Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Singles Bar: 07/05/12

We’ve got early 20s pop hopefuls, doom-mongering rock, MCs, chart-friendly dance, a track taken from an opera, and a Eurovision entry among the hopefuls on the agenda this time around. Each and every week, The Singles Bar provides a glance into the veritable melting pot that is popular music. Enjoy.

Mz Bratt feat. Khalaeliah – Falling Down

While men only have to worry about one title, women have Mrs, Miss and Ms to contend with. I didn’t realise there was a fourth, so thanks to Mz Bratt for educating me on that point. Although apparently a grime MC, there’s a very strong pop sound to Mz Bratt in both production and flow. Falling Down is the kind of track Ms Dynamite was doing about a decade ago, and doing better as well. The UK has arguably never really had a breakthrough female MC and while Falling Down is certainly a radio-friendly track, there’s not enough here to suggest that Mz Bratt will be able to buck that trend. 5/10

Serj Tankian – Figure It Out

Curiously, for an artist so politicised, System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian doesn’t appear to be in the public eye an awful lot these days. Or perhaps I just think that because I’m no longer a 15 year old SOAD fan. Figure It Out features intense riffing, breakneck speed and the idiosyncratic wailing of everybody’s favourite Lebanese-born, Armenian-American singer. Although it’s not too dissimilar to the work of his former band, there’s a sense of fun and adventure slightly missing here that SOAD often brought to the party. It’s certainly rousing, thrilling stuff, but if you’ve ever heard anything Serj Tankian’s put his name to before, it’s not going to particularly surprise you. 6/10

The Subways – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

A couple of decent singles off their first album looked to have got their career off to a flyer, but it’s never really happened for Welwyn Garden City’s finest. Like many bands, they seemed to be trying to be counter-cultural without ever standing for anything in particular. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is perfectly passable pop-punk (one for alliteration fans, there) but not much more than that. The lyrics seem trite and obvious, as if they’ve been dashed off in half an hour with a rhyming dictionary open on their laps. Also, whereas previous Subways tracks were enhanced by the backing vocals of bassist Charlotte Cooper, here she just seems shrill and yelpy. Safe to say, not their finest work. 5/10

Richard Hawley – Leave Your Body Behind You
On his entirely fantastic new album, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Richard Hawley has ditched the tender laments in favour of expansive, layered, guitar-led behemoths. It was a risky move, but it looks to have paid dividends, and Leave Your Body Behind You is representative of this new sonic experimentation. It’s a huge-sounding track, with tons of guitar behind it, quite reminiscent of the more spacey, psychedelic regions of Spiritualized’s back catalogue. It may be an overused term, but Richard Hawley really is a national treasure and this track – plus its parent album – could finally see him break through into the mainstream. Here’s hoping. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Far East Movement feat. Justin Bieber – Live My Life

Let’s be honest, we’ve all secretly been hoping those people who made Like A G6 would team up with the Bieber – it’s the meeting of minds the world’s been waiting for. It appears, as you may expect, Far East Movement are from the same reductive, dunce-dance scene that brought us the shining examples of humanity that are LMFAO (in case you’re wondering, Black Eyed Peas are the spiritual forefathers of this kind of music). As a result, Live My Life is basically just noise to gyrate and drink to in badly-lit underground clubs. It also represents another step in the project to move Bieber away from teen idol and into R&B superstar. Depressingly, it sounds like a billion other dance-pop records you’ve heard and, although I seem to say that about at least one track every week in this column, it doesn’t stop it being true. 1/10

Engelbert Humperdinck – Love Will Set You Free

Rejoice – it’s (nearly) Eurovision time! Humperdinck is the UK’s representative in the annual let’s-see-which-countries-hate-us-this-time extravaganza and he’s up against some stiff competition (Austria’s nominees are a hip-hop boyband called Trackshittaz, I kid you not). Humperdinck’s a legendary crooner, and Love Will Set You Free doesn’t stray too far from his usual template, though it’s pitched a bit more towards epic than normal. It’s adorned with Spanish guitar (going for the Continental vote there, Engelbert, like it) and he’s certainly got a decent set of pipes on him. Despite the odd rousing note though, it doesn’t particularly go anywhere. Will this win it for the UK? Of course not, but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes down in Baku. 5/10

Damon Albarn – The Marvellous Dream

During Britpop, you’d never have imagined the chirpy Cockney of Parklife would turn out to be the musical polymath of his generation. Cartoon bands, Malian music and Chinese opera have followed, and now Albarn’s released Dr. Dee, a record (and opera) about the titular Elizabethan scientist. We can safely say it’s got nothing to do with your vorsprung durch technik. The Marvellous Dream begins prettily enough, but it’s quite monotonous and never really gets out of first gear. The simple acoustic backing isn’t particularly thrilling and it’s unlikely to lead a stampede to the record shop any day of the week. 3/10

The Entrance Band – New Orleans

From what I can glean about The Entrance Band, they’re signed to Sunn O)))’s record label which, in all honesty, is enough to terrify me. New Orleans is the opening track from their Untitled EP and clocks in at over 11 minutes. You might think that guarantees a slow build-up, but there’s frenetic percussion and squealing riffs before we’ve even hit the one minute mark. This kind of sludgy, prog-influenced stoner-rock rarely appeals to me and, to be honest, if you’re creating something I don’t like, extending it over such a long time is only going to compound my misery. Epic and atmospheric, sure, but the sheer doomy weight of this track is hard to endure. Sorry, The Entrance Band, it’s not you, it’s me, but I’m relatively certain that this is an endurance test I won’t be repeating any time soon. 2/10

Rita Ora feat. Tinie Tempah – RIP

After enjoying a #1 hit as the vocalist on DJ Fresh’s Hot Right Now, Kosovan-born Rita Ora releases her debut solo single. The fact Tinie Tempah provides some guest verses gives you some indication of how seriously her label (Roc Nation) are taking her launch. RIP has an odd, lurching tempo, which means you’d struggle to dance to it, which is odd as it’s obviously styled as a dance-pop track. All the sounds and techniques of modern-day pop mega-hits have been thrown at it in an attempt to create something memorable, but ultimately the song itself just isn’t strong enough. Aside from the opening line to the chorus, there’s nothing particularly good about this track but hey, it’s being hammered on the radio and will probably race to the top of the charts. There’s no justice in this world at times. 2/10

Katzenjammer – Rock-Paper-Scissors

Norwegian quartet, Katzenjammer, set the Singles Bar alight a couple of months ago with I Will Dance When I Walk Away, and today sees the UK release of their album, A Kiss Before You Go: a bizarre yet exciting mix of folk, skiffle, sea shanties and ragtime. Rock-Paper-Scissors has a Mediaeval feel to it – it wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack of a Robin Hood film. It’s also a little like a twee Gogol Bordello, which isn’t a sound you hear every day. There’s accordion, fiddle… in fact, you could put a jug band in the background and it’d probably fit right in. Katzenjammer are an entirely incongruous and anachronistic band on this evidence, but this kind of going against the grain should be heartily encouraged. The lyrics may be meaningless twaddle but still, Rock-Paper-Scissors makes me want to raise a flagon of mead in salute to Katzenjammer. 8/10

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