The Singles Bar: 10th December 2012
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, that’s right, it’s that time when every music publication feels the need to look over the past twelve months and attempt to capture and identify their essence in some form of list, and with the compiling of No Ripcord ‘s contribution currently keeping Joe fairly occupied, there’s been a bit of a staff changeover in The Singles Bar this week.
James Arthur – Impossible
So did you watch The X Factor this year? No, me neither, but tradition dictates that we must have an opinion on the winner’s single, if only because it’ll most likely be the Christmas number one (the fuss around such an arbitrary milestone in itself being another fairly baffling tradition).
As for the song itself? It goes without saying that it’s really quite dull but, with this being the season of goodwill and all that, I’m going to try my best to focus on the positive (after all, history has taught us that Arthur will have probably been chewed up and spit out by this time next year, so the poor lad deserves a break) – the vocals are fine, if rather too melodramatic (but then that’s been the case with all X Factor singles) and the string section’s nice. Also, I don’t remember previous years’ offerings proudly touting that their profits will go to a worthy cause, so that’s something.
Plus, y’know, if you stop to think about it it’s quite mind-boggling that within mere minutes of his being crowned the victor, Arthur’s single was yours (well, I doubt that you, personally, would be interested in downloading it, I meant ‘yours’ more in the indefinite sense) to own. What an age we live in! 4/10
Dappy – Yin Yang
With The X Factor doing little to help Tulisa launch a solo career, could this spell the end of the British public’s baffling fascination with the three-headed monster that is (or was) N-Dubz? Hopefully yes, as this latest effort by her cousin and band-mate Dappy is entirely irredeemable; over entirely uninspired beats and instrumentation, the man raps lines such as “bum looking ripe like it dropped from the apple tree” and runs through a list of past sexual conquests with an entire lack of both class and charisma. I never thought I’d ever be driven to utter (or type) the words “this isn’t music, it’s just noise” but… 0/10
Rod Stewart – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
I love Christmas songs, can’t get enough of them, from the first of December onwards I listen to nothing else (which made getting through this week’s releases rather testing thanks to the relative dearth of seasonal offerings), and yet I loathe pretty much the entire recorded output of Rod Stewart, so with that in mind, which of those particularly strong feelings would win out when I listened to this take on the holiday classic? Turns out it was the latter, as Stewart decides to deliver the track in his trademark croakily over-the-top style, and makes James Arthur seem tastefully reserved in comparison. 3/10
Owl City – Shooting Star
I’d be willing to bet that Adam Young wouldn’t do a bad job of writing a proper Christmas song, if he actually gave it a go. At the very least it would be considerably more entertaining than the same insipid collection of platitudes that he comes up with. Every. Damn. Time. 1/10
Carly Rae Jepsen – This Kiss
The last we heard of Jepsen, she was hooking-up with Young for another bit of his wet-blanket electro-pop, and making it marginally more bearable thanks to her easy-going charm. It’s odd though that she’s not been in a hurry to offer her own follow up to Call Me Maybe, and unfortunately, now that she has, she’s done so with a rather underwhelming, mostly unmemorable effort. At the moment, it’s looking fairly safe to declare that she’ll be remembered in future as a one hit wonder (but still, what a hit). 4/10
Muse – Follow Me
It’s one of life’s mysteries that the worse that Muse get, the more passionate their fans become. Sure, they were popular enough when they were a decent, albeit uninspired, Radiohead-aping act, but I’d wager that they were never anybody’s favourite band. And yet, now that they’ve settled for a tedious mix of bombast and po-faced conspiracy theory ramblings, you can’t move on the internet for defensive posts written under reviews of their increasingly bloated output.
In other words, it’s fair to say that I’m not keen on Follow Me. Admittedly, it’s better than I initially expected, but that’s only because it’s a bit of a retread of New Born, just with worse lyrics and a few added dubstep drops. 4/10
Hiva Oa – Badger/Urban
Hiva Oa clearly have a knack for coming up with good titles that have bugger all to do with what they’re attached to. For one, the three-piece are named after a French Polynesian island, and yet they’re based in Edinburgh, and sound suitably bleak and Scottish – I say that with nothing but affection. Also, while Badger is a great, and hitherto untapped, name for a single, I can’t really see the link in the track itself (and the acoustic strumming of the flip-side is about as far removed from ‘urban’ as is possible). Not that it matters though, when the music’s this good – it being a quiet, loop and string based bit of electronica that builds to a striking, crashing climax. It could be the missing link between Radiohead and Bon Iver, and, in a similar way to Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow, feels like the ideal soundtrack to this time of year (let’s look over the fact that it was originally released nine months ago). Genuinely stunning, in a melancholic, understated kind of way. 9/10 SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Daley Ft. Jessie J – Remember Me
There might not be much in the way of Christmas songs in this week’s Singles Bar, but we may have a bone fide Christmas miracle on our hands as, somehow, Jessie J has managed to record a song that doesn’t make me feel like somebody’s applying a cheese-grater to my eardrums. That might have something to do with her very much playing second fiddle to the treacle-smooth vocals of Daley, and a pleasingly synthetic bass-line, or maybe it’s because her part is based on Blue Boy’s still rather great late nineties dance hit of the same name; although, as this makes the track essentially a cover of something that was already built around samples, is this a case of pop eating itself? 6/10
Stereophonics – In A Moment
Oh good, the least imaginative band of the 90s are back. In A Moment essentially reviews itself with the comments left on YouTube with the words “top tune” and “lads” featuring quite highly amongst the frankly worrying amount of positive messages. In reality, it’s once again more of the same, where a melody that only ever aims for ‘decent’ is rendered entirely unlistenable thanks to Kelly Jones’ strained attempts at imitating an American rock god (although he now sounds more like a particularly hoarse Marilyn Manson than anything) and lyrics that resort to so many clichés and forced rhymes as to be downright insulting. 3/10
Haim – Don’t Save Me
After months of hype, it’s surprising to note that this is actually the first proper release from the Californian trio, and perhaps slightly worrying too, as it could suggest that Haim’s recorded output will mostly be met with fatigued indifference. Hopefully not though as Don’t Save Me is, unsurprisingly, a lovely thing that gleefully reappropriates the 80s, in both its most hip and tasteless forms; the stylishly ugly cover design screams Bananarama, while the polished white-girl soul vocals have a distinct touch of the Eurythmics about them, and sound absolutely glorious, thanks to an abundance of dramatic harmonies. Fingers crossed that they do the same for Enya next. 8/10
So that’s your lot. I’m off to whip up a batch of Eggnog and to slowly overdose on one of my epic festive playlists, while the fruits of Joe’s labours should be gracing the site very soon.