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singles - july 2006


The Sleepy Jackson - God Lead Your Soul (Virgin)

I'm not sure I fully get what The Sleep Jackson are all about. In fact I'm not sure I get it at all. Some kind of Beach Boys/Neil Diamond crossover? Intriguing and sublimely produced with big vocal choruses that compliment the string arrangements fantastically.


The Sleepy Jackson – “God Lead Your Soul” 

Notorious taskmaster Luke Steele returns after a three year absence and it wouldn’t be unfair to expect something spectacular given that length of time. On first listen, this didn’t grab me but subsequent airings proved more rewarding. It sounds a lot like the old stuff, only with more money chucked at it; lush string arrangements and soaring harmonies being very much the order of the day. Hardly comeback single of the year though, more of an album track, but a grower all the same.

Watch video to 'God Lead Your Soul'

Will Columbine


Rumble Strips - Hate Me

Hate Me is an unreasonably upbeat song about the disintegration of an already fractious relationship. There is rarely anything impressive or virtuous about being melancholy in music or otherwise, but the flagrant trumpet flurries and chunky guitar work yield a bright, summery feel to an otherwise drab song. 

At the midpoint of the song, the music and lyrics fall away to allow the trumpet to take precedence in what ultimately sounds like a fairly tepid nod towards to the sound of Miles Davies. The solo may have its shortcomings, but it does lead to a heartfelt crescendo and the song ends on a high. 

Girls and Weather is almost to be taken as a comedy song, as the singer, Charles Waller believes that both girls and the English weather are conspiring against him. A few of the lines are witty and to some degree, tragically charming ‘she’s filing me under waste of space/ she walks away and down comes the rain’.  Waller tackles his complex problems by stating jovially that he’ll get himself a big umbrella.

Both songs on this single are quaint and to an extent fun. But will the Rumble Strips make any lasting impression in the great scheme of things? I find their music fairly enlightening, but it’s certainly throwaway. Good for a few listens, but with so many bands doing similar things, I’m afraid they have a sound that’s likely to be forgotten in the not-too distant future.  

Alex Clark


Jamie T - Sheila (Virgin)

A highly produced mixture of samples, breakbeats, soporific bass guitar and some pithy lyrics from Londoner Jamie T. His rapping voice has a really pleasing lilt to it occasionally breaking into proper singing - hellfire. Think Goldie Lookin Chain meets Psapp.
Watch video to 'Sheila'


Tapes n Tapes – ‘Insistor’ (XL) 

This is the debut single from Tapes n Tapes a band who initially self released their debut record over in the states and caused such a buzz it feels like they should have been around for an age already. Following a rave pitchfork review and a swell in sales XL have now taken the reins for the boys and we now have the worldwide release.

A-side ‘Insistor’ is an Americana tinged indie song that pumps along nicely and has elements of Modest Mouse and The Shins about it. Its all fuzz and charm and you cant help but feel that as proficient as it is it sounds, it should have come out about three years ago. B-side ‘Crazy Eights’ is probably the better track here with its repetitive blues inflected riffs complimented by simple melodies. Again though it does leave you thinking, ‘so why all the fuss?’. The jury is most definitely still out on Tapes n Tapes.

Luke Drozd


¡Forward, Russia! - 18 (Dance to the Radio)

Hey hey - I've used that ¡ symbol so many times now I have finally worked out how to get it. A fantastic return from the Russia with '18' which sees all the trademark slashing guitars, reliable bass, kick ass drumming and Tom's banshee wails. A tinkly xylophone chorus only adds to the fantasticness of this single. I'd have I ever mentioned how fantastic a name this band have. Really? No. Good on 'em I say - I wish them all the luck in the world with this single.



Tapes ‘n’Tapes – Insistor (XL)

Yee-haw! It’s all spit and sawdust for T ‘n’ T with ‘Insistor’, which makes you want to get off your horse and drink your milk. Remember the Reverend Horton Heat, well think of a more sensitive version of that particular freakshow and you’ll have the sound of this song, which whilst being a charming enough tune, will probably come across better live. Go and see them at your nearest rodeo.

Sam Metcalf


Pink Riot - Impressions (Fake Product)

What's starts out sounding like a lot of cliched electro/new wave stuff 'of the moment' actually flourishes into something far interesting than a few guys with angular haircuts and an attitude. 'Impressions' has a relentless two step beat and a very 80's synth sound but the rest of the track has an alarmingly stark and punkish feel that really makes you sit up and take note. B-side 'Give Up' is an even more uncomfortable listen. But despite being a little uncomfortable they are also strangely compelling, like staring into the abyss.



Animal Collective – ‘Grass’ (Fat Cat) 

Following on from the deserved success of their latest full length ‘Feels’ Animal Collective re-release the three track single ‘Grass’ but this time with a DVD of videos to accompany it.

Title track ‘Grass’ is what pop music would sound like if it was released into the wild, forced to fend for itself, found true love but was then wrenched from its new idyllic life by crazed music moguls. It’s a wildly infectious piece full of yelps and hollers offset by beautiful melodies and hooks and is like pure joy on record.

The two b-sides, both previously unreleased, continue to showcase just why Animal Collective are beginning to get the recognition they deserve.  ‘Must Be Treeman’ is a glitching, ambient number covered in shrouded programmatic noises and high pitch vocals whereas ‘Fickle Cycle’ is a more straightforward but no less potent affair full of rhythm and energy.

Add to this the DVD videos which include the wonderfully twisted Tortoise and Hare video for ‘You Could Win A Rabbit’ as well as an audio collage of Animal Collective tracks and live footage from Gang Gang Dance’s Brian DeGraw and its fair to say we’re being a little spoilt by what is sure to the band of the summer.

Luke Drozd


The Mardy Bums - Put Wood in Hole/Does it Say Doormat on Me Back (SPC)

A not too well hidden reference to one of the band's favourite songs is the reason behind their name. Which is fair enough. But the hero worship does not seem to stop there. While it is true there are glimpses of another beast within as the guitars in 'Does it Say Doormat on Me Back?' caterwaul like vintage Mercury Rev, much of the rest of these two tracks  actually feels like a parody of the Artic Monkeys hammed up by a pub tribute band. Play for a year, split up, rename your band then record another album and see where it all ends up...



Celebration – ‘New Skin’ (4AD) 

This is the third single taken from Celebration’s eponymous debut album, following ‘War’ which I scribbled something about a few months ago. I’m always slightly puzzled my singles taken from albums to be honest, it almost seems to say “well you could buy the whole album, but really these are the only tracks actually worth listening to”. Presumably it’s a cynical attempt from record labels to wring more money from train spotter type fans who want the b-sides, live tracks or what not. 

Putting reservations about the format aside though ‘New Skin’ is quite similar to their last single ‘War’. Foot-tapping stuff, crazed keyboard, spasmodic drumming and scratchy guitars. Not bad at all. The B-side ‘Fools Gold’ is a more sombre effort, with Katrina Ford’s vocals being very similar to those of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons. As with ‘War’, ‘New Skin’ is good enough to make me want to listen to the album (which due to extreme laziness I haven’t got round to), but not outstanding. 

Michael Pearson


Future Native - Superman

I've never yet found an Australian acoustic driven band which has really kept me interested past 30 seconds with their trite lyrics and earnest vocals. This is no exception.



Sennen – Let You Down (Hungry Audio)

If shoegazing, dreampop – call it what you will – is making a comeback, then hurrah for that. Sennen, who, I imagine, have taken their name from the Ride song of the same name, make some beautifully hazy, lazy pop much in the same vein as mid-period Ride come to think of it. ‘Let You Down’ builds and builds with some heavily effected guitars and sweet vocals and is quite the thing of beauty. Start looking at your shoes, comrades – the fringes are approaching.

Sam Metcalf


The Silent Type - Kneel (Kids)

After getting over the initial disappointment of realising this track was called 'Kneel' and not 'Knee!' a most beautiful orchestral track unfolded before me. Unrushed and uncomplicated. the vocal harmonies of Nathan Altice and Amber Blankenship are very reminiscent of Hush the Many and the strings build up to just the right moment with an uplifting crescendo. B-side 'Stones, Knives and Curses' has a Twin Peaks feel about it, uniquely American but equally as gorgeous as 'Kneel'. Quite simply essential listening.



Constanza! – s/t 

Is it my limited knowledge of the genre that is post-rock that keeps me referencing the same bands? Well, here we go again… 

Actually, I liked this 18-minute track. The first third sounds like Explosions in the Sky’s interpretation of Godspeed You Black Emperor’s “Lift Your Skinny Fists…” followed by some deft piano work and a nod to Do Make Say Think in the closing sections. Doesn’t sound like Mogwai though. Or Slint. Umm…think I’ve covered everyone there.

Ambitious, imaginative, well-played and, above all, promising stuff, packaged in the best artwork I’ve yet seen for a demo. Right, I’m off to do my research so’s I don’t get caught out next time.

Will Columbine


The Pipettes - Pull Shapes (Memphis Industries)

What the hell is this? I'm hearing a whole load of hand claps coming on. I'm seeing mucho polka dotted dresses and beehive hair. It can only be The Pipettes (presumably named as small Pips rather than after a piece of equipment used in secondary school chemistry labs across the land). I'm far too old for this overtly optimistic and light hearted frippery but I can imagine the boy Metcalf bobbing his quiff and grooving his trainers along to this.
Watch video to 'Pull Shapes'



Monkey Swallows the Universe – Science (Thee SPC)

The world domination continues for MSTU. ‘Science’ is a gently lilting torch song with a recorder solo half way through. But I can forgive them that for being so life-affirmingly fantastic. Meanwhile, whislt ‘Science’ is great on its own, this single boasts two wonderful b-sides. ‘Happiness’ is so coquettish that Nat’ll get a reputation for herself if she’s not careful. Then there’s ‘Florence’ is decidedly funky, in a loose C-86 way. I love this band. So should you.

Sam Metcalf


Buen Chico - Giving Your Gifts (Faith & Hope)

I think I've seen Buen Chico play at the Vine in Leeds and wasn't very impressed (though admittedly the sound was bobbins). But this single is what it is all about - beautifully capturing their surf pop sound with all its precision and boundless energy. They seem to have effortlessly subsumed lots of influences from their Leeds contemporaries - The Lodger, bits of Forward, Russia, the Pigeon Detectives - and rolled them into their own unique sound. And they sent me a lovely badge too - splendid.



The Furious Sleep – “Funeral Marches” 

I have this lot pinned down as Fugazi wannabes from the slashing guitars, rat-a-tat drums and speak-y/shout-y vocals that comprise multi-sectioned opener “Death’s Head March”. “Lights Out” is more of the same…hmm, the vocals are rather grating. Ok, so we all know Ian McKaye can’t sing for shit but there’s no need to ape your idols so slavishly. 

And yet…there’s a brief acoustic interlude, followed by piano and electric guitar buzzing in the background. Ok, the singer actually can’t sing for real, and the lyrics are so obtuse as to be irrelevant, but the pained and strained voice kind of works. I like this side of them the best.

Will Columbine


Lynchpin - In the Interest of Absolution (Hangmans Joke)

Why is it that metal bands stick resolutely within their own little niche in terms of presenting themselves? Or is it that their various marketing folks only see this music appealing to a very small demographic of black-wearing, gothic script-writing necromaniacs? And I see from the band shot that the undercut haircut is still alive and well in rock circles.

All of which detracts from the fact that this is really one hell of an effort in terms of power and punch. The guitar riffs are laid on heavier than lead Vitalite and the vocal screams manage to fluctuate with ease between guttural howls and power rock. The overall dynamics outstrip the general song writing but then that is almost unavoidable, like the proverbial using a sledgehammer to break an egg. I would be very scared about watching a Lynchpin gig.



Shack – Cup of Tea (Sour Mash Records)

A pleasant enough anthem from Shack. This is, no doubt, the sort of thing that Noel Gallagher would love to be able to write, but can’t because he’s not good enough. Shack may be older than the older thing in the world, and as ugly as a genital wart, but that’s never seemed to stop them being criminally ignored. I doubt this’ll change anything, but they’ve won a small corner of my heart.

Sam Metcalf


The Electric Cinema - Heat Exchange (Sugarlow)

While being touted as 'distilling the best elements of  Flaming Lips, The Sleepy Jackson and Sparklehorse' - all of which could be paraphrased to me as 'dull', The Electric Cinema hold a little sparkle of promise and classic indie Britpop. 'Heat Exchange' has a slightly northern feel about it which is odd with the band being from London, but then what exactly is a 'northern feel'? I mean a kind of kitchen sink melodrama and a concentration on compositions and performance more than polished production. Not that the production is bad - just simple. Any way you look at it - it's pretty good but stops short of making you want to jump up and hug someone.



Freeheat – Down (Planting Seeds)

Don’t get too excited old timers, but it’s Jim Reid from the JAMC! But don’t get too excited because this is a very lame affair. It’s the sort of thing that Primal Scream stick on the b-sides of their piss-poor singles these days. It’s even got a terribly bluesy guitar solo in  the middle, and what sounds like someone playing a Casio with their eyes closed. Awful, really.

Sam Metcalf


Declan O'Rourke - Sarah (V2)

Although I struggled with a full album of Declan O'Rourke, this abridged version is far more palatable and features his wonderfully languid vocals style and some superb guitar work. Which is a good job as it goes some way to make up for terrible lines like 'Last night in dream, Sarah came to me across the flower beds of destiny' - what is that hippy shit all about? And the bizarre assertion in the press release that the 'Sarah' that O'Rourke is singing about is about one of the three Sarahs that the average Briton knows. What next for O'Rourke a song about rats? Ford Escorts? Which statistical anomaly is the next target? Leave the post rationalisation and just enjoy the sublime guitar-vocal combination.



The Code – “Back of the Room” 

Can’t decide whether this is above-average punk rock or the kind of thing I’ve heard down the Bull & Gate many, many times…maybe it’s both? The title track is the best, the sound and chord progression bringing to mind Bob Mould’s early 90s outfit, Sugar; it’s got attitude, too. “I Think You Got Me Wrong” is more of the same but less memorable, mixing in a bit of early Manics, while “If” strives to be anthemic in a Feeder kind of way without sounding as dire as that musical equivalent of a jizz-filled gym sock. Hey, maybe these chaps could teach Grant and co. a thing or two?

Will Columbine


Element vs Ben VP - Name & Number (Megafan)

Holy crap. Ok - here's the low down. 'Element' is really called 'Bimbo Jones'. Ben VP is actually Ben Volpierre-Pierrot, the lead singer from Curiosity Killed the Cat. Was Ben Volpierre-Pierrot his real name anyway? Seems unlikely. 'Name & Number', therefore, is basically a remix of aforementioned band's main hit tune. By Bimbo Jones (is that his real name too???). Either way, it's the treatment of an otherwise decent track with a disco backing track to played in shit clubs around the country, so it will sell thousands.



1888 – Able Goose Dam (Planting Seeds)

Neither of these songs is called Able Goose Dam, the terrors! 1888 play the sort of languid lounge pop that now and again explodes, albeit very politely, into something quite nice indeed. It’s a little bit jazzy, a little bit snazzy, a little bit spazzy, and I quite like it. It’s also very American alt.rock, so if that things lubes your anus then go and buy it at once.

Sam Metcalf


The Clerks - The Dissidents (Art Goes Pop)

Uber cool Frenchies The Clerks just can't stop themselves being, well, cool. A fourpiece with a greater depth than their numbers would suggest, they display a self assured swagger and mesmeric vocal melodies which mix male/female, singing/spoken word and fast/slow vibes. Where 'The Dissidents' is a relentless assault, 'Still' is a staccato attack on your ears, though strangely a little bit lumbering. But The Clerks even do lumbering cooler than anyone else.



Mogwai – “Travel Is Dangerous” 

There’s still no sign of that reported hike in volume despite the quite verse/loud chorus dynamic being very much in effect on this, the 2nd single release from the Blanchard-approved “Mr Beast”. In fact, the interweaving guitar lines and murmured vocals wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the last album…oh well, that was good too so who’s complaining? The addition of two remixes and two live tracks (“Like Herod” being especially fine) make this EP a bit of a bargain.

Will Columbine


The Dykeenies - New Ideas/It Will happen Tonight (King Tut's)

So another venue dips its toe in the world of starting a record label. With the Dykeenies, King Tut's seem to have sunk their lolly into a hybrid pop-punk-indie hybrid guitar outfit who skate across the thin ice of a well, err, skated pond. But there are catchy chanty choruses, choppy guitars, swirly synths and every other incantation that you might have heard from Editors, The Sunshine Underground, THe killers, Forward Russia etc all thrown into just two songs. It must be hard trying to get your message across in a first single where you want to make an immediate impression, an the initial impulse must be to throw in as many tricks as you can. Personally I'd like to hear this delivery tinned out and streamlined a listen to build on the song writing a bit more.



The Drips – 16,16, Six (Wichita)

RAWK! The Drips’ singer has a voice like some heavy duty Emery cloth, and ’16,16, Six’ makes out like an early-80s Clash song, or something. It’s really not my cup of tea at all, but if you like your jeans tight (and it seems everyone does nowadays) and your haircut vastly overpriced, then The Drips are for you.

Sam Metcalf


Vessels - demo ep

The phoenix from the ashes of the now defunct A Day Left, Vessels seem to have moved into the massive void in the Leeds 'scene' left by the demise of The Dragon Rapide. I must have had this CD some weeks but I wish I had listened to it sooner. 'The Beast' and 'Take it Outside' manage to marry the choppy beats and time changes of That Fucking Tank and then build out the sound with the flawless genius of the aforementioned Dragon Rapide and These Monsters.

There is always the danger that this genre of music can wind up looking firmly up its own arse. The secret to avoiding this is in giving it some humility,a little bit of warmth and a definite direction so that the compositions do not just become an exercise in the addition and subtraction of different sound parts. 'Armed to the Teeth' does this admirably and picks up where Chicago's Dreamend's 'As if By Ghosts' album left off (seek it out - it's amazing).

At 5 and 8+ minutes, the final two tracks do make for more determined listening -it's late and it's been a long day so I'll admit to not being at the peak of my listening powers. But again the changing quiet-loud crescendo-lull fast-slow dynamic is used to great effect to shock me back to my senses. Music that feels like intermittently leaning your head out of the window of a car driving at 70 mile an hour.



The Hedrons – “Be My Friend” 

For some reason, iTunes decided that this was a gospel track called “My Peace” by Aaron Brown. No diss to Aaron but I couldn’t imagine his stuff to be more enjoyable than this three-minute punk-pop romp. An all-girl outfit, The Hedrons combine Stooges guitars with PJ Harvey vocals and very catchy it is too. With any luck, we’ll be hearing more from them in due course.

Will Columbine


The Freelance Hellraiser - You Can Cry All You Want (Ugly Truth)

Although I was a fan of previous single 'Pound for Pound', any single which sounds like a melange of Chumbawamba and Leftfield with Mick Hucknall supplying vocals was bound to fall foul of the Tasty tastometer. As such, 'You Can Cry All You Want' is terrible. 'Beautiful Girl' tries to recover the situation by injecting a bit of disco funk, but the damage has already been done I'm afraid.
Watch video to 'You Can Cry All You Want'



Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You Into the Dark (Atlantic)

I don’t know if I’m alone in being vastly disappointed in DCFC over the last couple of years, or not. ‘I Will Follow… is an okay enough acoustic ballad, but, really, what’s the point in releasing this? It’s an album track at best, and sounds to these ears like a quickly-bashed out b-side. For all the clamour that this band are the best thing since indie sliced bread, I’m still to see it.

Sam Metcalf


Revl9n - Someone Like You (Because)

'Someone Like You' is quite a sophisticated mid Atlantic post punk caper that sees a minimalist bassline thump out over the top of some cheeky keyboard parps and bleeps. Oozingly glamorous, the tour de force is provided by the breathy female vocals. So chic.



Julia Harris – “These Days” EP 

What does it say about the music industry and the way people try to categorise things when there are supposed arguments over whether Julia Harris’s output should be defined as ‘urban acoustic’ or ‘punk-folk’? Who cares…and, anyway, she sounds like KT Tunstall by way of Edie Brickell, at least on the title track. So there. 

I didn’t expect to like the music of someone who could, and without shame, flaunt one track as a ‘live studio jam’, but I was pleasantly surprised. The jazzy, hip-hop flava of “Sticks and Stones” is a bit too slick to love although, thankfully, she resists the temptation to break into scat. In fact, my candidate for best song would be “Your Love”, the least flashy, most straightforward tune on here, and one that does the most justice to Julia’s capable but not exceptional voice.

Will Columbine


Mad Staring Eyes -Walking in the Streets

Threatening to be dangerously pedestrian, 'Mad Staring Eyes' is uplifted to the level of scandalously plagiaristic by the vocals which could belong to any number of post punk bands currently on the block. A neatly rounded pop song, adequately performed with a touch of rock opera about the chorus - never going to make me fall off my chair but not completely without merit either.



Dirty Pretty Things – Deadwood (Vertigo)

Isn’t this the same song as the last one? Ooh, but there’s handclaps! That solves everything. This isn’t too bad, I suppose. It’s certainly a lot more exciting than Death Cab For Cutie, but how many songs can this lot write that use exactly the same guitar sound? Or do the young ‘uns not mind about that sort of thing any more?

Sam Metcalf


The Marquis of Queensbury Rules - My Plan Was Better

This is good stuff for a self recorded demo. Deep, full village hall-style piano chords kick off against some jagged guitars and organ sounds while the world weary vocals swagger and stagger their way Ian Curtis-like through the track - fab. 'Here Comes the Magician' features equally 'sound of god' volume production of the keyboards being played beyond the limit of their speakers. They probably were played beyond their limits. 'Come to the Subway' smoothes things over with an interlaced organ/Casio style arrangement set off against some rattling strings and echoing vocals which eventually clear like mist on a summer's morning to leave a pristine ending to the song. The ecclesiastical vibe is taken to its full continuance with another organ led dirge in the form of 'On the Postlingberg Train'. This is both unsettling and strangely mesmeric. A fine collection of songs.



Pink Grease – Ordinary Girl (Mute)

So painfully hip it hurts, this is the sound of Sheffield in 2006…or is it 1980. Cue massive side partings, make-up and thin ties. I can’t get past the affectation on the voice, or the fuck-awful synth riff. One for the bullet belts in the audience.

Sam Metcalf


We Are Scientists - The Great Escape (Virgin)

haven't we reviewed this before? A quick check back reveals not. Shame - because it is my joint fave track from 'With Love and Squalour'. Surely we all agree by now that We Are Scientists are, by a country mile, the wittiest, most talented, interesting and downright handsome vegetarians of the recent batch of transatlantic imports. No? Get to the back of the class.



Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth (Wichita)

One of those Clap…songs that builds and builds and his voice gets more and more mental. It’s pretty enjoyable, it has to be said, but is way too long to give them any kind of mainstream success, surely? Still, who cares about stuff like that when you can write some wonderfully beautiful songs like this?

Sam Metcalf


Serena Maneesh – Drain Cosmetics (Play Louder)

Christ, this is brilliant. This is the song that all serious fans of My Bloody Valentine have been waiting for a long time. Don’t ever write off Serena Maneesh as wimpy bedwetters, because ‘Drain Cosmetics’ rocks in its own feedback-drenched way, and fair takes me back to the summer of 1991, when this kind of stuff was everywhere and I was young and pretty. And hurrah for that!

Sam Metcalf