Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Singles Bar: 25/06/12

Well, boys and girls, it’s finally happened. The British population have experienced the inevitable, and Justin Bieber has his first ever #1 album in the UK. As we know, this is one of the signs of the inevitable apocalypse, so why not enjoy the impending cavalcade of natural disasters by reading this week’s Singles Bar?

Chris Brown – Don’t Wake Me Up

If I’m ever captured and held behind enemy lines, the baddies could probably glean any information they wished from me by subjecting me to repeated plays of Chris Brown records (apart from Run It!, which is reasonably listenable). I’m not entirely sure what useful information I’d have though, and such torture wouldn’t be necessary; I’d sell my No Ripcord password for a drumstick lolly and a shiny sixpence (Note to editors: I wouldn’t really). Anyway, Don’t Wake Me Up starts as a mid-tempo, Bruno Mars-alike ballad, before turning into the kind of Ibiza-friendly dance-pop that gave Brown such a mega-hit with Yeah 3x, except with more grating deployment of autotune. There’s less originality on show here than on an average night’s programming from UK Gold, and rarely will three minutes and 42 seconds have seemed so long. The most complimentary thing I can say about this track is that it’s not his worst ever song, but it doesn’t get any better than that. 0/10

Casiokids – Dresinen

Seeing as I was born in nineteen-eightysomething, I’ve got a pretty good claim to being a Casio kid. I certainly came up with some pretty righteous compositions in my high school music class on those bad boys. How they’ve not become underground blogosphere hits is beyond me. While it’s unclear whether Dresinen is actually being performed on a Casio or not, there’s certainly a plasticky, chintzy quality to some of the riffs and melody lines, which actually suits the jaunty feel of the track quite well. Like Singles Bar favourites Katzenjammer, Casiokids are also a Norwegian group, and they share something of their fellow countrymen’s way with a hook and a fondness for all things twee. It’s a catchy number with lyrics about… well, I don’t know because the lyrics aren’t in English. 7/10

Animal Collective – Honeycomb

Sometimes you feel like you’re ploughing a lonely furrow and the whole world is against you. That’s how I felt when Merriweather Post Pavilion came out in early 2009, because while pretty much everybody – especially the online music press – fell head-over-heels for its psychedelic charms, I thought it was unlistenable claptrap. Honeycomb may well be more style over substance, but at least it’s pretty interesting. It’s a quirky, upbeat track with massively distorted drums, Eastern-sounding squelches and blips, and a hypnotic, repeated vocal line. The verse and chorus appear to be in different keys altogether, yet somehow the whole thing hangs together and works. Repeated listens could potentially make Honeycomb sound gimmicky and irritating, but there’s something oddly thrilling about the chaotic, thrown-together nature of the track. Word of advice though: don’t listen to the B-side, Gotham. It’s even less enjoyable to the ears than the sound of someone repeatedly clicking their pen. 8/10

Benga feat. Bebe Black – Icon

Before we get started, if you haven’t seen the video for Benga’s last single, I Will Never Change, you simply have to go and watch it RIGHT NOW because it’s one of the cleverest and most original promos you will see this year. The little I know of dubstep producer Benga suggests that he’s much better when he keeps it raw and frenetic rather than when he aims for the mainstream, often with a guest vocalist, and loses a little bit of edge. Sadly, Icon falls into the latter category, and while this is an entirely passable slice of radio-friendly crossover dubstep-pop, there’s really something lacking about it. The whole way through, the track is screaming out for a huge bass drop, a regulation dubstep wobble, or just something to give it a much-needed boot up the derriere. It seems a lot of dubstep producers on the cusp of a breakthrough are caught in two minds, and Benga is simply following where many have before him. Not his best work. 4/10

Justice – New Lands

One of the most fun things about French dance act Justice is saying their name out loud. Go on; do it. It’s not, “juss-tiss”, it’s “juss-steess”, which is much more pleasing to roll around the tongue. Now, this may just be me, but the beginning of New Lands sounds an awful lot like an electro version of Don’t Stop Believing… or perhaps the song the Jack Black-led student group take to Battle of the Bands in School Of Rock. Justice have clearly been taking inspiration from fellow Gallic twosome Daft Punk, because the guitar solo in this track is pure Digital Love. Also, New Lands takes its fondness for 80s AOR beyond belief. There are shades of hair metal, synthesised pop, and soft-rock groups like Cutting Crew. It’s difficult to think of a song that could be more out-of-step with what’s trendy in 2012 (especially having just listened to Benga). The longer the song goes on, the more you realise what an audacious move this is and, ultimately, against all the odds, it actually works. 7/10

Dan Le Sac feat. Sarah Williams White – Play Along

Dan Le Sac, as well as being one of the worst stage names of recent years, is also the non-vocal half of socially-conscious Brit hip-hoppers Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. The two of them have been releasing material away from their partnership throughout their recording career, and presumably this is Le Sac’s outlet for breaking away from his more hectoring bandmate and making the kind of beats he wants. While Play Along starts promisingly enough, it ends up sounding like a sterilised version of a Le Sac vs. Pip song, and is largely forgettable. Unfortunately for Dan Le Sac, it looks like he hasn’t quite pulled it out of the bag. Do you get it? Pulled it out of the bag! You see, because he’s called Dan Le Sac and… ah, forget it. “Just-steess” would’ve loved that joke. 4/10

Macy Gray  - Sail

Music’s answer to a drunk Marge Simpson keeps on plugging away, seemingly forever destined to live in the shadow of her hugely successful On How Life Is album (which was thirteen years ago… THIRTEEN!). Sail hasn’t got much of a chorus (it’s just the word, “sail”, repeated a few times) but it’s got a decent arrangement; haunting, distant strings in the verse make way for crashing cymbals, a plaintive, repeated piano note and epic strings. Gray’s voice is instantly distinctive, but she seems stuck making the kind of nu-soul that was briefly popular around the turn of the century. There’s an encouraging turn of pace before the last chorus with some hip-hop beats, but they’re swiftly dispatched from whence they came and we’re back on rather safer, more innocuous ground. Sail has its moments, but it’s not going to change the fortunes of Macy Gray. 5/10

R. Kelly – Share My Love

Today sees the release of Kelly’s umpteenth studio album, Write Me Back, but like most right-thinking people, unless he’s doing an update to his peerless hip-hopera, Trapped In The Closet, it’s going to be hard to pique my interest. Maybe it’s a sign of his advancing years, but R. Kelly seems to have ditched his sexually-charged R&B and moved towards the music which inspired him in the first place. That means funk, soul, the sounds of Philadelphia and, on Share My Love, 1970s disco. Consider my interest piqued. The result is… well, I’m lost for words – it’s utterly fantastic. It’s such a well-produced and faithful adaptation of the classic disco sound that I was certain that it had to be a cover version of a popular hit. It isn’t though, it’s an R. Kelly original, and it sounds like a cross between McFadden and Whitehead’s Ain’t No Stopping Us Now and Hall & Oates. This track will likely get no airplay or attention, it will sell next to nothing and your parents would probably love it if they heard it, but that’s not the point. Somehow, out of nowhere, R. Kelly has made one of the most catchy, uplifting and downright wonderful songs of recent times. I definitely didn’t see that one coming. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Taio Cruz – There She Goes

While we’re talking cover versions, or more accurately, not cover versions, I pressed Play on this in the vain hope that British R&B poppet Taio Cruz had inexplicably decided to take on The La’s paean to “the brown”. It’s not the case (unlike, hilariously, simpering Christian “rock” band Sixpence None The Richer, who missed the point entirely), but it’s certainly got some bizarre lyrics. Apparently, the object of Mr Cruz’s affections has a “body shaped like a rock guitar”. Is this a good thing? Surely this means she’s got an abnormally long neck? And what’s the difference between a rock guitar and any other kind of guitar? Does he just mean an electric guitar? Musically, this is by-numbers hotties-in-the-club-I’m-in-the-VIP-lounge music that bears more than a passing resemblance to J-Lo’s On The Floor (but doesn’t sample The Lambada). I’d much rather have heard him tackling the line, “I just can’t contai-ee-ain this feeling that remai-ee-ai-ee-ains”. 1/10 feat. Eva Simons – This Is Love

Fresh from his career highlight, running the Olympic torch through the Somerset town of Taunton *turns to camera, does a “no, me neither” shrug*, is back to assault the world’s eardrums and pop charts. This Is Love has a badly bolted together verse and chorus, and vocally, Eva Simons appears to be a dead ringer for Fergie. In fact, this song is so much like various components of a number of Black Eyed Peas songs that it’s almost like a BEP megamix (I’d advise you now to pray to the deity of your choice that such a thing doesn’t exist). So, the ridiculously-dressed entrepreneur adds yet another stinker to his never-ending list, dancing around like a reject from Glee, singing about the club and telling people how to sing properly even though he’s as tone deaf as a hammer. William James Adam, Jr. is 37 years of age. 0/10

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