New Releases 21st April 2008

by MV

Single of the Week: Sia – The Girl You Lost to Cocaine
I sometimes wonder if my choices here are getting a bit too predictable – upbeat, girl-fronted, slightly alternative pop, anyone? Hey, it’s nice to have a niche. Or something.

The most enjoyable thing about Sia’s recent solo stuff is that it shrugs off the coffee-table medicrity of her Zero 7 collaborations in favour of a whole lot of fun. This slips in neatly alongside the rest of your 2008 white female soul explosion, but strides out ahead by virtue of having a wry smile on its face and a keen sense of the fact that music should be enjoyable, rather than just a quasi-painful attempt at recreating your influences. Just watch the joy-filled dress-up box video for confirmation. Excellent.

Madonna & Justin – Four Minutes
I’m running late on reviews again, so this has already been at number one for several weeks. No surprises, really, given the truckload of superstars involved. But is it any good? Short answer, yes, it’s pretty good. Not really making the most of the distinctive qualities of either of the credited leads, but Timbaland’s contribution saves it. Despite a few cringey moments (Justin grunting ‘Muh-duhnah’ repeatedly; Madge pretending to be Gwen) it’s four very enjoyable minutes.

Shortwave Set – No Social (10”)
Also known as that one with the ‘dog dressed in clothes is still a dog’ chorus. First one from the London band’s second record, which is notably mainly for the fact that it’s produced by man of the moment Danger Mouse. Like his work with the Black Keys, it doesn’t radically alter the band’s sound, but rather draws out the best in what’s already there. It never really lifts off in quite the way you’d want it to, but it’s still a cut above most of the week’s releases.

Grammatics – Dilemma (10”)
Leeds band with quite a lot of mainstream guitar-pop potential, especially if the hype is to be believed. There’s just enough distinctiveness (stop-start beats, cello, bleepy interludes, etc.) in there to set them apart from the current crop of hopeless post-Libertines (still, ffs), post-Arctics wannabes, and there’s a potential stadium-filling tune in there too. Probably worth whispering some of the late-90s brit-goth-poppers it reminds me of (Placebo in places, Marion in others) – but that’s no bad thing to me. Definitely worth watching their progress with interest.

Deus – Slow (7”)
I’ve never really been able to get a grip on what Belgian band dEUS are all about. For a while my knowledge of them extended only to 1996’s cute and breezy Little Arithmetics. Next time I saw them they seemed to be going through a vaguely electro-rock phase. Now it’s all stoner-rock basslines and brooding, Lanegan-esque vocals. And somewhere buried low in the mix are backing vocals from Karin from The Knife. Actually, who cares what they’re supposed to sound like, this is great.

Make Model – The LSB
Scottish collective who’ve been compared to Arcade Fire and some of the more exuberant moments of Broken Social Scene. It also draws on some more chart-friendly Brit-guitar-rock sounds, and pulls it together nicely to produce something extremely promising.

Crystal Castles – Courtship Dating
Hyper-trendy electro-mumble from Skins-endorsed Canadians. Sounds a bit like it was recorded underwater, but otherwise pleasingly catchy and danceable stuff, ripe for remixing.

Adele – Cold Shoulder
OK, let’s give the girl some credit now. After the boring Hometown Glory and the nice but distinctly average Chasing Pavements, finally we have a single which demonstrates, almost, what all the fuss was about. Musically, this is much livelier, catchy stuff. My only problem with the whole thing is that it’s still sorely lacking in joy. Too many sour faces and too much whining. But it’s better.

Pete & The Pirates – She Doesn’t Belong To Me (7”)
Follow-up to the rollicking fun of ‘Mr. Understanding’ from the Reading indie-popsters. This is pleasant, breezy, tuneful stuff that’s ideal for these few days of April sunshine we’re currently enjoying. Vocals come across a bit whiny in places, but overall this is quality guitar pop that stands out from the rest of the mundane Brit-crop

Mexican Institute Of Sound – Escribeme Pronto
I can’t decide if this is pretty good in a quirky sort of way, or just pretty irritating. Certainly draws on a wide variety of sounds, from trad Central-American stuff to more modern mash-up stylings, but some of the high-pitched samples recall the arse-end of Fatboy Slim’s heyday, and are just too grating to stand up to repeated listening. The bones of the song are enjoyable though. Perhaps a squeak-free remix would help?

Cajun Dance Party – The Race (7”)
There have been too many guitar band recently harking back to Britpop, but choosing the third-divsion stragglers rather than the best examples of the genre. This is more of the same, but perhaps due to having Bernie Butler on board on production duties, it’s got a little spark about it that lifts it to the level of enjoyable nostalgic romp, rather than depressing laughable retread. There’s an affectation to the vocals which is a bit Luke Kook for my liking, but the chorus is pretty shiny, so that’s forgiven for now.

Sons & Daughters – This Gift (7”)
Another solid track from likeable Scots indie-rockers. Sounding a bit stoner-rock inspired, here, and while it’s energetic, moody stuff, it doesn’t quite move into the same pop territory as excellent previous single ‘Darling.’

Grand National – By The Time I Get Home (7”)
Polite electro-rock from London-based duo. Perfectly enjoyable, although the ever-so-slightly sexy video does sit a little uncomfortably with the distinctly non-edgy track it accompanies. The nicely produced, almost floaty, backing track doesn’t really need the middling lazy vocals, either.

A.Human – Black Moon (7”)
Apparently this is ‘full on electro-androgyny rock fronted by a Shakespearean-esque storyteller singer.’ It’s actually incredibly average third-rate sludge-rock that’s had a few whooshes and bleeps grafted on top of it. And I’m not sure if Shakespeare would be overly proud of lines like ‘I’m gonna be bigger than Jean-Claude Van Damme.’ Aside from the ludicrous self-promotion, it’s OK, if you like Infadels, Black Ghosts, et al.

iLiKETRAiNS – We Go Hunting (7”)
I was initially drawn in by the annoyingly caps-heavy iLiKETRAiNS’s moody gloom-pop sound on their mini-album debut Progress/Reform. Their first full-length was, I felt, a disappointing follow-up, as it was mostly covering the same ground. The single’s an unnecessary advert for the mediocre album, and while it might grab the attention of a few first-time listeners, it adds nothing to the band’s limited sound palette.

Cahill feat Nikki Belle – Trippin’ On You
This week’s red Bacardi Breezer-sponsored nightclub anthem is actually pretty good. The backing track, in fact, has the potential to belong to something quite brilliant – there’s a touch of Discovery-era Daft Punk about it. Sadly the vocals are a bit of a lazy letdown. Shame.

Hamfatter – Do Something Stupid Tonight
Much more pleasant than the atrocious name would suggest. A jaunty, tuneful, mid-paced britpoppy stomp from Cambridge based singer-songwriter. Not going to set anyone’s world on fire, but not unlistenable.

The Feeling – Without You
With their last actually quite OK single, I was well on the way to almost nearly warming to The Feeling. This is just far too ponderously serious though. I can see the Guilty Pleasure/boyband nostalgia thing coming through in places, but I fail to see the joy in it. Tuneful, then, but dull.

Hoosiers – Cops And Robbers
This, on the other hand, is probably the most enjoyable Hoosiers single to date. Tones down the aimless gurning, drags a few silly costumes of the cupboard, and shamelessly thieves a few Cure songs. I never thought I’d say it, but if they carry on like this, there may actually be a point to the Hoosiers. Fun – who’d have thought it?

Lexter – Freedom To Love
Do you like Bob Sinclar? If so, you might like this. Although there’s no whistling, which is always a shame.

Lupe Fiasco – Paris Tokyo
This is pretty middling stuff from Lupe. So much so that I have very little to say about it. Noodly loungy backing music, little evidence of a tune or any hooks, and incredibly repetitive.

Parka – Better Anyway
Dated-sounding doo-doo-doo-ing, which is at least a little bit cheerier than you’d expect from a guitar band called Parka. Not awful, but quite average.

We Are The Physics – You Can Do Athletics BTW
The song title says it all really: this is over-thought, try-hard stuff which thinks it’s a bit cutting-edge. Actually, a bit sub-Foals. Pretty good B/W comic-strip based video though.. and it’s got some life about it. There are worse ways of spending three and a bit minutes.

Xcerts – Do You Feel Safe (7”)
The sad thing about reviewing this epic-shoutalong indie-rock single is that I feel pretty sure that my 15-year old self would have enjoyed it rather a lot. As it stands, it’s got a good energy to it, and isn’t actively offensive or bland, but just doesn’t really do it for me in 2008. Not bad, though, and an audible Scottish accent always gets bonus points.

Wombats – Backfire At The Disco
Still getting progressively worse with every single. Here’s the lazy one where the indie band sticks the word ‘disco’ into their song in an attempt to make it sound like loads of fun is happening and we’re not all being pummelled with tediousness yet again. And it doesn’t work.

Clare Teal – Get Happy
Um, did this fall off the back of a cruise ship?

Dorp – Rollercoaster
Dorp? Dorp?! Whose idea was that name? Song isn’t much better either, resolutely stuck in a 90s turgid whinge-rock rut as it is. Quite hilarious half-arsed guitar solo, also.

Plain White T’s – Our Time Now
Oh, who’s still buying this sort of stuff? Come on, admit it. And then explain.