Music Features

The Singles Bar: 27th August 2012

Finally, the curse is over! After more than twelve months of good reviews being pretty much synonymous with awful sales, Sam & The Womp have rushed to the top of the UK charts off the back of an 8/10 in last week’s Singles Bar. Having scoured the music press, I don’t see the group thanking this column directly, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time. Now, let’s see who we can catapult to commercial success with the Midas Touch this week.

Presley Johnson – Anita’s Last Dance

We start this week’s Singles Bar with a track that spends its first five seconds doing a horrifying impression of Snow Patrol’s interminable Chasing Cars. However, we’re soon into the real meat of the song, and Anita’s Last Dance reveals itself to be a very competent take on the folk-rock genre. There are fiddles and close harmonies, but don’t mistake Presley Johnson for the dreaded Mumfords, as this is a far more enjoyable proposition. In fact, its closest big name contemporary is probably Fleet Foxes. Anita’s Last Dance has a tendency to put the brakes on just when it’s starting to look lively which is a little frustrating, but that shouldn’t detract from what is ultimately a fine example of songcraft. 7/10

Cover Drive feat. Dappy – Explode

As has been covered before here at The Singles Bar, when two terrible artists collaborate, it’s actually a good thing because it’s preventing two separate songs being released to the world. At least, that’s what the questionable science behind this theory tells me. Explode is, like every other Cover Drive effort, a pretty standard chart dance-pop track with some Caribbean rhythms thrown in, like a cut-price Rihanna. The album version of this song (yes, I know, the lengths I go to) doesn’t feature rapping ignoramus Dappy, and his presence undoubtedly worsens an already sub-standard song. The chorus has a decent hook to it though, which in the worlds of Dappy and Cover Drive, represents a ground-breaking work of genius. 3/10

Alyssa Reid feat. Snoop Dogg – The Game

After her hit single Alone Again, with everybody’s favourite rap crew, Jump Smokers (no, me neither), Alyssa Reid returns with Snoop Dogg to… hang on, isn’t he Snoop Lion now? Anyway, anyone expecting a glimpse of Snoop’s new reggae direction will be sorely disappointed by The Game. A bit of research reveals Alyssa Reid took the Bieber route to fame by being spotted singing on YouTube, but it’s difficult to understand what she’s got that thousands of other wannabes haven’t. She’s a very indistinct voice in an already overcrowded market, and she simply comes across as an inferior version of fellow Canadian Carly Rae Jepsen. The Game is a track in the Disney Channel-friendly style, and instantly forgettable, which makes the presence of Snoop all the more puzzling. Remember when he had some scruples? 2/10

Alanis Morissette – Guardian

The sub-editor’s least favourite singer, Alanis Morissette (always remember – one ‘r’, two ‘s’s), has been doing plenty of promo ahead of the release of her new album. Hilariously, she’s revealed herself to be possibly the least self-aware person ever, claiming to be “helping evolution” and detailing her dislike of “alpha-alpha relationships”. After years in the commercial wilderness, Guardian has a more grungy sound that harks back to her Jagged Little Pill heyday. However, it’s missing that something indefinable that her best tracks had, and instead sounds like the unmissed wave of pop-grunge from the early 90s (think Four Non Blondes or Third Eye Blind). Still, artists with a ridiculously inflated sense of self-worth are what pop music thrives upon, so it’s nice to have her back. 5/10

Friends – I’m His Girl

This is actually a re-release of a single from late last year. If only some enterprising independent music and film website had flagged it up as a great track months and months ago. Oh wait… So, almost a year on and I’m His Girl is still a fantastic track. The confidence of Friends to be so minimalistic and employ such a clear funk influence is to be commended, and that swagger comes across in the lyrical content too. Not a spare ounce of fat exists on I’m His Girl, and the fact it threatens to turn into Rapper’s Delight halfway through with a cowbell breakdown can only be a good thing. Friends’ album, Manifest!, could have done with a few more songs that matched I’m His Girl’s level of quality. One more tip: check out the B-side, a cover of the Ghost Town DJ’s track, My Boo, which is, if anything, even better. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Fazer – Killer

Search Wikipedia for “Tulisa” and you get the page for Tulisa of N-Dubz. Search Wikipedia for “Dappy” and you get the page for Dappy of N-Dubz. Search Wikipedia for “Fazer” and you get the page for a Finnish food corporation. Herein lies the problem with Fazer; not as photogenic as Tulisa, not as outspoken as Dappy, he seems destined to be the least conspicuous member of N-Dubz. He’s also the last to launch his solo career, and his lack of profile looks like it’ll harm him here too. Killer sounds like a Chris Brown track with Fazer’s vocals auto-tuned to the point of auditory discomfort and a try-too-hard dubstep breakdown in the place of a hook or a decent chorus. There’s a kind of brooding, bass-y menace to Killer which adds a soupçon of darkness but overall, it’s exactly what you’d expect really. 2/10

Two Door Cinema Club – Sleep Alone

Two Door Cinema Club have managed to build a decent fanbase, a growing profile and a large amount of critical acclaim without ever having done anything particularly spectacular. It seems no-one has profited more from the dearth of decent guitar music at the moment than them. Sleep Alone is another entirely passable effort, with a pulsating hi-hat rhythm and weaving guitar lines in a compact, perfunctory chorus. TDCC give the impression of a band who disguise their paucity of ideas behind thrusting tempos and Sleep Alone is another example of that. I’ve mentioned before my difficulty in distinguishing Two Door Cinema Club and Bombay Bicycle Club. I think I’ve got it now though – Bombay Bicycle Club are the good ones. 5/10

Scouting For Girls – Summertime In The City

Is it too much to ask to have anything, just a little something, with a hint of substance or intelligence in a Scouting For Girls song? Apparently yes, but then again, what would you expect from a group with such a wretched name? Unsurprisingly, Summertime In The City starts with repeated piano chords to the beat and a standard SFG lyric: “Summertime in the city, all the girls dress hot and the boys go silly”. In the entire history of popular music, it’s difficult to recall a band with as little to say as Scouting For Girls; they make Scooch look like Tom Waits. I’m almost jealous of their incredibly simplistic view to life and music, but then I realise that five minutes in their company is likely to make you want to attempt to lobotomise yourself with a teaspoon. 0/10

Dinosaur Jr. – Watch The Corners

An awful lot of Dinosaur Jr.’s appeal (or lack of) is down to how you react to J Mascis’ distinctive voice. Personally, I often find it a barrier to their songs but given enough listens, the strength of the band’s material overrides his idiosyncratic style. On Watch The Corners, Dinosaur Jr. sound as if they haven’t realised it’s no longer 1993 but with the way trends in music go, this bizarrely makes them seem bang up-to-date. Watch The Corners builds from an inauspicious beginning to a real rocking-out anthem with a killer solo over layers and layers of huge guitar. Dinosaur Jr. should be applauded for still making singles this relevant and fantastic so long into their career. 8/10

Halfway To New York – What A Way To Go

To finish, we go from the veteran rockers to the new kids on the scene. Fresh from supporting Bruce Springsteen at Hard Rock Calling, four-piece Halfway To New York look to capitalise on that exposure with their latest single. The chugging guitar lines are a little uninspiring, but the vocal melody soars far above them and makes What A Way To Go the kind of thing that would jump through the radio speakers at you. Lyrically, it leans on the tropes of rock n’ roll excess a little too keenly, but there’s a deft professionalism at work here, and HTNY are the sort of band who should be rubbing shoulders with Snow Patrol and their ilk (I say rubbing shoulders, they’re clearly better than Gary Lightbody’s group). A little retro, perhaps, but there’s a huge audience for this kind of straight-up rock, and given the right exposure, Halfway To New York could be selling out a venue near you soon. 7/10

For the first time, we’ve included links to all the tracks, so why not have a listen and let us know what you think? There’s a Disqus form below and everything.