Everyone – and I mean everyone is releasing a single this week. So many, that I wanted to use a thoroughly unfair culling method that involved a blindfold, a pointy stick and some glue - or worse, inadvertently lose half my pile down the back of the bin (whoopstheregomyfingers, can't listen to them now, ohdear). Luckily, someone appealed to my better instincts and I did what I am paid to do. Which was to listen to the darned things; ALL FORTY THREE OF THEM.
One last thing afore we begin. Usually when I come to compile this column, there is a last minute chasm-panic (before I have sampled the playlist) when I trouble that there will be no clear winner. I mean, I realise that too is part of my remit - to find something that lasts three minutes and is worth you spending some cash on. But, and though I swear I have done my utmost - for me, there is no clear winner today. So for one week only, we have (AIIIEEEE) no Single Of The Week. Though I shall be glad for you to rant persuasively in the comments. And fear not, because I already know what wins next week, it's all I can listen to and it's quite, quite brilliant.
Ringo Deathstarr - ‘In Love’ / ‘Summertime’ (SVC)
Sometimes I don’t care how heavily a band wears its influences. And Ringo Deathstarr - quite apart from having the best band name this week by milesandmiles - wear their homagery like a neon Hypercolor t-shirt what has the hot mark of Mark Gardener’s girly face on it. Don’t care though, and you can’t do nothink about it, because b-side ‘Summertime’ – despite sounding like it has been recorded through several layers of wispy gauze, is not only lush with a capital L, but a breathy, self-celebratory joy. Listen at Myspace, here.
Air - ‘Sing Sang Sung’ (Virgin)
If there was such a thing as diluting the very Essence of Gallicism using homeopathic processes, then Air would be the Neal's Yard of potentising; its very own Grand Masters. And I swear they have banged this single on a horsehair cushion the requisite 10 times, as I believe those bastions of irrational thought are wont to do. You see, I don’t think I have heard a record as unabashedly French as this for quite some time. And while I will admit that there is a small part of me that hopes Air are toying with us; that they know which buttons to press in those of us who (for shame) indulge in the odd bit of mild comedic xenophobia (and only then behind closed doors, I promise you). I mean, heeth even goth a lithp when he thingth. Honestly, you must listen, because even if Air are entirely serious, ‘Thing, Thang, Thung’ will cheer you up something silly, even if it does so for entirely the wrong reasons. A ridiculous, monumentally fey record. Beautiful videothing, too.
The Leisure Society - ‘Save It For Someone Who Cares’ (Full Time Hobby)
It’s not just The Free Design flutes that make me pash on this really quite hard. Or the fact that I have a Byrds-y, 60s sunshine pop streak what lurks and revels, a mile wide. It is more that ‘Save It For Someone Who Cares’ is so unashamedly pretty, as pure and well-intentioned as the Hair soundtrack - even if in this case, the sentiments and title are a little less arms-across-the-world. And of course, it’s this very contrast that stops The Leisure Society from being utterly sick-making. And it’s got handclaps. And a cowboy coda, what whirls around like one of those windmills you stick on the top of a sandcastle.
Listen at MySpace, here.
Stricken City - ‘Five Metres Apart’ (Pure Groove)
Stricken City have been driving me absolutely mental all week, for I am trying to think exactly who they remind me of. And irritatingly I am still tipping on the cusp of the brink of the precipice of remembering; still it taunts. The closest I have come so far is in identifying a certain Bjork-circa-Sugarcubes in the way young Katie sings ‘im-por-tant. A-nee-more’ (my favourite bit of this record, I agree wholeheartedly with its sentiments, which I think are about not torturing yourself over life's fluff). Brushing aside the rather unfortunate reviewFAIL aspect of this here write-up, I can tell you that I am also starting to see what SC’s converts are enjoying. They have a verve and exuberance that is all charm.
La Roux - ‘I’m Not Your Toy’ (Polydor)
There must be some sort of clever clogs scientist amongst we who can explain why – when faced with exactly the same set of noises - we hear such different things. I saw an advert for Bra-bra Streisand at the weekend, and appealed to the assembled throng of my living room on precisely this subject. ‘I no get it,’ I opined, ‘Why do peoples go crazy over this woman?’. And my companion raised an eyebrow and explained it in words of one syllable: it’s her voice.
And so to La Roux, whose ability to divide pop appreciators I find somewhat alarming (if not actively disappointing). ‘I’m Not Your Toy’ is most assuredly The One With The Steel Drums On It and has a beau photogram of Elly sat on wicker chair on the cover (which may or may not be a reference to Emmanuelle - but I hope it is). I happen to love it (it is in fact my favourite La Roux single) but I have already throttled it, I made it dance for me till its feet ached earlier this year, so it doesn’t have quite the same effect it once did. One other thing – it’s worth bearing in mind that for a lot of young girls (and I try to imagine what I would make of her, were I fourteen) – this is a young woman riding the biggest breath of image-based fresh air since forever; after what seems like light years of orange flesh, plastic glue-on hair and porn talons. And it's not that I have a problem with this modern definition of glamour (being partial to a bit of the old 'Went to bed in The Shire, Woke up in Brazil' lotion myself) - but I do find it rather refreshing we now have an alternative. Video here.
Kindness - ‘Swinging Party’ (Moshi Moshi)
It rather helps Kindness that he sounds so very like David Byrne. Not least because Byrne is top of my list of pop oldsters I would (others in this category, Nick Cave, Guy Garvey, but hang on, sometimes I forget this is a review, and not a diary, scribbled in pink ink). Even if you don’t share my elderly proclivities, you can at least imagine what lush David would sound like if he done a cover of The Replacements’ 'Swinging Party' - at least, if it had been backing tracked with a slow synth pulserama. That’s what this is, and it’s a sad, minimal affair I found deliciously compelling.
The Drums - ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ (Moshi Moshi)
Gosh and darn it, I thought he was singing ‘Obama, I want to go surfing’, not ‘Oh Momma’. And with that crashing disappointment out of the way, I will tell you that the whistles on this are truly grand. And the superfast clappy breakdown in the middle is ace, especially when the dubby prods come in at about 1:55. But overall I find this troublingly arch – with lines about not caring about nothing hardly helping The Drums' cause.
Lou Barlow - ‘The Right’ (Domino)
Do you know everyone, I have not listened to the indie Barlow for about 15 years. ‘Soul & Fire’ was my favourite - I remember lolling about listening to it with my very first boyfriend in his bedroom in between the very first proper kisses I ever received. And maybe you shouldn’t go back, because I listened to 'Soul & Fire' again this week and found it far less affecting than I had expected (it used to reduce me to tears). He's still got one of the kindest voices you ever did hear though, and it struck me that this softness of tone paved the way for the likes of Sufjan, even though they operate in rather different musical play-parks.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band - ’15 to 20’ (Pure Groove)
Deserved re-release for a band who have tambourines in the shape of doves (and it is not often I covet a tambourine, but I want the ones The Phenomenal Handclap Band have something dreadful). For more on why '15 to 20’ is ace, go here. Although I do need to insert a caveat about the fact that this appears to be some kind of re-rub - and you need to know that the original is heaps more gooderer.
Graham Coxon - ‘Brave The Storm’ / ‘Dead Bees’ (Transgressive)
I love ‘Brave The Storm’ with all my heart, I really do. And the last thing I wish to be is unduly beastly towards Graham Coxon, who strikes me as a fearfully sensitive chap. But the thing is, as soon as he starts singing, all that love turns to dust and nothingness and I haveta turn it off. As usual, this is emphatically my problem, so if his voice does not give you the weed-allergic shivers like what it does me, I am sure you will treasure this.
Bowling For Soup - ‘My Wena’ (A&G Records)
He’s singing about his penis. AhahhahahahaahahahahahhHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHAHAHAHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGHH. (* shoots self *)
Dirty Projectors - ‘Temecula Sunrise’ (Domino)
I saw Kieren Hebden at Benicassim once. And it is fair to say that I was rather wretched from Too Much Fun at the time. But I became pretty irked, because it felt as if as soon as he had settled into a tune, or conjured something maddeningly beaty for we civilians to tap our toes to, this was his cue to dart off somewhere else. And I felt like I was being teased. There was so much to love, but not enough time to love it; his laptop had A.D.D. And I was reminded of Hebden when I listened to Dirty Projectors, who appear to have crammed every idea that has ever occurred to them into ‘Temecula Sunrise’ as if it was their first and only shot at a novel. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t several moments of quite shiny brilliance on their EP – for there are about thrimpty million things going on. Just none of them for very long. As ever, this is more about how patient and amenable you may be to experimentation/changes of tack. Me? Not so much.
Stornoway - ‘Unfaithful’ (Unsigned)
Stornoway are no-nonsense chaps that specialise in the sort of earnestness it is very difficult to master. For it seems to me there is a fine line between being honest and being sort of wet. They tread this with aplomb - this being a powerful song about finding out your dearest has done something awfully rude with someone they shouldn't. And it's deeply affecting, it honestly makes me think what nice chaps Stornoway must be, and how comfortable with themselves, to make music this finely-felt and uncynical. And then I thought, wouldn't it be a hoot if they turned out to be complete rotters, cheating on their girlfriends here there and everywhere, shagshagshagshagshag. Anyway; gorgeous, gorgeous record. Listen at MySpace, here.
Mumford & Sons - ‘Little Lion Man’ (Gentlemen of the Road/Island)
This lovely bit of uplifting strum-pop has a barreling urgency I found somewhat irresistible.
Matt & Kim - ‘Daylight’ (Fader/Nettwerk)
More ramshackle pop from DIY New York’s Final Destination-channelling impromptu strippers. Very, very jolly indeed.
Also out this week!
Andy Nice - ‘The Remixes’ (Front and Follow)
Tindersticks’ cellist, re-rubbed and given a secondary polish. A munificent free download, what you can get here.
Slow Club - ‘Trophy Room’ (Moshi Moshi)
The Non-Commissioned Officers - ‘Make Out With Violence EP’ (Unsigned)
Filthy Dukes ft. Wiley - ‘Tupac Robot Club Rock’ (Polydor)
The Holloways - ‘Jukebox Sunshine’ (The Orchard)
Ungdomskulen - ‘I Dunno’ (Nika)
Black Gold - ‘Breakdown’ (Red Bull Records)
The Invisible - ‘London Girl’ (Accidental)
Mickey Gang - ‘Horses Can’t Dance’ (50 Bones)
And! Some very honourable, slightly last-minute, Special Mentions!
Stairs To Korea - 'Boy Bear It In Mind' (Brainlove Records)
Curly Hair - 'Ivy League EP' (Toy Soldier)
Listen at MySpace, here.
Come and tell Wendy what you are having for lunch on Twitter, here.