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singles/eps - march 2011

Maybeshewill – Critical Distance (Function Records)

I should love this. Why then, do I feel that it is missing a little heart? A great triumphant guitar fanfare performed with bombast and expertly produced, it should tick all the requisite boxes. I can’t help but think it is missing a little something though. It does feel a little lifeless, by the numbers. And the re-make of ‘I’m In Awe, Amadeus!’ unfortunately exacerbates this. Bands shouldn’t be falling back on older material so early in their career. An ever so slightly disappointed 6/10



We Are Augustines – Chapel Song

Brooklyn is the centre of the world of music at the moment. The duo We Are Augustines are part of that world, and their “Chapel Song” gives you a hint why. Starting with menacing minimal guitars this song about lost love combines both, the cool, desperate voice of Billy McCarthy and a warm, but dreary atmosphere, reminding you of the shallows of The National. Produced by Broken Social Scene’s Dave Newfeld, a brass fanfare gives the song the necessary pop appeal between despair and hope. That’s what I want to hear, that’s why I’m in love with the Brooklyn scene at the moment!

Wolfgang Günther


Feldberg – Don’t Be A Stranger (Small Town America)

The Icelandic duo Feldberg exhibits the perfect synthesis of modern pop. Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld’s voice and Einar Tönsberg’s instrumental soundscape merge twee-pop lightness with a range of avant-garde sounds between folk-pop and electro. It’s like the cool song Emilia Torrini has never made, or the pop song Björk did not want to throw at the masses.

Wolfgang Günther


Jake Morley – Feet Don’t Fail Me Now/ Freddie Laid the Smackdown (Sandwich Emporium)

A combination of gospel style harmonies and acoustic guitar played on Morley’s lap does not sound that enticing but by George it seems to work in ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’.

Second single ‘Freddie Laid the Smackdown’ sees Morley deploy his rapid vocal quips over a more mainstream folky track and subsequently lacks a touch of originality but it’s still a decent listen. 7/10



Rosey Doonan – Lay Your Love (Silvertop)

Bless her – young Rosey’s music is very pretty with its lilting finger picked acoustic guitar and her dulcet yet youthful vocal tones. It’s like the water twinkling in the sunlight of a spring brook, even though it’s a break up song. It doesn’t make we want to like it lots and lots but it does please me. 7/10



Attack! Attack! – Blood on My Hands (Hassle)

Oh my word this is dullsville. The dull intro leads into a dull pre-chorus and some power chord assisted who-oh-ohs for a climax. All accompanied by a very commercially acceptable pristine level of production and an endorsement for some whitening toothpaste no doubt. It’s throwaway power pop, nothing more, nothing less. 5/10



Rockburn – Runnin’ Wild

Noddy Holder in desperate need of sucking on some Mentholyptus while fronting a Midwest rock n roll band, probably featured in Roadhouse (I’ve gone Roadhouse crazy this month, I know). Rockburn have apparently been on ‘top US show’ Burn Notice (no, I’ve never heard of it either) and they have another one of their songs ‘Night on Fire’ played by Celtic at home games. Rockburn may well have ‘made it’ then. Good luck to them. 5/10



Innerpartysystem – American Trash (Red Bull)

This is absolutely nothing like what I was expecting. ‘American Trash’ comes across all Benni Benassi with bumping sub bass and warpy synths. Add a touch of Chemical Brothers for catchiness, a spot of Sheep on Drugs for general discord and subversion and you’ve got me sold. Loads of remixes to go at too. 8/10


The Pierces – You’ll Be Mine EP (Polydor)

What a difference a day makes – it’s certainly long enough for me to lose the press release which I definitely had to hand when I first listened to this last night. But I do remember snippets of information such as The Pierces are sisters (unsurprisingly) and both trained as ballet dancers (more surprising). Accordingly enough, the sibling vocals work together nicely but at what point does this start sounding like something substantially interesting and not just like Katie Perry unplugged? Well, probably half way through the second track ‘Piece of You’ I’d have said but it still sounds unashamedly ‘accessible’. Jury’s still out I’m afraid. 6/10



Claire Nicolson and Yellowhammer – You and I (Canned Records)

You’ve got wonder which order things happened in when you learn that the song you are about to review has already featured on a TV advert for soap powder. In this case I’m willing to forgive as Nicolson’s swirling Dusty Springfieldisms are perfectly accompanied by Yellowhammers lounge pop production. 7/10



The Quails – Games with the Devil (Like the Sound)

The Quails sound like a ready-made indie pop supergroup – catchy riffs, clean cut and on this track their performance is tight as gnat’s chuff. I’m still left feeling that they may have missed their moment - there’s more than an air of Hot Fuss era Killers about this - but here’s to hoping that The Quails can prove me wrong. 7/10



Howard James Kenny – Insects (Hushed)

Like a twisted choir boy, Kenny builds layers of finger picked guitars and vocal parts with a feather light touch, like a male version of Juana Molina. This song fails to explode into the dramatic finale which I was half expecting but it’s pretty enough all the same. 6/10



The Low Behold – Signs EP (Sudden Hush)

There’s a rich depth to the synths here which promises a great deal from ‘Signs’ by The Low Behold. And sure enough the song swirls around in a kind of somnambulistic haze, steeped in 80’s synth pop sensibilities and cinematic atmospheres. But it doesn’t really go anywhere – like a not too unpleasant dream but one which you can’t escape from nonetheless.

The pop factor is upped with ‘English as a Foreign Language’ but I get the feeling that vocalist Lisa Lorenz just has one of those moody voices which are great as backing but might lack a bit of liveliness to really inspire. It’s all highly polished but more of an exercise in slick production rather than evoking any kind of emotive feelings. 7/10



James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream (Atlas/A&M)

Who am I to disagree with the BBC sound poll when they say that James Blake is number 2 (that’s a poo isn’t it?). But oddly enough I saw this track performed on TV earlier today and thought it sounded like a depressed Annie Lennox performed ‘No More I Love You’ on board a nuclear submarine. The samples just seemed a bit too contrived and regardless of Blake’s impressive voice, this song is just a bit of a dud. 5/10



The View – Grace (1965)

It appears that The View have been hijacked by Meatloaf and he is dead keen to re-release ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ via the medium of summer festival and radio friendly indie pop. That will teach them for daily bombarding my inbox with details of their latest live performances. 5/10



Goodluck Jonathan – This is Our Way Out EP3 (Something Nothing)

My mistake – turns out I was a bit quick off the mark to dismiss this EP as already reviewed. It just turns out that Goodluck Jonathan decided to release three consecutive EPs with the same name, save adding 1, 2 and 3 to the end. Fortunately the disc was reclaimed before being recycled into a plant pot/nuclear waste etc by the local authority and normal service is resumed here.

All of which is good news as this is a great little EP, bristling with choppy mathy hooks, fizzling with glitchy samples and held together admirably by a tidy and heartfelt string of vocals. ‘EP3’ packs in fuzz, garage, glitch, breakbeat and math rock all without sounding the slightest bit contrived. And that’s some skill indeed to mould all of those influences and styles into one coherent sound. Hell, they even sound like James Yorkston at one point in the title track. Hats off to Goodluck Jonathan. 8/10



Josh Bray – Rise (Newtide)

Very much washing up on the whole 70’s country/new folk phenomenon wave, Josh Bray’s ‘Rise’ is not exactly setting the world alight but it’s good wholesome stuff very much in the Damien Rice style. Arguably far more interesting and arresting is the stripped down blues of ‘India Gin’ which is nothing short of superb. 8/10



Knock Out Kaine – Kandykaine EP

The press release accompanying this EP is far more descriptive than I could ever manage myself. It describes the sound of KOK (sic) as ‘fingerless leather-gloved fistful of steroidal man-ballads and back-combed sleaze anthems’. Brilliant. In fairness they are certainly good competition for the likes of G’n’R and Motley Crue and with the added advantage that neither of those bands can get onstage without a zimmer frame anymore, maybe the time is ripe for the onset of Knock Out Kaine. 6/10



South Central – The Day I Die (Egregore)

South Central’s last release, ‘Demons’ was, aptly enough, a total beast. With ‘The Day I Die’ they tone down the techno behemoth within and crossover into a more radio friendly sound here. But it still includes South Central’s killer bass calling card and some saw tooth synth sounds. Remixes by the Prodigy and Quemists can only help to ensure that South Central’s stock rises even further. 8/10



Syd Matters – River Sister (Because)

It’s very difficult to describe the sound of ‘River Sister’ – it’s something quite magical and fantastic. The Parisian 5-piece of Syd Matters seem to merge the sound of Beck with their own Gallic kaleidoscope of influences. 7/10



Teenage Bad Girl – Keep Up With You (Citizen)

Can no-one in France sing? I know they can speak with a normal voice, I’ve been there. But does every French dance track have to feature a vocoder to mask their otherwise unearthly patois?

I digress, ‘Keep Up With You’ marries a number of styles quite appealingly. There’s a funky vibe, a soulful spin and an undoubtedly French slant on things here before things really ignite with a Prince style guitar solo. It’s so cheesey it’s cool – we can always say that when the French do it, not sure I would be so charitable if this were a duo from Dudley. There’s a bunch of remixes here as well. Frankly I couldn’t be arsed listening to them all (hell, Louis La Roche couldn’t even make up his mind which was the best so he just did two different mixes). But I did give the Houratron version a spin because I like his Scandic hardcore nuttiness and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s damn near unrecognisable, sounding like some kind of accident in a sheet metal working factory. Tops. 7/10



Urban Myth Club – Fragile (TRL)

Despite my one-man crusade against pointless indoor hat wearing (it started with Jamiroquai and I never really got over it) I am not totally against this track by be-hatted Urban Myth Club. It’s kind of Ibiza chill out but without any massive pretensions or grandeur. Maybe a little bit warbly and unfocussed as a result but very pleasant listening of an unseasonably warm March evening. Probably would have been better had no hats been involved in its making though. 7/10



Bare Wires – Don’t Ever Change (Robot Elephant)

I’m not quite sure I’m ready for a glam revival just yet and as ‘Don’t Ever Change’ sounds like T-rex doing a cover version of ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’, Bare wires will not be scoring highly. While the stripped back 3-piece sound might suit some people, to me it just feels incredibly wooden, like Bare Wires really struggle with anything a bit more complex than a leaden power chord pattern. 5/10



Liam Bailey – You Better Leave Me (Polydor)

Clearly a comrade of the whole Winehouse/Ronson axis of British soul musical banality, Liam Bailey trots out his spiel over the sound of a rusty stringed Rickenbacher or two and the usual orchestral accompaniments. Heavy reverb adds an interesting layered effect to some of his vocals but otherwise surely it’s not just me that is growing tired of this whole modern British new soul sound? 6/10



Will Jeffrey – The Day Off EP

It may be that the biggest draws to Will Jeffrey are also his biggest downfalls. His rasping, Marlboro tainted voice is instantly warm and endearing, as is his thrumming, softly played guitar style (like a tranquilised Jonny Cash). Song writing styles vary from modern British folk to old school blues. But just as soon as you find yourself warmly approving Jeffrey’s gentle style, you find yourself drifting off. It’s very mellow but not quite engaging enough for me. 6/10



Lotte Mullan – Would You Be So Kind (Raindog)

Regardless of how well sung, this song is just plain dull. Lotte has apparently been around the block in the music business, radio plugging, tour managing, label-runing etc. If she wantsto get really noticed then it’s going to take something a bit more engaging than this I think. 5/10



Wild Beasts – Albatross

This is one of the lead singles from Wild Beasts' upcoming third album “Smother” - and I confess this is potentially my first exposure to the Kendal four-piece. They've been on the scene for a few years (as a third album might suggest) but I have either managed to avoid them or not liked what I did hear and forgot. Either way, clean slate.

The song opens with a gentle drum rhythm, plucky acoustic guitar-esque sounds and some sort of synth brass bass – it's a really nice little segment. Very chilled, well-worked and harmonised, and if anything I'd like to hear it repeat for a few more bars before the song continues. It isn't long at all before Hayden Thorpe's vocals begin, a stunning counter-tenor melody that works effortlessly with the established tracks. Then the song quickly moves into the chorus – which adds pianos, further guitars, and strings. This then pitters out into a piano semi-outro, whereabouts the song reverses – as a second chorus immediately follows, succeeded by the two-line verse, and that's it. It certainly feels shorter than the 3:13 it claims to be, and in that short time whilst it does repeat the same couple of sections, it is also somewhat stunning.

Now, as most places seem to refer to these guys as indie rock, I'm going to hazard a guess that this isn't their usual avenue of sound. But this is a gorgeous springtime tune to warm up your down-time. Check it out. 8/10

Thom Curtis


Moon Duo - Mazes (Souterrain)

Summer is here (its 68% humidity!) and so is the new wave of feel good guitars and camp-as-you-like synths. Not forgetting a little dash of softly distant vocals layered upon the track like loose cotton on your back during a hot July day. Touching upon the psychedelic in places, especially with a blisteringly good guitar solo, but Moon Duo still retain a sense of airy lightness.

This is a real little wonder of a tune.

Eloise Quince


Peter and Kerry – Clothes, Friends, Photos EP (Tape Club)

A gently endearing EP here from Peter and Kerry. Very pretty little songs which lilt along rather than rollick, which soothe rather than invigorate. Favourites include ‘Knees’ which sounds like a candle-lit jam gate crashed by a choir. 7/10



King Jacks – Heroes

I was instantly drawn to this release due to the cover shot featuring a very cool blue military jacket adorned with proper brass buttons and be-tousled with gold braid. But the sound of ‘Heroes’ was completely at odds with what I was expecting. It’s unabashed Britpop meets modern indie – think Kasabian, The Sunshine Underground etc. Personally I find it instantly likable but I’m second guessing that it won’t quite to new or trendy enough for others. Well I’ll just stick to listening stuff that is good, not what is getting the column inches in NME. 8/10



Danimal Kingdom – Skipping Ever Backwards / Through the Ice (Hot Pockets)

Danimal Knigdom gives George Michael’s ‘Faith’ a brush up for 2011. But then it is a bit more than that - there’re also elements of new wave, Gary Numan, Elvis Costello et al. The overall effect is certainly lively stuff but it’s a bit dizzying for me. Fairground waltzers are all well and good but you do feel sick when you eventually get off. 6/10



Showstar - Monkey See Monkey Do (Rainboot)

This is a slightly strange one. When you read that Showstar are from Belgium and have this quirky sound it would be very easy to slip into the ‘silly foreigner’ frame of mind and think of the band as plucky, but ultimately naive, fellows. But placed more in a context with the likes of Wild Beasts and ‘Monkey See Monkey Do’ bares up very favourably. Intricate but stark at the same time. 7/10



Steve Craddock – Only Look Up When You’re Down (Kundalini)

Despite Craddock’s idiosyncratic retro sound (somewhere between the Beatles and The Small Faces), this single feels instantly forgettable to me. It’s friendly enough but it feels like the musical equivalent of getting horribly drunk and wading through an old photo album filled with pictures of your ex. 5/10



Dorian Concept – Her Tears Taste Like Pears (Ninjatune)

Another weebly squeebly genius of a producer trots off the Ninja production line. Austria-based Doran Concept has had a classical training as a child pianist and these early influences re-surface in the complex and jazz-like arrangements which appear n this EP. Sliding, contradicting harmonies seem to coalesce into comfortable order and bounce off a mixture of deep bass drops, dancehall rhythms and very progressive key arrangements. Some moments are little fierce for the ears (‘Toe Games Made her Giggle’) but these are offset by the more chilled out vibe of ‘Thanks You All the Time Forever’ to finish with. 7/10



We Are Enfant Terrible – Filthy Love (Last Gang)

My eagerly anticipated second slice of Gallic geek kids We Are Enfant Terrible does not disappoint in the slightest. This Lille three-piece sound like a very dirty version of CSS and there’s a constant mocking nature to their music (though in fairness, usually of a self deprecating outlook). Whether you like Gameboy or you like to disco dance, you are pretty much guaranteed to love this. 8/10



Kiria – Let Me In (Koochie Coo)

I’m sorry to say that this is pretty awful. I’m sorry because it’s nice to be nice, no-one wants to bag off the efforts of someone who thinks they are doing something worthwhile. I’m also sorry because Kiria is threatening me from the sleeve artwork with two mighty weapons. And she’s pointing a pair of guns at me. Oh dear, this has all gone a bit seedy – I blame the press release for mentioning Garry Bushell...

Quickly back to the music then, the main problem is that music is supposedly punky, though it sounds far too orchestrated, there are big string parts and the guitars are too clean. Add to that Kiria’s somewhat wayward pitch and the result is pretty unpleasant. As a plus, the B-side ‘Jelly Baby’ is far better. 5/10



Dimbleby and Capper – Let You Go (Tape)

This is more like it, something suitably unusual for my fickle Sunday evening mind. To start with, Dimbleby and Capper is a nom de plume for one person – Laura Bettinson. Secondly , ‘Let You Go’ is an extremely strangely produced record, all fuzzing bass and every other dial turned up to max by the sound of it. It should jar and generally annoy your ears but throughout all the clattering, there’s a killer hook and a catchy tune. I think I like the Banshee-esque B-side ‘Raise it Right’ even more with its tribal chanting and heavy percussion. I’d go as far to say it even scares me a bit – good effort. 9/10



A. Human – Take Me Home (So Darn So)

I’m unsure why I thought A. Human was some German electro artist – couldn’t be more wrong as it turns out they are a London based band. In my defence they do use a few samples and loops but I guess you could pretty much sum them up as sunny indie pop. There may be some comparisons with the likes of Talking Heads and Mr Fogg also. ‘Take Me Home’ is very commercial sounding but not in a bad way. 7/10



La Shark – I Know What You Did Last Summer (So Darn So)

Labelmates to A. Human, La Shark are stunningly original. ‘I Know What...’ is almost uncategorisable – I guess there’s a kind of threatening ska vibe over the electro funk bassline, there’s cow bell, there’s freaky spoken word vocals a la David Byrne but you really couldn’t describe it as whole. Bravo then for being so original. 8/10



Daedelus – Tailor Made (Ninjatune)

‘Tailor made’ doesn’t follow a normal verse-chorus-verse song pattern. Instead it slowly builds into existence then just batters away with its layers of soulful samples, beats and synths. Doesn’t really do it for me to be honest – it doesn’t give you time to catch your breath. 6/10