Music Features

The Singles Bar: 8th October 2012

So, this week we’ve debut singles, comeback singles, singles by hot prospects, singles by people who should’ve given up a long time ago, singles by retirees, singles by children of legends and more. Does this mean we’ve got a bumper edition of more than ten tracks? You bet your sweet… oh, wait, no, it’s the usual ten tracks.

Keane – Disconnected

I almost feel a bit sorry for Keane. They were enormously popular in the middle of the last decade, but then David Cameron became leader of the opposition, and then the Prime Minister and… well, Keane frontman Tom Chaplin does look a fair bit like him. So, as Cameron gains power, Keane lose record sales, almost as if the public have got the two confused and are punishing Keane for attempting to dismantle the NHS or being generally cruel and incompetent. They don’t deserve to sell any fewer records than they used to, because they’ve not really changed since their first record. Disconnected is a decent-ish, mid-tempo, piano-led plodder which has lots of fancy studio bits and sounds on it to make it seem more heartfelt and epic than it really is. There’s something faintly reassuring about Keane (not about David Cameron though, obvs) – you always know what you’re going to get. They’re a safe choice, though not a particularly exciting one. 5/10

Best Coast – Do You Love Me Like You Used To?

There’s something very She & Him about DYLMLYUT? It’s got a classic 60s pop vibe, an easy charm and a sugar-sweet melody. If this all sounds horribly Manic Pixie Dream Girl to you, then that’s a real shame, as sometimes simple songs are the best, and Best Coast’s latest is certainly a catchy number. There’s a two-note guitar riff accompanying the vocals in the verse, and it’s distorted just enough to make sure this aural confection isn’t too syrupy. The chorus perhaps isn’t as great as the verse promises, but you’ll be bobbing your head and wanting to press play on this as soon as it’s finished. It may feel like it should be soundtracking a montage in Saved By The Bell, but as addictive, bubblegum pop goes, you’ll be hard pressed to beat this. 8/10

Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves Of Destiny – Dodecahedron

Just how far do you want to go to prove how “alternative” you really are? As if the ridiculous band name wasn’t enough, the video for Dodecahedron (a try-too-hard, look-at-me title there too) features Houghton hanging rashers of bacon on a washing line. THAT’S REALLY KOOKY AND DIFFERENT, HEY GUYS?! GUYS! PAY ATTENTION TO ME, GUYS! There’s actually a fairly pretty folk track buried in Dodecahedron somewhere, but Houghton completely stifles it with unnecessary time signature changes, superfluous adornments, and a grating, halting vocal delivery. For someone presumably attempting to showcase how artistic and spontaneous they are, Beth Jeans Houghton makes Lady Gaga look under-prepared and unchoreographed. 1/10

Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin – Don’t You Worry Child

There must have been a couple of years where I was out of the country and don’t remember, because this seems to be the only tangible explanation for Swedish House Mafia going from unknowns (to me) to stadium-playing dance giants in the space of about ten minutes. Maybe it’s their mafia connections. They certainly know how to get a crowd dancing though, and in the “live” video for this track, they somehow make pogoing with thousands of E’d up nutters actually look quite good fun. This is all a little confusing though, as I’m sure SHM retired a few months back. Anyway, Don’t You Worry Child is a pretty huge-sounding trance anthem that doesn’t even come close to putting any fresh cracks in the mould, but there’s something here that’s hard to resist. 6/10

Twin Atlantic – Free

You know when you see a new band and think they’re terrible but, with a heavy heart, you realise they’re going to get a lot more popular? That happened to me when I first encountered Twin Atlantic last summer and their watered-down, arena-friendly version of Biffy Clyro. In the past twelve months, they’ve been championed by Radio 1 and others, and Free is exceptionally neatly packaged for daytime airplay. It’s rocky, it’s got a lot of crunching guitars, but the structure and melodies are curiously conservative, and it’s the kind of track that sets its stall out in the first ten seconds or so then refuses to deviate. All in all, it’s dispiriting that there’s a large market for this kind of stuff and, even worse, loads of Twin Atlantic fans are likely to look down on those who listen to out-and-out pop music due its perceived lack of authenticity. Yawn, is it time for bed yet? 3/10

Linkin Park – Lost In The Echo

And while we’re talking formulaic, uninspiring rock… For Linkin Park, it’s forever 2001, where nu-metal is the hot, new thing and they’re bravely pushing an unloved sub-genre into the mainstream. However, for the rest of us, whether we like it or not, it’s 2012, and this kind of rap-rock has seemed tired and dated for an awful long time now. You sometimes find that when bands get enormously popular so quickly, they simply regress into repetition in an effort to please their hardcore fans, who, in Linkin Park’s case, would presumably just go and buy a copy of Hybrid Theory every couple of years. So, lots of over-emotional gut-wrenching, some screaming, some guitars, some electronics… yep, sounds like most other Linkin Park tracks. 3/10

Angel Haze – New York

In the words of Will Ferrell’s Mugatu (and to employ a meme a good decade or so late), Angel Haze is so hot right now. In fact, as your esteemed scribe writes this review, Angel Haze is playing a gig at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, and it’s the most sought-after ticket in town (well, apart from Radiohead maybe, who are also playing in London tonight). Anyway, comparisons to Azealia Banks are likely to plague Angel Haze, as her quick-witted, foul-mouthed flow has many similarities to Harlem’s finest. New York takes the syncopated clapping from Gil Scott-Heron’s New York Is Killing Me as its bed and, like much of Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here album, makes great use of just a handful of disparate elements. The sparse backing of this track gives it a raw feel, like a mixtape cut, and only serves to show what a great, emerging talent Angel Haze is. There’s a new name in hip-hop. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Jay Sean – So High

Jay Sean is most notable for the fact he’s an English R&B artist who’s huge in America and signed to Cash Money, home of Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj. As a rising star, he would fuse bhangra and other Asian styles with more chart-friendly Western sounds, giving him something of a distinctive voice. However, on the evidence of So High, he’s lost all trace of that intrigue, as it’s ubiquitous Europop o’clock here. Banging drums and huge synths blare as Jay Sean intones, “I’m so high right now”. This could be a David Guetta or Calvin Harris production, as it’s so indebted to those sounds (as it happens, it’s Afrojack’s name on the desk). The one thing going for So High is that it’s not as bad as its predecessor, the frankly execrable Sex 101. Take your victories where you can, Jay Sean. 2/10

Leona Lewis – Trouble

There’s still an awful lot written about Leona Lewis, but the amount of music she actually releases seems to have waned somewhat recently. Trouble is Lewis’ first single in over a year, and precedes upcoming album, Glassheart. On Trouble, it’s as if she’s attempting to both have her cake and eat it, by sticking to the piano ballad style for which she’s known, but putting a more dance-friendly spin on it. The result is like a bad remix, a slow track with a thumping, hip-hop beat to it. It’s not a great style and, even if it was, it’s pretty much solely the domain of Emeli Sandé these days (who co-wrote this track). Lewis undoubtedly has a great voice, but she can’t show it off on every track and, with Trouble, she needs to decide what she’s trying to do. 4/10

Lisa Marie Presley – You Ain’t Seen Nothin' Yet

It’s come as something of a surprise that the woman forever destined to be referred to as Elvis’ daughter is still making a go of this whole pop music caper. You Ain’t Seen Nothin' Yet (sadly not a cover of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive track) is a curiously understated affair – it’s very AOR with a slight twinge of country, but seems mostly concerned with resolutely sticking to second gear and nothing more. It’s got a half-decent groove to it, but it just doesn’t go anywhere, and if you’re going to give your new single a title as confrontational and promising as that, something mid-tempo and dull just isn’t going to ignite anyone’s flame. 5/10

Some weeks we’re spoilt for choice at The Singles Bar. This week was a fairly clear two-horse race – do you agree with the scores? Let us know via the Disqus form below and we’ll see you back here next week.