This Week’s New Single Releases (16th February 2014)

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

A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera – ‘Say Something’
Here’s a slow-paced piano-led ballad that is programmed to pull at your heart-strings and certainly feels like the post-Valentines come down. ‘Say Something’ is a song that you really want to go somewhere but it doesn’t quite build on its initial concept; a huge chorus never really appears. The verse is touching and well balanced between the vocals of the main singer and guest artist Aguilera over some swelling strings and it finally brings a bit more power in the final third. It’ll fit nicely over the touching end of a television drama but not sure how strong it is on its own, but it’s a well meaning tear-jerker if you’re in the right frame of mind. (6.5/10)
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Band of Skulls – ‘Nightmares’
An alternative rock band from Southampton, ‘Nightmares’ is not as shouty as you’d expect from the band name and comes together as a well produced rock song, though it lacks that one vocal or lyrical hook that would grab you in, with a switch to verse and chorus that doesn’t flow as well as you’d hope. Nice enough and far from being a nightmare with an ending that wraps things up nightly with the most memorable part, but you’re unlikely to dream of downloading it. (5/10)
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Beck – ‘Blue Moon’
The first cut from his upcoming twelve album, ‘Blue Moon’ is a relaxing, stripped back number that will keep the fans happy but it sits so far in the middle of the road it’s likely to be knocked down. Smooth and subtle, this is a calming, chill-out number but by its nature isn’t shaking you to reach out to it. Nicely composed, but pretty forgettable. (4.5/10)
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The Civil Wars – ‘Between The Bars’ (EP)
Opener ‘Sour Times’ kicks off an EP of four covers. Adapted from the Portishead song, it’s quite an understated and gloomy number but it’s performed beautifully in its acoustic style though the vocals get lost a little in the overpowering guitar and their own gritty nature. It’s better in the quieter, more introspective moments. Elliot Smith’s ‘Between the Bars’ is a similar affair in style and emotional response though perhaps with a less distinct hook. ‘Billie Jean’ and the Romantics’ ‘Talking In Your Sleep’ complete the package. (6.5/10)
Watch ‘Sour Times’

Watch ‘Between the Bars’

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
The title track from Albarn’s first true solo album, ‘Everyday Robots’ feels more Gorillaz than Blur and, like Placebo’s 2013 song ‘Too Many Friends’, it has something to say about technology, though wrapped up in a sombre, ambling number that includes a fun, but soon irritating Arabian-sounding riff. If Albarn cheered up a little this might appeal more, but by the two-and-a-half minute point the production decisions get too irritating. Its experimental nature should be acknowledged and it certainly has its moments, but it lacks the energy to justify its four minutes. (5.5/10)
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Dapper Laughs – ‘Proper Moist’
Cockney comedian Dapper Laughs hits us with this ‘Geezer Guide’ number having found fame on social networks. The title will probably give you forewarning of what you’re likely to expect and there are moments that it’s pretty crude, though it’s often hard to tell as the lyrics get masked in the overall messy production. Taken at face value as a pop song it’s actually the catchiest song so far even if the lyrics are a little random and potentially distasteful. Not sure about the rap though. Tacky but unashamedly poppy and catchy. (6.5/10)
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David Guetta feat. Skylar Grey – ‘Shot Me Down’
Adapted from a 1966 Cher song, though most famously covered by Nancy Sinatra, this was done far better by Audio Bullys back in 2005 and this re-make feels entirely unnecessary, lacking either the grace of the original or the clever re-editing of that particular cover. Inspiration back in the mid-noughties is replaced here with tedious electronic trickery that doesn’t really fit into the style of the original. If Skylar Grey had done a by-numbers cover of the original it would be better than this shoe-horning of two entirely different elements. Stick with the Bullys. (3/10)
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Disclosure feat. Mary J Blige – ‘F For You’
I enjoyed the original, which was only released last year, and the skeleton of the song remains unchanged but Blige does contribute something fresh to it, with a strong ballsy verse and her own contributions to the chorus which work well. Her appearance isn’t going to change your thoughts on the record if you didn’t like the original but her work adds some more variety to the piece and makes it seem far less repetitive than the original, though it’s not the world’s biggest departure. (7/10)
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Ellie Goulding – ‘Goodness Gracious’
Continuing to release singles from her expanded second album, ‘Goodness Gracious’ starts off with promise and boasts one of her strongest choruses in a while, but in between is shoe-horned the most awkward to hear bridge and the transition between the elements feels rather forced. The electronic style suits the track with the riff between the chorus and verse being the highlight, and it suits Goulding’s Marmite voice, but it doesn’t work as a whole piece. It’s a grower, but it’s a teenager of a track: confused, and not sure what to do next, but OK in parts. (6/10)
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Embrace – ‘Refugees’ (EP)
Opening with the title track which is a gruff, Editors-sounding indie-rock number that is a little too by-numbers for the majority of its time, at least until the more synth-based breakdown, but the chorus and familiar structure and style will be satisfying for fans of the genre. ‘Chameleon’, ‘decades’ and ‘bullets’ completes the set. (6/10)
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Ghost Beach – ‘Been There Before’
Firmly landing in the electronic / indie / tropical category, this Goosebumps-book-inspired band bring a positive track but one that doesn’t feel like it has a sense of direction and just sort of ambles on for four minutes. It has some neat electronic production sections and a chorus that hits home, and it feels like a grower, but it doesn’t seem to have the focus to hold my attention. Been there before? I think it has. (5/10)
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Jennifer Lopez – ‘Same Girl’
After a while Lopez returns with this funky, RnB-enfused number with a catchy chorus and a Timbaland-like backing. It’s production and catchy chorus are its positives and make up for the reasonable verses. It’s certainly a grower and will hook its way into your consciousness. (6.5/10)
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John Legend – ‘All Of Me’
Led by piano, ‘All Of Me’ is a smooth, touching ballad with lyrics that will resonate with a lot of people. It’s not a dramatic or spectacular song and the verses meander on a little too long, but it’s simplicity works to its benefit to create a gentle, enjoyable ballad. (7/10)
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Kimberley Anne – ‘Hard as Hello’
‘Hard as Hello’ is a ska-enfused number that bounces along in a jaunty fashion whilst Anne, with her straight-forward and listenable voice, travels through the lyrics. Sunnier sounding than the vocals, this is an enjoyable, gentle tune. It doesn’t quite hit the heights, but it’s a neat four minutes. (5.5/10)
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Kimberly Caldwell – ‘On The Weekend’
Going a little Fleetwood Mac on us, Kimberly Caldwell’s ‘On The Weekend’ takes her gravelly-voice, places it over the top of a catchy synth track and throws in plenty of attitude, making for a top listen and a singalong synth hit with a chorus whose attitude will stick quickly in your head. (7/10)
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Kodaline – ‘One Day’
‘One Day’ is a jaunty number that feels like the Editors have cheered up a little but ultimately it lacks the killer hook that would make it stand out from middle of the road indie trappings. It’ll please the fans but won’t stand out on the radio. (5/10)
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The Lancashire Hotpots – ‘The Flappy Bird Song’
The North’s premier comedy band jump on the news bandwagon in possibly their first ever reactionary number. Sounding a little like ‘Me PSP’ part two, it nails the satire and wraps it up in a catchy, folky two-minute interlude. It’s not laugh-out-loud hilarious but the observational humour grabs you and it bounces along well, and will be a good memento of a weird two weeks of mobile gaming news. (6.5/10)
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LeToya Luckett – ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’
Short and succinct, ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ boasts some atmospheric production but lacks a chorus that builds up from the verse, and sounds too much like Rihanna to make a distinct record. It does what it does and finishes, but it’s only average what it does. (5.5/10)
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LoLo – ‘Gangsters’
Lauren Pritchard releases her latest single and her soulful voice shines through the record and carries the style and production through, and though it lacks the bigger hook-filled nature of ‘Not the Drinking’ from three years ago the chorus quickly hooks you in and becomes very singable. Definitely a grower and her voice shines through. (7/10)
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Lorde – ‘Team’
‘Team’ feels like a return to form for Lorde back to the enjoyability of ‘Tennis Courts’ before the number one, but lacking in my opinion, ‘Royals’, sounding a little like Lana Del Rey if she was a little more uptempo. This is a pretty catchy number with a nice mid-tempo feel and a music track that matches Lorde’s distinct vocals. Her best song so far. (7/10)
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Mariah Carey – ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)’
The third cut from her fourteenth studio album feels less like Carey and more like something that is worth listening to after a series of OK songs, at least initially. Sadly at times she falls back on her breathy, airy vocal tricks in lieu of actual ideas and bland verses over a simple beat. ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)’ has its moments in the sunlight, but mostly feels like a reflection of times when she was better. The chorus is the high point, but the rest is mostly too low. (3/10)
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Metronomy – ‘Love Letters
Maybe a little late for Valentine’s Day but you’ll still love this, a retro-sounding catchy number that has been dug up from the 1970s and dropped in 2014. Quite eccentric in many ways but this only adds to its appeal. Throw in some trumpet work at the end and some intriguing production decisions, and you get an off-the-wall but appealing number. Fun! And the video is clever too. (7/10)
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Moby & Damien Jurado – ‘Almost Home’
‘The Perfect Life’ was always going to be a difficult track to follow and Moby doesn’t quite achieve it with this smooth, calming track built around the haunting vocals of Damien Jurado. It’s a pleasant enough number and soars, but it’s not got the gusto to stand alone as a single, though it’s still worth a listen and it settles in nicely. I bet it works well on the album, though, but the style has been done better on tracks such as ‘Slipping Away’. (6/10)
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N.A.I.V.E.S. – ‘W.I.G.O.’
Dropping back into the world of eccentricity again, this confusingly multi-layered number is a little too off the wall for my tastes with verses and choruses that merge too much into each other. After two minutes it gets even wackier and becomes more like a smattering of ideas without one solid gold moment. Hmm. (3/10)
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Neneh Cherry feat. Robyn – ‘Out of the Black’
Cherry and Robyn sound like their vocals were designed to work together on this Moloko-esque number. That said, the material doesn’t quite live up to the promise with the chorus inferior to the funky verses especially with the vocals, and lyrically it comes across as hardly excitingly written with some rather eyebrow-raising sentences regarding Robyn being on the mic and how sick she is. I’m all for trying something new but this should have been better. (2/10)
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Ofei – ‘London’ (EP)
The EP’s title track is a positive, uplifting number with a strong message behind it with the potential to be a catchy, summery number, but there’s something a little free-flowing about it to be completely solid and the autotune detracts from his interesting vocals. The piano and general vibe are great, it just needs a little tweaking here and there. ‘Fate’ is a much more enjoyable number with gospel tinges and a message that fits better with the simple, smooth music, allowing Ofei’s voice to shine though the autotune still feels like a waste. ‘Tomorrow’ continues the style of the EP with some darker overtones, and ‘Poem’ completes the EP. Interesting, well produced sans the autotune, but a little similar throughout. (6/10)
Watch ‘London’
Watch ‘Fire’
Watch ‘Tomorrow’

Peter Andre – ‘Kid’
From the new ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ film, ‘Kid’ is a refreshing change for Andre who has suddenly gone all swing on this Jason Mraz-like number. Though perhaps lacking a bit of passion in the power of the choruses with Andre never really lifting it up from the same level, it didn’t do Pharrell Williams any harm on ‘Happy’ from a previous animated movie. A sunny number with a vibrant feel this is short, sweet and happy. His best song in a while. (6.5/10)
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The Preatures – ‘Better Than It Could Ever Be’
A perky soft-rock number with shades of Blondie sneaking into proceedings, I’m going to avoid making any parallels between the title of the song and my review. It’s not the most astounding soft rock number ever but its solos, listenable lead singer and general vibe are pretty good and it shouts out as a radio hit with a chorus that quickly grabs you. (6.5/10)
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Rick Ross feat. JAYZ – ‘The Devil Is A Lie’
The lead single from Rick Ross’ sixth studio album lives and dies on its repetitive funky backing as otherwise it’s lyrically stereotypical and spends 10% of the song introducing the artists and setting up the order. The titular chorus and the retro funk sells the record well but Ross’ raps are the worst example of rap excess with pointless curses. It’s a shame as if they’d spent as much time on the lyrics as the music rather than falling on fag-packet wording then it would be great. In the meantime, I’d stick with an instrumental with the chorus added on top. (4/10)
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Royal Blood – ‘Little Monster’
‘Little Monster’ is a gritty rock number that mixes in some strong guitar work with an appealing song structure, a little like a harder White Stripes. With a focus on evolving the song as it carries on, this is a rock track that should appeal to a cross section. It might not be the most memorable number but where it lacks in big hook it makes up for in technical work and progression. (6.5/10)
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Rufus – ‘Desert Night / Take Me’
‘Desert Night’ is a slow-paced, electronic number that sounds like Clean Bandit on a minimalistic drive. It bumbles along nicely with its charming chill-out atmosphere but, like a wander through the desert, it doesn’t really get anywhere. It’s funky and toe-tapping but a little boring after ninety seconds. ‘Take Me’ is a better number thanks to its more dance-focus uptempo sound, singable chorus and throbbing electronic riff. Some seeds of fun here that will keep you interested. (6/10)
Watch ‘Desert Night’

Watch ‘Take Me’

Salt Ashes – ‘Somebody’
Led by the airy, Britney-like vocals of the female lead, Salt Ashes’ ‘Somebody’ is a funky, Le Youth-like number, that is catchy enough with its pop-dance credibility to hold your attention. With some solid and hefty synth, this lifts it head above the parapet enough to win you over. (6.5/10)
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Sam Smith – ‘Money On My Mind’
‘Money On My Mind’ is Sam Smith’s first solo showcase of his much promoted talent including his topping of the BBC’s ‘Sound of 2014’. This second single is funky and pleasingly up-tempo but it’s not the exciting track I’d hope for and lacks the vocal hook of ‘La La La’. The creepy falsetto chorus will stick with you and becomes pretty memorable by the end (though potentially bordering on annoying), the production is strong, and the breakdown powers along nicely, but it’s not the outstanding number I was hoping for. Perhaps expectation is the downfall of the song. (6.5/10)
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Sheryl Crow – ‘Easy’
Now this is more like it! Sheryl Crow’s ‘Easy’ is a country-tinged up-tempo ballad that leaks positivity. Delivering some sunny optimism in a cold  and wet February, this is a quickly enjoyable track that will stick with you pretty, well, easily. Lovely. (7.5/10)
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SOHN – ‘Artifice’
London-born but Vienna-based Christopher Taylor returns with this experimental but enjoyable electronic track that thrusts some intriguing production at you that feels much more exciting than a lot of what’s been released this week. It’s not the grandest track but the chorus stands up and holds together as part of the whole. (6.5/10)
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The Starkins – ‘Roundabout’
The Wanted meets The Jam in this buzzing indie number that quickly pulls you in. It’s perhaps a little derivative of lots of different styles but it works as a rawer alternative to someone like The Vamps. With plenty of pop-punk and some raw attitude, this holds up as a great slice of pop with a little extra bite. (7.5/10)
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The Strypes – ‘4 Track Mind’ (EP)
Irish rock and roll band ‘The Strypes’ kick off their extended play with the driving ‘Hard to Say No’, channelling the Arctic Monkeys but with a much more retro and gritty style. With a chorus that’s quickly singable and a guitar riff that accelerates the song forward, this is involving rock and roll at its best and though it might not do anything revolutionary it’s very listenable, channelling the energy and rawness whilst sounding pretty polished. ‘I Don’t Want To Know’ showcases more of their rock energy and rawness and, though not really introducing any new ideas, keeps the theme going. The EP is completed with ‘So They Say’ and ‘Still Gonna Drive You Home’.
Watch ‘Hard To Say No’

Watch ‘I Don’t Want To Know’

Stylo G – ‘Move Back’
Onto his fifth single and this is the sort of song we need in this weather to cheer us up. Like a poppier, more dancehall version of Shaggy, this Jamaican-influenced number is bouncy, ballsy and quickly thrusts a handful of hooks and successful production decisions in your direction. Yeah, man! (7/10)
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Tom Bem – ‘Captain’
Taking the theme of sea travel and expanding on it, ‘Captain’ mixes in a strong indie vibe with the cherry-picked bits of 2010s electronic and dance. The chorus comes together and ties in the vibes of the rest of the rest, and the music work highlights the evocative atmosphere of the concept. (6.5/10)
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U2 – ‘Invisible’
The first cut from the Irish band’s eagerly awaited thirteenth album, ‘Invisible’ is an understated affair for the band and lacks the expected power that we usually get from their first cuts. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s a bit too, well, boring with verses that outstay their welcome and a chorus that doesn’t really appear. It may well be a grower, and the ending chants are the best bit, but on this evidence it’s not particular grabbing. (5.5/10)
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Villagers – ‘Occupy Your Mind’
Wait? This isn’t Goldfrapp. OK. So it’s Villagers. ‘Occupy Your Mind’… wait, not Muse? OK, this song picks elements out of many influences to form an eclectic, weird number that switches between enjoyment and awkward surrealness. Being compared to Muse and Goldfrapp is in no way a negative, but they come together in a way that’s far too repetitive and clashing as too many points. A great tune wanting to occupy your mind, but getting lost somewhere in the recording studio. (6/10)
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Wild Beasts – ‘Sweet Spot’
Wild Beasts are an indie rock band from Kendal whose 2009 album was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Five years later this new song is a slow, atmospheric piece that ponders its existence as time passes, slowly contemplating things but never getting beyond a low-key casual sound. ‘Sweet Spot’ sounds like Prince going through a more experimental electronic stage but it’s a sound that is not particularly ground breaking. It’s nice enough and it’s the synth riff that will sell it to you. (5.5/10)
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Post Author: Philip Lickley