Music Features

The Singles Bar - 2nd March 2015

Hello! After an extended absence, The Singles Bar has successfully appealed against the removal of its licence and we’re back in business. For the uninitiated, we take ten new tracks released in the UK this week, review them, occasionally make tedious, publican-based puns and… well, that’s it, really. In our dreams, we’re continuing in the tradition of classic music magazines like Smash Hits!. In reality, it’s probably best if you judge for yourselves. Let’s see what’s tickling our eardrums this week.

Hawk – Clock Hands

We kick off our long-awaited (ahem) return on a high note with the latest EP by folky foursome, Hawk. Clock Hands begins with a gorgeous, picked, swirling guitar riff that’s beautifully complemented by Julia Hawk’s winsome vocals. This track continues to progress with some fantastically judged chord changes – it all sounds like the kind of thing Guillemots could have come up with if they’d listened to Fairport Convention and had a bit more focus. There’s some fierce drum battering going on later, and despite the clear difference in musical styles, the building and intensity is somewhat reminiscent of early Hope Of The States. Hawk have been regularly compared to Daughter but on the evidence of Clock Hands, this is damning them with faint praise. Here at the Singles Bar, we’re such big fans of this track that we’ve sought out the band to ask them for an interview. Watch this space. 9/10

Foo Fighters – Congregation

It’s tempting to wonder whether Foo Fighters ever acquire any new fans and, if so, who are those people? Originally a triumphant post-Cobain supergroup, The Foos are now one of the most predictable groups in mainstream music, with even Dave Grohl’s “nicest guy in rock” persona starting to wear thin. This probably doesn’t even need reviewing – if you’ve heard a Foo Fighters song in the last decade or so, you’ll know how Congregation goes. There’s some lightly distorted, mid-tempo guitars, and the verse builds to a chorus where Grohl gets to showcase his throaty roar, there’s some predictable riffing, and then they headline a festival sponsored by a global conglomerate. They’re re-treading former glories to such an extent that you wonder why they even bother any more. Are they enjoying it? Being in Foo Fighters must be such a trudge these days that it must feel like the most spirit-crushing 9 to 5. Oh, hang on, it’s still playing, we hadn’t even noticed. Well, he’s still shouting and they’re still riffing, and it’ll probably continue that way long after we’re all dead. 3/10

Usher – I Don’t Mind (feat. Juicy J)

Everyone’s favourite cinema employee hasn’t bothered the upper reaches of the charts for a while, so will this see him revisiting winning ways? Over a clapped beat, the song begins thusly: “Shorty, I don’t mind / If you dance on a pole / That don’t make you a ho.” Presumably this will be of great relief to strippers everywhere who were worried they’d inadvertently become prostitutes. As the song progresses, it becomes clear Usher’s totally fine with his significant other’s choice of profession, provided she’s good at it and earns plenty of money. In short, he’s a mansplaining child of Thatcher. Later on, he reveals, “I’m proud to call you my bitch,” which I’m sure we can all agree is a charming sentiment. Juicy J’s verse is similarly enlightened, though he seems to have missed the memo, because we all know this is Usher’s other half, yet Mr. J raps about sleeping with her too – what a palaver! They’ll both be mighty embarrassed when they realise their confusion. The production is actually bravely minimalist, but it’s hard to pay attention when you’re listening to this parade of regression. 2/10

Years & Years – King

Years & Years are more hotly-tipped than a biro with a nib made of fire, presumably by people too young to remember Klaxons’ Myths Of The Near Future LP. In fairness, Years & Years have a more commercial sensibility than Klaxons, and King races straight into an irresistible melody and a darn catchy riff. There’s a suspicion that King is just a Calvin Harris song given an indie makeover and sung by Will Young, yet it’s hard to get too precious about it. It’s a track we’d all be enjoying and (nu) raving about were it not for the fact that this band is being lauded to a ridiculous degree. Basically, as a stand-alone song it’s above average, but if Years & Years truly represent the best that new music has to offer in 2015 then it’s probably time to take up another hobby, like cricket, perhaps. If you’ve not heard of Years & Years before then cherish these times, because they’re going to be as ubiquitous as Nigel Farage over the next few months. 6/10

Julio Bashmore – Kong (feat. Bixby)

Okay, we admit it. We’ve picked a song called Kong because the last one was called King. To us, Bixby is the surname of the wannabe sexy alter ego of Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. However, it turns out Bixby is a singer from London (as well as a city in Oklahoma) and he’s teamed up with bashment kingpin Bashmore for a fine slice of Balearic-influenced chill. There are just enough tense strings to keep Kong from fading into the background, and there’s a nice, hazy feel throughout. Inventive percussion work adds to the overall mood, and although there are synths and electro-riffs, they never detract from Bashmore’s mission. Bixby’s vocals are smooth and soulful and while Kong will shake your world significantly less than the Empire State climbing primate, there are far worse ways to spend four and a half minutes. 7/10

Take That – Let In The Sun

Since The Singles Bar last graced these pages, Take That have slimmed down from a quartet to a trio, with Jason Orange (i.e. the one who wasn’t in the band’s tax avoidance scheme) having left the group. Some might argue that lead singer Gary Barlow should return his OBE having dodged paying so much money to the treasury, but we shan’t be commenting on that. Anyway, your Mum’s favourite band made their comeback so long ago it feels like they’ve long outstayed their welcome. They sell tons of records yet they’re so much part of establishment now, their actual music gets largely ignored. This is very much a good thing since – as pointed out in many other places – their work is now directly inspired by a diet of little more than Coldplay and Mumford & Sons (new album out in May, masochism fans!). Let In The Sun is essentially the kind of non-specific anthem with a vaguely uplifting message Take That have been churning out for the past few years, and is entirely forgettable. 3/10

Alex Adair – Make Me Feel Better

Despite having literally never heard of Alex Adair before, this video already has over a million views on YouTube. Anyway, Make Me Feel Better is from the same school of house as Kiesza and Philip George, and like George, has raided a soul classic for its hook. The vocal refrain is a re-recorded lift of a couplet from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing which, in Singles Bar land, is tantamount to blasphemy. This track also has lots of xylophone, which is good if you’re a fan of xylophones, and the video has lots of ladies’ bums, which is good if you’re a sad specimen who gets their jollies from unimaginative, button-pushing music videos. All in all, Make Me Feel Better adds nothing to an already saturated genre and the day this kind of thing doesn’t stink up the charts can’t come soon enough. 1/10

Giorgio Moroder – Right Here, Right Now (feat. Kylie Minogue)

NOW we’re talking! Thanks to the patronage of Gallic robo-men Daft Punk, disco demigod Giorgio Moroder is enjoying some long overdue critical reappraisal right now. And despite his advancing years, he truly still knows how to put a song together. There’s a filthy, bouncy bass riff, choppy Chic-esque guitar and layers upon layers of transformative strings. Kylie’s had a decent song or two in her time as well, but this is the best thing she’s put her name to in well over a decade. It’s instantaneous and addictive, and has that indescribable quality that means you want to play it again as soon as it’s finished (we used to call that the x factor, but that term is ruined now). It’s a perfect exercise in leaving the listener wanting more – verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus to fade – when you’ve got a song this good you don’t mess with a winning formula. Right Here, Right Now should be all over the radio, the television, supermarket tannoys and more besides. It’s a bona fide pop gem. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Conor Maynard – Talking About

Nearly three years on, and here at The Singles Bar, we still like to talk about how unintentionally hilarious Conor Maynard covering Marvin’s Room by Drake was. Maynard is a baby-faced singer with a mostly tween audience, so the fact he’s gone close to eighteen months without releasing any new material could well be career suicide. Talking About is an attempt at what the kids call a “summer jam”, and the shimmering synths and infectious energy of the verses actually give this track an admirable early 90s R&B feel. There’s an entirely unnecessary dubstep breakdown of course, everything has one these days, but Talking About is largely just breezy fluff, and it’s all the better for it. You could almost see it as a palate-cleanser between two songs of disparate genres. Talking About by Conor Maynard – the musical equivalent of sorbet. Let’s see if they put that on the posters. 6/10

Conchita Wurst – You Are Unstoppable

You’ll remember Conchita Wurst as the Austrian drag queen who won last year’s Eurovision Song Contest and confused heterosexual men throughout the continent. Whilst Wurst’s win was a victory for many things, it wasn’t a victory for music, and You Are Unstoppable continues in that tradition. Never known to under-egg a pudding, the verses of You Are Unstoppable contain about as many strings as it’s possible to cram into one song, while it wouldn’t be a surprise to discover that the chorus contains every musical instrument ever invented. Of course, it’s a self-empowerment anthem (which, as we know, is the worst type of music ever) but there’s a certain charm to its self-indulgence and chaotic extravagance. In reality, you’d never voluntarily listen to it – it makes Rufus Wainwright sound like Jose Gonzalez – but it’s hard not to feel a pang of affection for a bearded man in a dress who’s been taken to Europe’s hearts in such a way. 4/10

Experience triumphs in the first weekly Singles Bar since December 2012, as Moroder and Minogue dance away with the much coveted title. We hope you enjoyed the reboot, and we’ll see you back here next week for ten more tunes.