Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hannah's Single of the Week (24/04/06)

I completely apologise for the lack of regular posts last week. I also hope Lewis's rant made up for it! We were both VERY busy, and, if you're curious, my pick of the week was easily 'Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' by The Flaming Lips. Anyway, it's all back to normal this week, and what an exciting week it is. The Arctic Monkeys release an EP which might not be (well, at the last time of checking it wasn't) chart eligible, and NME favourites The Raconteurs and Dirty Pretty Things finally give their music a full release after months and months of hype. What's slightly less exciting is the fact there seems to be a recurring colour when it comes to cover artwork - muddy grey. Lovely.

Special Mentions:
Snow Patrol You’re All I Have (official site - includes videolink)
Ah, Snow Patrol. An example of a band who show that one song can change everything. 'Run' appeared almost out of nowhere to become a stadium anthem. The band's third album, 'Final Straw', went platinum, multiple times. But 'Run', bizarrely, is still the band's only top 20 single. So now we have 'You're All I Have' the lead single from 'Eyes Open', ready to cement Snow Patrol's reputation as one of the leading indie bands in the UK. Now, our Lewis may not like them, but I do. The problem here is that while the song begins promisingly with a jingly intro and surges into addictive 'ooohs' and Gary's vocals ring out over the guitars there is one things that annoys me about Snow Patrol. It's not the lyrics (I don't mind them at all) and the melody (that's all good) or the lead guitar line - it's the rhythm guitar chugging away in the background. It's a straight quaver rhythm, the same as 'Chocolate' and also the same as too many other songs by the Patrol. It's there all the way through. For me it sticks out like a sore thumb and puts a dampener on what could be a truly excellent track.
3.5/5
(Also, guys? If your video description says you filmed it whilst performing on a platform 120ft in the air - why not show this in the video itself?)

Dirty Pretty ThingsBang Bang You’re Dead (official site)
So, as the Pete Doherty saga gets a little tired (Pete found with drugs/Pete arrested/Pete standing trial and is let off - the story never really changes, does it?) the lesser-spotted Libertine steps into the spotlight with his 'new' band. This introductory single, 'Bang Bang You're Dead' certainly sounds like The Libertines. Lyrically, the chorus ends up sounding a little childish (the main lyric being 'bang bang, you're dead - it's hard not to) but fortunately it doesn't fall down where many of Babyshambles' singles did. The music is punchy, catchy and exhibits a charming singsong quality and chord progression that allows it to sound suspiciously like Brendan Benson's 'What I'm Lookin' For'. Speaking of Brendan Benson...
3.5/5

Singles of the Week:
The RaconteursSteady As She Goes (the band's fantastic official site - includes video)
Right from when the idea was first announced, I was very excited about 'Jack White's side-project', The Raconteurs. I'm a big Brendan Benson fan (and also quite like the White Stripes) so it was something of a dream collaboration for me. Thankfully, the music lives up to the hype. However, this track has been on heavy rotation of Xfm (my radio station of choice when it comes to waking up in the morning) since what feels like the dawn of time. In truth it's only since the inital 7" pressing was put out as a very limited release back at the end of January, but when a song has been played so often (take Kaiser Chiefs' 'I Predict A Riot', for example) something that you initially love can quickly become the most irritating thing in the universe. However, I've found it impossible to get sick of 'Steady As She Goes'. Whether it's Jack and Brendan's duelling vocals, the choppy stabs of rhythm guitar or the psychotic cows in the song's video - there's still something that gets me every time.
4.5/5

The Boy Least Likely To - Be Gentle With Me (official site - video in 'videos' section)
The first I heard of The Boy Least Likely To was the high praise they got from our very own Lewis as he named their album one of his favourites of 2005. The second? The fact they were James Blunt's support act as he took on the States. Still, considering he's the hottest British name out there right now, it was an excellent move on their part. It also delayed this single's release by a couple of months, but hey - it's completely worth the wait. Coupled with an excellent video (reviewed on my last videowatch) this brilliant xylophone-led piece of indiepop is delightfully cute and summery. It's one of those tracks that's perfect to listen to while sitting on a grassy field, basking in the sunlight. The lyrics are adorable, the guitars jangly and the vocals sweet and vulnerable. Gorgeous.
4.5/5

All Releases:
General singles:
The Boy Least Likely To - Be Gentle With Me, Brian Kennedy – Every Song Is A Song For Love, Chicane feat Tom Jones – Stoned In Love, Chris Brown - Yo (Excuse Me Miss), Copyright feat Song Williamson – He Is, Demeter – Addict, Director – Reconnect, Dirty Pretty Things – Bang Bang You’re Dead, Druw & Perez feat Don E – Bonafide, Elin Ruth – When It Comes To You, Flies - Temptress, Giant Drag – This Isn’t It, HIM - Killing Loneliness, Killa Kela – Secrets, King Biscuit Time – Kwang Chow, Lynden David Hall – Day Off / Stay Faithful, Matt Costa – Cold December, Michael Jackson – Black Or White, NFD - Light My Way, Nina Simone vs Groovefinder – Ain’t Got No/I Got Life, Notorious BIG – Spit Your Game / Hold Ya Head, Primrose Hill – Shearers Magnificent 11, Raconteurs – Steady As She Goes, Ralfe Band – Women Of Japan, Silver Jews - Tennessee, Snow Patrol – You’re All I Have, Terri Walker – Alright With Me, Tiga – (Far From) Home, Ultrabeat vs Scott Brown – Elysium (I Go Crazy), Warren G feat Snoop Dogg & Ice Cube – Get U Down, Will Young – Who Am I, Wire Jesus – Intruder / Another Day

EPs/7" Only/12" only/Limited Release:
Arctic Monkeys – Who The F**k Are the Arctic Monkeys? (EP), Crazy Girl – The Rebel (12”) , Czar Creek – Get Gone, Euros Childs – Costa Rica (7”), Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Honey Child (7”), Jackson Analogue – West Of Here (EP) [Limited], Lily Allen – Knock ‘Em Out (limited 7”), Polysics – I My Me Mine (7”), Sol Seppy – Slo Fuzz (7”), Test Icicles – Pull The Lever (EP on 2x7”)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hannah's Videowatch (Volume 3)

Welcome to Volume 3 (what's this? a feature that's actually lasted more than two posts!?) of my videowatch, the feature where I pick out great videos, regardless of whether the music's any good or not. There are some really cracking videos doing the rounds at the moment. Here are a few of the best.

1) Red Hot Chili Peppers - Dani California (video)
The Red Hot Chilis are no strangers to making a great music video or indeed prancing around like idiots in order to make one. For the video for new single 'Dani California' they're doing it again, making a performance vid into something a little more by playing dress-up and imitating various bands. What's more is they do it to great comic effect. If you've ever wondered what the RHCPs would look like if they were an bespecled rock n roll band, goths, glam-rockers, camp 80s popsters or even Nirvana then this video is an absolute joy. Well, apart from Mr Kiedis in lipstick. That's just wrong.

2) Arctic Monkeys - View From The Afternoon (video)
I'm not sure if it's the intention, but this video does one thing, if nothing else. For the first time in a long while I really listened to, and appreciated, what a drummer can put into a song. A really great music video is one that makes you appreciate the music more because of it, and despite the simplicity of the Monkeys' latest output it really is astonishingly effective. That is all.

3) Jim Noir - My Patch (video - go to 'listen/watch')
Imagine you've stepped off the bus, flowers in hand, ready to meet your sweetheart, and you find the neighbourhood deserted, windows broken, and eggshells all over the pavement. Surely there's been some sort of riot? Oh, except they're giant eggshells and suddenly giant eggs are pelting you from all sides. What on earth is going on? Well, I don't want to spoil it for you but there are ever-so-slightly dodgy special effects, a fight sequence (of sorts), and a rather predictable-but-funny twist right at the end. Watch this. It's BRILLIANT.

4) Delays - Hideaway (video)
Considering their last video was the crazily trip-like accompaniment for 'Valentine', Delays have decided to do something a little more real but um...equally nonsensical with follow-up 'Hideaway'. Essentially it's some sort of modern day re-telling of Spartacus. Well, there are some secret agent types attempting to track (well, they're rather rubbish at it) a teenage lad named Spartacus, so I presume that's what it's about. There's no slave revolt or anything. However, there's lots of cruising in convertibles and standing around looking pretty with sunglasses on. Oh, and there's a random sportsbag with a mysterious glow inside. The band keep cropping up - they're clearly related to the plot in some way, but it's not entirely clear how. However, the video itself really brings across the joyously summery feel of the band's new single. Lovely.

5) Hot Chip - Boy From School (video)
This is an Art Attack. This is an Art Attack. This is...ART ATTACK!

Okay...I couldn't resist. Such a potent memory of my childhood being resurrected through the medium of music vid is just too brilliant for me not to! Kudos to Hot Chip for churning out two great, innovative videos on the trot. This latest one is essentially one marvellous big Art Attack (remember - when Neil used to cover the ground with all sorts of sand, fabrics and objects to create a huge - and often very clever - picture) with the band dressed up as caveman with buttons for nipples. Giant inflatable bananas, lots of sand and painted umbrellas are also used. The final result is rather fantastic. Of course, the joy is in working out what it's going to be!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Lewis's Single(s) to Avoid (24/04/06)

Snow Patrol - 'You're All I Have'
More standard fare from the melodic indie rock practitioners - chiming chords, slowburning vocals, lovelorn lyrics, faceless band members and so on and so forth. It sounds remarkably like the last Snow Patrol single, and the one before that, and the one before that; stretching back into the eternal mists of time. They seem incapable of writing about anything else other than relationships, an immeasurably tedious subject matter if ever there was one. I can't imagine Snow Patrol aim to categorize themselves as dull, but after four albums worth of this stuff the noose seems to be tightening.
1/5

Arctic Monkeys - 'Who The Fuck Are The Arctic Monkeys?'
I haven't heard anything from this superfluous EP - a visit to the Arctic Monkeys' "legendary" MySpace page yielded nothing, as the songs couldn't be found. Useful! They get a zero anyway, on the basis of being dreadful. Feeble tales of binge-drinking and other asinine antics are just a waste of my time, I'm afraid.
0/5

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Overwhelm thyself in poesy: the 100 greatest lyrics

It has come to my attention that the esteemed television channel VH1 has just completed a survey to decide (drumroll please) The Greatest Lyric Of All Time. I first found out about this on Saturday, as graced the front cover of The Times' weekend supplement. The premise seemed typically interesting, but that was before I spotted the ominous caveat at the bottom of the page. It said "voted on by you".

You, the viewers. What's happened is that VH1 have selected 100 lyrics, leaving the massed ranks of the electorate to vote on them as they see fit. At the culmination of this laborious process, the original 100 have been whittled down to a definitive top 20. And true to form, all the old favourites are there.

The least surprising inclusion is probably John Lennon's 'Imagine'. It's the quintessential, intellectually lazy vox pop choice - a horrible playschool poem masquerading as enlightened philosophy, rather like a line of Eastenders dialogue. The fact that it was written by a fully-grown adult highlights what patronising, self-righteous crap it really is.

Some might argue that it showcases his more tender side, as opposed to the scathing wit that characterised many of his Beatles songs. It doesn't. It's more sanctimonious than one of Cromwell's speeches. Listen to it too much, and you'll soon find yourself offending dinner party guests with statements like "I always thought that Mark Chapman was a very pleasant boy".

The second most obvious choice is 'Bohemian (C)Rhapsody', which, along with Kurt Cobain's deeply asinine 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', provides the inevitable stream of bloated gibberish that is considered "poetry" these days. The majority of the population are fairly bright; in possession of an O-level or two, that sort of thing - so why is the collective mindset so staggeringly inane?

When you unpick the threads of everyone's eternal favourites, ABBA, the depth of our fixation with the vapid becomes more apparent. The general public will extract detritus from anything. And this is why ABBA are best appreciated as a shiny package. Because once you start to deconstruct them, you realise that the fragments of the songs are just twaddle that somehow synthesises into a well-written unit. That in itself is an impressive skill, but if we're taking down particulars, officer, the lyrics fall flat on their arse.

It's a bit like ABBA's native Scandinavia. On the whole it seems quite a prepossessing kind of place; all glaciers and wilderness and mystery and Santa Claus. But when you examine its characteristics, you begin to realise how torrid the place is - three hours of light a day, suicide rates that go through the ceiling, rampant alcoholism amongst the populace, and reindeer.

The common reindeer is not an attractive beast; it's quite capable of ambushing you somewhere outside Norrköping and then goring you until your intestines fall out. Rudolf may have charmed you all with his red nose and low self-esteem, but there were also eight other bastards that gave him one hell of a hard time. Thus endeth the allure of Scandinavia and all its lifeforms.

This little analogy relates perfectly to ABBA. It is best to concentrate on the glossy veneer, and not the aforementioned particulars. Because when you do, endless rhyming couplets like "Seeing me so tense / No self-confidence" become faintly embarrassing. And sooner or later you begin to wonder what the point of ABBA actually was. They deserve better, and therefore should be remembered under the safe, translucent heading of Great Pop Music. Not as exalted wordsmiths from the heavens, as the public prefer to think of them.

With heavy eyelids, I wonder whatever's left. There's songs by Coldplay and U2, two bands which appear to have merged into one another over recent years. Chris Martin's infectious immaturity combining with Bono's delusional pomposity is the production of a modern rock nightmare. As such, their lyrics have about as much edge as a vegetarian.

So, are there any worthy lyrics in VH1's top 20? Perhaps. Bob Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' deserves automatic selection in any poll of this nature, and could almost win the thing on its own. "Johnny's in the basement, mixing up the medicine / I'm on the pavement, thinking about the government" is a line that distils the energy and excitement of Sixties society down into twenty-six frenetic syllables. The same era also produced 'Waterloo Sunset' by The Kinks, a bittersweet tale of love in the capital that is as fine a narrative as you're ever likely to find in modern pop music.

At the same time, there are below-par entries from some otherwise decent lyricists - Lennon, of course, as well as Morrissey, Bowie, and Thom Yorke. All of them are underpinned, in this case, by boring, self-regarding songs. Further proof that polls such as these have an uncanny knack of filtering a lorryload of crud from one diamond.

There are a number of difficulties present when deciding what constitutes a great lyric. When words are set to music, a good melody can do half the work, thereby compensating for any shortfalls in the quality of verse. As a result, the realm of song is frequently deceptive in terms of the literature it produces. It is necessary to study the lyrics in isolation, whilst maintaining an awareness of their context.

A good lyric reconciles a unique means of expression with the spirit in which it was produced. If it lacks either an original language pattern or an inspired context, it just doesn't work. Chris Martin might have bucketloads of white male angst, but his writing style is wholly adolescent. So his lyrics serve little purpose. Whereas Dylan, Lennon, Morrissey, Reed, Yorke, Cocker, Edwards et al were in tune with both their own capabilities and the society (read: drugs) that fired them.

But the general consensus fails to take this into account. The public will vote for whatever they like to dance to on a Friday night, or songs that exemplify nebulous concepts such as 'love' or 'happy' or 'sad'. Perhaps this is the easiest way for them to celebrate their own love of popular culture, as a simple means of cataloguing their own lives. So it looks like I'm the awkward sod, with my over-complicated, ABBA-inspired misanthropy. But don't forsake me. I'm loving angels instead.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

WL Open Blog (10/04/06)

So, here we are again. It's another WL open blog, because otherwise I'm going to struggle in finding anything particularly positive in this week's bunch of releases. Just a quick release commentary from me, first:

Coldplay have another half-decent single out, making me realise X&Y probably wasn't that bad an album after all. Piano-driven and with more music than effects, it's a reminder of the Coldplay of old. However, this means it isn't particularly exciting or new, but the video's definitely worth a watch.

Gorillaz, meanwhile, are releasing a double a-side. Neither song is particularly radio-friendly ('El Manana', in particular is an odd choice) and both challenge the public's idea of what a Gorillaz single should sound like. They're great songs in their own right, but singles? Not really.

Hard-Fi have also squeezed a fifth single from their debut. 'Better Do Better' is actually quite likeable. Slower-paced and actually sounding slightly different from the identical sounding batch of singles they've produced before - it's a welcome change, even if the song really shows up the weakness in Richard Archer's vocals.

The Crimea's brilliant 'White Russian Galaxy' is out this week, instead of last, so that's my SOTW.

And onto our open blog...
Lorraine - I Feel It (official site)
Though technically a re-release (I bought it off iTunes quite sometime ago), this song is the first most people will have heard from Lorraine. They've ditched the slightly rockier sound from their first album, The Perfect Cure, and replaced it with an exhilirating electro-pop soundscape and catchy melody that has had people comparing them to the Pet Shop Boys, amongst others. To get the most out of the song, turn it up loud and throw your arms about like in the video. If you can arrange a helicopter to fly over your head too, so much the better.
4/5
Review by Julia.

Lady Sovereign - Blah, Blah (official site and video)
With the UK urban scene currently subdivided into genres with names that suggest they were made up by Chris Morris, it has yet to produce an international star. Judging by the video, it looks like her record company are expecting big things from Lady Sovereign despite the fact her previous singles have barely made a dent on the Top 40. However, their hopes are not entirely unjustified as she has been collecting high profile admirers from the other side of the Atlantic. As well as working with the Beastie Boys and receiving support from Missy Elliott she has become the first UK act signed to Def Jam Records.

Despite this Blah Blah's lyrics are unapologetically provincial (not surprising since this is one of the first songs she wrote). It will, no doubt, further cement her role as Queen of the Chavs (as if it needed cementing after she turned up to her sister’s wedding in a white tracksuit). Since its early demo version the track has been much cleaned up by Basement Jaxx who also add a superb guitar riff to the mix.However, it’s hard to believe that it will win many converts from those who remained unimpressed by the joys of Cha Ching and Random.
3.5/5
Review by Woodshed, writer on our sister site We Love 1997

José González - Crosses (official site)
Just a few months ago José González was hardly known of in the UK. However, since his song ‘Heartbeats’ was re-released after being used in the Sony Bravia bouncing balls advert, he’s become one of the most popular artists of the moment.
‘Crosses’ is not as much of an immediate love as ‘Heartbeats’ was, but José’s guitar playing is as intricate and beautiful as ever, and is still without a doubt a very good song. The beauty of the song is added to with the lyrics (although they may be few) including the lines “Don't you know that I'll be around to guide you, through your weakest moments to leave them behind you”.
In a world where the charts are (usually) filled with boring, repetitive clones, José is definitely the shining star amongst them all. This song deserves to equal the success he had with ‘Heartbeats’.
4.5/5
Review by Kaytee.

All Releases: (ones Hannah's heard are in bold)
Akala – The Edge, Bearsuit – Stephen Fucking Spielberg, Bif Naked – Let Down, Brian Kennedy - Every Song Is A Cry For Love, Coldplay - The Hardest Part [Download Only], The Crimea - White Russian Galaxy, Death Cab For Cutie – Crooked Teeth, Discharge - Beginning Of The End, Duels – Animal, The Egg – Walking Away, The Energies – Beyond The End, Field Music – You’re Not Supposed To, Filterfunk - S.O.S. (Message In A Bottle), Frank – I’m Not Shy On Mondays, Ghostly Man - Capital/Advice From Strangers, Gorillaz – El Manana/Kids With Guns, Hard-Fi – Better Do Better, Ian Van Dahl - Movin’ On, Islands – Rough Gem, Jakokoyak - Flatyre EP, Jamie Foxx feat. Ludacris – Unpredictable, Jesse James – Everything, José González – Crosses, Lady Sovereign – Blah Blah, The Legends - Play It For Today, Leya – In Our Hands, Lorraine – I Feel It, The Maccabees – Latchmere, Mark Morrison feat. DMX - Innocent Man, Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal, Mohair - Life, Natasha Thomas – Skin Deep, Paperlung - Days That God Sold You/A Cautionary Vision Of The Future, Radio Dept - The Worst Taste In Music, Randoms - Two Stripes Trainers, Shayne Ward – No Promises, Studio B - C’Mon Get It On, Trina feat. Kelly Rowland – Here We Go Again, Urban Myth Club – I Feel It, Whirlwind Heat - Reagan

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lewis's Single(s) to avoid (10/04/06)

God, there's some rubbish out this week. I've filtered through the dustbins of pop, but sadly I'm unable to find one particular dead dog to gorge myself on. So I present a most delightful melange of feebleness and frippery that you may consume at will. We kick off with Coldplay's 'The Hardest Part', a fairly mundane R.E.M. pastiche that rhymes 'part' with 'part' in the very first line, before dropping in 'start', 'heart' and 'apart'. Nice going, Chris. And now you've got a kid called Moses. But let us move on. Lady Sovereign's 'Blah Blah' is illiterate, style-infested spasticity, but it will probably be adored by metropolitan types who think that text-talk is the forefront of 'cutting-edge'. Then we have The Crimea's single, which isn't terrible, but is somewhat static and could have done with a little more energy. So, whatever's left? There's Gorillaz, whose 'El Mañana' drifts by without ever calling attention to itself, and Hard-Fi, who are just a deeply unpleasant band. The crowning glory of this miserable week? Shayne Ward and 'No Promises'. Dear oh dear. I think I'll go live on the moon until next Monday.

Friday, April 07, 2006

WL Open Blog, anybody?

Next week, because I'm a little stuck for inspiration, and we haven't done one of these for while, WL is hosting an open blog. Our readers are free to review any single they like that's out on April 10th and communicate their love (or hate!) for whichever song they choose. Interested?

Simply check out the release listings for next week (a good place to look is here) and email us your review, complete with a rating out of five and any other singles you recommend. Also, if you have your own music blog, feel free to provide us with a link so we can credit you accordingly! The deadline for the reviews is Monday April 10th.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hannah's Single of the Week (03/04/06) PART TWO

Part two of this week's mammoth sotw post...

Special Mentions:
Gnarls Barkley - Crazy (official site - with audio stream)
Everything DJ Dangermouse touches turns to gold. No, really. It does. Considering this single (appreciated by the indie kids, radio 1 and 2 listeners, and hip-hop lovers alike) is the first to become a UK singles chart number one solely on download sales (yes, you probably know that already, and we don't understand the fuss, either) the charts have become something of a hot topic once more. To be honest, what's more impressive than the whole 'downloads-only' feat is the fact the resulting publicity has given 'Crazy' some amazing combined sales. The single, only one day into the sales week, had managed to shift some 50,000 copies, which is more than the total most of the number ones of this year have sold in a whole week. So, what does WL make of the latest collaboration from the producer of Gorillaz's hit album 'Demon Days'? Okay, I can't speak for Lewis, but I love it, despite the fact it's not the type of thing I'd usually go for. There's something extremely subtle and soulful about it, the background strings really add something to it without dominating the song and the vocals are truly mesmerising.
4.5/5

Larrikin LoveEdwould (official site)
If it wasn't for the fact they've got some association with WL favourite Patrick Wolf, I wouldn't have given Larrikin Love a second look. On first look, you see, they're another NME indie band that sound suspiciously like the Libertines. And yes, it's true, they do sound a bit like the Libertines, but they're a Libertines with worse hair, better guitarwork and a fiddle solo. It may be a piece of fast-paced, almost generic, indie, but the fiddle (and a few other nice, original touches) make it stand out from the rest.
4/5

White Rose MovementGirls In The Back (official site - includes video)
Oooh...pretty electropop from some more mates of The Mighty Boosh. Well, no, it's dirty, edgy electropop, as opposed to the mega-glossy stuff I tend to favour, but so much the better. The follow-up to last year's top 75 hit, 'Alsatian' , 'Girls In The Back' actually sounds rather different in comparison to its predecessor. It's far more danceable, and even comes off sounding a little like a novelty record.
3.5/5

The ZutonsWhy Won’t You Give Me Your Love? (official site and e-card)
The verse promises so, so much, and the over-repetitive, two-note chorus (guys - what do you think you're doing?!) doesn't quite deliver...but that's the only problem, though a big one it may be, with the song. Mind you, this lead single from the Zutons' second effort, 'Tired of Hanging Around' has so much going for it, I'm going to overlook the chorus and concentrate on what really makes it great. The verse, the stop-chorus, the video, the outro...basically everything except the chorus, is verging on sublime.
4/5

Box Five - fen EP (official site - download fen for free!)
I make a lot of fuss about Box Five, I know, but I wouldn't if I didn't think that Mary Bichner and her every changing band of musicians didn't deserve every little bit of it. Box Five may be unsigned, they may be based in Philidephia, USA, but the music they've produced has made a real impact on me. This is Box Five's second studio EP, following on from 2005's 'Exercises In Modern Pop' and is, by all accounts, far darker, less bouncy, but ultimately more eerily beautiful than ever. Don't get me wrong, I do miss the bounce, and some stamina is required to last out listening to five-minute-long tracks first time round but it's still good. Different, but good.
Mary's lyrics (with intelligent references, and interesting subject matter) really shine through here, as do her stunning vocals and the melodies she writes that really show them off.
My favourite track on the EP is currently 'Ceasefire', but each song has something to love from the sheer beauty of the piano on 'Doctrines' to the entire lot of the bizarre 'On Dying (For Attention)'. I still, unlike many of the fans, prefer 'Exercises In Modern Pop', but this EP is a fine successor, showing both Mary's development in confidence and ability to write very different sorts of tunes.
4/5

All Releases: (ones I've heard in bold)
3 More Swallows - Monkey VS Shark, Babyshambles – 32nd Of December, Belle & Sebastian – The Blues Are Still Blue, The Charlatans – Blackened Blue Eyes, Cord - Go Either Way, The Crimea – White Russian Galaxy, D4L - Laffy Taffy, Enya – It’s In The Rain, The Fratellis - Creepin' Up The Backstairs: The Fratellis EP, Franz Ferdinand – The Fallen/L.Wells, Gnarls Barkley – Crazy, Hypo Psycho - Somebody, Someday, Ichinchilla – Record Player, The Immediate – Make Our Devils Flow EP [Ltd], Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Honey Child, Jaheim - Everytime I Think About Her, Keyshia Cole – I Should Have Cheated/I Changed My Mind, Larrikin Love – Edwould, Lethal Bizzle - Mind Your Head, Lost Alone - Blood Is Sharp, Lucia Evans - Bruised But Not Broken, Make Good Your Escape - Beautiful Ruin, Mark Morrison feat. DMX – Innocent Man, Mary J Blige & U2 – One, Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana, Mick Karn - Of & About, Mish Mash feat. Lois – Speechless, Mocky – Fighting Away The Tears, The Motorettes – I Am Blisters I Am, Mrs Robinson - I'm A Little Obsessed, Mujaji - On A Bridge Between Clouds, Nada Surf - Always Love, Nizlopi – Girls, OK Go – Do What You Want, Plan B – Missing Links / Breakdown [7" Only] [Ltd], Richard James – My Heart’s On Fire, Scape feat. D Empress - Be My Friend, Stu Allen – A Feeling, Subways – Rock & Roll Queen, This Is Seb Clarke - Fall, Tiga – Far From Home, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Amateur Man/Ban The Gin [Ltd], White Rose Movement – Girls In The Back, Wigwam – Wigwam, Wills & The Willing - 21st Century Love Song, The Zutons – Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hannah's Single of the Week (03/04/06) PART ONE

According to my mate Jonny at Dogs Can't Look Up, last week was the last week of great music before weeks of rubbish. Apparently. I beg to disagree. This week is an absolute stunner. Well, another X Factor act are apparently releasing a single, but other than that there are so many singles I want to review that I'm having to split my Single of the Week post in two for what is probably the first time ever. So, yeah, here we go...

More-Than Special Mentions:
Belle & SebastianThe Blues Are Still Blue (official site and video)
I've already mentioned the brilliance of the accompanying video, but the simple fact is this song is just as good, if not better. Better than preceding single, 'Funny Little Frog', it's one of the highlights from the band's latest album 'The Life Pursuit' (an absolute stunner of an album, by the way). Everything from its funky bassline to the singalong chorus is PERFECT. Whether you admire the wit of the lyrics, the retro flavour of the music, the glossy production, the perfectly timed musical interlude or the charming backing vocals - there's something for everyone here. Oh, and did I mention the video? I did? Well, I'll say it again, it rounds off a perfect package.
5/5

The CrimeaWhite Russian Galaxy (official site and video)
Following their no. 31 single 'Lottery Winners On Acid' London-based band The Crimea release another single from their album 'Tragedy Rocks'. The interesting thing here being that 'White Russian Galaxy' has been here before. In June 2003, in fact. Thank goodness it's been released again. It'd be easy to proclaim the Crimea as 'yet another indie-sounding indie band' (Coldplay, Athlete, etc) but they're not. They don't fit into the Franz Ferdinand/Maximo Park/Bloc Party group, either. There's definitely something different here, something refreshing, and the best thing about it is I can't quite put my finger on it. It makes me want to buy the album, despite only having heard one song from it, and that's something special. There's a quirky transition from distorted guitars to cleaner, more twinkly sounds that somehow becomes interesting and doesn't manage to sound cliched. Oh, just a warning though - the sing-song nature of the chorus ('who knows what goes on in her pretty little head') is catchy to the point of it swirling round your head for several days.
4.5/5

Single of the Week:
Franz FerdinandThe Fallen/L.Wells (the-fallen.com - contains all three videos)
My, my, the Franz have been busy boys. New songs, new videos and non-stop touring. Allow me to introduce the best 'single' so far from the boys' second album. Essentially, it's two great songs for the price of one. A proper double a-side, and you don't get those too often. You can't fault the band on effort, really. 'The Fallen' is the opening track from current album 'You Could Have It So Much Better' and even the NME proclaiming it the best thing the band's ever done hasn't put me off. For some reason it's required a radio edit, cutting it down from a sensible 3.42 to a meagre 2.47, but thankfully it doesn't take anything away from the song, making it even snappier, hectic, crazy and enjoyable than ever. Quintessential Franz, one might say. 'L. Wells', on the other hand, shows the band exploring a new sound. It is, if I'm honest, the closest Franz are ever going to come to sounding like a rock 'n' roll marching band. It's multi-layered structure and feel-good vibe gives an illusion of parades, carnivals and suchlike. It's not a sound I'd like to see them turning to permanently, but 'L. Wells' is definitely a fantastic one-off.
5/5
NB: Also worth a look are all three videos. 'L. Wells' and 'Jeremy Fraser' don't actually feature the band (a bonus if, like Lewis, you find them aesthetically repulsive) but the latter seems to feature (we're probably wrong, but...) a bizarre homage to cult-movie 'The Wicker Man' set in a school playground.

MP3 time:
While both of the true A sides of the single are great, I'm afraid I just don't agree with the statement from Franz frontman Alex Kapranos that says it should be a 'quintuple a side'. For me, the b-sides just aren't up to scratch. It's a shame really, because I've always thought the Franz boys have produced b-sides of the highest standard. So, because 'Jeremy Fraser' and 'Brown Onions' are something of disappointment, I've decided to post one of the band's better b-sides for your listening pleasure.
Franz Ferdinand - Missing You [mp3 link]

Monday, April 03, 2006

Lewis's Single to Avoid (03/04/06)

The Charlatans - 'Blackened Blue Eyes'
Franz Ferdinand, you are spared! They were poised for a ritual disembowelling this week (the pen is mightier than the sword, after all), but the return of the most aptly-named band in the world just clinches it, I'm afraid. The Charlatans have been knocking around for years now, and they're still releasing records that assume that 'Madchester' is as big as ever. Allow me to shatter their illusions. 'Madchester' was the most asinine scene in the history of pop music, and attempts to prolong it should be seen as a violation of basic human rights. Might I suggest Article 31: 'No-one should be subjected to a tuneless, hissing song with a strutting, chauvinistic rhythm that features the vocals of a shaggy-haired prole with simian features'. Not only would it rid the world of crap like this, but it would also outlaw the likes of Kasabian, the Happy Mondays and Ian Brown. And it would put paid to those awful rumours of a Stone Roses reunion. We'd be living in a modern utopia.
1/5