Music Features

The Singles Bar: 12th November 2012

Hello there!

The Singles Bar is in something of a waterlogged state this evening, and your correspondent is currently in his pyjamas, buried under a pile of blankets in an attempt to keep the cold at bay.

But with the nights drawing in and the weather getting progressively bleaker, there's no better time to stay in and investigate what’s new in downloads and 7”s, so why not put on a cosy jumper, make a mug of cocoa and gather the family round the warming glow of the computer screen to see what’s on offer?


Animal Collective – Applesauce

Now we've had a couple of months to think about it, can we officially declare Centipede Hz more than a bit of a disappointment? Yes, it would have been expecting far too much for Animal Collective to be able to silence the post-Merriweather Post Pavillion backlash entirely, but as it's not even had much appeal to fans of that record, and the band in general (and I would count myself among them), I think that counts it as a failure. However, on removal from the general imperceptible murk of the album, Applesauce turns out to be a bit of a gem, being six minutes of nonsensical yet joyful vocals, synth wash, widdly guitar bits and clattering drums. Admittedly it’s a bit structureless, ambling nowhere particularly quickly, and the psychedelic nursery-rhyme style is far from a new idea for the Collective, but it’s worth a second (or third, or whatever) look all the same. 7/10


Luke Ritchie – Butterfly

Butterfly comes with a press release bigging up (as the kids might, but probably don’t, say) the song’s recent appearance in an episode of Fresh Meat, which didn’t strike me as much of a selling point, as I'm still not on board with the nation's favourite filthy flatmate sit-com (I’d be very happy to wax lyrical about my love of Threesome though, should you be interested).

Perhaps that's just as well though, as, I can only imagine such sensitive balladry sticking out like a sore thumb amongst all the mucky goings-on. On hearing the opening acoustic guitar pluckings of Butterfly, and seeing the slightly potato-y mug of Ritchie (sorry if that seems a bit harsh, but then we music critics are honour-bound to tell it like it is, or at least that’s the stock excuse I use to try to worm myself out of being punched in the face by people I’ve insulted), I was genuinely concerned that I was about to stumble into David Gray territory. And, to be honest, I was still thinking about Gray when the song ended, but while it’s very much in his ballpark, Ritchie’s softer, sweeter voice is a more appealing prospect by far. It's a pleasant, soaring, heartfelt sort of thing, if a little too earnest for my tastes. 6/10


Little Mix – DNA

In fact I'd be willing to argue that earnestness' close cousin, authenticity, is anathema to good pop music, as anyone who's been watching this year’s series of The X Factor will no doubt understand. Where once we had a terrifying and brash, yet horribly compelling, juggernaut of glossy pop sheen, we now have a twice weekly black-hole of boredom, where Gary Barlow is hailed as some sort of genius, Ed Sheeran is held up as a role model, and Adele is described, without irony, as 'legendary'. This leaning towards ‘The New Boring’ (to steal the terminology of another, much better, writer than myself), was painfully obvious in the choice of a Damien Rice cover as the first single for last year’s winners. Fortunately, Little Mix have managed to recover from such a shaky start, since releasing giddy, glitzy pop which would do Girls Aloud, or at least The Saturdays, proud. You’ll know exactly what DNA sounds like before you hear it, and that’s no bad thing. 8/10

Ashley Walters Ft. Alesha Dixon – Your Love

With The X Factor going to pot, Strictly Come Dancing is now the face of youthful exuberance on a Saturday night (actually, I'm guessing that the real face of youthful exuberance spends its Saturday nights in an abandoned East London warehouse, shoving a pound of coke up its bum, or maybe snorting it out of someone else's, but then as we're good boys here at The Singles Bar, we have no first-hand knowledge of such things, and Strictly is about as street as it gets for us). Interestingly, this has coincided with the show’s token nod to the urban yout' vote, Alesha Dixon, being booted off for continually failing to get the plural form of verbs right, and so she's now been reduced to guesting on a single by Asher D out of So Solid, who I was absolutely convinced had jacked in the music industry for the movies instead.

Actually, Your Love isn't too shabby, the beats are bold and Walter’s flow is better, and more melodious than I remember, but it misses a trick by just having Dixon there to do 'proper' singing – not that she has a bad voice at all, but I'm sure the only thing anyone really wants to hear from her is that ridiculous faux-Jamaican rapping that she always used to do.

In other words, I miss Mis-Teeq. 5/10


Lana Del Rey – Ride

The authenticity debate has also continued to swirl around Lana Del Rey, to such an extent that I honestly can’t bring myself to go through it all again. I can, however, say balls to the naysayers as I genuinely believe that she’s the most interesting pop-star to come along in years, and I’ve laid out my case in this stack of obsessively, sweatily, scrawled fan mail, that I’ve got right here.

In case you don’t fancy working your way through all that though, Ride also makes an excellent argument in her favour, in that its born out of some of the worst practices in pop at the moment (the extended ‘deluxe’ edition of an album announced months after everybody bought the original version; the lengthy, arty music video with dramatic monologue, often ‘based on a concept’ by the artist; the attempt to make it look like proper filmmaking by sticking a credits sequence on the end), and yet it feels so, so right.

No, it’s not a huge departure from her previous work, or her carefully cultivated image, but it could be said to be a perfection of them. It’s another slow-paced piece of exquisitely glamourous misery, comprising a ten minute long video which is glossy and endlessly rewatchable, yet properly unsettling (even with its curiously flat monologue, written and delivered by Del Rey), sensitively deployed string sections and occasional moments of hysteria from Lana, and a chorus which reveals the track to be the best Roy Orbison song that he never managed to record in his lifetime. 

Even with Ride’s release being both cynical and fairly pointless (I can’t imagine people will be falling over themselves to download this single, considering the aforementioned cash-in extended album re-release is also out this week) it’s still far and away the SINGLE OF THE WEEK. 9/10


Kyla La Grange – Been Better

Before listening to Been Better, I was absolutely convinced that Kyla La Grange was another practitioner/inflictor of The New Boring. Turns out I might have had her mixed up with Lianne La Havas though, as such swaggering, yet still elegant, quasi-choral rock was really not what I had in mind. I really could imagine Bonnie Tyler performing this, which is meant as nothing but the highest of compliments. 8/10


Drumsound & Bassline Smith Ft. Hadouken! - Daylight

Yes, apparently, despite an overwhelming lack of public demand, Hadouken! are still a going concern, and now they're guesting on drum 'n' bass (is that still a thing?) records. Although, as the vocal at the start of Daylight sounds worryingly like Nickleback, perhaps that's the safest way to take them. The various bleeps and bloops are fun, but they’re not anything that you can’t find elsewhere, on tracks which don’t expect you to put up with such rubbish vocals to get to the good bits. 3/10


Clinic – Miss You

Like Hadouken!, Clinic are another band that are surprisingly still plugging away at their own thing after all these years. Remember that brief period in the late 90s when they were seen as being the, or at least a, next big thing? No? I can assure you that it did happen, in fact I've probably got the NME back issues lying around somewhere to prove it (there's nothing quite so curiously depressing as looking back over hyped acts of years past and then comparing such unbridled enthusiasm to the subsequent reality). The problem with Clinic though is, as pointed out in our review of their latest album, that they’re just too Clinic-y. There’s little sense of urgency or forward momentum, let alone necessity in any of their work, and while the hazy stomp of Miss You is entertaining enough, it once again goes absolutely nowhere, content instead to exist in its own muddled bubble, before gradually dissipating to leave no real impression, like a puff of marijuana smoke. 5/10


Findlay – Your Sister/You Gave Me Grace

Even though Your Sister has been doing the rounds digitally for a month or so, and the 7” came out last week, I figured that it was worth including among this week's round-up as I wouldn't be surprised if we heard a lot more of Findlay in 2013 (yes, after mocking the NME of the late 90s for desperately getting their hopes up, I’m now doing pretty much the same thing myself). Not that there's anything remotely original about Your Sister, as it's essentially a 12-bar blues stomp with Findlay offering a ballsy, rough around the edges, Florence Welch (without all the hooting and honking) a-like vocal over the top, but then there’s nothing wrong with a bit of derivativeness if it’s done well.

Admittedly, I was a bit of a cheerleader for Florence before she discovered her faux-gothic bombastic, trust-fund, wavy dress shtick, so I am a bit concerned that Findlay will soon follow her down that same (white) rabbit hole, but for now, this’ll do nicely. 7/10


Holy Shit – You Made My Dreams Come True

Sorry, but there's nothing big or clever about sweary band names. Getting past that though, Holy Shit are probably best known as being a some-time-Ariel-Pink-featuring-act, and while he doesn’t appear on You Made My Dreams Come True, his influence can be felt in the hazy vocals and self-indulgent 7 minute run-time. On the other hand, there's no moment as lovely in his back catalogue as the closing brass section here, which is good enough to more than justify that track length. 7/10


Well, stone the crows, another sterling week for single releases! Can the record industry keep this up for a third week in a row? For the sake of my credibility as a critic (and my bank account) I’m hoping not, but as a music fan, I’d be happy if it did. See you back here next week when Joe (barring any setbacks) will reveal all.