Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Singles Bar: 30/04/12

As you may or may not be aware, it’s recently been our birthday here at No Ripcord. We’re now 13 years old. This means we’re more liable to bouts of sarcasm, mood-swings and general misanthropy. What does this mean for The Singles Bar? Not much – after all, it’s always been that way in this corner of the website.

Here are this week’s ten top tunes.

S.C.U.M. – Amber Hands

It’s been mentioned on The Singles Bar before, but there are few ways of turning off potential listeners better than naming your band something as knowing as S.C.U.M.. Amber Hands is dramatic, atmospheric rock with little space to breathe, and is headed by a vocalist who doesn’t possess the necessary power or personality to match his surroundings. Because there are too many things going on at once, there’s a muddied, live feel to Amber Hands which doesn’t do it too many favours. Not a bad track, but not one to get over-excited about. You can’t help but think this has all been done before and it has, a decade ago, by The Cooper Temple Clause. 5/10

Feeder – Children Of The Sun

In my mid-teens, I ended up seeing Feeder with a girl who ignored me the whole way through and, even worse, I was violently sick in the car park just before the gig started (which, come to think of it, may go some way towards explaining the getting ignored). Suffice to say, my opinion of Feeder has been tainted since and, to be honest, I hadn’t even realised they were still a going concern. On the evidence of Children Of The Sun, I haven’t missed much though. It’s a mid-tempo, AOR plodder, which leaves your brain the moment it’s finished. Feeder used to be a sharp, exciting rock trio infused with the energy of punk. Now they just sound like a group of men in their 30s who don’t know what else to do. 2/10

Flux Pavillion feat. Example  – Daydreamer

Nothing quite like nearly 900,000 YouTube views in less than two months for a song you’ve never even heard of to make you feel out of touch with the modern world. Considering dubstep took so long to break into the mainstream, it’s astonishing just how quickly it’s become tired and formulaic. Of course, there’s still inventive stuff happening on the sidelines but as far as the big-selling tracks go, it’s all starting to melt into one huge sub-woofer boom. Daydreamer has short, sharp strings, which do give it a little bit of an edge, but this could just as easily be an Example solo track, or a Chase & Status tune, or anyone like that. One thing to say though, it steers well clear of the brostep of Skrillex, and for that we should be thankful. 3/10

Mindless Behavior – Girls Talkin’ ‘Bout

I’ve been blissfully oblivious to the oeuvre of Mindless Behavior (bah, American spelling) until now, but it appears they’re a manufactured pop/R&B group. Their vocals are so heavily auto-tuned and treated that you wonder why the Svengali behind them bothered with real people for the band at all. Real people can talk back, have their own opinions and could one day leave, so why not just get a load of cyborgs? Or, if you want them to have sex appeal, just have pretty dancers and put some pre-recorded vocals behind them. It’s a great idea and… oh, hang on… I’ve basically just invented Milli Vanilli, haven’t I? Anyway, Girls Talkin’ ‘Bout is shapeless R&B by numbers that sounds so digitised and compressed it will make you wince. It has the hallmarks of a Chris Brown song and mentions “swag” on more than one occasion; ergo, it’s beyond awful. 0/10

Frank Turner – I Still Believe

Brilliant! A new Frank Turner single! I’m so glad Frank Turner exists. Y’see, before Frank Turner, I didn’t have my own views about things. I found nuances and subtleties too much for my basic brain to handle, so I’m exceptionally lucky there’s some busker-chic folk no-mark who’s as reductive as Frank. Thanks to Frank, I now know corporations are bad (without exception) but it’s ok, because according to this piss-poor attempt at a call-to-arms, “rock n’ roll will save us all”. He doesn’t quite specify how (except to claim folk songs are “miracles for minimum wage”) or offer any solutions, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? He talks about Elvis and gramophones, so he’s obviously bursting with authenticity and who needs answers when you’ve got a simplistic, misguided belief? Some people pine for the glory days of Billy Bragg or wish there was a socially-conscious protest singer for the 21st Century who can actually string a sentence together, but not me. I’ve got Frank, so I can listen to his records, take absolutely no action, not really understand what’s wrong with the world or why, but still feel like I’m really making a difference, you know? I might put some of his half-baked, empty sloganeering lyrics as my Facebook status too, because that way, people will know what a really deep and conscientious guy I am. Because when it all comes down to it, acoustic guitars and a DIY ethos are good, and large organisations and working for a living are bad, and if you think otherwise, you’re a sell-out, aren’t you? Have I got that right? Anyway, I can’t wait for the next general election so I can purposely not vote and really get my voice heard. I’m so very pleased with myself. 0/10

Lianne La Havas – Lost And Found

La Havas released Lost And Found towards the end of last year and it was flagged up by a certain NR writer *cough* as a rare treat a few months back. Subsequent increased attention means it’s probably not a bad idea to give it another shot, and it’s lost none of its gorgeous potency. The name of Adele may jump to mind but there’s another dimension to Lianne La Havas on this track. Her voice has a real smoky beauty to it, and cracks with emotion. The arrangement, too, is near-perfect, framing the wondrous vocal rather than crowding or stifling it. To say it’s up there with the best work of Norah Jones may feel like damning with faint praise, but Lost And Found is a captivating and affecting song that deserves to be heard by a much wider audience. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Keane – Silenced By The Night

What do you do when the world stops listening? For a while, Keane looked like they could take over the world, but each album has delivered ever diminishing returns. It’s hard not to feel sorry for them, because they haven’t really changed at all, it’s just that the world moved on. And as for Silenced By The Night, yeah, sure, it’s completely fine. It sounds like a Keane track, as you’d expect: lots of piano, slick, nice chord changes, a pleasant chugging tempo and nothing to wake the neighbours with. It doesn’t have the catchiness of Everybody’s Changing or the heartstring-tugging qualities of Bedshaped though, and as such it’s just another song in the never-ending parade of popular music. So, to answer the question, when the world stops listening, you just ignore them and carry on regardless. 5/10

In Golden Tears – Underneath The Balance

German guitar-manglers In Golden Tears are about to hit the UK festivals to promote themselves and, on the evidence of Underneath The Balance, it looks as if they’ll be a popular draw. There’s nothing particularly new about this track, but there’s a real care and craftsmanship to it, and they create something vaster than their simple guitar/bass/drums/vocals set-up would suggest. Certain music works better in certain situations, and while Underneath The Balance is fine to listen to alone, bouncing with a festival crowd as the dusk draws in would transform it into something air-punchingly brilliant. Guitar groups are going through a bit of a fallow period, creatively speaking, and In Golden Tears certainly seem comfortably above average. 7/10

Me And My Drummer – You’re A Runner

It must be Deutscheday in The Singles Bar because next up, we’ve another German group – Me And My Drummer. You’re a Runner is some exciting-sounding electropop, but Me And My Drummer are adroit enough to give the track some space to breathe and, as a result, manage to use dynamics really well to build a mood gradually. There’s a touch of Feist to the vocals, and when the song really lets loose with a minute to go, it feels like a natural progression rather than a calculated attempt at something epic. Me And My Drummer have been compared to Florence + The Machine by critics, but that’s far too reductive. Unlike Florence (and her machine, of course), they understand light and shade, and know when to belt it out and when to exercise restraint. Wonderful stuff that you ought to lean your ears towards. 8/10

Tulisa – Young

I know pop marketing departments are pretty savvy, but I’m constantly amazed at the aligning of tabloid scandal and single release. Following her recent sex tape fall-out, N-Dubz singer and X Factor judge Tulisa puts out her debut track, which is all about how it’s ok to do silly things when you’re young, because… well, that bit’s not really covered, except say you can use being young as an excuse for everything. There’s more of an Ibiza dance influence than we’re used to from Tulisa’s thankfully-on-hiatus group but that’s not exactly surprising, given she’s the fun and glamorous side of N-Dubz. I’m still amazed she’s been so successful though – her voice is nothing distinctive and I’d guess there are plenty of Tulisas out there working dead-end jobs and dreaming of stardom. Young is harmless filler and is already looking like it will top the charts this Sunday, so it looks like the Tulisa bandwagon marches on. 3/10

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