Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Singles Bar: 23/04/12

Happy St. George’s Day! Here at The Singles Bar we’ve spent the past few hours morris dancing, reading Chaucer and drinking warm beer. However, even if you’re not English (or Georgian, or Catalonian, or from the host of other regions he’s associated with) you can still enjoy this week’s singles reviews – hooray!

Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny – Atlas

I will summon all my critical faculties to exclusively reveal this woman really does my swede in. And don’t even get me started on her “Hooves Of Destiny”. She seems to fall in with a bunch of artists who try too hard, and who have their ‘kookiness’ or ‘individuality’ seems carefully choreographed; her album’s called Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, for crying out loud. There are minor theatrics and histrionics, changes of pace, a spooky spoken-word section, unusual noises and soforth, but it’s all done to mask the fact there isn’t really a song here. Some may call Beth Jean Houghton (her real name, incidentally) a trailblazer or an exciting and inventive talent. I’d guess she was indulged far too often as a child and she should put the silly outfits and crayons away. You’re right, I’m not a fan. 2/10

The Cribs – Come On, Be A No-One

The Cribs arrived a few years too late, really, but their singles are usually worth a look. Men’s Needs and Our Bovine Public, for example, are mighty fine pop tunes, but they work because the band rattle through them like their lives depend on it. Come On, Be A No-One operates at more of a contemplative pace and, as a result, comes across as a little turgid. Also, Ryan Jarman has never been the greatest vocalist, so the fact he really gives it some wellie in the chorus isn’t going to be to the delight of many. It’s reasonably snappy though, and doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it doesn’t really suggest great things for The Cribs’ forthcoming album, unfortunately. 5/10

Sleigh Bells – Crush

It’s all gone a bit quiet on the Sleigh Bells front, hasn’t it? I find their combination of noise and sugar-sweet pop a little hit and miss, but Crush is certainly in the former category. Simple beats, handclaps, dense riffing and shoegazy, almost disinterested vocals combine to give a feeling unlike many others you’ll get from music. This bolting together of disparate elements really shouldn’t work, but there’s something thrilling about Crush, and it’s almost like a heavy rock cheerleader chant. It also hints at things which are forbidden, unobtainable, and just a little bit sexy. Mind you, the shouting does sound a bit like that pillock from The Automatic at times, so you get points docked for that in my book. 7/10

Foster The People – Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls)

NEWSFLASH: Foster The People have a song that isn’t Pumped Up Kicks! I know! I was surprised as well. It looks like they’ll join the likes of Plain White T’s and The Caesars on this showing though, as Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls) is a forgettable, mid-tempo, go-nowhere kind of song. If The OC was still on television, there may be a little bit of mileage in this track, but sadly for FTP, that ship has sailed. It’s looking more and more like Pumped Up Kicks was a happy accident, as this really is college-rock at its most insipid. Well done, Foster The People, you’re like OK Go without the good videos. You know the only thing people like about OK Go? That’s right; the videos. 2/10

Little Boots – Every Night I Say A Little Prayer

As she was built up and then knocked down far too quickly by the music press, I’ve been hoping 2012 sees a successful return for Little Boots. Every Night I Say A Little Prayer starts off as fairly unremarkable electro-pop, but the arrival of the chorus gives it the boost it sorely needs. The vocals sound crystal clear, but there’s a niggling feeling she’s struggling to get the balance between dance and pop just right. The Chicago house loops and handclaps sound fantastic and the more the chorus gets repeated, the better the track is. It’s just a bit of a shame it takes a little too long to really get motoring. It’s pretty low-key for a BBC Sound Of poll winner, but that’s no bad thing whatsoever. It looks like Little Boots may be back on track. 7/10

Maverick Sabre – I Used To Have It All

I was convinced this song came out last year but no, it just seems I can’t distinguish between Maverick Sabre tracks. The analogue, crackly feel to the backing strongly recalls Ed Harcourt’s Until Tomorrow Then, but that’s about as good as it gets for I Used To Have It All. Stylistically, he’s borrowing Adele’s vintage 60s ambience, but there’s also a touch of hip-hop in both the vocals and the beats. However, that voice, it drives me up the spout. There are some vocalists that can best be described as ‘distinctive’, and I’m afraid Maverick Sabre joins Rufus Wainwright in the list of singers that I just cannot get on with whatsoever. There’s some nice horn work around two-thirds of the way through, and the arrangement is actually really well put together. It’s just a shame his honking makes it so unpleasurable to listen to. 4/10

The Robbie Boyd Band – I Won’t Let You Go

According to none other than Simon Cowell, The Robbie Boyd Band are reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The most surprising thing about that comparison is that Simon Cowell actually knows who CSN&Y are, but there’s certainly a touch of Laurel Canyon about I Won’t Let You Go. It’s more folk than alt. country though, and it’s a spritely number with some fantastic harmony work. It’s so expertly packaged that it actually comes across as kind of cheesy and a whole album of The Robbie Boyd Band would likely be something of an endurance test. However, three and a half minutes of them is really just the ticket, and the strength of the melody and vocals elevates this above your average Americana fodder. 7/10

Neil Young – Oh Susannah

And speaking of CSN&Y, here’s ol’ Shakey himself, popping up with a cover of the 19th century minstrel song. It’s part of Young’s forthcoming Americana LP, where he covers a whole bunch of folk classics and, er… The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. Anyway, while doing your best Woody Guthrie impression may have been just fine half a century ago, the world has moved on, and this sounds jaded now. It’s easy for a (relatively) young music critic to sneer at this kind of stuff, and I’m not dismissing it just because it’s old or anything like that, it’s just that the quality of this version is such that if it were by anyone other than Neil Young, it wouldn’t be getting the time of day. In fact, if you heard a busker doing this, you wouldn’t even be tempted to reach into your pocket. In short, it’s no Robbie Boyd Band. 2/10

Ren Harvieu – Open Up Your Arms

After being hotly tipped at the start of the year, Ren Harvieu is slowly building up a following, thus ensuring her debut album should make a few ripples upon its release next month. Open Up Your Arms is power ballad-tastic, and displays little of what made earlier single Through The Night so compelling. The longer it goes on, you realise we’re pitched firmly in AOR territory, where the Radio 2 playlist beckons and people who find the music of Adele a bit too abrasive might start to become interested. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this sort of music, or indeed this song, it’s just exceptionally difficult to get excited about when it’s essentially well-styled background noise. It’s a shame, given the potential to go the Dusty Springfield/Mama Cass route that appeared available, but Ren Harvieu looks destined for success regardless. 3/10

Willy Moon – Yeah, Yeah

In case you’re wondering, it now appears you can make your mark in the music industry even if your name sounds like a depraved and possibly illegal sexual practice. For those unfamiliar with the music of Mr. Moon, it’s a bizarre clash of rockabilly, hip-hop and pop, which achieves an effect somewhat similar to that of Sleigh Bells. It’s a strange cut-and-paste approach and he goes from sounding like an Elvis Presley rip-off to Will Smith in Getting Jiggy Wit’ It in a matter of seconds. Most fantastically though, is the rhythm that propels the track, largely because it sounds like the beat from One Thing by Amerie. Yeah, Yeah is the kind of bizarre, head-spinning track that shows real invention and wit and will keep you coming back for more. I am publicly declaring myself a fan of Willy Moon, even if it does sound like something that will get me arrested. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

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