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singles/eps - march 2014



Villagers – Occupy Your Mind, single

After having watched Villagers live a couple of months ago, I couldn’t wait for their new releases; all of their new songs being as captivating and different as Awayland was to Becoming a Jackal. This one, Occupy Your Mind, is particularly different to pretty much anything else they have recorded so far. It’s funkier, heavier and almost psychedelic. The line ‘I just want to occupy your mind’ repeats itself without becoming tiring and the video compliments it perfectly. It is a bold move but I am so glad they have done it. Their first two albums were, in my opinion, amazing, both of which were nominated for the Mercury Prize, but it was time to mix it up a bit. Conor O’Brien is a fantastic songwriter and never compromises. I urge you to listen to this and then, when you have a couple of hours, their back catalogue. 8/10.

Matt Bull


Shearwater – Black is the Color

Shearwater have gone back to their old ways with this rather beautiful song Black Is The Color. It is certainly reminiscent of their superb 2008 album Rook, in that it is patient and melodic. With their 2012 album Animal Joy they were keen to pump up the volume and throw in a few more instruments but here they’ve stripped it bare leaving you with vocals as delicate as the quiet electric guitar and a drum beat as steady as a one-man marching band. Cymbals are introduced after two minutes and the sound continues to engage, whilst remaining ethereal and honest. After just having released a covers album at the end of 2013, it will probably be a little while before they release another but, if their next collection is as good as this track, I’d buy it, if only to find out what else Jonathan Meiburg can do with his voice. 7/10.
It was recorded for Radiolab, a Natural Sciences Podcast, of all things, and can be found here:

Matt Bull


Anna Calvi - 'Piece By Piece'

It's all about holding things back on Anna Calvi's latest single, 'Piece By Piece', bright pulsating synths shimmer in a sea of colour, backing the artist's breathy alto and signature controlled-aggressive guitar. Most people will associate One Breath with the earlier releases 'Eliza' and 'Suddenly', but might have missed out some of the other great things on Calvi's sophomore. Sonically, 'Piece By Piece' is at the more experimental end of the artist's work, and offers some hints of the future direction we can expect her to take. A gentle piece of dream pop, with its Sakamoto/Yellow Magic Orchestra-inspired synth solo in the middle, 'Piece By Piece' should charm its way into people's hearts and ensure the continued upward trajectory of this talented multi-instrumentalist.

Matthew Haddrill


Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters - 'Walking With My Eyes Closed' (Radio edit version)

The radio-friendly version of the song from Schnauss & Peters album Tomorrow Is Another Day is an unusual release in that it features the German electronic artist on vocals. The mood is quite sombre and introspective (“Walking with my eyes closed next to you/I dreamed of white and blue/There was only one things I could say/I let it fade away”) in contrast to the optimism of much of the album, but the track kicks back with some nice home-schooled metronomic drums and a backing track with a raft of all sorts of musical influences. Those familiar with Schnauss's oeuvre will already know the various vapor trails and tinkling “kitchen sink” electronic sounds, but Peters' clean and incisive guitar work has lit a new spark under the whole thing.

MAtthew Haddrill


Black Lips - 'Justice After All'

On the press release, there's a picture of Atlanta's Black Lips decked out iconically like The Clash in leathers and tight pants. It's almost certainly tongue-in-cheek, but you expect more than this relatively sedate goodtime rock'n'roll number, the first single from the upcoming album Underneath The Rainbow (to be released on by Vice Records on 18th March). A European tour will follow in May and I'm sure much more exciting things are in store from this collection of garage punk vagabonds.

Matthew Haddrill


My Chemical Romance – Fake Your Death

If you call the new song on your farewell greatest hits album Fake Your Death and you are a band with a knack for reinvention you are going to make people talk. If you're a band who is good at making people pay attention to you you would probably have thought up this idea years ago. If you are a band that regularly sang about death and rebirth, that used image in the way that MCR did and associated image with each album then you'd be a fool not to ask questions. (You'd be a fool not to ask questions.)

Lots of us know that when something that people find important or special dies, people have a tendency to claim and hope that that thing escaped. People still swear that Elvis is around somewhere, Andy Kaufman may actually be around somewhere. I hope everyone laughed at the idea whatever.

The song? Well, it made me wonder if eventually every band from New Jersey will become Bon Jovi and/or Bruce Springsteen or if the Garden State is just a home for people who like to be roused, to clap and to hear that death or hardship are part of a process and not necessarily the end. It's very good, but it left me feeling a little underwhelmed while I was feeling sad about the end(?) of a band I was genuinely fond of. There was something that fit about MCR covering Under Pressure early on and this large song about walking away on your own terms has a symmetry I'm probably looking hard for, along with the clever reading of ceding power because you have no other choice.

The video serves as an excellent reminder of how charming the band could be and you can see why people have them as their favourite band (and, I must admit, also why they are despised by some) and maybe the song itself is pointing out that the band know when to leave as well as it knew how to make an entrance.

Christopher Carney