Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Singles Bar - 16/01/12

Distressing news reaches us here at The Singles Bar. Distressing, desperate news likely to frighten small children and household pets. It seems Jessie “money, money, money” J and Ed “my shit’s cool; I never went to BRIT School” Sheeran (nominated for seven BRIT Awards between them) have announced plans to record a duet. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re planning to duet with each other rather than with different people altogether. The results of this collaboration between the King and Queen of The New Boring don’t bear thinking about. Quick, let’s listen to this week’s singles before doing something we’ll all regret.

Swedish House Mafia vs. Knife Party – Antidote

We’re not even three weeks into 2012, yet already it seems the sound of Skrillex will be hard to avoid this year. This full-on trance attack has the in-your-face dubstep squelches and squees of the man his parents know as Sonny Moore and, as a result, it sounds like being smacked in the face by a lorryload of sub-woofers. The three-note riff that makes up the refrain also sounds uncannily like the dance track that plays on a school keyboard when you press the ‘Demo’ button. The vocals to Antidote are pretty superfluous; the track sounds like every dance song from the last twenty years played simultaneously. It just about hangs together, but I can’t help but think that while they may not be a match made in heaven, Swedish House Mafia vs. Knife Party sounds like the title of the best film ever. 5/10

War Of Words – Battleground

As well as Battleground, War Of Words are releasing another single, Panic, today, but frankly they’re not both getting reviewed because I’m a busy man with other songs to write about and dinner to eat. Battleground is being released on Popjustice Hi-Fi, the label set up by website,, who are often tip-top with their, er, tips for the top. Battleground has a lovely, enveloping string feel, though a slightly cheap sounding drum accompaniment and some incongruous early-90s woah-ing buried fairly low in the mix. In fact, it’s not entirely dissimilar to a less epic and spine-tingling version of Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy. It’s a little one-dimensional and all its ideas are used up in the first ten seconds, but it’s a rather nice little pop song that you’ll probably enjoy if you decide to listen to it with your ears. 7/10

Oberhofer – Gotta Go

Oh dear, it appears someone’s been to the Luke Pritchard school of irritating vocal inflections. Oberhofer do indie rock with a few stabs of keyboard, à la Big Pink, but it’s the fact there are more glottal stops than a Lily Allen hiccup marathon that immediately grabs the attention. There’s an anthemic feel to Gotta Go which means you shouldn’t be surprised to see it crop up on an American teen drama near you. There’s a big dumb chorus (“I don’t want you to go-oh-oh-oh-oh” x4) but despite itself, there’s more than a hint of charm to this record. It’s far from breaking any moulds, but there’s a solid tune underpinning this track and, in the end, it’s that that carries it through. 7/10

The Ting Tings – Hang It Up

The prospect of a Ting Tings comeback doesn’t exactly fill my heart with joy (though Great DJ is one heck of a song) but we’ll approach these things with an open mind, shall we? Hang It Up has a beat almost identical to Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up Look Sharp, an incredibly simplistic riff and blasts of fuzzy guitar. Whereas earlier singles seemed like a band looking to innovate and employed a minimalistic approach to arrangements, Hang It Up sounds like the home recording of a bratty teenage girl. Rather than Le Tigre or Tom Tom Club, Hang It Up sounds more like the unholy meeting of Daphne & Celeste and Lenny Kravitz. I don’t even think it has the earworm factor – facile, tedious stuff. 2/10

Yasmin feat. Ms. Dynamite – Light Up (The World)

It always brings a smile to my face how Ms. Dynamite’s accent gets more and more Jamaican sounding with each passing release. Yasmin, singer of last year’s excellent Finish Line, here lends her vocals to a song so indebted to the breakbeat sound of the early 90s, you half expect it to be produced by Baby D or N-Trance. It’s actually a fairly weak track that’s exposed once you look past those heavy beats – the arrangement, the vocals and rap verse don’t hang together properly at all, so all you’re left with is yearning nostalgia for Let Me Be Your Fantasy and a vague sense of disappointment. 4/10

Evanescence – My Heart Is Broken

On My Heart Is Broken, Evanescence ditch their usual formula and go for an avant-garde yet restrained take on the events leading up to the formation of NATO. Not really, it sounds like every other Evanescence song in existence – formulaic, melodramatic, grinding riffs and with lyrics that sort of touch on a feeling of injustice, loss and some kind of heartbreak. In the age of the Twilight über-franchise, it’s surprising that Evanescence aren’t hugely popular again, but let’s be grateful they’re not. So, Evanescence, why not go to the beach and get a bit of sunshine, then go home and tidy your room (yes, yes, lazy criticism/hack cliché) and maybe change the record once in a while? 2/10

Florence + The Machine – No Light No Light

While we’re talking unrestrained gothic melodrama, here’s young Florence. If you’d like to play Florence + The Machine bingo, please have your cards at the ready. Vaguely churchy organ? Check. Over-reliance on harp glissandos? Check. Quiet singing getting louder? Check. Vocals that could strip paint? House! I saw Florence’s performance on the Jonathan Ross show on ITV on Saturday, just after Take Me Out host Paddy McGuinness had been interviewed, and at first thought this song was called No Likey No Lighty in homage to McGuinness’ show, which would have made it roughly 37 times better, but sadly not (Note to people outside of the UK: sorry, that last sentence would have made precisely no sense to you, just take my word that it was an hilarious juxtaposition of events). This doesn’t have the hooks of last single, Shake It Out, and at one point, Florence holds the same note for about twenty seconds like she’s trying to annoy me on purpose. 1/10

Little Cuts – Plastic Disaster

Little Cuts are fronted by former Shins man Dave Hernandez, and there are hallmarks of Hernandez’s alma mater all over Plastic Disaster. It’s melodic, sunshine alt. rock, but with more of a scuffed, punk edge than you’d hear in a Shins song. The vocals aren’t quite as polished as James Mercer’s either, but taken on its own terms (as it should be, of course), Plastic Disaster is a well-crafted if scruffy track, which shows promise for future releases. The playing is simple, but the chord progression and melody are certainly there – this guy has proper pop chops. A little too unrefined for my tastes, but a decent track all the same. 6/10

The Shins – Simple Song

Ah, sweet, sweet serendipity. Of course, all Shins songs are simple songs really, but they get a bad rep on account of their prevalence in indie films, their insistence on writing happy sounding tracks and the fact that they’ve had almost a wholesale line-up change since 2004. The Shins are still unmistakeably James Mercer’s band though, and he’s lost none of his magic touch in the five years (five years?!) since their last album. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but there’s a deftness and addictive quality to Simple Song that makes you think you could listen again and again without getting fed up. There are also some great harmonies which are sure to sound even better as the summer draws closer. They say simple songs are the hardest to write and sometimes, simple songs are the best. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

The Rifles – Sweetest Thing

My love she throws me like a rubber ball – WOAH-WOAH! Oh, it seems it’s not Bono and the lads on this one. Anyway, The Rifles are one of those bands who have been knocking around for ages, occasionally turn up in the NME looking mildly aggressive, but don’t really follow through on any of their threats. Sweetest Thing encapsulates that herd mentality well – it’s a forgettable track that could conceivably be by any of their similarly uninspiring contemporaries. Like so much British rock, there’s a post-Oasis ersatz anthemic feel that would go down well at Glastonbury (although there isn’t a festival this year) but the vocals don’t soar enough to carry it off. It’s all pretty limp and lifeless, truth be told. 3/10

Pulled Apart By Horses – V.E.N.O.M.

Argh! It’s some kind of nightmarish, psychobilly punk! Mind you, get over the initial shock and there’s something quite exciting going on under the hood. The early 2000s post-hardcore shouting isn’t exactly endearing, but there’s a thrill to V.E.N.O.M. that you just don’t experience with your average Coldplay track. The trouble with playing at such a speed, however, is that even three minutes can seem like a long time to fill and consequently, the track has nowhere really to go after 90 seconds or so. Therefore, we end up with some sludgy riffing, elaborate drum fills and the odd scream for good measure. But still, good, loud rock and roll with which to annoy the neighbours and your significant other. 6/10

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