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This Week’s New Single Releases (19th January 2014)

My round up of the new singles available for digital download this week.

Armin Van Burren – ‘Who’s Afraid of 138?!’ (EP)
Joined with a handful of remixes, this latest from Van Burren is an upbeat way to start this week’s music reviews with its thumping dance beat and get up and rave vibe. Lacking any lyrics or indeed any distinguishable hooks, it doesn’t quite feel like a solid enough release. Yes, it has a great rhythm and a very atmospheric, involving sound and will get you up and moving, but it can’t shake the feeling that anybody could make this in their bedroom using some off the shelf software. It’s great at what it does, but what it does is pretty standard. (6/10)
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Beyonce – ‘XO’
I hoped this would be better than the frankly tedious ‘Drunk In Love’ and thankfully this feels more like Beyonce trying rather than recording an amble around the dictionary and her sex life. Though it starts with the potentially controversial sample of the Columbia space shuttle disaster, it morphs into a chantable number with quite a catchy chorus, over a retro-sounding production base. It’s not up to the imagination of her earlier material but this feels like a proper single contender when compared to her recent Jay-Z collaboration. With moments of ‘Here With Me’ from ‘The Killers’ in its style and tempo, this is an average track by her standards but fun enough even though the verses are far too ponderous at times and the production becoming messier as the songs moves along. (6/10)
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Busta Rhymes feat. Q Tip, Kanye West & Lil Wayne – ‘Thank You’
Somehow I imagine that when they were producing this song the producer was looping the riff constantly and having to keep queuing it up as he waited for the rappers to finish their section so he could bring in the main hook, as on here they just don’t shut up. Built over a riff from the famous 1981 song that makes up the chorus, there is a great song screaming to get out but is restricted by Busta Rhymes, whose verses should be much shorter and more impactful. Q Tip is the main star here and brings the best material to the table, with the best flow. Kanye and Lil Wayne’s appearances are frankly pointless and add little to it. The chorus riff seems like an afterthought and it comes across as more of a vanity project. With tighter verses and a more varied backing, plus a producer unafraid to reign in the egos of four big names, this could have been great. Now it’s just good. (5.5/10)
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Chromeo feat. Toro y Moi – ‘Come Alive’
The third cut from their ‘White Woman’ album ‘Come Alive’ is a real surprise of a track, nailing the 1970s vibe with the sound of Michael Jackson mixed with Calvin Harris when he was good. If this doesn’t get you moving then someone has super-glued you to the chair right? Funky, instantly catchy and recovering from a tired middle section by cranking up the pace again, this is quickly loveable and feels like a ‘Get Lucky’ for 2014. (7.5/10)
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Claire Maguire – ‘Claire Maguire (EP)’
After two brilliant singles back in 2011 (was it really that long ago!) Claire Maguire returns with this four track extended play. Opener ‘Paper Thin’ is a slow-paced, raw-sounding atmospheric number that is gloomy and downbeat, but somehow appealing and builds with some great energy in the final minute. It’s different to what I’d expect but somehow hypnotising. Onto ‘Black Coffee’ and it’s a cover of the K D Lang song, not All Saints, and it’s a dark, ponderous piece that showcases her strong voice but it’s too dark and ponderous for my tastes, though is well put together.

‘Whenever You Want It’ feels more cut back than her big hits and lacks the upbeat and song structure, coming across more as a monologue over a deep, organ layer. The organ playing is great though and the distant-sounding vocals are appealing to the ear, and it gets better as it gets into the swing, but it’s missing a little something that its raw sound doesn’t provide. The downbeat nature suits her voice and it makes for enjoyable sit-back and listen-music, and it’s a definite grower. ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’, a Joni Mitchell cover, rounds off the atmospheric, well sung and experimental EP, a slow-moving touching, waivering adaptation of the song. (6.5/10)
Watch ‘Paper Thin’

Watch ‘Black Coffee’

Watch ‘Whenever You Want It’

Watch ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’

Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne – ‘Rather Be’
Last year Clean Bandit really impressed me with a string of really strong singles including ‘Dust Clears’ and the amazing ‘Mozart’s House’ and as we enter a new year they continue this with their fourth release. ‘Rather Be’ is perhaps more conventional than their other hits and more radio-friendly but the mix of the listenable vocals of Jess Glynne combined with the strong violin and electronic mixes, make this a neat piece of more interesting pop. It’s not as strong as their last two pieces, but it’s impossible to dislike thanks to its perky, positive vibe and mix of elements that work well together. (7/10)
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DJ Snake & Lil Jon – ‘Turn Down For What’
With a middle-Eastern vibe to the production, ‘Turn Down For What’ sees Lil Jon go all Fatman Scoop, appearing on the record as the shouty hype-man. If you like your dance music going all Turkish delight then you’ll love this but it sounds remarkably like a lot of other dance numbers on the market. It has plenty of attitude and the musical riff scores highly, it just plays all its cards in the first minute, though it does know how to build up the music and take you on an audio ride. (6/10)
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Franz Ferdinand – ‘Bullet’
The fourth single from their under-rated latest album has taken a while to come round, but this is a great sixties-sounding number that takes shades of their classic sound but cements it firmly in the past. ‘Bullet’ feels like one of their best numbers with a singable, memorable chorus and verses that compliment to it, alongside some well-planned structures to the lyrics and guitar sections. It’s short and sweet, feels like an instant classic for the band, and makes for a great indie pop-package: tight and does the job! (7.5/10)
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George Fitzgerald – ‘Magnetic / Bad Aura’
‘Magnetic’ sounds a bit like Enigma if they’d started as a drum and bass group. With echoes of an older Daft Punk of the ‘Homework’ era, the ‘A-side’ boasts a throbbing bass and a thick, satisfying electronic backing, joined by some dark, minimalistic incomprehensible vocals. Atmospheric and involving this feels more exciting than some of the more recent electronic pieces. ‘Bad Aura’, the second track, is very similar in sound and feels too much like a continuation but without the vocals – stick with track one. (6/10)
Watch ‘Magnetic’

Watch ‘Bad Aura’

Idina Menzel – ‘Let It Go’
After the poppier Demi Lovato version was released last year, it’s now the turn of the original in-film version to hit the charts. Less commercial and lacking the more straight-forward structure of 2013’s version, but far more accomplished and musical, Menzel’s take is the superior version thanks to Menzel’s more layered vocal and the better, filmic and piano-led score. Both styles of ‘Let It Go’ work and though Lovato’s version is more radio-friendly this more orchestral and better sung version is my favourite. One of the best Disney songs in year. (7.5/10)
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Mike Hough – ‘Better’
With shades of Darren Hayes, ‘Better’ and its almost-falsetto delivery hooks you in and showcases his unique but grabbing voice. It won’t win any awards for originality but as a radio-friendly pop number in the style of boybands but with a bit more kick behind it, this is well worth a listen. The chorus will possibly become a little annoying with its repeat of the title, but there’s another variety to hold your interest and enough taken from RnB to add a bit more. (6.5/10)
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Monsieur Adi feat. A*M*E – ‘What’s Going On’
Having carved out a career out of remixing lots of songs by big artists, here Monsieur Adi teams up with A*M*E of ‘Need You (100%)’ fame and delivers a Vitamin String Orchestra-style take on the famous Soul II Soul track ‘Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)’. Much of the appeal of this record will come from the love of the original which is pretty much a classic, but it isn’t actually a by-numbers cover and the classical-tinged dance re-imaging actually really works and breathes some life into the much heard original, thanks mainly to the production but also to the power of the lead vocalist. Neat. (7/10)
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Neon Jungle – ‘Braveheart’
After ‘Trouble’ pretty much covered Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, their follow-up five months on doesn’t feel like it’s jumped on the bandwagon of a particular song instead mirroring the production work of Calvin Harris and Example. With a countdown in Japanese (makes a change from the usual Spanish) ‘Braveheart’ continues the idea that Neon Jungle are piggybacking on other songs to make their own. With an awkward rap two-thirds in that even Stooshe would reject, it’s an OK dance track but it’s a mess of a song that doesn’t have its own identity or even its own true hook. Listenable and will get you moving, but it’s too familiar. (5.5/10)
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Pixies – ‘EP2′
Opener ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’ is a gruff sounding, guitar-heavy alternative rock number that balances a more indie-rock sound with some screamo vocals in the chorus, like an angrier Rolling Stones. The former works, the latter not so. It’s quite eccentric but it somehow works and it’s a track I would certainly put on for a few spins, even if it has its moments of weirdness (and that’s without covering the Monty Python-like video). ‘Magdalena’, with its over-powered vocals, is a more ethereal number but the production makes it work and is arguably more listenable than track one thanks to its musical tentacles settling in to you.

‘Greens and Blues’ continues the indie feel of the EP and settles in nicely as a song, and ‘Snakes’, the lesser of the four tracks but still a worthy listen, rounds off a very accomplished EP.  (7.5/10)
Watch ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’

Watch ‘Magdalena’

Watch ‘Greens and Blues’

Watch ‘Snakes’

Saint Raymond – ‘Young Blood’
Taking their style from The 1975, in particular from ‘Chocolate’, Saint Raymond’s ‘Young Blood’ is a neat slice of indie pop with a well-timed choral break-down and a buzzing, catchy chorus. It’s not particularly revolutionary but it’s jaunty enough and pleasantly listenable and will fill the gap until the next single from the 1975. (6.5/10)
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Shakira feat. Rihanna – ‘Can’t Remember To Forget You’
Shakira returns to the spotlight after what seems like ages away with this track. The best bit, sadly, of ‘Can’t Remember To Forget You’ is the funky ska opening though thankfully the great, sunny riff percolates through the entire record and the style suits both artists and actually gives Rihanna something a little different to her discography after some bland solo efforts. This is a real grower and is actually better than you’d imagine, mostly thanks to the strong production work and efforts of the riff, though I wish Shakira would stop with the vocal acrobatics. It does remind me of something though that I can’t put my finger on. (7.5/10)
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Tinie Tempah feat. Labrinth – ‘Lover Not A Fighter’
Thankfully after a few so-so singles, Tinie Tempah has done the wise thing and got Labrinth more involved with one of his songs again and his ear for brilliant production is all over this, from the Daft Punk-like opening guitars to the answer phone intro. The best moments are from Labrinth on the punky chorus, but Tempah’s verses are still up there. It’s not quite ‘Pass Out’ or ‘Frisky’ but this is Tinie’s best single release in ages. Great. (7.5/10)
Watch the video

The Vamps – ‘Wild Heart’ (EP)
Opening with the title track which isn’t quite as good as their strong debut ‘Can We Dance?’, ‘Wild Heart’ is pretty poppy and a catchy beat holds the piece together, and it should please the 1Ds and McFliers of this world but the lack of the early attitude is disappointing. It’s still a fun pop number though and keeps a smile on your face; it’s just a bit blander than last year’s effort. The EP is completed with some covers of McFly, the Isley Brothers and Arctic Monkeys songs. (6.5/10)
Watch the video

Vance Joy – ‘Riptide’
The second single from Australian singer Vance Joy, ‘Riptide’ is a perky, poppy number which brings a bit of sunshine into a dark January. Capturing the down under vibe perfectly, this song manages to balance some fun, tongue-in-cheek lyrics with an evocative and well put together musical style. Sunny and smile-inducing. Plus the video is funny. (7/10)
Watch the video

Vato Gonzalez – ‘Volfied Riddim’
And finally for this week it’s the fourth single from Vato Gonzalez and his second to feature the word ‘Riddim’. ‘Volfied’ is an above-average dance number that has more to say than the usual record thanks to its effective use of loops and vocal sections, plus some nicely heavy beats but it’s not the most exciting record of the week. Will fit nicely into your next dance set, if you’re planning one. (5.5/10)
Watch the video

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