Music Features

The Singles Bar: 5th November 2012

BANG! WHIZZ! AHHHHHH! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Yes, it’s Guy Fawkes’ Night and while people all over the country are rapt watching fireworks displays, here at The Singles Bar we’re celebrating by… well, staying indoors in the warm and writing the singles reviews – what did you expect? Occasionally, we inch to the window to forlornly gaze at the pretty lights in the sky and ponder the futility of our own existence, but it’s business first, sparklers later, so here are this week’s explosive tensome

Dirty Projectors – About To Die

With Dirty Projectors, there’s always the sneaking suspicion they’re being over-elaborate for the sake of it, and it’s a thought that comes to the fore immediately with About To Die’s stumbling, treated beats. However, as the track progresses, and more “traditional” percussion joins the fray, a wonderfully-crafted song is revealed. Dirty Projectors are at their best when combining the melodic with the inventive, and at key points on this record – the soar-away singing of the title; the warm string section in the middle – there’s really no-one to touch them. Those introductory beats do make About To Die sound like it’s tripping over somewhat, but there’s tradition and a fine appreciation of songcraft hiding behind their box of tricks. 8/10

I Am Kloot – Hold Back The Night

A few years back, all the music writers had a meeting where we decided it was obligatory that anything written about I Am Kloot must mention that they are “under-rated” and “the best band you’ve never heard of” while also somehow shoehorning in a reference to Elbow. Now that’s out the way, we can proceed. Hold Back The Night is a delicately crafted song without an ounce of spare fat on it, but the vocals of John Bramwell are a little too throaty to begin with. However, as the mood shifts (there are some lovely, dark chord progressions here) it all starts to make a bit more sense. The grandiose, sweeping strings give a sense of theatre and as the track reaches its climax and the melody line descends before arcing dramatically up, there’s a sense that no-one’s really done this kind of thing since Tindersticks released Curtains fifteen years ago. It’s affecting, lovelorn, grown-up stuff that is likely to catch you off-guard and bring a tear to your eye. 8/10

Foals – Inhaler

In a perfect world, this song would be some kind of riposte to Everything Everything’s Cough Cough, which came out a few weeks back. It doesn’t appear to be though, and we’re straight into cliché territory with the opening couplet: “Sticks and stones / Break my bones”. Foals made their name fashioning intricate math-rock and, given the Mercury success of Alt-J, arguably that sound’s never been more popular. But whereas the verses are unmistakably Foals, the chorus takes off with walls of crunching guitars and the kind of anthemic vocals designed purely for stadium gigs. Actually, there’s a touch of INXS about Inhaler, and in creating something far more linear and direct than their usual work, Foals have lost some of the je ne sais quoi that set them apart in the first place. It’s not a bad track in its own right, but compare it to, say, Spanish Sahara or Red Socks Pugie, and it’s found wanting. 5/10

Poliça – Lay Your Cards Out

Holy spooky double-tracked vocals, Batman! The thing that immediately jumps out at you on Lay Your Cards Out is that voice; double-tracked so it seems to be operating under a slight delay. It all adds to Poliça’s gothic, ethereal aesthetic, like a slightly less opaque Cocteau Twins. It’s a collision of chillwave and goth, much like School Of Seven Bells or Austra, with the climax of frenetic, unravelling drumming the undoubted highlight. However, everything before that sounds a bit too mannered, like it’s been choreographed by cherry-picking on-trend 80s reference points, which makes it hard to feel a connection with. It’s beginning to look as if Siouxsie & The Banshees were actually the most influential band in the history of music. 6/10

Solange – Losing You

A cold November night may not immediately make you think of summer, but Solange is able to transport you there with Losing You. Over a laid-back beat and whip-crack handclaps, she sultrily sashays her way through the song’s four minutes, aided by unobtrusive synths and what sounds like a surprised parrot. This potentially messy combination fits together seamlessly to give one of the pop singles of 2012, bringing in elements of R&B, calypso and street-smart hip-hop. There are even echoes of Tom Tom Club on Losing You, which was co-written with Dev Hynes, the artist formerly known as Lightspeed Champion. Hynes’ ear for a killer hook is certainly in evidence here, and while this track may seem a little passive or even too slow at first, the quality of the melody and the laid-back groove will ensure it will get stuck in your head for days to come. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

A*M*E – Play The Game Boy

An awful lot has already been written about A*M*E, the Sierra Leone-born teenager who’s worked with the ridiculously trendy MNEK and has co-written a K-pop number one. Her first official release serves as an introduction to her personality and sound and, as you might expect, it’s brash and unapologetic. The verses are full of retro-synths, electronic bloops and bleeps and great melodies, like she’s the Sugababes to Cher Lloyd’s Spice Girls, but just as it’s all set up for a killer chorus, it goes for novelty over quality, with the title simply repeated over and over again. It’s a shame, because Play The Game Boy sounds extremely current while also having enough of an edge to ensure she doesn’t blend in with everyone else. Only time will tell whether A*M*E delivers on her early promise, but the initial signs are (mostly) good. 7/10

Frankie Cocozza – She’s Got A Motorcycle

Given that X Factor expellee Cocozza has been largely out of the public eye since coming second in the ninth series of Celebrity Big Brother, it seems odd that his first foray into releasing music has taken so long. She’s Got A Motorcycle plays up to his trainee Pete Doherty bad-boy image, with its glottal stops, thinly-disguised sex metaphors and mentions of motorcycles. Unfortunately for Cocozza, it’s about as dangerous as your average Olly Murs record, and he comes across as a model from Lisa Simpson’s Non-Threatening Boys Magazine singing the hits of Scouting For Girls. And as for the lyrics, they’re a mix of wince-inducing rhymes (“She’s got a motorcycle / Oh no, I took the Michael”) and depressingly leering, Inbetweeners-esque, misogynistic “banter” (“Why, why am I so out of luck / When I’ve seen others feel you up?”). It may be harsh to relegate someone to the obscurity of the pop scrapheap when they’re not yet out of their teens but in this case, it feels oh so very necessary. 0/10

Damn Vandals – This Amazing

London’s Damn Vandals have some pretty impressive testimonies under their belts, but one critic for Bloomberg has said of them, “Kasabian should weep”, which set the alarm bells ringing. Of course, Kasabian should weep, and there are many, many reasons for that which we don’t have time to go into here, but Damn Vandals are not one of them. That’s not due to a lack of quality on Damn Vandals part but because they don’t sound anything like Leicester’s answer to a question nobody asked in the first place. There’s a scratchy, demo feel to This Amazing, which is no-frills rock aided by some interesting discordant notes in the verse. The bluesy growl suits the track perfectly, but sadly there’s not enough on show to really get the pulse racing and while it’s entirely competent, it’s little more than that. 5/10

Stooshe – Waterfalls

You’d think there’s no current girlband better equipped to cover Waterfalls than Stooshe, but what has happened to them lately? After the bratty Love Me, they went all ballad-y on Black Heart and now, given a chance to showcase some attitude, they come up with this completely anaemic display. Rather than the alluring purr of TLC’s version, Stooshe come up with a karaoke rendition, entirely missing what makes the song special. It’s pretty much what you’d expect to hear from an X Factor group who have only had a few days to work on the song. Bizarrely though, it must have the TLC seal of approval, as both T-Boz and Chilli are in the video. In case you’re wondering, they sort of attempt Left Eye’s rap, inasmuch as they sing it, and they don’t include the second half. While all the above holds true, Waterfalls is such a great song it’s near impossible to ruin it entirely. 4/10

Sneakbo – Zim Zimma

Upon seeing the title of this track, you’re likely to immediately think of Beenie Man’s Who Am I? and, indeed, Sneakbo does reference that track on Zim Zimma (“Zim zimma, I can do it like Beenie”), as well as incorporating a clear dancehall influence. Sneakbo apparently “done some porridge” for his part in last year’s London riots which, true or not, is hardly going to harm his commercial chances, but on this evidence he doesn’t display enough of a pop nous to follow Tinie and Tinchy into the mainstream. While there’s clearly something to Zim Zimma, and it’s got a lively bounce, there’s also the impression it’s so laid-back as to be practically horizontal, and it rarely gets out of second gear. When it does, it’s only to hint at a brostep breakdown, before it wisely thinks better of it and retreats to square one. It’s not particularly impressive, but unless anyone can contradict me, I’m claiming it to be the best UK urban track from someone who’s been “in chokey” since Return Of The Mack. 6/10

Is this the strongest Singles Bar line-up we’ve ever had? Take that clown Cocozza out of the equation and there’s surely no doubt. But what do you think of this week’s choices? Let us know using this here Disqus box below.