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singles/eps - august 2013


 

Department M – Absentia/Second Prize (Too Pure)

This twin single from ex-Grammatics fronted Owen Brinley is one of those rare pieces which transcends ages and trends. The low groaning synth on ‘Absentia’ is reminiscent of Disintegration era Cure but it’s brought up to date with some real pots and pans mechanical beats and Brinley’s winsome vocal. Quite beautiful.

‘The Second Prize’ is a bit more upbeat but still aches with 80s drum and synth sound, just slightly revamped with a modern edge. 8/10
http://www.deptm.co.uk/

SB


DATT – There’s Something About You (Earth at Work)

This kind of crosses the fine line between Gallic chic meets Balearic cool and 80s gameshow theme tune. That’s pretty mixed concoction so if you like your music without too many surprises then you may want to avoid. On the other hand, if you want to feel like to you are in a Monaco nightclub in 1983 then give it a spin. 6/10

SB


 

Hawk Eyes – That’s What This Is EP (In One Ear Industries)

I’m always slavering at the chops to get the chance to listen to the next releases from Hawk Eyes and this EP certainly leaves a puddle of drool on my desk. The four tracks see the Hawk continue to evolve away from the darker, screamier sounds of their incubation as Chickenhawk and to refine their genesis as Hawk Eyes in a poppier, slightly more musically complex way. Still full of plenty of crunching riffs and chords to keep the metallists happy, ‘That’s What This Is’ shows the development of some quirky, choppy timings married with killer hooks that on the head-rocking title track end up sounding a bit like Foo Fighters or Biffy in places. The heaviest moments come on Radio 1-aired ‘Cheap’ and EP closer ‘More than a Million’ but the dynamics continue to impress.

Hawk Eyes really do continue to impress me. 8/10
www.hawkeyesmusic.com

SB


 

Hjaltalín - Crack In a Stone

There’s a lot of them in this band, 7 in total. It begs the question as to what most of them are doing as most of the time this track is filled with a lot of blank sonic space. We’re used to minimal coming from Iceland but this is like a minimal muso-pop and I’m not really feeling it until the full strings come in after three minutes. 6/10

SB


Club Smith – The Green Room (PIAS/Tri-Tone)

For this single, Club Smith have deployed producers Dave Bascombe (Depeche Mode) and Lance Thomas (Ladytron) and the results are pretty significant. I’ve quite enjoyed Club Smith’s previous album but the band’s sound can get a bit bleak over time. What all the fizzling electro infill production frills achieve here is to soften those edges a touch and provide a much warmer sound, making it instantly more discoable. In true contrary fashion, when you then go back to listen to tracks like ‘Mantra’ they also sound better due to the contrast. Club Smith may be onto a winning formula here. 8/10
www.clubsmith.co.uk

SB

 

Charlie Straight – Coco

Hmm, I’m not sure I’m agreeing completely with the PRs assertion that Charlie Straight will engulf me in their alluring sound. The chorus is magnificent, make no mistake. But the verses are so plodding that you may give up the enthusiasm to make it through to another blast of chorus. 5/10
http://www.facebook.com/charliestraight

SB

 

DolfinZ – Resonate Darkly

Lovely scruffy garagey nonsense here from Stonehaven’s favourite sons. Lots of Pavement/Sonic Youth vibes wrapped up in a DonfinZ own unique sound which includes vocals sung through a letterbox down a long hallway. Loving it. 8/10
www.dolfinzzz.com

SB

 

Austra – ‘Hurt Me Now’

Where the drama predominantly comes through Katie Stelmanis’ magnificent vocals on second LP Olympia, here with ‘Hurt Me Now’ it is the instrumental that proves the core element in conjuring the world of the track.

Amidst an atmosphere like a great pre-historic ice cave, Stelmanis’ vocals are often at their most tender and subdued… an echo in so much space. They’re surrounded on all sides by sweeping tides of new wave synthesisers, organ, chamber choir backing-vocals and percussion concentrated to its booming minimalism and most powerful finely-tuned essence.

It’s an arrangement that proves aptly suited to the dichotomous conceit of the lyrics: grandiose, abstract, Romance-inspired (taking in kings, temples and hearts on tables), all somehow incongruous to, and consequently heightening of, the intimate, desperate plea of the chorus - “Don’t hurt me now”.

Chris Sharpe

 

Pond – Xanman (Modular Recordings)

Sun-drenched psych rock and stoner roll goodness turned up to 11 from down under is pretty much the Pond credo. They encapsulated it to the utmost on their brilliantly-titled 2012 debut, Beard, Wives, Deni - which reads like a list of entry requirements to the band’s concerts, or a red-neck’s alternative holy trinity – and they’re back to do it again. With ‘Xanman’ as before they’re not particularly re-inventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but equally they’re not just stagnant revivalists, and there’s no denying the timeless balls-to-the-wall brilliance of that outro. This and ace preceding single ‘Giant Tortoise’ have done more than enough to get aficionados excited for Hobo Rocket.

Chris Sharpe

 

Stereophonics – We Share the Same Sun (Stylus Records)

Good news for all you Stereophonics mega fans. They've created some of their more average, run-of-the-mill music which you guys will just love. Sadly, for the rest of us who don't share those emotional ties to the band, 'We Share the Same Sun' is lacking in impact and somewhat lies in the shadow of their previous and more engaging single 'Indian Summer'. Tut tut, guys, we expect better from you. 4/10

Helen Grimshaw

 
 

Swim Deep – Francisco (Chess Club)

From a debut album which already surfs on a wave of dreamy pop brilliance, 'Francisco' is one of its finest examples, sitting comfortably alongside other favourites such as hit singles 'King City' and 'Honey'. With Austin Williams' yelps and care-free attitude combined with that infectiously addictive hook on the keys, 'Francisco' is your ultimate earworm (which you adore too much to care) for the summer. 7/10

Helen Grimshaw

 

Pjaro – Quid Pro Quo (Not Laughing)

More cracking stuff from grouchy Sheffield two-piece Pjaro. While by no means a complex track, there is some really skilful work here as the few sparse parts which form the track interplay and create a whole far more rounded yet jarring than you would ever have imagined possible. 8/10
https://www.facebook.com/pjaroscps/app_204974879526524

SB

 

Wolf Alice – She

Nice follow up by Wolf Alice here with the buzzing bass and impressive vocal of Ellie Rowsell in ‘She’ forming quite a contrast from the shouty, grungey predecessor ‘Fluffy’. Good things ahead in the EP ‘Blush’ methinks. 8/10
https://soundcloud.com/wolfalice

SB

 
 

Zola Jesus – Fall Back

From the album ‘Versions’ a collaboration with Jim Thirlwell (yes, that’s the same JG Foetus Thirlwell who mashed up Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Broken EP’ to such an extent that it was hard to tell if you were listening to the ‘Fixed’ EP or a head cleaning tape), ‘Fall Back’ is one of the more accessible tracks. Thirlwell has replaced the angle grinders and blow torches for discordant orchestral string arrangements and there is an injection of urgency brought to the piece by this but I’m not sure it works totally against Zola’s less than urgent vocal style. 6/10
http://www.zolajesus.com/

SB

 

Mona and Maria – My Sun

‘My Sun’ reminds us of a time when things were different, simple orchestration and vocal harmony plus a good tune were all you needed. All those long Norwegian summer days, clear nights, lakes and ridiculous woolly jumpers infuse this track and leave you all floaty and light. 8/10

SB

 

Anna Calvi – Eliza (Domino)

Breathy chanteuse Anna Calvi returns with this warbling stomp of a song from her forthcoming album ‘One Breath’. The completely unexpected spiralling guitar riff midway through this saves it from samey mediocrity and also seems to inspire Calvi to up her game to Gene Pitney heights for the crescendo. 6/10
http://www.annacalvi.com/

SB

 
 

Middleman – Helpless

What the hell? Take a deep breath, wrap a bandana over your mouth and plunge headlong into this riot of a track with its plastic bullet volleys of power chord and eye wateringly warped fizzing basslines. Rap/metal/electro crossover – that’s not really a cross over, more of a three way pile up but if this track doesn’t inspire some kind of reaction from you then you may well be deaf. More fun that burning down a Clapham betting shop. 8/10
www.middlemanband.co.uk

SB

 

Carnivals – Yearn

Luscious beats, bass and soulful vocals – there’s nothing specific about this track that jumps out but you know when something just sounds effortlessly good. And as quickly as it came into your life it twinkles away in the fade out. 7/10
https://soundcloud.com/carnivals

SB

 
 

Dustin Wong – The Big She (Thrill Jockey)

Plankton Wat stablemate Dusting Wong couldn’t be further away from Mahood’s work yet they both share a fascination with the exploration of the limits of guitar sounds. Where ‘The Big She’ fails for me is that it never really draws me in with that initial hook. Or, for that matter, even with any hook throughout its duration. That leaves it sounding a bit like a self indulgent, part formed jam session rather than serious single. 5/10

SB

 
 

Plankton Wat – Empires Mine (Thrill Jockey)

Beautiful work here from Dewey Mahood on this guitar only piece. Working a simple acoustic hook he overlays some ringing harmonics and smatter of dirty electric guitar fuzz without ever losing the free-ranging, ad hoc expansiveness underlying the track. 8/10
https://soundcloud.com/thrilljockey/plankton-wat-empire-mines

SB