This Week’s New Single Releases (3rd November 2013)

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

Arthur Beatrice – ‘Grand Union’
‘Grand Union’ is a slow moving indie number that is as gentle and rolling as you could imagine from a softly spoken male singer trying to do a lower key version of Everything Everything or ALT-J.  It’s the musical backing that builds up through the record that wins it for me and it excels in its quiet evocativeness and understatement. It lacks a huge moment that will bring you back to it, but as a subtle piece of cheerful indie with an evocative mid-song soundscape, it works. (6/10)
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Britney Spears – ‘Work Bitch!’
From a song that’s all subtlety to a title that is anything but. Will.I.Am’s production is all over this record as it sounds like a practical re-make of Britney’s chorus on ‘Scream and Shout’. I’m not sure she could have buried her impressive discography even further after her questionable ‘Smurfs 2’ OST feature, but she proves me wrong here, with an ill-fitting collection of lyrical snippets, sang in different, all dodgy, styles that ape Will.I.Am at his worst, all over a boring, repetitive, groaning electronic backing. Lacking any of her pop credentials and a general heard-it-all-before feel, this is a disappointment for Spears, wrapping up a positive ‘work hard to achieve your goals’ message in a really aggressive hook. Please ditch Will.I.Am for future records. (2/10)
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Eminem feat. Rihanna – ‘The Monster’
If I consult my book of clichés then I find out that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in this case it is, as Eminem has polished off his master of ‘Love The Way You Lie’, his previous collaboration with the most over-exposed female singer in history, and re-written the lyrics but kept the similar vibe. It lacks the huge emotional kick of that duet but this fits nicely into the style and they bounce well off each other, and it’s better to see Mathers back on familiar ground after two more experimental and less classic records. It adds nothing new to either of their discographies but the duet, with a sort-of timely Halloween vibe, proves they can work well together over a minimal musical backing. (6.5/10)
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Erasure – ‘Gaudete’
It’s neither acceptable nor unexpected but as we enter the first week of November we get our first Christmas release, and the record goes to 80s synth band Erasure for their version of the classic carol made most famous by Steeleye Span. It doesn’t really add much to that definitive version but this first cut from their upcoming Christmas album does add a few new elements into the festive formula, with beatier sections (“Word Up” anyone?) and some more interesting synth elements, as you’d expect, plus a rap-vibe in parts. Whether this makes the record more attractive to you I don’t know, but it’s a fresh enough take and one that also keeps a few of the original hallmarks. I love the original and that colours my perception of this a little. A fun enough cover. (6.5/10)
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Findlay – ‘Greasy Love’
‘Greasy Love’ (erm, lovely?) is a weird, eccentric cross between Lana Del Rey, the White Stripes, Ladyhawke and a producer that left the microphone a little too loud. It’s a difficult song to first get into due to the production decision to make it very rough sounding, but the fast-paced chorus quickly hooks you in with its chant-style. Throw in a tempo-shifting section and a speedy, singable final act, and this is surprisingly addictive. (7/10)
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Indiana – ‘Mess Around’
With shades of The Gossip, Garbage and Florence and the Machine, ‘Mess Around’ is an ethereal blend of elements that weave themselves into your consciousness. It’s slow, focussed assault on you is well done and the sultry voice of Indiana certainly draws you in. It takes a while to get to the poppier chorus, but it’s worth the wait as a sexy soundscape is constructed around you. Strangely compelling. (7/10)
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Justin Bieber – ‘Recovery’
And the next of the weekly Bieber releases on the same week ‘Mistletoe’ is also re-released. I’m not reviewing his actually pretty-good Xmas song here as it originally came out two years ago, but whereas that is smooth, poppy and enjoyable to hear, ‘Recovery’ is another one of his sub-par Timberlake knock-offs that, thanks to its hand claps, chunky beat and faster-paced vocals is better than his previous special releases, but it’s still boring and instantly forgettable. Bring back the poppy Bieber. (3/10)
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Katy B – ‘5am’
After a handful of clubby singles in 2010 and 2011 including ‘Katy On A Mission’ and ‘Lights On’, Kathleen Brien is back with this second single off her similarly number album, and it’s a much more poppy effort than previously, with a winning The Gossip sound. The perky chorus is danceable and pretty catchy and her voice sounds better over this style of production than the previous heavy club sound. Lyrically it’s not exactly highbrow but the pop-heavy vibe is a winner for her. (7/10)
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Lady GaGa feat. R Kelly – ‘Do What You Want’
The first of two GaGa releases for this week. ‘Do What You Want’ sees Lady GaGa go very Christina Aguilera, so much so that I think they could both easily be confused. With GaGa at her poppiest, this retro-sounding cut proves she can still sing a catchy, karaoke-friendly number. Settling into the 80s, it’s not as powerful as her huge hits, but it’s certainly produced and put together in a way that hooks you in, and R Kelly’s smooth rap is weaved in well, and he sounds fresher than usual. (6.5/10)
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Lady GaGa – ‘Venus’
Her second release of the week is ‘Venus’ but not that venus and in creating this song she has looked up the solar system on Wikipedia to pull the lyrics together. Yes, to criticise a pop song for being clichéd is like criticising Jeremy Paxman for being probing, but lyrically it’s a little bland. It’s as poppy as ever and she nails the chorus, as you’d expect, but with the reliance on a drum machine and autotrack, and a familiar vibe to her other hits, it feels more like an album track. At least we find out her ass is famous. (6/10)
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The LaFontaines – ‘All She Knows’
‘All She Knows’ is a low-key soft-rock number that mixes a familiar boyband sound with hints of Nickelback and Dappy in the rap sections. If that sounds like a questionable mix of styles, don’t worry it works together, even if it’s a little too sombre for its own good. The mix of two styles of vocals and rap keeps things interesting, though, and the track bumbles along happily, it just perhaps needs something to give it a bit of a kick. (6.5/10)
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Little Mix – ‘Move’
The first cut from their upcoming second album, ‘Move’ feels like a third or fourth single rather than a first. Lacking the power of, say, ‘DNA’, the verses feel quite bland and the harsh tempo-change into the chorus doesn’t fit, but at least that’s better and the riff is memorable, but it feels like you’re waiting for a powerful chorus that never comes. ‘Move’ struggles with an identity crisis in that it throws lots of ideas at the wall but only one sticks, and the rest just happens. It has some well observed pop values but no overall cohesiveness. Forgetabble. (5/10)
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Luke Sital-Singh – ‘Tornados’ (EP)
EP opener ‘Nothing Stays The Same’ has a ‘One Republic’ vibe to proceedings, showcasing a strong, emotive and powerful vocal over a simple guitar backing. With shades of Keane, this a great slice of guitar-and-vocal led indie with a singer-songwriter whose voice is very listenable. With a well-included choral effect to give extra power to chorus, this is very much worth a listen. The EP is rounded off with a demo and two other new tracks which you can hear samples of here, suggesting a promising new talent. (7/10)
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Lulu James – ‘Sweetest Thing’ (EP)
Joined on the extended play by three remixes, Lulu James’ ‘Sweetest Thing’, complete with an improbable backing appearance from the singing mice from 90s pig-based film ‘Babe’, is a smooth, silky atmospheric number, with the sultry vocals of Lulu James flowing casually through the gentle song. Touching, well produced and nicely emotional. (7.5/10)
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M.A.D. – ‘Toyboy’
Sadly not a song by the Claw from Inspector Gadget (there’s a pop culture reference for you) and instead is a Busted for a new generation (and to cement this, they’ve done a ‘Year 3000’ cover) but with the sound of One Direction – well, if they killed off two members. It’s as cheesy as it is poppy, naff as it is catchy, but I’m not sure if it will appeal to a modern young audience who prefer something a little bit more credible. Rawly produced without that added studio polish, this is tween-pop at its half-best. Not too bad but very much camembert on the cheese scale and as artificial as you’d expect from the genre and targeted young audience. (5.5/10)
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Pet Shop Boys feat. Example – ‘Thursday’ (EP)
Supported by a smattering of new tracks and remixes, ‘Thursday’ feels much more like “classic” PSB than much of their most recent material and this would fit nicely into their 80s sound. With shades of ‘Die Another Day’ in one of its riffs, this is the Boys at their catchiest with a nearly poppy and singable song and should help win over old fans to their newer material. Example is pretty much as expected with his appearance, whipping out his rhyming dictionary in a funny-if-you-think-about-it forced set of sound-a-like words, but adds an extra ingredient to the recipe. With a varied selection of elements that somehow all come together, ‘Thursday’ is a brilliant tune that mixes in their familiar classic sound with something much more 2013. ‘No More Ballads’ is, though, a slower number and an average song in the history of their canon.  (7.5/10)
Watch the ‘Thursday’ video

Watch the ‘No More Ballads’ video 

Shane Filan – ‘About You’
Ex-Westlife front man’s second single expectedly doesn’t change the formula that has proven so successful to him. A jaunty power ballad ‘About You’ is a bit more sickly sweet than his solo debut and proves not to be as memorable but it’ll keep his fan base happy with his firm foot held in the genre. His voice and swelling strings work well as part of the record, and it’s certainly a lighters-out hug-a-loved-one hit with a positive message. Add in a sing-along section and a building conclusion, and he has a pop-ballad hit on his hands. (7/10)
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Steel Panther – ‘Party Like Tomorrow Is The End of the World’
The 1980s have called and want this Bon Jovi parody band back. Seriously, though, Steel Panther have nailed the sound of the decade with this jokey rock song that becomes a cross between Bowling For Soup and Blink 182 with the sound of that era. Aside from their ticking of the retro box, the lyrics aren’t actually as hilarious as the concept would suggest or their other song titles would lead you to believe, but it’s catchy in its own right and it doesn’t, naturally, take itself too seriously. Fun enough for a listen and for fans of the decade who want something new! (6.5/10)
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Storm Queen – ‘Look Right Through’
A new dance tune from the Ministry of Sound stable, Storm Queen’s ‘Look Right Through’ mixes up a familiar dance beat with the sound of a rough Barry White impersonator. It features all the hallmarks of a dance tune but sounds too much like it was created by an off-the-shelf piece of music creation software. Good for fans of the genre, not sure about anyone else. (5.5/10)
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To Be Frank – ‘Half The Man’
‘Half The Man’ is half the track I was expecting, running for three minutes with an overly repetitive backing and a bland, tired overlaid vocal. It’ll have its fans but it’s not the most exciting record I’ve listened to today. For fans of low-key electronica it will be a must-spin, not sure for me. (4/10)
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Travis – ‘Mother’
And finally for this week, Travis return with the third single from their ‘Where You Stand’ album, kicking off with a distinctive electronic riff. Musically intriguing, it lacks the quick memorability of the album’s title track or ‘Moving’, but should keep the hardcore fans happy. Though I’m a hardcore fan and feel it lacks the direction needed to hold your interest to the minimal chorus. It kicks up the pace about half-way-in but it’s too little too late on this average number from the Scottish band. A shame. (4/10)
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Post Author: Philip Lickley