from 1996, instead.

Akon (ft. T-Pain) – I Can’t Wait
There’s something about the excessively slick, over-vocodered, over-played on teenagers’ mobile phone whininess that characterises Akon’s vocal style that makes me really very unhappy. This T-Pain-assisted ditty is not one of his worst offenders, but it’s still not making me smile.

Duels – Regeneration (7”)
Ditched by Nude Records after their first album, Duels are back with more 90s/Britpop influenced stuff. First single Regeneration is, sad to say, a bit dull.

Jack Johnson – Hope
Entirely predictable fluff from the singer-songwriter who exists purely to serve the demographic who think the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a bit too challenging. Nothing more to say here…

Clocks – Old Valve Radio
Entirely appropriately, this lot are managed by Chris Gentry, of Menswe@r ‘fame.’ Plod-along derivative indie of the lowest order.