Single Reviews – 30 September
Guest reviewer Philip Lickley takes you through the pick of this weeks new single releases. Find out what’s worth downloading and what’s worth ignoring this week…
Alt-J – ’Something Good’
Buy: Something Good
After the relatively sombre ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tesselate’ we get a track that is perhaps a little more joyful than you’d expect, thanks to the jangly piano, but the gloomy, murky vocals still weave through the piece. With a bigger focus on the instrumental side than the vocals which brings something different to the table, it doesn’t though possess the hooks of the previous singles, but it’s an enjoyable enough piece, if unremarkable.
Ellie Goulding – ’Anything Could Happen’
Buy: Anything Could Happen
The lead single from Goulding’s second album is a tune that actually makes her voice – which I’ve not really been keen on other than her duet with Tinie Tempah – sound more listenable even if it’s found thrust over the drum riff from Jona Lewis’s Christmas hit crossed with Take That’s ‘Shine’. Much more electronic than her previous hits, it’s more of a sonic noise than a song with her voice put through lots of echo chambers and other production twists. With a lack of any real structure plus too many repetitive shouts of particular lines and a hook that sounds like a whale in distress, it doesn’t have the commercial appeal of ‘Starry Eyed’ but as a MGMT-esque piece of studio production it ticks the boxes. The opening minute is great but I’m just not sure how enjoyable it is to hear from that point onwards though it does suggest after a few listens ir could be a grower.
Kendrick Lamar – ’Swimming Pools (Drank)’
Buy: Swimming Pools (Drank)
Lamar’s second single ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ starts off promisingly with a straight-up rap after a deep-voiced list of the demons that he’ll tackle during the song. The shift in sound of vocals as different aspects of his personality come out works well even if it gives the song an eccentric nature. The mixture of rnb and pop sensibilities work well hand-in-hand and the structure and style mostly work, though its pace feels a little ponderous at times. That said, the rap sections are well written and the chorus balances well against it.
Kylie Minogue – ’Flower (Abbey Road Session)’
The Aussie pop princess is back with this X-album reject re-recorded with an orchestral backing. Showcasing a different sound for Minogue it’s a touching, well created ballad even if it does perhaps get a little mushy and sentimental at times, though it’s a much more emotively written track than we expect from Minogue. The production excels and the words stand out but it’s not her strongest after the novelty of the different musical approach wears off.
Mika feat. Pharrell Williams – ’Celebrate’
Mika is back after a while away with this first cut from his third album. Beginning with an odd-sounding Williams, ‘Celebrate’ is a song I disliked on first listen but, with its retro ‘Daft Punk’-esque electropop sound, is a real grower. It’s perhaps not as immediately poppy and memorable as his breakthrough hits but the chorus, which makes up the majority of the song, is as catchy as his best and the song doesn’t outstay its welcome with his poppiness. Williams’ appearance on the track is seemingly more in the production than on the actual track, with his vocal contributions not quite earning him a guest credit. ‘Celebrate’ is a welcome return from Mika and it’s a song that will slowly show its appeal to you over several listens.
One Direction – ’Live While We’re Young’
Buy: Live While We’re Young
The lead single from the band’s second album, ‘Live While We’re Young’ is hardly a dramatic shift in sound from their previous hits and could easily have squeezed in onto their debut album. It’s everything you could want from a 1D track with a poppy chorus, stuttering-hook and plenty of woah-woah elements. It’s not going to win any awards for originality, especially as it rip-offs the opening to the Clash’s ‘Should I Stay Or I Go’ and is very much in the formula of their previous hits, but as a fun pop track it succeeds.
The Other Tribe – ’Skirts’
Buy: Skirts (Original)
‘Skirts’ by ‘The Other Tribe’ is a fun, electronic number with MGMT undertones and a dance vibe. Quite summery in style, its mixture of instrumentation makes the song and the happy vocals really add to it. Not perhaps a song that will stand out hugely on the radio but as a five minute chill-out tune with a bit of energy it works really well.
The Overtones – ’Loving The Sound’
Buy: Loving The Sound
The first single from their second album ‘Higher’, ‘Loving The Sound’ leaves their doo-wop sound behind to throw in a more boy-band sound. That’s not a bad thing, that said, as the backing mixed with their vocals makes for a really enjoyable hit that mixes a retro style with a sound that isn’t out of place in 2012. It’s a shift in direction for them but you’ll struggle to hear a more joyful three-and-a-half minutes this week even if it does sound like a speeded up version of the ‘it’s raining, it’s pouring’ nursery rhyme at times.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ’Never Is A Long Time / Love Of Your Life’
Buy: Never Is A Long Time / Love Of Your Life
And here we are with another two rejected tracks from the RHCP boys. ‘Never Is A Long Time’ is a quick-paced three minute song that doesn’t really grab you during the running time but it’s not an awful listen, just unremarkable though the guitar and Keidis’ work on it carry it to its speedy conclusion. Fans will find it great to hear, of course. ‘Love Of Your Life’ is, like on the previous ones, a better track than the a-side thanks to its better constructed chorus but again doesn’t set the world alight and isn’t quite up to the tracks we’ve enjoyed so far. Nice enough tracks to hear but nothing earth shattering.
Richard Hawley – ’Seek It’
Buy: Seek It
Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley releases the third single from his latest album. A sombre, pondering piece, it doesn’t quite live up to the spectacle of his hits such as ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ but musically it’s accomplished. There’s something warm and reassuring about his voice and instrumentation and, as the days get shorter, this could be the soundtrack to the colder nights. Enjoyable, atmospheric and calming, and his voice is really appealing, though the song does perhaps ponder on for a little too long as it hits the four minutes out of five-and-a-half.
Rihanna – ’Diamonds’
From Rihanna’s upcoming seventh (!!) album ‘Diamonds’ is much more credible than the out-of-the-box electronic numbers Rihanna has fallen back on more recently. It allows her voice to shine much more than in the past and the change in direction is much more how I’d like to hear Rihanna sound. With a chorus that’s pleasurable to hear and a much more credible sound overall, still with the memorable, commercial hooks, this is a great first single for Rihanna. And comments on YouTube about her sounding a little Lana Del Rey are pretty accurate. A well judged change in style and hopefully her releases will be more like this from now on.
Walk The Moon – ’Anna Sun’
Buy: Anna Sun
The Killers meets One Direction in this straight-forward rock / pop track that initially sounds pretty generic but eventually grabs you with its ‘this house is falling apart’ riff. It perhaps never lives up to the chorus in its ambling verses and its considerable five-minute running time but it’s not an unlikeable debut and quickly grows into a fun, pop-rock tune, with the chorus sticking in your head pretty swiftly.