This week's singles is about men who make tidy sportwear LOOK GOOD. Also: Batchelor's Super Noodles, wilderness periods, Jolt cola, soundscapes, bad short films, circularity.
Single of the Week!
!!! - ‘Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass’ (Warp)
‘Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass’ has the best song title this week by absolutely miles; every time I see the sleeve on my desk I grin. And by strange coincidence, my intentions towards !!! are just as sordid as theirs are to the titular Jamie. You see, they are one of a handful of bands who really did save my life one year, emerging as I was from a particularly acute wilderness period in which I actually bought a Maroon 5 album. (I even went to the trouble of asking what it was in a shop so I could get it. YOU GUYS, it was DARK.) Of course, what !!! did, as soon as I discovered them, was to open my eyes as wide as they would go. And after putting something small, white and circular on my tongue and holding my jaw shut till I could not but swallow; all the world and its sexy cousin came to stay, the scales fell and so did the scales' pants, it was well rude. By all of which I mean, here is a band who could rescue the most sexless and unfrisky of droids, ChkChkChk know what they are doing and it is not going to hurt - other than in the good, bad ache, way.
Thing is, the more ancient I get, the more I relish the screwed faces of those who are offended by what they perceive as bad bands, I love how it upsets them. And what I like about this column, is the opportunity it affords one to yield up all one's worst, most unattractive and supposedly unforgiveable musical secrets. Off they fly, whoosh-whoosh, and I shoulda been a Cafflick because you would not get me out of that booth, I would flipping Love. It. TAKE ALL MY BAD OFF ME FATHER, YOU HAVE IT. Anyway. This single is, as you might expect, absolutely wonderful; as slinky and provoking as a thing could be. But if you don’t know what they sound like by now or expect me to splain it to you, you can SOD OFF. Also, how ridiculously hot is Nic Offer? Nobody should look that good in tennis shorts. NOBODY.
I need a lie down.
I’m not, though. That is what is so brilliant about it. I HAVE NONE GUILT.
Craft Spells - ‘Party Talk’ (Captured Tracks)
Hello Party Talk, would you like to be nearly-but-not-quite Single of the Week? It is just that when I listen to your shimmery song with its inordinately pleasing introductionary section and then bask in your singy bits which remind me of Edwyn Collins, and then come across your slightly shonky Ah-Ah backing vocals, and your quivery, zithery middle eight, I come over all happy. Happy like a pair of socks someone knitted just for me in all my favourite colours! Because I am that awful! And you are that good! Speaking of which, the Americans really are quite bon at the moment, are they not? By which I mean all of the Americas, all of them, all the same, all the same.
Elliott Smith - ‘Ballad Of Big Nothing’ (Domino)
I remember this arriving because there was definitely some nose-wrinkling going on, and I definitely had a thought pootle about whether it was a gift or an albatross; this whole being-able-to-review-an-Elliott-Smith-single-even-though-he-is-like-totally-dead. In the end I realised that Elliott is yet another person who I can’t really listen to anymore. And it is not that his sound is pickled in aspic but the time I discovered it definitely is, it was A Time and that time is not now, I can’t go back, it’s in a jar. And I don’t want to take the lid off in case the vinegar’s gone funny.
Mystery Jets - ‘Show Me The Light’ (Rough Trade)
While I swan about listening to each week’s playlist I tend to have a row with an imaginary foe - though obviously I always win and they are INCENSED and FRILLED by my amazing critical insight slash telligence. Anyhoo, this week I had one about Mystery Jets, and how lucky we are to have them, what an egregiously massive knack they have for pop melody, and how if they were a hamster I would squeeze them to my bosom just that little too hard. ‘Show Me The Light’ is another supremely loveable single.
The Good Natured - ‘Be My Animal’ (Kids)
Sarah McIntosh is wonderful for many reasons, but ‘Be My Animal’ is a clear case for being allowed time to get on with things and develop at your own pace, rather than chucking out four singles in quick succession with whoever is meant to be the best at re-swizzling so that the hipsters like you too. I think the point about Sarah is that her singing is so completely plain and unadorned, and her British sensibilities are whiffed right up high, so all her singles just seem painfully, wonderfully natural, no messin or glossin. Just (just!) pop music, beautifully turned out, clean, pointed toes, pressed collars. I like her a very, very lot. B-side, 'Prisoner' free here.
Clock Opera - ‘Once And For All’ (Kitsuné)
I have come to the conclusion that I like Clock Opera best when they have got their giddy on. The fast ones, the propulsive ones, the ones they play after downing ten pints of Jolt coca-cola. ‘Once & For All’ does not fit into this category, it is them being a bit serious and I am not sure I like the desperate air. Also it sounds very like the music you hear on 02 adverts, as Sean Bean tries to convince you to take out some intensely pointless text message package dreamt up by nitwits in beige boardrooms with motivational posters on the wall. This is unfortunate in the extreme (for Clock Opera, and me).
Teebs - ‘Why Like This’ (Brainfeeder)
Teebs have used jingling change as a percussive tick, and it sounds good even if you find yourself in a penniless panic in which Christmas starts to look ever more sack and coal-like. It’s also got water bubbling, synths that waver in a quite irregular fashion and which certainly don’t portend nice stuff. ‘Why Like This’ – given the hints provided by the title - may be a lyric-less, dubstep state of the nation address in which we ponder the Dreadness of Things via the medium of spooky noise. Or it could just be another excursion into the land of wibble. You work it out while I listen, I think it is quite good.
Remember Remember - ‘Get Good’ ‘RR Scorpii’ EP (Rock Action Records, Listen here)
Usually any music that could be described as a soundscape would have me running so hard in the other direction I would break both heels. But ‘Get Good’ are not awful in the slightest, and it is doubly unconscionable because also, right, their soundscape is pretty, it has got xylophones, flutes and a string section on it. What raises this out of the arena of school ensemble orchestra therefore, is the cleanness - the fact that the melody moves on just when it needs to, it is a tune that turns corners just when it should. Everything here is in its right place, so if it ends up soundtracking a dog-awful student short with time-lapse clouds in it, I will be VERY UPSET.
Prinzhorn Dance School - ‘Seed, Crop, Harvest’ (7” on DFA, but also free here)
I love the name Prinzhorn Dance School, so this week I finally bothered to find out where it came from because I could feel it in my lady waters, I knew the splanation was going to be good. And it is, because it turns out they are named after one Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who collected art by people who were not very well in the head. The internet tells me Mr. P collated the works in a book, which ‘concerned the borderline between psychiatry and art, illness and self-expression’ – from which I have naturally extrapolated for my own theoretic ends. You see, I am fast coming to the conclusion that the difference between an artistic breakthrough and a creative breadvan is but a hair; they are so closely aligned as to be almost indistinguishable. Unfortunately I am also coming to the conclusion that I do not like Prinzhorn Dance School, their haughty angularisms and yellable, skeletal post-punk does precisely nothing for my heart or feet. Unlike my childhood dance school, which was run by one Paula de Vere (nee Smith). In case you were wondering, and even if you were not, this is this week’s CIRCULAR REVIEW.
Gregory and The Hawk - ‘Olly Olly Oxen Free’ (FatCat)
In the same week that I pulled out Cathy Davey’s charming Something Ilk and played the delightful ‘Come Over’ (on Spotify here), along come Gregory and the Hawk, with their similarishly doll-like vocals and barreling strum. And a very sugary sounding thing it is too, with some nice lyrical conceits in which pretend Gregory and his pretend hawk (fed up of pretends) write a series of letters to things that can’t reply - like ‘last July’, ‘the day we met’ and ‘consequence’. And perhaps this is what elevates and rescues ‘Olly Olly Oxen Free’ – sickeningly darling though it sounds – from the Pit of Nice. If I were writing to last July I would tell it to stick its own essential Julyness up its actual bumhole. But not the July just past, because that one was wick.
MJ Cole & Wiley - ‘From The Drop’ (Prolific Recordings)
It must be nice to be Wiley. He can just ring up MJ Cole and get him to come round whenever he wants, and just tell him to repeat the last word of every sentence he utters (UT-TERS). And MJ will just do it (DO IT). Cole is no shirker, he is all too happy to oblige, he is all like ‘Yes, Mr. Wiley, now you have decided to give away every single song known to man on the internets; and then to film everything you do including when you put Super Noodles in the microwave and dance until it pings; and then after you have fallen off the internets in a fit of pique; after that, yes, I will come round. Just give me a second to finish this watercolour of Trengwainton Garden and I shall be right with you. Yes you are right, Wiley, it is not as good as the one what I done of Felbrigg Hall, but you must hadmit, the light on the fronds is turning out very nicely.’ I mean, I just like idea of having all my last words repeated because it would lend a such a thrilling grandness to everything; offering a guest a cup of tea and a bourbon (BURR-BON) or asking your life partner to take the bin out (BIN OUT) because you need to crack on with re-sealing this shower with mastic (MAS-TIC). Oh, come round to my new house and do it for ME, Em-jay, I will make you a pie (PIE).
Warning: Though it is The Law to like Wiley, and though this is a law I am happy to obey, ‘From The Drop’ has an absolutely tedious video in which ladies in (admittedly very nice and aspirational) pants repeatedly have gallons of semi-skimmed lobbed at them. It is all a bit COME ON, NOW.
Youthless - ‘Golden Age’ (One Bird Records)
‘Golden Age’s absurdly poppy excursion takes in cowbells, low-slung basslines so simple they should be played from the corner of the classroom, busted speakers and a chorus in which they sound like The Police! It is two minutes and nineteen seconds of pure larks.
Best Coast - ‘Crazy For You’ (Wichita)
Best Coast are Best Coast are Best Coast are Best Coast. I mean, this is what it is and it’s more it than anything else around at the moment. So there you go.
Sparrow And The Workshop - ‘Black To Red’ EP (Distiller)
‘Black to Red’ is the blues rock song as waltz. This is no mean feat, so well done the sparrahs.
Also out this Week!
Skinny Lister - ‘Kite Song’ (Self-release, more here)
Cute. If that does not sound abominably patronising.
The Horn & The Hunt - ‘Raptor’ (White Label Music)
Other customers who liked Ladytron a little bit also liked this a little bit etc.
Tender Trap - ‘Dansette Dansette!’ (Fortuna Pop!)
It’s all very well buying a Dansette record player off of eBay to make your music room look lush. But if you need to spend another fifty squids to get the 'valves' (?) working and it still sounds like toilet after, you are a fool. Yes, I did done do this.
The Strange Death Of Liberal England - ‘Lighthouse’ (Republic of Music)
Because liberal England really has died, hasn’t it? No one is trying to revive it, neither. SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING.
Two Door Cinema Club - ‘I Can Talk’ (Kitsuné)
Why Two Door Cinema Club? I just don’t understand why them.
Zombie Zombie - ‘Zombie Zombie Plays John Carpenter’ EP (Versatile)
I got quite excited about this, I love John Carpenter and his three-note sinisterings. But Zombie Zombie appear to have stripped all the atmoss clean away. Disappointing.
And the Rest!
MAY68 - ‘The Prisoner’ (Kitsuné)
Leni Ward - ‘I Want My Heart Back’ (Library Recordings)
I Blame Coco - ‘In Spirit Golden’ (Island)
The Spivs - ‘I Don’t Want It’ (Damaged Goods)
The Chapman Family - ‘All Fall’ (Electric Toaster)
Johnny Flynn feat. Laura Marling - ‘The Water’ (Transgressive)
Wendy is on Twitter, here. Also, if you would like to, you can hear her on actual RADIO ONE on Tuesday at 9pm when she will be on Nihal's review show, trying not to sound too oiky.