Single Reviews – 16 December
Philip Lickley’s weekly run-through of the best new single releases – which unsurprisingly features the odd Christmas tune…
Andy Burrows – ‘Hometown’
Previously the drummer of band Razorlight, here is Andy Burrows going solo with new single ‘Hometown’. Dominated in the early moments by the piano and slowly gathering in pace and energy, it never reaches more than a state of sombreness but there is a pleasing piano track and some emotive strings that kick in. It may lack the necessary repeatable chorus to really make it stand out but it is a grower once you get over the slow start and sounds very much like the soundtrack to an emotional moment in a film.
Dot Rotten – ‘Karmageddon’
Buy: Karmageddon [Explicit]
The fourth single from his ‘Voices In My Head’ album sounds like something has gone wrong in the production studio with the backing’s fast drum and bass pace sounding at odds with the slow delivery of the vocals. With too much choral effect and production work, it’s lost in an aural mess. There are moments of fun, such as Rotten’s speedy rap, but overall it’s just a little over-produced and bland with mismatching elements and runs out of speed well before it’s four-and-a-half minutes are over – even with the odd shift at the end. But it does show more of its good side after multiple listens.
Ellie Goulding – ‘Figure 8’
Buy: Figure 8
The second single from Goulding’s second album and a big, big improvement on ‘Anything Could Happen’. More regularly produced, it still has its exciting elements but her voice is much more tolerable even if she’s singing over a harp sound ripped from a Florence and the Machine track. Fast-paced, with a great drum line and elements of dubstep, it’s a surprisingly memorable number and, after a couple of listens, possibly my favourite of her songs. The production mixes up the elements nicely and is on the right side of poppy for her audience but with other more credible elements.
JD McPherson – ‘Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights)’
Buy: Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights)
Another classic rock and roll track from McPherson with a sound we’ve not heard as raw as this for a long time. Interpolating ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ but with totally refreshed lyrics and some great brass, it’s over rather quickly after just two minutes and it’s perhaps not as stand-out as ‘North Side Gal’ and doesn’t have much typical festive appeal you’d expect on such a record – no sleigh bells for instance outside of some slight tinkles at either end – but it’s a fun track while it lasts.
JLS – ‘Hold Me Down / Give Me Life’
Buy: Hold Me Down / Give Me Life
Releasing a double-headed single with two tracks from an album with only ten songs is possibly a little bit greedy, but here it is. ‘Hold Me Down’ drives along nicely thanks to an enjoyable drum-beat pairing and piano track. The chorus is surprisingly catchy and marches forward pleasantly. With a short la-da-da bridge to sustain it, it’s the background production that makes the track. It lacks the killer chorus to make it a favourite outside of their fanbase, but it’s not an unenjoyable single. ‘Give Me Life’ is a much more Timberlake-inspired hit at the start with a stronger focus on the electronic and sounds like a song that Ne-Yo was going to sing but rejected. It’s on a similar level to the first but, at a push, not quite as enjoyable even if the chorus is more fun. Both are above average singles but neither strong enough to stand on their own, but together make a fairly credible single and shows a neat, more enjoyable, change in direction for the boyband.
The Justice Collective – ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (Hillsborough Tribute)’
Sounding like a cross between Band Aid 20 and the BBC’s ‘Perfect Day’ covering the Hollies track, it’s not a million miles away from the original, even down to the opening harmonica sound, but the mix of voices with some serious heavy hitters and some famous Liverpudlians not necessarily known for their singing (plus lots of people you may not be familiar with) the swelling strings and the soul brought out by Rebecca Ferguson and Beverley Knight, alongside the choir effect, make this a thoroughly enjoyable cover of the song, and for charity too. No one really has the chance to shine on the record and so it feels a little bit piecemeal, but it’s a beautiful version of a beautiful song and a great listen, and it takes some interesting directions near the end with some nifty guitar work. Plus Holly Johnson sounds even better here than he did at the height of his fame and it doesn’t end in the self-congratulatory style of Band Aid 20, thankfully.
Lucy Rose – ‘Middle Of The Bed’
Buy: Middle Of The Bed
A re-release of her debut single it’s a smooth, calming ballad over a straight-forward backing. It doesn’t particularly go anywhere and really carve a particular sound, but it’s an enjoyable enough journey from beginning to end and the drum sound under the chorus adds a little bit of weight to the record, and it has its nice, smooth moments, just a little underwhelming at times.
Michael Bublé and Bing Crosby – ‘White Christmas’
Buy: White Christmas
This duet is pretty much what you’d expect with Buble echoing the vocals of Bing Crosby. It doesn’t particularly add much to the song and your enjoyment of this depends on your love for either, or both, artists. It’s a good enough cover and Buble’s voice is on good form, but it doesn’t really do anything that’s not been done on every other interpretation of the song, and even when Buble goes solo there’s no real departure from the traditional formula of the track, and actually Bing’s version is better.
Mr Weebl and Right Said Fred – ’You’re The Best Thing About Christmas’
Internet sensation Weebl joins up with Right Said “I’m Too Sexy” Fred for this tongue-in-cheek ode to the festive season. It has everything you’d expect from a Christmas record – from bells to lyrical descriptions of what happens with a catchy enough chorus, even if the duel vocals sound a little weird at first. The speeding up rap really makes the record and though it’s not going to be a classic, this is easily the best new seasonal song I’ve heard this year and nicely captures the less-than-serious side of the season, plus it has a neat choir ending and a nice – and truthful – Eastenders namecheck.
Paloma Faith – ‘Just Be’
Buy: Just Be
The fourth single from her second album, ‘Just Be’ is another well-sung, powerful ballad. It lacks the killer hook of ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ or ’30 Minute Love Affair’ but she throws her heart into the record. It’s a song pleasing to the ears and enjoyable in its simplicity with its one piano line, but it’s not a remarkable stand-alone single even if the lyrics are touching and well-written and tell a heart-wrenching story, but I imagine it sits nicely in place on the album.
Robbie Williams – ‘Different’
The second single from ‘Take The Crown’, following the perky ‘Candy’, is ‘Different’ and, indeed it is. Dominated by strings, this Gary Barlow co-written track is another Robbie classic even if the verses and chorus don’t quite hit the level of his classic ballads. But the verse and bridge, and ultimately the chorus, are as memorable as he has ever made even if they sometimes last a little too long, and is quickly singable. Another classic single from a singer back on form, though if truth be told he never really went off it, and unafraid to expose his sensitive side.
Roses Gabor – ‘Stars’
The female vocals from Gorillaz ‘DARE’ track finally steps out into this spotlight, with this eclectic track. It’s heavily produced and the mix of vocals makes an interesting sonic composition but isn’t perfectly exciting to listen to. It is too inconsistent in its style to really flow properly but it’s actually an experience to listen to. It has its moments but it seems too confused in parts and the production too off-the-wall for my tastes even if the appeal of the unusual style does start to become clear as the track progresses.
Taio Cruz – ‘The Fast Hits EP’
Buy: The Fast Hits EP [Explicit]
‘Fast Car’, the main track on the EP, doesn’t appear on the European version of Cruz’s third album, so this is new on this side of the pond. A slight departure from Cruz’s typical style but not alienating his fan base completely, it’s got as many car metaphors in it as Rihanna’s ‘Shut Up And Drive’ and is just as daft at times. It’s not a bad song just unremarkable compared to Cruz’s usual commercial catchy tunes with only the dubstep-focussed chorus anything remarkable and even that sounds average.