Friday, November 25, 2011

Single Reviews 27/11/11

Well hello! Welcome to this week’s Single Reviews, in which we lay into the new offerings from an R&B gobshite whose output is 75% him singing his own name; 2011’s new darling of the most uninspired airwaves; an indie band more pop than most pop bands; and a honking, horsefaced dullard from a reality show that’s well and truly jumped the shark. Shit, hope we’re not doubling up on what they’re covering in Newsnight Review later...?

Next up, a woman so dull she makes Leona Lewis seem like an explosion of hyperactive Fraggles at a Scissor Sisters concert on the Moon, the beyond dreary Rebecca Ferguson. Her X Factor performances and her personality left a hell of a lot to be desired, a pattern repeated in her debut single, Nothing’s Real But Love. A yawnsome, slippery puddle of a ballad, devoid of a beginning, middle or end, and arguably bereft of any kind of tune. Nauseatingly, unforgivably bland.

Single of the Week goes to The Wombats, who present another clipping from This Modern Glitch, on this occasion the more-than-passable 1996. The melancholic synth hum and modest melody make for a slightly darker, calmer affair, one that works rather nicely. Perhaps it’s not the most exciting example of their output, but it’s a nice contrast to some of the noisier end of their catalogue, and the rousing chant that closes proceedings underlines it as classic Wombat goodness.

Christina Perri has a hard time ahead of her, presumably hoping that new single Arms will get even the slightest modicum of interest in the wake of the increasingly-colossal Jar of Hearts. It offers up something fairly different to its predecessor though, launching into a pulsing, fem-rock ballad midway through, bearing the kind of production you’d expect-slash-hope from an aloof, emo Bonnie Tyler, and more than a hint of staying power.

And finally, Jason Derulo, a man whose peculiar choice of samples is on the verge of outdoing both Cher Lloyd and JLS. This time, it’s Toto’s Africa which gets mutated into an overproduced, bubbling midtempo monstrosity, going by the name Fight For You. Take away the wee bursts of tribal chatter and it’s like a How To in R&B clichés, as though it were composed via Taio Cruz-branded wordplay refrigerator magnets.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler (Infectious) - This Is Christmas

It’s hard not to get your Scrooge on when you hear All I Want For Christmas Is You for the millionth time. Even the jolliest of elves must surely groan at the same tired standards spun again and again. So it’s always a welcome sight when a contemporary artist embarks on a Christmas project, particularly when the likes of The Killers and The Boy Least Likely To have achieved it with such aplomb.

So imagine our excitement when arguably one of the greatest songwriters of the past 20 years, Tim Wheeler, announced his plans for a Christmas album alongside singer-songwriter Emmy The Great. With Ash on hiatus, an offering from Wheeler in any guise is a blessing. That said, This Is Christmas doesn’t sound like an Ash record – but why should it? It’s a Christmas album first and foremost, and thus, making an album for Christmas is its only objective. Fun is very much on the agenda here, and if titles such as Jesus The Reindeer don’t convey that, then the content certainly will.

Marshmallow World is every bit as daft, merry and eggnog-fuelled as any version that’s come before it, while Home For The Holidays could well have been recorded by Same Difference with little altered. And that’s certainly no bad thing – This Is Christmas summons up a joyfulness that even the cheesiest of pop acts would shun these days in pursuit of that elusive Radio 1 playlist spot.

The result? An album full of high points. Snowflakes marries synth and sleigh bells for a starry-eyed, 80s-tastic ballad; (Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas is a 60s girl group swingalong with a dash or two of rock sensibilities; and the addictive, inventive Zombie Christmas makes for an unlikely, yet superb, yuletide ditty for the 21st Century.

Just as Ash’s new-single-every-fortnight project saw them add some startlingly different new classics to their catalogue outside the constraints of an album, the gimmick aspect of a Christmas record also throws up similar opportunities. So while This Is Christmas might not quite unveil a genre-defining anthem, it shuns all ideas of credibility or marketability or developing a ‘now’ sound. Such details have no place on an album where unadulterated, unpretentious fun takes centre stage, and it benefits from it greatly. The merriment is that much more merry, the romance that bit more romantic. Call it corny if you want, but it’s a Christmas album, not just by nature, but very much in spirit.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Single Reviews 20/11/11

Thank you for popping along to peruse this week’s Single Reviews, but alas, we are in mourning, so don’t expect any of them to be particularly positive. Then again, are they ever? But we digress. The BBC, in all their wisdom, have chosen to axe Shooting Stars. Apparently, there’s no room for comedy panel shows on BBC Two anymore (in a week where they announce a new one, and pilot another). Well done, Auntie. You’re really justifying that licence fee lately. *slow clap*

Britney Spears leads the pack this week with Criminal, a welcome venture away from her mechanical McHouse tedium. The nasal twang is unmistakeable, but it’s one of her less predictable offerings in recent years. From its peculiar hey-nonny-nonny intro to its midtempo strum to its understated chorus, it’s pretty different within the sphere of Britney. And yet, not really worth getting too excited about outside of said sphere.

Next under the proverbial microscope are Kasabian, who serve up another helping of the ludicrously-titled Velociraptor! in the guise of Re-wired. The intro offers up the suggestion of a slice of dirty, nonchalant rock, a promise made good once the monstrous chorus sinks its jagged teeth in. It doesn’t quite stand up to the peaks of their catalogue, but functions rather well on its own. Now, if they could just ease up on the superfluous punctuation...

Single of the Week goes to Emeli Sande ft Naughty Boy, with the dark, despairing greatness of Daddy. There are shades of Duffy in her voice here, which is no bad thing, particularly since we lost the original to The Curse of the Second Album (and, of course, THAT Diet Coke ad). But it’s the elegantly-trippy production that really sets her apart, and sets her up for what can only be Adele-level sales in 2012.

And we wrap up with Kelly Rowland, a woman whose business card once read Professional Second Fiddle. Oh, how things have changed. Now she’s star of the show on UK shores thanks to some talent show or something, but Down For Whatever sadly doesn’t move on from the Clubland clichés she’s become mistress of over the past few years. As great as she is on the X Factor panel, it seems musically she’s at her best when stood ten feet behind Beyoncé.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Single Reviews 06/11/11

Welcome to this week’s Single Reviews, in which we not only lay into a selection of the week’s new releases, but also take the opportunity to celebrate the 15th birthday of Spice, the fucking magnificent debut album from the Spice Girls. Bear in mind we’re overlooking Mama when we say ‘magnificent’. But hey, Love Thing more than redresses the balance. Happy Birthday Spice, and a huge thank you to Woolworths on Streatham High Road for providing us with such iconic pop awesomeness (may you rest in peace).

A modest, jovial offering from The Kooks opens proceedings this week, a summery burst of radio-indie much needed in the barren, chilly darkness of GMT. Early listens would suggest Junk of the Heart commands two thumbs up - its simplicity and unpretentiousness make for a plus point on the surface, but further exposure highlights that there’s not much to the song beyond that. So we’ll downgrade it to just the one thumb up, with a side of “well, it’ll do”.

Sort-of-birthday-girl-ish Melanie C makes another push for her sorely-underperforming fifth LP The Sea, with the mature demi-ballad Weak. With its dramatic, emotive sounds and its strong Scandinavian melodies, it makes for a more-than-passable album track, but somehow falls down in its new guise as a single. Perhaps her rather vocal fanbase had a point when they called for Burn to be released. Maybe they should’ve done it more politely...

Having produced the worst record of their career thus far in the shape of the braindead She Makes Me Wanna, it’s time for JLS to head back to safer territory. Take A Chance On Me does the trick with ease, all earnest harmonies and ensnaring refrains and twinkly piano moments. Even though it has hordes of parallels with that whole With You /Tattoo / Irreplaceable crop, it’s still less derivative than She Makes Me Wanna, and nestles down for the Christmas market very nicely.

And finally, Single of the Week is awarded to Hackney/Wexford one-man mash-up and peddler of nu-blue-eyed soul Maverick Sabre. It takes a while before the enchantment of I Need fully takes hold, all jittery vocals backed by a straight-down-the-line shuffle. And truth be told, he still sounds like an Amy Winehouse vinyl played at the wrong speed, but given a bit of effort, something pretty special indeed reveals itself.
Creative Commons Licence
The Sloppy Dog by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.