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singles/eps - may 2015


Tetra – ‘Bad Things’ and ‘The Tunnel’

L.A.-based electronic pop singer-songwriter Tetra will be releasing her 7-song EP, Meter, produced by Ben Cohen, on June 11th. Lead single ‘Bad Things’ rides on a slow-strutting beat and features Tetra’s emphatic, slightly defiant, partially processed vocals. She proclaims “You think you’re in control / but watch me take your breath away.” against a staccato rhythm, low-end grind, and occasional chiming notes. Instrumentation is minimal for an electro-pop track and the focus is on Tetra’s powerful vocals. Second single, ‘The Tunnel’, shows off her softer side with her airy and emotionally vulnerable vocals, and she is again supported by light electronic and synth sonics. Tetra has studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and it was there that she began collaborating with singer-songwriter/producer Ben Cohen on her story-telling material that mixes electronic notes and beats and pop song structures.

Jen Dan

Panic Island - ‘We Start Fires’

Hmm…well, Panic Island certainly tick all the boxes. But, having just watched the slick, confident video to Paul Tipler’s accomplished production of ‘We Start Fires’, it leaves an abiding feeling of same old same old. Arron Sans and Vinnie Shimia set out to create a new band inspired by ‘guitar anthems, contemporary pop songs and the iconic power of the archetypal ‘Rockstar’.’ And that’s exactly what you get. An efficient pastiche of contemporary alt rock’s brighter stars. Q Magazine said they’re ‘ready to go shoulder-to shoulder with rock n roll’s high rollers’ and maybe they need to be seen live to get the full message, but it seems like they’re missing a trick in the confines of the video’s elevator. Arron has dabbled in acting and here is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a range of moods and attitudes, instead of which we get one attitude – archetypal rock star. Vinnie seems more like the real deal, buried in his guitar and only occasionally coming up for air. If this had emerged in a pre-Foo Fighters era, I suspect the replay button would have been hit immediately, instead of which I’m giving ‘Monkey Wrench’ a nostalgic spin. ‘We start fires’, intones Arron repeatedly and you can’t help thinking ‘Yes but when?!’ Come back Keith Flint. 6/10


Mumford & Sons – Believe

In 1978 French filmmaker Claude Lelouch mounted a gyro-stabilsed camera to the front of a car and then drove as fast as he could through Paris. He went from Prte Dauphine, through the Louvre, to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. It is an astonishing piece of video involving speeds of 140mph, trips up one-way streets the wrong and actual near misses. It is made all the more astonishing when you find out that he was unable to obtain a permit to close the streets and just did it anyway. When he showed the footage for the first time he was arrested.

You might already know about the video because Snow Patrol used it for a song that wasn't on Songs for Polar Bears or When this is over, we still have to clean up. The video for Beleive features a ride from a studio not far from the Thames up to that bench in Primrose Hill that looks over London and is in every film about London.

I don't care what instruments you do or don't have when you play, I do want to care about the music you play and I'd actually quite like it if I only thought about the music sometimes. I thought about Claude LeLouch and was momentarily pleased with the idea of driving quickly in a city, which means that I liked the idea of the reckless impossible more than I liked this song. I thought about Snow Patrol moving from being a band I really liked to being a band that were really good but didn't move me (apart from one time Gary Lightbody covered You Will, You Will You Will and that song with Martha Wainwright). I thought about that story about the guy from Mumford & Sons whose surname is Mumford and Cary Mulligan and how that made me believe briefly in a sort of magic. All of those things were better than this song, which is fine and by a band I don't mind and actually quite like...but can not bring myself to care about.

I am in no mood right now for the perfectly fine, I don't want to be able to map the structure or guess that there is going to be a particular sound on the chorus. Much is going to be made of the lack of banjos, when really it shouldn’t matter. It should just matter that you can't see the joins on the songs that move you. It isn't wrong to look for earth shattering because otherwise how're you going to get it?

Christopher Carney

Vennart - 'Infatuate'

Former Oceansize frontman and sometime Biffy Clyro associate returns with a single that has more Oceansize about it than Clyro, says the publicity. I know who Biffy Clyro are but pardon my lack of recognition of Oceansize, unknown to me until Vennart reminded me and everyone else of their existence and the song does have a recognisable touch of Clyro about it, with an added resonating guitar part that has 'Infatuate' drifting a bit until a growly bassline gives it a tad more welly, the drummer grows an extra arm and a gigantic insect zooms into the studio and starts impersonating a mellotron. Keep listening to the Soundcloud link to hear the Brian Jonestown Massacre perform one of those lengthy instrumental tracks they go in for nowadays.


Death Surf - Gargantua

From the opening bars I’m reminded right away of ‘Doolittle’ era Pixies. The chorus is bigger than Dennis Rodman’s cat, with lyrics: “We go beyond the stars” followed by Santiago style licks that would rip the spikes out of a hedgehog. Hailing from Hertfordshire, Death Surf feature ex-members of yesteryear’s post-punk trio Plastic Passion, with whom I more than adored. It’s great to hear another side to their songwriting displayed immensely in this new project.

Gavin Tate

Plastique - 'Quake'

Placebo fan? You're going to like Plastique a lot. Not much more I can say about 'Quake' aside from the spacey sounding keyboard part in the middle that's guaranteed to get those late 90s nostalgia glands activating, if Plastique actually allow that. They do look and sound just a little bit scary.


Blur - Go Out

I know after a few seconds in that this is a poor effort from Colchester’s kings of 90s Britpop and Oasis’s biggest rivals. It sounds like ‘London Loves’, but if they were all living in a hostel messed up on smack instead of living the cosy lifestyles they once inhabited during the Parklife sessions. Personally, I reckon they should’ve finished after ‘Music Is My Radar’, and left it there. “Go Out” is the most uninspired single I’ve heard this year, and I wouldn’t even wipe my arse with The Magic Whip’s album sleeve if you paid me.

Gavin Tate

Ghost Suns - 'Stay'

Glamorous synth pop from a London band and while they might downplay things a little with their online introduction : 'We're Ghost Suns and this is our first single', they aren't holding back with the glacial sequencing and shuddering 808 drumlines and importantly 'Stay' also has an actual tune and it's taken at just the right level of kitschy retro shoulderpadded actually-written-for-Kim-Wildeness, so you probably know if you're up for something like this.


Bulletproof - Bulletproof EP

Begins with “Boardroom Coke”, which is a cocktail of thrash punk beauty with ska arrangements and in your face vocals reminiscent of C.I.D era UK Subs. Originating from Jersey in the Channel Islands, they’re one of the longest standing groups and never disappoint live. An immense force to say the least. “Cop Station” is manic from the word go and has the fastest drum pattern I’ve ever heard ! It’s as if Dead kennedys were racing Minor Threat through a shopping center at a thousand miles per hour; ripping up every inch of marble flooring; all whilst the roof caves in behind them. “Lost Cause” displays gut wrenching guitars and harmonized voice power that echos through your skull. This track is so short and sweet that it’s over within the blink of an eye. Next up is “Sailors Grave”, with verse’s that cut you to the bone, and lyrics: “We’re going down, straight down” followed by menacing bass lines and warp speed changes. “Deception” sounds like it was played during the unexpected birth of Jello Biafra! It’s as frantic as The Parkinsons early material and has left me feeling ready for bed. My favorite track so far, purely for the fact that it has pretty much knocked me for six. Ends with “SS General”, which is rapid and I’m guessing this is the fastest song they’ve ever written. Trying to guess the BPM on this track would be near enough impossible, unless you’re Flash Gordon.

Gavin Tate

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - 'Can't Keep Checking My Phone'

Reading about funk related lawsuits recently has got my interest in what clubby 21st century disco songs really sound like. 'Blurred Lines' and 'Too Hot' both sound as if Prince has had a hand in their production somewhere (purely a personal opinion) ('Too Hot' resembles the Gap Band's 'Oops Upside Your Head' about as much as The Fall sound like T Rex) and Unknown Mortal Orchestra quote Giorgio Moroder as an influence in their PR so I'm getting a bit excited about this one. Here goes - Sergio Leone, Osibisa, The Brothers Gibson, Third World and the Stylistics are going to sue. 'Can't Keep Checking My Phone' really is that good a song.


The Fiction Aisle - A Promise Kept / Each & Every One

There’s a feel much akin to ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ era Stereolab when listening to this Brighton combo’s Double A-side header “A Promise Kept”. The climb on this track is reminiscent of some of the music in James Bond’s ‘Moonraker’, especially during the assassination of Drax’s deadly weapon! I’m enjoying the outro of polished sax, which more than suits their wall of sound. Tight rhythms complement the brass section, with spells of what sounds like a xylophone. “Each & Every One” has more of a jazz influence to it. I like the lyrics as they relate to isolation and realism. Ry Cooder springs to mind with this offering and maybe even The James Taylor Quartet. I could imagine this going down well in The Bee’s Mouth on Western Road, so may have to venture to my old place of residence to catch them live at some point.

Gavin Tate

Steve Benjamins – ‘We Used To Live’

Steve Benjamins, the down-tempo indie-pop/alt-folk artist from Toronto, may not be a big name at the moment, but based on his new single ‘We Used To Live’, he does live up to what is considered to be a chart-topper these days due to his polished and accessible music and vocals. It remains to be seen whether ‘We Used To Live’ catches on big-time, but its mass-market appeal deserves at least a sound bite on a TV show or commercial. The song is off of Steve’s 3rd soon-to-be-released EP, Sightlines, and he is not only the singer and songwriter, but also plays almost all of the instruments on the track (as well as on the rest of his output).

‘We Used To Live’ opens in a low-key manner, with measured, contemplative piano notes and a crisply clacking beat which is backed by an extended, hazy synths ambience. Steve’s vocals sound familiar and similar to other male singers populating the current charts. He quickly sing-talks his short-phrase lyrics and then segues into a chorus that increases the pace to a dancefloor tempo. Steve exclaims against more prominent synths and buzzy, cascading electro-notes until the next verse, which adds a bouncing bass line and brief pulls of strings. The surging chorus reemerges with his urgent vocals stating “We used to live for it” in a repetitive cycle that starts to wear out its welcome. A short break near the end of the song focuses on Steve’s heartfelt exclamations which are echoed and sometimes doubled as he sings about raising “hands in supplication” amid a slower beat and synths frisson. It all dissipates to just piano notes, the sustained pull of strings, and Steve’s plaintive, up-front vocals sing-talking the same lyrics passage that started off the song.

Jen Dann

White Arrows - 'We Can't Ever Die'

From their album released last autumn and I think I reviewed that here too, the passing of six months has done little to diminish the second track from 'In Bardo'. 'We can't ever die / we won't ever change' runs the clubby techno based song, sounding like MGMT playing Xbox with Foster The People for the hand of Taylor Swift, while displaying a few smartly attuned synth rock chops of their own. Find a copy of 'In Bardo' if you need reminding of exactly what quality techno pop can sound like.


Nuria Graham - 'Bird Eyes'

Just a girl, a guitar, some effects pedals and a really weird sounding ending to a quite lovely song that is only just over two minutes in length. Nuria Graham is a prodigious talent and her vocal is brightly phrased along with her captivating guitar skills, perhaps explained by her being from Spain, where they know what guitars are for. Just a pity the album link on the PR site has run out, I and very likely you would want to hear more from Ms Graham.


Hauschka - 'Who Lived Here?'

Every so often I get a track that works more effectively without its video accompaniment, although the only reason for this in the instance of 'Who Lived Here?' is the wintry visuals, with blizzards sweeping across a darkening and icebound cityscape. Which I'm watching in April, without as much as a tinge of sleet in the air, at least where I'm living. As for the music, Haschka is probably just about the greatest experimental keyboard player currently making music, known for adapting his piano to make all sorts of metallic and other sounds and a gifted composer on top of that. 'Who Lived Here?' sees him in a reflective and somewhat pensive mood, cranking his piano into life and delivering a mini sonata accompanied by cello and some tinfoil and cardboard. Just on the right side of gloomy.



The Twilight Sad - 'It Was Never The Same'

This, I do not exaggerate, is the very best thing you have ever heard the Twilight Sad perform. Best thing I've heard them do, anyway, right from the swirling intro to the epic conclusion of a synth fuelled ballad that has the authentic touch that bands earn as their music develops over time. Right when I expected the initially impressive opening to just keep thudding away the Twilights pull a soaring chorus from out of their instrumentation and get properly orchestral right towards the end. Nothing very sad about 'It Was Never The Same', it's enough to make you want to play their albums again.


The Wooden Sky - 'Maybe It's No Secret'

Kings Of Leon don't know what they started. From Canada, The Wooden Sky turn in a very Leonesque number that's no less enjoyable for that, and if the lyrics are a bit on the doomy side : 'it's no secret / it's a dangerous time of year' then the music is a resolutely thrumming summer anthem that could soundtrack that lengthy drive from Edmonton to Calgary and back.



Dinner - 'Going Out'

Dinner is Anders Rhedin, from Denmark. The Danish word for Dinner is Middag which if Anders Rhedin chose to use that wouldn't make much of a dent in his solid sounding Europop, which is the sort of song that could leave itself open to all sorts of food related metaphors, and Dinner himself probably has a lucrative sideline as an actual chef in one of Copenhagen's smarter bistros, perhaps even the insect themed one where you can order your locusts well done, medium, rare or just resting. 'Going Out' may not exactly flambé the UK top 40 but you can be sure there's a quality album on its way from Denmark's answer to Younger Younger 78s, Spearmint and Frenzal Rhomb (all of whom released songs about Going Out).


Connor Zwetsch – What Comes After ep

There's a certain familiarity about the music of Connor Zwetsch, but the Tampa-based singer-songwriter's refreshing honesty wins you over on her debut ep What Comes After. Themes of life experiences that knock you sideways, but crucially the need to pick yourself up and move on. Zwetsch has claimed in interviews that she lacks a powerful voice, but there's evidence to the contrary on this brief 5-song selection.

Piano-driven rocker 'Back To Boston' kicks around the feeling of 'falling' after a serious relationship (“To a street sign there's a tied up dog/In your own world the raindrops fall/I wish I stopped falling just like the rain … “), but Zwetsch's voice elevates what would otherwise be rather predictable American soft-rock material. The piano gives the song a little bit more gravitas, too, like some of Ryan Adams best material, or Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

'Candy Bars' is a road reverie, gently driving and Springsteen-esque. The singer's slightly mournful delivery raises a glass to memories and carries the feeling off somewhere else: “Lately time goes by so fast/So before it's dry raise your glass/For the nights so dark we see all the stars/In a town so small that we call it ours/Whisky and coke in our Mason Jars/Here's to the east, sweeter than candy bars.” Lumineers producer Ryan Hadlock keeps the arrangements clean and uncluttered. 'For Michelle' is a nice bluesy ballad, the voice again ringing out like Alela Diane or Karen Dalton. More broken hearts on 'Open Road' but many ways to go, and on 'Wasting Water' the wheels keep spinning, as John Lennon once remarked, but as the final song finishes, we get the point she's making: “Come waste water like me/Search for laughter and don't worry what comes after”.

Hard to sing the blues unless you've been there, but Connor Zwetsch has faced her fair share of challenges recently. Moving out to LA, she auditioned for reality shows like American Idol, but when things didn't work out moved back to her home town. It sounds like the Tampa-based songwriter dodged a bullet: What Comes After is a taste of things to come from a promising singer-songwriter.

Matthew Haddrill