Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Singles Bar: 19/03/12

Introductions? I haven’t got all day, you know. Let’s get straight on with the best this week’s new single releases have to offer.

Coldplay – Charlie Brown

Have to say, it remains a surprise that Coldplay haven’t yet released Princess of China – their Rihanna collaboration – as a single. Surely that’s sales gold? Anyway, after previous singles Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall and Paradise suggested a (very small) departure from their usual sound, we’re back on familiar ground with Charlie Brown. This is one of their mid-tempo, epic tracks that will probably be accompanied with lots of kaleidoscopic lights during live performances. The riff that repeats throughout is exceptionally simple, yet also incredibly liable to get stuck in your head. There’s no denying that Coldplay do this sort of thing better than anyone else. They’re a highly efficient, professional group, but that’s not exactly what gets your pulse racing. 6/10

Blood Red Shoes – Cold

Cold starts with drums… lots and lots of drums, and then the vocals hit. There’s a charming, ramshackle feel to this track. It’s as if someone’s given The Kills a few too many energy drinks and forced them to make their scuzziest ever song. The male vocals unfortunately are full of awkward post-Britpop enunciations, and halfway through, Blood Red Shoes allow the song to lose momentum, at which point the interest starts to wane. This is the trouble with such an audacious beginning; it’s difficult to maintain that level of intensity and Cold doesn’t manage it. Towards the end we’re almost on over-wrought, emo territory. A shame, because there’s some great moments in this song, but it fails to deliver on its initial promise. 5/10

Ajimal – Footnote To Love (Part One)

Footnote To Love (Part One) is the first single to be released on Pop Sex Ltd. – the label run by Frankie & The Heartstrings – which isn’t by F&TH themselves. That said, guitarist Mick Ross is one half of Ajimal. This track is built upon an acoustic tremolo guitar line, very reminiscent of Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition (or Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious, depending on your preference) which wouldn’t be much to write home about in itself, but there are beautiful dream-pop embellishments over the top which really set this off a treat. The vocals are a little too strained, and the track doesn’t particular have hooks or a chorus to get your teeth into, but as a standalone piece, it’s a really gorgeous work. This would soundtrack a bittersweet tale of teenage love in a film perfectly, but it’d be just at home on your stereo. 7/10

Angel feat. Wretch 32 – Go In, Go Hard

Go In, Go Hard, as well as having a terrible title, is a slightly odd mixture of Guetta-esque house-pop, early 21st Century hip-hop and boyband vocals. There’s a really annoying, “ay!” on every second beat which takes attention away from what’s going on elsewhere. In fact, once you’ve noticed it, you can barely escape it. This could be Taio Cruz, Flo Rida, Iyaz or any number of identikit pop rappers. There’s really not much else to say about it: Angel and Wretch 32 go in, they go hard and, um, they’re fairly pleased with that approach. After an eye-catching debut single with Traktor, it sadly looks like Wretch 32 has lost the individuality that looked like it may set him apart. 2/10

Labrinth – Last Time

He’s was already relatively well-known for his association with Tinie Tempah, but his debut solo single, Earthquake, was so huge it properly escalated Labrinth to part of the chart furniture. Oddly, while Earthquake was prepared to take risks production-wise, with skill and dexterity beyond your usual chart fodder, Last Time doesn’t quite give the same giddy thrill rush. The busy strings in the chorus are a nice touch but it seems Earthquake may have been the exception rather than the rule. It’s incredibly slick and genetically engineered to garner huge sales figures, but would you expect anything less from the only recent signing to Simon Cowell’s record label who wasn’t a TV talent show production? 5/10

Summer Camp – Losing My Mind

I found it hard to warm to Summer Camp’s album, Welcome To Condale. I’m as much of a fan of nostalgia as the next person, but the sheen and 80s homage was so blatant, it felt like a complete re-treading of old ground, with the band forgetting to put their own spin on things. Losing My Mind is all lo-fi fuzz, wandering bass and tinny drums. The boy/girl vocals are a nice touch, especially when they trade alternate lines but the voices and the production don’t quite match. There’s a decent song buried in here, but there’s no middle to the sound range and the influences being cherry-picked and appropriated seem a little too considered and studied. In short, Losing My Mind suffers from the same issues that plague Summer Camp as a project, so if you’re able to see past them, you’ll probably find plenty of enjoyment in this. 6/10

Katy Perry – Part Of Me

I may be a cynic, but it seemed to me a little too convenient that as soon as there were tabloid reports of her marriage being in trouble, Cheryl Cole launched her solo career with a track entitled Fight For This Love. In a similar ‘twist’, Katy Perry’s first single post-separation is a thinly-veiled tale of defiance and finding strength following a bad situation. Sample lyric: “this is the part of that you’re never gonna ever take away from me”. There are also references to “sparkling” and not “taking my soul”; basically a load of chick-lit empty platitudes seemingly written by the kind of focus group who think women are one-dimensional creatures who worship chocolate. Musically, it sounds like a hastily-made Katy Perry track, i.e., all of the sledgehammer drums and attention-grabbing, Pro-Tooled noise but without the hooks that make Firework and California Gurls memorable. 2/10

JLS – Proud

Proud is the official single for Sport Relief 2012 so, seeing as it’s for charidee, I should probably be nice about it. It sees them try to recreate the formula of earlier singles Eyes Wide Shut and She Makes Me Wanna and, while it’s not as good as either of those, it’s got a bit more pep to it than their more recent ballad-heavy efforts. It’s a little soulless but sounds like it would provide a good bed for footage of people being generally athletic and energetic, which is probably what it was designed to do. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics are about not giving up, believing in yourself and, yes, making people proud. It’s not the worst charity single by a long shot and, having seen the title before hearing the song, I’m absolutely delighted to report it is in no way a cover of the Heather Small track of the same name. Lucky escape there, I’m sure you’ll agree. 4/10

Modestep – Show Me A Sign

As I’m not entirely au fait with all this young person’s electronic music, I often get confused between Modestep and Modeselektor (mind you, I also get confused between The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, so what do I know?). Anyway, Modestep are a dubstep duo (I think… yep, that’s right) who seem to specialise in the atmospheric, radio-friendly tracks that Chase & Status and Nero appear to be able to make in their sleep. In fact, this is so similar to Chase & Status that if you were told it was them, you’d probably believe it. There are the obligatory dubstep wobbles, squeals, sirens and huge drums – sounds that were thrilling and exciting not long ago but have already fallen into the pit of cliché. It also shows all the lightness of touch and subtlety of a Skrillex track and – advance warning: this is going to make me sound a lot older than I actually am – it’s just a load of horrid old noise, really. 1/10

Rihanna feat. Jay-Z – Talk That Talk

Unbelievably, this Rihanna track actually sounds restrained and almost quiet after the Modestep endurance test. Yes, you’ve probably heard this song by now but the thing is, Rihanna is getting so good at putting out instant classic singles, you start to take it for granted. This hits all the spots her rivals can’t – it all seems so effortless and laid-back, but it’s just got so much to keep you coming back for more. Ok, lyrically, it’s the usual, tired Rihanna come-ons, but it, yet again, cements her place as the undisputed leader of modern-day pop. Synths fizz and aren’t too heavy-handed and although it doesn’t ever reach top gear, it got just the right amount of pace and bounce to stick in your head all day long. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

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