Music Features

Singles (2007/03)

Another month, another promise: our singles section will be updated more regularly. Various external influences (all of them tedious) have been sapping my time recently, but the situation is improving and I fully expect to have more time to devote to this sadly neglected area of the site.

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20 MARCH, 2007

BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY - "Strange Form of Life"


I guess it would be easy to take Will Oldham for granted. He's one of the most prolific and consistent songwriters in recent memory and has released so many albums under so many different aliases that it's virtually impossible to keep up. I'm sure quite a few fans have already stopped trying, happy with the three or four great albums they already own. If you chose to pass on last year's excellent The Letting Go, however, Strange Form of Life could be the song that rekindles your interest in the Bonnie Prince. A sparse, yearning offering, with gorgeous ghostly backing vocals and a lone chiming lead guitar, it's arguably the best thing Oldham (solo) has done in the last five years. Seek it out and fall in love with one of the finest modern songwriters all over again. (9) DC

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POLYTECHNIC - "Cold Hearted Business"

Shatterproof (Listen at MySpace)

Cold Hearted Business is generous helping of melodic guitar pop from Manchester's Polytechnic. The band supported The Shins at their Astoria show last month, and I can imagine their crisp, summery indie-pop went down well with the crowd. This track has harmonies, handclaps and a nice, restrained guitar solo. The vocals are also, refreshingly, not delivered in a thick regional accent. Watch out for the band's debut album, Down 'Til Dawn, which comes out next month. (7) DC

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BONDE DO ROLE - "Solta O Frango"

Shatterproof (Listen at MySpace)

The latest act to join the Domino family is Bonde Do Role, a Diplo endorsed and produced baile funk outfit from Brazil. Literally, although Ben Bollig may correct me here, I think this means "funk party", which would make sense given the funk infused sound of Solta O Frango. I'm not one for quoting press releases but this line from Diplo really does describe the trio's sound quite nicely: "Bonde Do Role is like diggin' through the garbage in brazil and using the pieces and making a club mess turned up the volume plus 10."

Crazy stop-start funk rhythms, Portuguese rapping (this element alone reminds me a little of previous Diplo collaborator M.I.A) and a sparse production sound make Solta O Frango one of the weirdest and most endearing debuts of the year. (7) DC

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15 MARCH, 2007

LOVE IS ALL - "Nothing To Be Done" / "Ageing Had Never Been His Friend"

What's Your Rupture / Parlophone (Listen at MySpace)

I was thumbing through an issue of Art Rocker in WH Smith's the other day (and no, I didn't buy it) and the singles section's guest reviewers were none other than Love Is All. They came across refreshingly honest, panning most of the month's releases, which made me feel better about my current tendency to abusive criticism. Perhaps there's just a bad batch of music going round at the moment? If there is, this double A-side certainly isn't part of it. Nothing To Be Done is a spiky cover of the Pastels' classic duet (see 1989's Sittin' Pretty) where as Ageing Had Never Been His Friend is a sneering surf-rock tinged tribute to anti-ageing techniques. "I keep the one I love in the freezer" sings Josephine Olausson; this is as addictive as it is disturbing. (8) DC

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JOAKIM - "Lonely Hearts"

Vertigo (Listen at MySpace)

French remixer/producer/recording artist Joakim has a diverse and slightly daunting CV so this single, taken from his latest solo album Monsters & Silly Songs, seems like as sensible a place for newcomers to start as any. The single offers three versions of Lonely Hearts: a pop-orientated radio edit, the slightly longer but ultimately similar album version, and the dancefloor ready Tim Goldsworthy (DFA) remix, which is the definite standout. Handclaps, a pulsating bass and a mournful, atmospheric synth replace the original vocal track - which is now manipulated through a vocoder - at the forefront of the mix, and at around the three minute Goldsworthy ups the tempo by introducing a crisp beat and a complex 8-bit synth loop. It's exciting stuff, worth tracking down. (7) DC

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RAZORLIGHT - "I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got"

Vertigo (Listen at MySpace)

In the Morning was bad. It reeked of that "look at us, we're a mature rock band with something intelligent to say" attitude that plagues only the very worst second albums. America saw the band taking that baton of pretentiousness and running headlong into a musical void. It also featured the most banal lyrics this side of a Keane record. But just when you thought those smug bastards had reached their nadir, they've managed to pull this turkey out of the bag. I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got is grossly offensive in its inoffensiveness. It's so forgettable that it doesn't even have the courtesy to leave the foul aftertaste of its predecessors. It defies description, lacking any tangible melody or interesting lyrical content. It's so non-descript I'm surprised the four members of Razorlight can even remember how it goes. It's a guaranteed hit, then, I guess. (2) DC

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12 MARCH, 2007

LE RENO AMPS - "Wound Up"

Pet Piranha (Listen at MySpace)

In three bright and breezy minutes of sunkissed power-pop Le Reno Amps put forward a convincing case for being the most cheerful bands in Glasgow. And one of the best. Musically, they share far more in common with US indie-pop acts like They Might Be Giants than recent touring partners (and fellow Glaswegians) Arab Strap and Sons and Daughters, and while Wound Up isn't all smiles lyrically, Le Reno Amps certainly add an optimistic spin to this tale of a relationship gone sour. If they can sustain this level of songwriting on their upcoming album, we could be in for a treat. (8) DC

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THE BLACK GHOSTS - "Anyway You Choose To Give It"

Southern Fried (Listen at MySpace)

With a throbbing electro bassline that DFA would (almost) be proud of, London's Black Ghosts come across like a more polite, more pop-orientated British version of the Rapture circa Echoes. It's an admirable effort, but just a bit too polished - particularly in the vocal department - to convince as anything other than a well observed tribute. (6) DC

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City Rockers (Listen at MySpace)

Despite taking their name from a Chemical Brothers track and professing a love for grooves and beats on their MySpace page, Leeds' Sunshine Underground take a surprisingly conventional approach to their music. There are no keyboards or programmed rhythms here, for example, and at times I can hear at least three layers of guitar. But this is irrelevant because, crucially, Borders is great fun. The rhythm section is particularly lively, with a distinctive bassline that would stand toe to toe with the best on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut, and intelligent percussion work. The lead guitars are spiky but never overindulgent, and the vocals, though hardly stellar, are sufficiently strong to carry this off. Indie discos aside, Borders isn't going to set too many dancefloors alight, but it does mark the Sunshine Underground out as a British guitar band worthy of your attention. (7) DC

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10 MARCH, 2007

THE HOLLOWAYS - "Dancefloor"

TVT Records (Listen at MySpace)

"I was standing on the dancefloor and a pretty thing caught my eye /

She was looking at me, smiling at me, and now she's dancing with me /

So I must be pretty".

Yes, the Holloways are clearly poetically gifted. And the music's not much better.

This disposable, insipid dross is without a doubt the worst thing I've heard since, well, Towers of London. Avoid. And for God's sake stop believing what you read in NME. They rather eloquently concluded of the North London quartet's debut album So This Is Great Britain?: "so Britain's a bit shit then - but this album's definitely not". (2) DC

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ARCHIE BRONSON OUTFIT - "Dart For My Sweetheart"

Domino (Listen at MySpace)

One of Domino's lesser known artists, the London-based Archie Bronson Outfit's combine a dirty brand of blues-rock with abstract lyrics (hence the title of this single) and a pop sensibility. Dart is taken from the band's second LP Derdang Derdang, which I regret to say slipped under our collective radar last year. This would be acceptable if Archie Bronson Outfit completely sucked, but on the evidence of Dart and its equally inspired b-sides, they quite clearly don't. I'll be investigating ABO further; you should probably do the same. (8) DC

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TVT Records ((Please don't) listen at MySpace)

Another three minutes of my life wasted. I could have almost listened to The Twilight Sad's single in that time. (1) DC

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9 MARCH, 2007

THE TWILIGHT SAD - "That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy"

Fat Cat (Listen at MySpace)

Late last year, Glasgow's The Twilight Sad caused a stir in the US with their Max Richter produced debut EP and an ear shredding performance at CMJ. This 7" only release, their first in the UK, goes some way to explaining why. That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy is the sound of a band that has already perfected its craft. There is, as the title suggests, a definite Mogwai influence here, not to mention shades of New York acts such as the Walkmen and Interpol (taut rhythms, delay pedals galore) and Arab Strap (vocals, mood), but just when you think you've got the Twilight Sad figured out, an accordion enters the mix, forcing you to think again. Bold, powerful, and instantly refreshing, it seems Fat Cat has done it again. What are you waiting for? (9) *SINGLE OF THE MONTH* DC

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Unsigned (Listen at MySpace)

We featured Manchester's Circus Animals' Desertion on the third No Ripcord podcast recently and those who enjoyed the Slowdive-influenced December Sun will be pleased to know that the band have added another song to their MySpace page. Distraction, which first surfaced on the band's demo CD last summer, sees the quartet flexing their (dream) pop muscles with encouraging results. The soaring, reverb drenched chorus is a particular highlight, and although the production is a little rough around the edges in parts, the band's undoubted quality shines through. (7) DC

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