Music Features

The Singles Bar - 26th March 2012

Roll up, roll up! We’ve got debut singles, we’ve got established artists, we’ve got rappers, we’ve got singers, we’ve got major labels, we’ve got indie labels, we’ve got righteous fury, we’ve got cover versions, we’ve got metal, we’ve got rock, we’ve got R&B, we’ve got dance. All this in only ten tracks? A cornucopia of all that makes up popular music today can be found here, at The Singles Bar.

Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay – 212

A mere four months too late, 212 is finally getting an official release. It’s difficult to see why, since surely everyone who likes this track will already have it in some capacity. This is possibly the best example yet of why the singles chart should take metrics other than sales into account, since people consume music in so many different ways these days. Anyway, luckily for Polydor, the lag hasn’t done anything to diminish 212’s potency, as it’s still a jaw-droppingly astonishing record. Ridiculously assured for a debut release, 212 is effectively a track in three parts, each one better than the last, which all do a fantastic job of showcasing Banks’ flow. Fun, filthy and flirtatious, it’s not difficult to see why 212 made the world sit up and take notice of Azealia Banks. If the much-anticipated album is even half as good as this, we’re in for a treat. 9/10

Paul McCartney – Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive

I can tell you now, there won’t be too many singles review columns around that go from Azealia Banks to Paul McCartney. In fact, there aren’t many singles review columns at all, but that’s a conversation for another day. McCartney’s version of this much covered song from 1944 is a lovely, jazzy stroll which, sound quality aside, sounds as if it could have been recorded in the year it was composed. The lyrics are a little trite and McCartney now sings a little like someone doing a Paul McCartney impression, but this really isn’t bad at all. Enjoyable stuff, if a little pedestrian but let’s be honest, if you were half of the main songwriting partnership in The Beatles, you’d be allowed to do whatever the hell you wanted, wouldn't you? 6/10

Funeral Suits – All Those Friendly People

The latest single from Dublin natives, Funeral Suits, bounds onto the scene pulling off the clever trick of combining rock and electronica without ever sounding like they’re bandwagon-jumping. There’s a gorgeous, widescreen feel to the production (courtesy of one Stephen Street) and despite the high word count in the verses, there’s still a great, singalong atmosphere throughout. The chorus is perhaps a little lacking considering the relative quality of the preceding verse but this is still a highly impressive track nonetheless. There are also shades of some of the more intelligent moments of Britpop in All Those Friendly People but most of all, it’s the inherent quality of the writing that makes this track shine. The word ‘anthemic’ is heavily over-used in the music press, but Funeral Suits have captured the required magic and may well provide the soundtrack to your summer. 9/10

lostprophets – Bring ‘Em Down

lostprophets are also potentially providing the soundtrack to your summer… provided it’s summer 2004 you’re talking about. Kudos to the Welsh metallers for still being alive and kicking, but they’re still churning out the same crunching riffs and pleading vocals that were their stock in trade when they arrived on the scene a decade or so ago. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of ‘woah’ing and a fairly vague call-to-arms in Bring 'Em Down, but they really have been re-treading the same ground over and over again for far too long now. Chances are they have an incredibly dedicated fanbase who are more than happy to be fed music like this every couple of years but it’s an extremely dated sound. They’ve clearly got pop nous, but it’s all irrelevant really. 3/10

Plan B – iLL Manors

In the aftermath of the London riots last year, I wrote an article bemoaning the lack of articulate protest music arising from the events. I may well have spoken too soon. iLL Manors is Plan B’s look into the social causes and effects of the unrest in Britain, set to a thrilling and oppressive soundtrack. It’s an extraordinarily brave move – he became a household name with his soul alter-ego, selling 1.5 million albums, yet he’s moved back towards his hip-hop roots and tackled a political hot potato to boot. From being spot-on about the voyeurism and demonisation surrounding the inner-city working classes (“Keep on believing what you read in the papers, council house kids – scum of the earth”) to pinpointing some of the root causes of the tension (“Don’t bloody give me that, I’ll lose my temper, who closed down the community centre?”), iLL Manors is the kind of track the country needs. It’s something people can get behind, rally around and call their own. I don’t think anybody necessarily needs a singer to tell them what to do or be a role model, but Plan B may well be speaking for a large group of people who feel their voices aren’t being heard. It’s a little reductive and simplistic in places, but it’s too complex a situation to pin down in under four minutes. With iLL Manors, Plan B may well have created one of the most thrilling and important singles in UK chart history. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Feist – The Bad In Each Other

I have a confession to make. I spent about ten minutes reviewing this track, writing about what a beautifully understated and regal piece of work it was and how Feist was one of the finest songwriters working in music today, until I realised I’d listened to the wrong song. Instead of The Bad In Each Other, I’d listened to Graveyard, the following song from last year’s Metals LP. So, ahem, onto the actual track. There’s a more bassy, bombastic feel to the production on The Bad In Each Other than you’d normally expect from Feist’s work. However, Feist can’t quite do bombast, and her fragile, expressive voice is more suited to the more delicate end of the spectrum. The Bad In Each Other is an enjoyable, affecting track, but it’s no Graveyard – I recommend you go and listen to that instead. 7/10

All The Young – The Horizon

All The Young have clearly set their arena-rock phasers to stun for The Horizon. It’s the kind of song bands make when they’ve released five albums, been on a seemingly never-ending world tour and are so detached from everyday life that they think this kind of nothingness is aurally appealing. There’s a strong feel of latter-day U2 to The Horizon (including vague-yet-sort-of-profound-sounding title). Also, despite being from Stoke-on-Trent, they constantly sound like they’re trying to ape the huge sound of American stadium-rock and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they recorded a music video on Route 66 some day soon. Insipid, pointless music which incorporates every negative element and hackneyed cliché of rock music in the last two decades. 1/10

volcano! – Piñata

There’s one thing you can’t accuse volcano! of being, and that’s dull. Piñata has discordant keyboard stabs, disorienting effects and drums that occasionally sound like someone being thrown down the stairs. Despite this, at some point, a pop song somehow manages to get out and, set aside from all the self-conscious quirkiness, a mighty fine one it is too. It’d be interesting to attempt to dance to Piñata, principally because its spasmodic, jerky beats would probably make you look like you were having a seizure. An exciting, inventive track that could have come out like an utterly horrendous mess but somehow seems to hang together wonderfully despite itself. volcano! certainly aren’t short of ideas or inspiration; a curio to invest in and treasure. 7/10

Jessie Ware – Running

Jessie Ware has one of those voices that’s extremely familiar-sounding, yet you can’t quite place it. Its closest musical cousin is probably a more restrained soul voice of the mid-90s; it’s as if one of En Vogue has gone solo. However, Running is a million miles from Whatta Man, as it’s dark, addictive and atmospheric dance. It builds fantastically throughout and is as sleek and stylish as modern pop music gets. Running has some similarities to the more sedate moments of the Katy B album, but Jessie Ware has an identity all of her own. This is music it’s difficult to pin down or claim as part of any scene, so hopefully it doesn’t fall between the cracks. Running proves that dance music can have a heart and have soul; Jessie Ware is going places. 9/10

Chris Brown – Turn Up The Music

If I were to reveal the full extent of my feelings about Chris Brown and Rihanna working together again, we’d be here all day and I’d end up with a world record reading for high blood pressure, so that’s probably best avoided. Turn Up The Music is the worst kind of say-nothing, do-nothing song, made by idiots, for idiots. Thumping dance beats, lyrics that have been recycled from countless other tracks and a general, pervading feel of the moronic. It’s been a decent Singles Bar this week, but this is life-sapping dross of the highest order. Why won’t Chris Brown just please, please go away? Look, if we all put some money together, we can achieve this. Someone set up a fund-raising site, I’ll help, I’ll run ten miles in a deep-sea diving suit if it gets sponsors. Just anything to make this violent, cowardly misogynist stop releasing records, please. 0/10

I was enjoying listening to (the majority of) those tracks. Yet more conclusive proof that Chris Brown ruins everything. Let us know what you think of this week’s selection using the Disqus form below.