Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Singles Bar: 04/06/12

Shops, streets and pubs have been going Diamond Jubilee mad this weekend. But not here at The Singles Bar, oh no. We’ve got no bunting up, no Union Flags and no cucumber sandwiches. Instead, we’ve spent the entire festivities sitting in near darkness, listening to Generation Terrorists and ordering several copies of "The Idiot’s Guide To Starting A Republic". While we wait for those to drop through our letterbox though, we found time to cast an eye over ten new tracks available to purchase from today.

Perfume Genius – Dark Parts

A simple idea, yet one executed extremely well. Perfume Genius’ Dark Parts is built around simple, two-note piano oscillations and fragile, haunting vocals, and it’s certainly effective. The way it builds up for the first two minutes gets at your emotions and is really quite majestic. The downside, however, is that the last minute or so is pretty superfluous, and all the momentum and feeling that had been previously built up is lost. It’s a real shame, because otherwise Dark Parts would be a wonderful track, reminiscent of Regina Spektor at her best. 7/10

Gotye – Eyes Wide Open

It seems that Gotye’s plan to take over the entire world continues apace. There’s a travelling, chugging quality to Eyes Wide Open, which was actually originally released in Australia over eighteen months ago. It’s not as irritating as Somebody That I Used To Know, but that’s hardly a recommendation. On Spotify, Gotye’s filed alongside Foster The People and Fun., which seems about right; groups who are just sort of there, don’t do much, and their music doesn’t really excite yet sells in industrial quantities. This probably wouldn’t be a hit if it were by an artist without much commercial success, but since it’s the STIUTK guy, this will sell regardless. 3/10

Maximo Park – Hips And Lips

It’s difficult to believe that Maximo Park’s debut album, A Certain Trigger, was released over seven years ago. Sadly, they haven’t managed to recapture that vital, engrossing feeling since, and Hips And Lips won’t be changing that. It’s a perfectly listenable track, but doesn’t have the wit and invention you’d expect from Maximo Park, and Paul Smith’s vocals sound positively disinterested for the most part. The refrain of, “You’re a puzzle to me / And you always will be”, harks back to better days for the band but like so many before them, it seems they said all they had to say with their first record. 5/10

Marcus Collins – Mercy

Recent X Factor runner-up, Marcus Collins, follows the formula set in place by his reworking of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. Namely, a big voice, big horns and a kind of watered-down, gutless approximation of classic soul and the Motown sound. He’s clearly singing like his life depends on it and although that’s sounds extreme, on the evidence of this track, his career might well be hanging in the balance. A bizarre arrangement and style that’s completely out of kilter with everything in modern pop and a song that someone forgot to write a chorus for. Oh dear. 2/10

Hot Chip – Night And Day

With each passing year, musical trends seem to get closer and closer to what electronic group Hot Chip have been doing for ages. The vocals of frontman Alexis Taylor may be an acquired taste, but Night And Day should be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. It has that elusive quality that leads you to the dancefloor, an urgent twitch, and a fantastic 80s-inspired breakdown after the chorus. Due to their appearance, Hot Chip are often written off as a merely academic proposition, but Night And Day just reaffirms what’s always been the case – they’re an under-the-radar treasure capable of writing phenomenal pop songs. 9/10

DJ Fresh feat. Dizzee Rascal – The Power

It really illustrates where the UK music industry is at the moment that a drum n’ bass producer, unheralded outside of his chosen field for a dozen years, can now be releasing a new single off the back of consecutive Number Ones. The inclusion of Dizzee Rascal makes me nervous though – commercial success has turned Dizzee from an era-defining MC with grit to a party-chasing pop star. However, the fact remains that Dizzee is enormously charismatic, and his rhymes transform an otherwise average-quality dance track into something much more memorable. He’s still only concerned with having a good time, and the fear remains that he’ll soon jump the shark, but for now, both Dizzee Rascal and DJ Fresh are on top of the world. 7/10

Coldplay feat. Rihanna – Princess Of China

Looking back at previous Singles Bars, it’s been a whole week since RiRi’s been involved in a new track, so it’s high time she was featured again. From the moment it was announced she was teaming up with Coldplay, the resulting track had ‘single’ written all over it, whatever the musical result. Like much of Mylo Xyloto, Princess Of China has a more electronic, experimental edge than Coldplay’s previous work. Cheap-sounding synths pulse in Princess Of China’s verses and the vocal hook has Coldplay’s trademark earworm quality. Despite being potentially a pointless exercise, having a distinct female vocal works well in a Coldplay track, and provides a welcome contrast to the sound of Chris Martin, who’s never the most appealing of singers. Between these two, they could keep the world powered just through the rage of their legions of haters, but they certainly do what they do very well. 7/10

Usher – Scream

After the failure (or at least, by his standards) of the lurching Climax, it’s interesting to see what Usher will do next. Unfortunately, after showing signs of breaking free of the dance/R&B template, it’s back to business as usual for Mr. Raymond with Scream. There’s a lot of “Woo! Baby, baby!”, big beats and allusions to that place where so much chart music is based: the club. Usher’s been making hits for over fifteen years now, but this could be any of the artists that followed in his wake (Ne-Yo, Chris Brown), and it’s disheartening to see him following rather than leading. If you find yourself enjoying this track, hit yourself in the head with a frying pan and go and listen to Climax instead. 1/10

Chris “Kammy” Kamara – Sing 4 England

England’s disastrous Euro 2012 campaign begins next week, and it appears this is the team’s official song. For the uninitiated, Chris Kamara is a former professional footballer who is now a commentator and, let’s be honest, figure of fun for his hugely enthusiastic style and uncanny knack of getting things wrong. So yes, he’s absolutely no business making a record. Despite his persona, this track is, bizarrely, played completely straight, which seems like a huge opportunity missed. Like the vast majority of football records, it’s insipid, lumpen and jingoistic, and it’s hard to believe anybody could be inspired by this turgid mess of a record. 1/10

The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio

Is anything about this a good idea? Seminal band with mentally damaged genius at the helm put out new material for the first time in who-knows-how-long. You almost don’t want to listen to it because it could spoil so many memories but… it’s utterly fantastic. No, really, it is. It’s a little slow to get going, but once you’re at the first chorus, those harmonies come in and they sound just as heart-meltingly marvellous as they always have. Shameless nostalgia, perhaps, but there are few sounds on this earth as life-affirming and beautiful as The Beach Boys’ harmonies, and the relief that this song is so good is almost overwhelming. It’s no God Only Knows, or Good Vibrations, or Heroes And Villains. Hell, it’s not even In My Room or Wouldn’t It Be Nice, but against all the odds, it’s a triumphant return and the sound of the sun bursting through the clouds. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

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