Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Singles Bar - 13/02/12

One of the good things about this brave, new world of instant technology is that, if you so desire, you can get a single released yourself almost as soon as it’s recorded. It’s exciting to think that next week’s Singles Bar may feature a track that hasn’t even been written or recorded as I type this. So, a slow hand-clap for Polydor, please, who, cashing in on the zeitgeist a full five months too late, have decided to grant Azealia Banks’ 212 an official release on 25th March. Really, well done everyone, you’ve certainly got your finger on the pulse there. No wonder we’re constantly being told the record industry is in crisis.

Anyway, since last week we’ve had the Grammys and lost a musical icon in Whitney Houston. What a difference seven days can make; here are the releases to see you through until next Monday.

Blink-182 – After Midnight

Unbelievably, Blink-182 formed twenty years ago and, even more incredibly, have sold 28 million albums. They’ve mellowed a bit since in the last decade and also seem to have ditched their infantile japes (which seemed to be one of their main selling points, come to think of it). After Midnight is standard late-period Blink: intricate drum fills, themes of loneliness and alienation, and walls of guitar in the chorus. Sadly, some of the vocals are handled by Toooom DeLooooonge, which means you have to put up with his ridiculous vowel-mangling, and that pushes After Midnight firmly towards “irritating” territory. 4/10

Martin Solveig & Dragonette feat. Idoling!!! – Big In Japan

Martin Solveig & Dragonette were responsible for the absurdly catchy Hello in 2011, so hopes are high for this track (no idea who Idoling!!! is/are though, but they’re clearly very excitable). Unfortunately, Big In Japan is musically almost identical to Hello, in a way that late 90s/early 00s dance acts used to hastily follow up breakthrough hits by releasing the same song (yes, you, Wamdue Project and Madison Avenue). Lyrically, it’s a slightly more wholesome version of Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night, and even has the chanting of letters like Perry’s tune (though here it’s “S.T.A.R.”). A really disappointing effort, and I’m still none the wiser about Idoling!!! either. 2/10

Allo Darlin’ – Capricornia

In case you’re wondering, ‘capricornia’ refers to the parts of Australia that reside within the tropic of Capricorn. Never let it be said that The Singles Bar isn’t educational. Maybe Antipodean Allo Darlin’ singer Elizabeth Morris is starting to feel homesick, as there’s a slight wistful air to Capricornia. However, there’s also something triumphant about it too, and it represents a significantly beefed-up sound compared to the ramshackle charm of their self-titled, debut LP. In fact, they’ve thickened out the music so much that we’re almost into early 90s shoegaze territory. However, Capricornia represents a step forward for Allo Darlin’, and they now look set to cement their place in the indiepop establishment. 7/10

Lianne La Havas – Forget

On Forget, La Havas’ voice comes across like a much more soulful Lily Allen. The track begins with choppy guitar licks, before deep bass and hip-hop beats give it a nu-soul feel which sounds pretty incongruous here in 2012. There are hints of a dancehall bounce too, but it’s all a bit too tasteful and lacking in any real bite. La Havas was on the BBC Sound of 2012 longlist on the strength of her debut EP, Lost & Found, and on the evidence of Forget, she should perhaps stick to the folk/soul crossover she explored there than try and go for something more urban-influenced. Or, even better, she should have released the Two Inch Punch remix of this track that can be found on the single. 5/10

Snow Patrol – In The End

Snow Patrol have been very successful over the years peddling a dire line of music to fill self-assessment tax forms to. But hark, what noise comes from yonder Norn Iron bore-rockers? Why, it’s the sound of a kick drum, setting out a reasonably pacey rhythm. And wait, the guitar’s going at a fair chug too. As a matter of fact, this track manages to get above their standard 80bpm, which is a pleasant surprise in itself. Of course, that alone doesn’t make In The End any good, because it’s still full of empty platitudes and forgettable melodies over an uninspired arrangement, but it’s nice of the boys to give it a little bit of welly and crank out something that will break up the monotony of those arena gigs. 3/10

Goldfrapp – Melancholy Sky

Goldfrapp are a band who have changed musical form with every passing album. Melancholy Sky has been released to promote their new singles collection, which presumably is a mish-mash of fantastic tracks that in no way hang together. It’s a sedate song with Alison Goldfrapp in especially breathy vocal form and gentle nudges of electronic synth warmth. It also recalls the bucolic, pastoral folk of their Seventh Tree album but as Melancholy Sky progresses, it builds into something more affecting and dramatic. It’s interesting how Goldfrapp appear to be attempting to channel all of their styles into one track, and even more surprising that it all comes off. A really gorgeous, uplifting song from one of the most criminally ignored British groups of the 21st Century. 8/10

Emeli Sandé – Next To Me

Songstress Emeli Sandé is going to be everywhere soon. She’s already got a chart-topping single under her belt, and will receive the Critics’ Choice award at the BRITs ceremony next week. Does this impending success indicate a genre-straddling and exciting talent on the block preparing to sweep all before her? Not particularly, as her voice isn’t particularly distinctive, but is prone to the dreaded melisma. Next To Me sounds like an inferior, slower version of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep with its rumbling bass, gospel inflections and tales of inner strength. Though in Sandé’s song, you’ll “find him next to me”, as opposed to Adele telling us “you’re going to wish you never had met me.” So whereas Adele’s track is a pop classic, Sandé’s is an instantly forgettable re-hash. 3/10

One Direction – One Thing

X Factor finalists and singing foetuses One Direction have done pretty well in the charts since launching, helped in no small part by the boisterous, hook-laden pop-rock of What Makes You Beautiful. Keen to repeat a winning formula, they’ve attempted to do something similar with One Thing, which is full of non-specific compliments to the object of their affections (“I don’t know what it is, but I need that one thing; you’ve got that one thing”) and a chorus underpinned by springy guitars for pre-pubescent girls to jump around their bedrooms to. A load of fluffy nonsense, of course – though I’m not really the target market for this sugar-coated stuff – but it follows in a fine tradition of non-threatening, boy-band anthems, and there are far worse crimes than this kind of thing. Bless ‘em, the lovable scamps. 6/10

Azari & III – Reckless With Your Love

There’s an awful lot of music around at the moment that brings to mind early 90s house and breakbeat. The 2 Bears and Jamie xx in particular clearly have a fondness of the simple piano riffs of Chicago house, and to their number we can now add Azari & III. Reckless With Your Love aims more for the handbag house end of the market, but it’s a really great, fun track, even if the lyrics are tinged with melancholy and sadness (“Reckless with your love; you just give it away”). The layers of the song are built up perfectly, and there’s a brilliant 2am, darkened room, dance-like-your-life-depends-on-it feel that’s near impossible to put into words. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Scissor Sisters vs. Krystal Pepsy – Shady Love

And continuing the 90s house theme we have Scissor Sisters, who have gone for something more sleazy and less polished for their return to Planet Pop. Krystal Pepsy, as you probably know by now, is Azealia Banks performing under a soubriquet and although she doesn’t rap on Shady Love, her singing suits the euphoric chorus perfectly. There’s some great, filthy synth in the trashy verses, which is more camp than a row of tents, though it would be best for all involved if Jake Shears didn’t take up rapping full-time, as his “flow” is stilted and awkward. Funny how you can work with one of the most promising MCs in the game and decide to handle spitting duties yourself, eh? Anyway, Shady Love is a bit of a departure for Scissor Sisters and quite a bold move, but one that largely pays off. After those last two tracks, I’m off to dance in some form of illegal warehouse rave (that I think was popular at the time; I’m a bit too young to remember). 8/10

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