No pre-amblage from me this week - because when there is this much good stuff to tawk about, we need to be getting on.
The Hidden Cameras - ‘Underage’ (Arts & Crafts)
When indie can be bothered to pull its finger out of its arse, it makes immense pop songs. This happens not nearly often enough for me, for I like my singles hooky as anglers' kitboxes; songs you can sing to, songs your Mum would like. So when I came across ‘Underage’ with its darned hymnal choruses and rinky dink tunesmithery, I yelped. And yet, and yet. You see, usually an indie record about something really, really filthy would also make me leap about. And ‘Underage’ is very definitely one of those. But for the first time in a long time I am ignoring how it asks ‘You pretend you’re seven’ / ‘And I’ll pretend I’m eight’ and I am turning a blind eye to the golden shower at the end of the video, and I am trying not to think too hard about what Joel Gibb is on about. Because if I think about ‘Underage’ too, too much I will hear a headline-baiting, middle England froth-inducer - and I don’t want to hear that, I want to almost physically feel my spirits soar as all those button-pushing key changes and all that munificent melody whizzes about my head. I think ‘Underage’ is a triumph, it is exactly the sort of thing I am a massive sucker for, and it has almost single-handedly restored my faith in the music of oh-ten. More here.
Peggy Sue - ‘Watchman’ (Wichita)
‘The best thing about ‘Watchman’ thought I, as I deftly navigated Tesco’s carpark, is that it is like one of those
poems that has lines that
break in unexpected
places, and every verse is just one
sentence, so there are no capitals and it
all just flows, delightfully, from one idea to the
And don’t be fooled, everyone, though
it sometimes seems that poets who do this are
‘idiots’, it is hactually very hard to pull
off; each line must earn its
place; work harder.
And because it is a self-conscious or
knowing ‘form’ – the song-as-story, each line
tumbling into the next, anything wrong will
REALLY STARK, LIKE.
This is why I am so happy to
report that Watchman tumbles with style -
which is like ‘falling with style’,
Freelance Whales - ‘Generator 2nd Floor’ (Frenchkiss / Mom + Pop) Listen here.
Despite the world’s worst band name Freelance Whales have made a terrific belter of a song, although it is worth pointing out that it is of a very particular kind. The sort that is used to soundtrack an American independent film, very possibly a sleeper hit that has them all spaffing they pants in Park City, Utah. Or to pin it down further, the trailer for such a film, and I am going to call it cinem-indie - the sort of record that soundtracks some award-winning cinematography of some sky before swooping down to Our Hero who is cycling down a steep hill to an empty beach with his winsome, rosy-cheeked, delirious-haired-but-not-‘done'-girlfriend, before they throw all their clothes off and have a lovely little crisis about something vaguely existential. Crucially, it is a trailer without words – and you get all excited about it, think it is going to be the best film you ever saw; the answer to all your boring problems. All of which sounds impossibly snarky. And that is no small injustice, when ‘Generator 2nd Floor’ sounds this wonderful.
Gonjasufi - ‘Kobwebz’ (Warp) More here.
Some people say that if you want a thing done proper, you should do it yourself. And were I forced to concede the reigns and adopt a helper, I would no sooner employ a psychedelic sort than I would lend you my best biro. No, give me the flint-minded focus of a straight edger over the slack-brained hippie any day - especially when one has to do things like tax returns. Do imagine it. Or let me spell it out in a divvy way. ‘It says here,’ you would begin, hopefully, ‘that a member does not have to declare their share of investment gains to the Revenue if those gains, together with any other chargeable gains of the year, are less than the Annual Exempt Amount (£7,700 for the tax year ending 5 April 2003).' But your hippie would be no use, he’d have his spinning head in the teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and you could not extract it, however hard you tried. All of which makes it doubly strange that I have fallen so very hard for Gonjasufi – who is a sort of hippie with added menace, and a raging psychedelic foghorn if ever I heard one - but of course I have, making life simply heaps more gooder. You see, I find I really do want to dive into his paisley, sitars-gone-wah swirl; I find I do not mind his peculiar, busted speakers. Overall it is a massive yay - and though I am not saying ‘Kobwebz’ is not brilliant (it is, it is), ‘Koyboyz & Indianz’ is my favourite and my best. If I don’t pash off to that at least once this year, the whole three hundred and sixty five days will have been an appalling waste of Gonjasufi’s stretchy, spiraling timewonk. MZN.
Allo Darlin’ feat. Monster Bobby - ‘Dreaming’ (Fortuna Pop!)
Monster Bobby does a grand job on ‘Dreaming’, he has his best Jonathan Richman costume on and it suits him; he should not spend 20 dread minutes making up a story about doubled-up birthday presents or divvy Aunts who failed to read the memo properly while he waits for his turn at the Customer Services & Returns kiosk. And ‘Dreaming’ really is a stolen-night romance-a-thon, talking as it does about the risks of loving a New when you’ve had your heart hung, drawn and quartered by an Old. But it’s also about reading the signs wrong; of mistaking satellites for stars, and how, if you really want to ‘lose it on a disco floor’ you need to leave your broken heart behind. The best thing about it is that it sounds like a cardi-wearing, knock-kneed, twee pop song – with all the wheedling over-sensitivity that implies. But it is actually terrifically wise and practical; romance pop for realists, if you will allow me that. Listen here.
Boys Noize & Erol Alkan - ‘Avalanche’ / ‘Lemonade’ (Double-A on Phantasy)
Given that the whole point of this column is for me to trial things so you don’t have to, this week’s Top Tip is to go out on your bike very late at night (steal one if you have to readers, I care not), and make sure it is raining in such a way that the road shines like molten tar, and do go past an abandoned hotel or crumbling graveyard if you possibly can, and (on this point I really must insist), be a woman. Because you need to know that peculiar feeling of melo-fear - borne of walking home on your own through unsavoury neighbourhoods, you need to have heard the footsteps of a fellow traveller too close behind you and felt your heart quicken and thud, to really and truly appreciate the rank joy of what it is like to listen to ‘Lemonade’. There I was, pedaling hard, doing that thing where you bring your knees up to avoid the splash as you go through the puddles, and Lemonade’s sheer banging modernity imbued everything with fizz. Essentially, if you listen to this through your laptop speakers, you’re getting a slap.
Breakage feat. Donaeo - ‘Speechless’ (Digital Soundboy)
‘Speechless’ is where Breakage bring the drama, it is a thing about a girl so lust-making she would make even you commit, leaving aside a life of constant flitting and mass-deleting all the other numbers on your phone so it would be a proper hotline; a channel just for her. The main problem is that she is apparently so desirable, she renders Breakage and guest warbler Donaeo mute. Oh Lore, and she would ring to see if you fancied sharing a whole one in Nando’s, but what could they do about it? Bugger all, of course - and even though the point of the song is to show that sometimes women really are THAT HOT and even Breakage and Donny would MAKE AN EXCEPTION and CHANGE THEY WAYS; even though it has a lovely sense of doom and drama about it, I am sad to say the lyrics could do with a bloody good polish. Like a table at Nando's in Wood Green, after the Saturday rush. Do you see?
Stornoway - ‘I Saw You Blink’ (4AD)
I can’t think of another band I like so well who mean it as much as Stornoway do - and this from someone who finds earnestness entirely awful most of the time. All that pleading, all those misty puppyish eyes, wanting you to know how much they bloody care and how many poetry books they have, it makes me want to take their hands (which are always pressed together in a wheedling sort of way), and rub them in a cowpat before wiping them on their shocked and hurt little faces; just to wake them up a bit. So I hate all that, but here are Stornoway, who write in an almost shockingly genuine way about romance and young love, and I believe everything they say. Very rare.
Wild Beasts - ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ (Domino)
Wild Beasts aren’t daft, they know it makes sense to call a song ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ and to write the lyrics to ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ on the single artwork, even if you don’t really want to think about anything dancing on your tongue because it makes you think of little swimmers going in the wrong end. Thing is, I DO want you to think about it, because I don’t think it’s fair that I’ve had to think about white tadpoles every time I put it on the stereo. Anyway, they really are indie’s louche-est prospects, the sort of band who - just like in the song - would take you to a party in the middle of nowhere, and there you'd be; mouth agape at all the debauch. And you might start to sniff a little; your eyes would water. But Wild Beasts are the sort of chaps that have silk handkerchiefs in their pocket, and they would whip them out with all the practiced grace of a huckster, dabbing near your eyelashes but careful not to smudge. And maybe you wouldn’t notice straight away how that little square of soft smelt a bit funny. Or how later, when the Beasts were tugging at your bra strap, you couldn't stop them. Proper menacing.
We Have Band - ‘Divisive’ (Naive)
This week I wondered about genres which are harder to master. Or at least, whether synth pop – what with it being such an open sort of music, every synth stab needing to count, and needing to zero home – is one of those things that looks easy, but is actually easier to fail at. I mean, a song like ‘Don’t You Want Me’ is so mind-wangingly perfect, that it seems parlous to try to beat it. Still, WHB have a bloody good try [this is not meant to sound like the sort of thing a rugger bugger might say, but I am afeared it does] and ‘Divisive’ is ‘Derivative’ - of course it is - but it is a success of sorts, it’s got all you want from a synth pop song and it’s done properly. And I just find it rather odd that people are so very quick to point out the similarities in synth pop - when LORD ALONE KNOWS, there is quite a lot of same and influences-writ-large in indie, too.
Driver Drive Faster - ‘They May Talk’ (Lex)
So it turns out Lex don’t just do impossibly covetable sleeve art or damnably good hip-hop; they now do indie, too. And if ‘They May Talk’ is anything to go by, it will not be like when Warp done indie and I lost the teeny, tiniest bit of respeck for them. Him out of Maximo Park only went and read books on stage, you know. It was only a bloody notebook, as well.
Also out this Week!
Arctic Monkeys - ‘My Propeller’ (Domino)
To Rococo Rot - ‘Forwardness Fridays’ EP (Domino)