With the furore surrounding the release of Lana Del Rey’s debut album, you’d be forgiven for forgetting there were even singles being released today. But being released they are, and not only that, there are tons of the things. So many, in fact, that we’ve had to leave a fair number out of this week’s Singles Bar just in order to meet the publication deadline. If you listen closely, you can hear them now, just outside the double-locked doors, begging to be let in, but meeting firm resistance from our crack-team of Singles Bar security guards.
Anyway, hope you enjoy this week’s selection and apologies if your favourite was one of the unlucky few that missed out.
Radiohead – Bloom (Jamie xx remix)
Bloom, the opening track to last year’s disappointing The King of Limbs LP, already sounded like a glitchy, dance-influenced remix anyway, so it’s interesting to see what producer du jour Jamie xx can bring to the party. It’s clear soon enough that Jamie xx has taken Bloom in a far more traditional dance-led direction than the original, but that’s not to say it’s without its inventive touches. The background synths sound regal and ominous, and the twitchy bass and percussion mean the track holds your attention, even in the more repetitive sections. It doesn’t bear too much resemblance to the Radiohead version and, if anything, Thom Yorke’s wails get in the way of a skilled, atmospheric creation. We already knew Jamie xx had significant skills behind a mixing desk and this reworking of Bloom simply reinforces his burgeoning reputation. 8/10
Baddies – Bronto
Southend’s Baddies have built up their reputation through relentless gigging and this song is also available for free download through their Bandcamp page. It’s an immediate rock attack with fearsome drums and thrilling electronics coming from all angles. There’s a strong track under all this, though it’s slightly let down by some decidedly dodgy lyrics (“Kilo-BYTE! Mega-BYTE! Giga-BYTE! Terra-BYTE!”). The mountain of squall and feedback where a bridge should be smacks of a lack of ideas, which is a real shame because there’s enough on show here to demonstrate that Baddies are capable of great things. Think a more aggressive Futureheads or Hadouken! with singalong choruses instead of rapping and you’re halfway there. 6/10
Pixie Lott – Kiss The Stars
You know what? Pixie Lott’s been around for a while now, is a strong media presence, and yet I don’t know the first thing about her. The image she projects is one of a dizzy blonde, which is either extremely unfair on her, indicative of a bizarre and sexist campaign on the part of her record company, or means I’m extremely judgmental and not very observant. Whatever the reason, it means she doesn’t project an awful lot of personality, and that means that tracks like Kiss The Stars struggle to really make an impact. It’s a perfectly decent dance-pop song which is redolent of what countless other singers are doing in this day and age, but because of Lott’s presence, or lack thereof, you can hear it many times without really noticing it. 4/10
The Kills – The Last Goodbye
Do you ever forget that some bands are still going? With Alison Mosshart’s extra-curricular musical activities and Jamie Hince’s elevation to tabloid fodder, The Kills have taken something of a backseat in the last few years. But, they’re still recording and releasing material and here’s their latest single – a simple, piano-led ballad that sounds like it’s been recorded on slightly dampened, out-of-tune instruments. This gives it a much warmer feel, which is a boon as the track hasn’t got an awful lot else going for it. Mosshart handles all the vocal duties and – along with a sweeping string backing – ensures that there’s a whiff of show-tune about The Last Goodbye. However, it’s got “album filler” written all over it; give it a few hours and I’ll have probably forgotten about The Kills’ existence again. 3/10
Sebastian Rochford, Ranjana Ghatak & Gina Loring – Love A Sacred Path
Exceptionally-coiffeured jazz sticksman Seb Rochford (Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland) has launched a new Singles Club venture, which sounds very much like a certain internet-based new music weekly review column if you ask me. Anyway, his first offering from the series (known as Days And Nights At The Takeaway) sounds absolutely nothing like the free jazz experimentation he’s best known for. Love A Sacred Path is an affecting spoken-word piece with foreboding synth and Asian influences. As it builds, there are some seriously heavy synths, which mirror the vocals as they get more and more fevered. An unlikely collaboration which has really come up trumps – it’s very reminiscent of the 1 Giant Leap project which had brief success a decade or so ago. Love A Sacred Path matches world influences with contemporary pop adroitly, and is certainly worthy of your time. 8/10
Lil Wayne feat. Bruno Mars – Mirror
Some artists are so ubiquitous, you assume they must have access to embarrassing Polaroids of all the senior figures in the music industry. If Bruno Mars and Lil Wayne are joining forces for one track, I guess this spares the world two separate releases, so every cloud has a silver lining. Mirror is a brooding, reflective track with a haunting backing but, like much contemporary hip-hop, it does introspection terribly, sounding solipsistic and trite. Rappers can be enormously verbally dextrous when it comes to listing their strengths and roll call of material goods, yet fall victim to repeated cliché when attempting to verbalise doubt and vulnerability. Could that be because it’s all a calculated sales move and they’re incapable of even the smallest modicum of modesty and self-awareness? Surely not… 2/10
Clock Opera – Once And For All
Several of the more pretentious and scenester-led music publications gave art-rock collective Everything Everything short shrift upon the release of their debut album in 2010. This seemed enormously unfair to a band looking to fuse dance and rock together in an exciting manner, so we can only hope Clock Opera are given a bit more of a chance as their reputation and fanbase grows. Once And For All features a raft of kaleidoscopic electro shimmers, purposeful bass, post-punk percussion, soaring vocals and – crucially – a well-crafted song underpinning the whole thing. It also grows and develops in a way few tracks can manage, and shows the maturity and understanding of a band with far more experience. 8/10
DJ Shadow feat. Little Dragon – Scale It Back
Poor DJ Shadow seems like he’ll be forever destined to disappoint people by not delivering Entroducing….. part 2. However, if he can put out more tracks as good as Scale It Back, the world may be more prepared to move on. Featuring the sweet vocals of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano, Scale It Back has the feel of an early 90s soul track, but with a little more bite. There’s a fairly traditional ballad at the heart of this, but the head-nodding, heavy hip-hop drums pull it away from “insubstantial” territory while electronic and squealing guitar embellishments give it heaps of character. It’s a wonderfully lazy, flowing track that has a gorgeous feel from start to finish. Like great hip-hop from twenty or more years ago, there’s a real effortless presence to Scale It Back that invites repeat listens and descriptive superlatives. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Cloud Nothings – Stay Useless
It’s not you, Cloud Nothings, it’s me. I have a severely limited tolerance for distortion-heavy, breakneck-speed punk with rubbish vocals. Without wishing to sound pretentious, given the wealth of musical options available to artists these days and over a half-century of pop music history to mine, I fail to see why any group would decide to play four-to-the-floor songs with power chords that sound like they’ve been written in five minutes. Clearly, this kind of thing is very popular, and the success of The Thermals amongst others has shown this, but I prefer to give it a miss. It’s a decent pop track but Cloud Nothings are doing their best to roughen it up and make it lo-fi. So, along with soap operas, alcohol-free beer and the appeal of Miranda Hart, we can now add Cloud Nothings’ garage punk stylings to the ever-growing list of things I just don’t “get”. 4/10
Youngman – Who Knows?
A bit of hasty internet research reveals Youngman to be an up-and-coming grime MC, and this track has been produced by Skream of Magnetic Man. Who Knows? has Skream’s fingerprints all over it, with its dub bass and whip-crack snare, but it’s entirely ruined by Youngman’s vocals, which are heavily auto-tuned and exceptionally reminiscent of Chris Brown’s. What could be an exciting, forward-thinking dubstep track has been completely spoiled by this fool emoting all over it like he’s both K-Ci and JoJo. The dubstep/pop crossover has been picking up pace rapidly over the past year or so, and this is the inevitable conclusion – radio-friendly dubstep designed to appeal to the largest possible audience. This is what Craig David would sound like if he were breaking through today; it’s official – dubstep is the 2-step garage of the 2010s. 2/10