This Week’s New Single Releases (9th February 2014)

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

Single Of The Week

Gary Barlow and Elton John – ‘Face to Face’
Gary Barlow and Elton John
Buy it: Face To Face
For whatever reason this song has had very little publicity, so little that Amazon and iTunes aren’t listing it as a single even though it’s charted and was released. ‘Face to Face’ is Barlow’s best solo track yet. He’s crafted a bouncy, up-tempo singable number and his vocals – which are rather ‘Manic Street Preachers’ at times – work very well with the ever reliable deep sounds of Elton John. With some spot-on production, a truly memorable vibe and a powerful breakdown, this deserves to be much more successful. Poppy, perky and very catchy. Pop perfection!

Antix – ‘Bad Dreams’
British rapper Antix delivers us some ‘Bad Dreams’ and this is a musical surprise, employing a much more detailed and involving audio track than you’d expect from the genre, the atmospheric backing mixing in Middle Eastern vibes with the sound of Sting’s ‘Desert Rose’. Complimented by an evocative female-led chorus, this proves what can be done with the genre outside of over-the-top beats and lyrics filled with swearing. Though perhaps a shade too long and meandering, the production values really lift this song from the crowd. Great. (7/10)
Watch the video

Alpines – ‘Oasis’
Bob Matthews and Catherine Pockson make up Alpines, and they continue the quieter, more downbeat, relaxing style to this week’s releases. ‘Oasis’ is their fifth single and it feels like AlunaGeorge mixed with Chrvches, with the sound effects from Skype and Facebook segued in at times as if they’ve been listening to too much ‘Rather Be’ from Clean Bandit. Like a trip through the desert looking through a body of water ‘Oasis’ doesn’t really go anywhere fast but it’s a nice, smooth, reflecting journey. Subtle and chill-out worthy. (6.5/10)
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Big & Rich – ‘Look At You’
Nashville country duo ‘Big & Rich’ bring us this straight-forward but very listenable country ballad. Yes, it’s hardly the most revolutionary track ever but it’s a catchy, jaunty number that pulls you in with their well-produced vocals working well together in time. Fans of pop-country will love this lead number from their 2014 ‘Gravity’ album and its more rock elements should rope in some more people too. (7/10)
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Caro Emerald – ‘One Day’
Single number three from ‘The Shocking Miss Emerald’ continues the theme of her singles so don’t expect much variation from the formula. If you’ve enjoyed ‘Tangled Up’ and ‘Liquid Lunch’ then you’ll enjoy the evocative 30s style jazzy feel but if you’ve not been won over by her sound yet this won’t change things. ‘One Day’ lacks the killer hook of the last two singles with the lack of a lyrical spark to rope you in, but the production and ear for detail is as nuanced as ever. A good listen, just not her best. (6/10)
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Dan Croll – ‘From Nowhere’
The fifth release from the cult award-winning artist, ‘From Nowhere’ feels like his best single so far thanks to its driving beat and keen production values that push you into a jaunty, fun chorus that quickly makes its presence felt. Finally managing to rein his eccentric stylings into something a bit more commercial, this is a swift poppy number that keeps it cool for three minutes. (7/10)
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Drew Hill – ‘Solitude’ (EP)
Track one ‘In The End’ is a short and sweet chill-out track well layered with atmospheric vocals and music loops. It pretty much fits into its genre so don’t expect anything incredibly unique, but it’s nice enough while it lasts. The titular second track is more fleshed out but again similarly sounding, a bit like an AlunaGeorge b-side. With a remix of track two completing the EP, this is a smooth piece of relaxing music but it’s pretty unremarkable. (4/10)
Watch ‘In The End’
Watch ‘Solitude’

Frank Taylor – ‘Polaroid Picture’ (EP)
The title track feels, conveniently, like a snapshot of his voice and style. Lyrically it’s an interesting number and captures the mood of fleeting experiences well but the well written work isn’t wrapped up in the most exciting track.  The building feel of the verses and the power of the chorus are difficult to ignore, but it feels like it’s lacking that little spark to lift it up to the next level, though I think it’s my favourite of his songs so far. The EP is rounded off with ‘Sweet Albion Blues’ and three live covers. (5.5/10)
Watch the video

Grouplove – ‘Ways To Go’ (EP)
Joined by three remixes of the title track and ‘Flowers’, Grouplove’s ‘Ways To Go’ is probably going to be known more for his hilarious video about Kim Jong Un but as a song it also speaks out. Though slow to get going, once the beat kicks in and the catchy chorus lands this song will win you over. With the two chorus elements from the male and female leads working well together, the indie-pop style proves very addictive, almost like Alphabeat with a bit more teeth. The verses are perhaps a little too slow compared to the rest, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable catchy number. ‘Flowers’ has a similar vibe and style but is much faster paced and, though not quite as unique, still displays a catchiness and listenability that will win you over, plus it has a great guitar riff to go with it. (7.5/10)
Watch ‘Ways To Go’
Watch ‘Flowers’

Jennifer Hudson feat. T.I. – ‘I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel)’
‘Produced by Pharrell Williams’ is becoming the sentence of 2014 following its major re-introduction in 2013, and here it is again, this time on this funky 70s number. And though the retro vibe is well recreated the song itself is pretty one-note and bland, bumbling along as it does without the highs and lows you’d expect. T.I.’s rap is perfunctory and sounds like he’s been listening to Will Smith’s ‘Miami’ a bit too much. In a nutshell it’s a smooth, funky number but it just happens without leaving much of a mark, bridging from verse to chorus to breakdown with little breath and even littler emotion. OK. (5/10)
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Kathy Brown and Al – ‘Somebody To Love’
There’s nothing like some really heavy drum and bass percussion to suck all the emotion out of a song and it seems that’s what has happened here with this. Kathy Brown gives it her all on the record, belting out a powerful tune, but is overshadowed by the OTT drumline. If you like your records heavy on the drum then you’ll slaver all over this, otherwise you’ll hope for a stripped back version to let the song breathe. Too much happening, too overpowering. (5/10)
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Le Youth feat. Dominique Young Unique – ‘Dance With Me’
‘C O O L’ was one of my favourite songs of 2013 and here is its follow-up that sounds very similar, this time sampling TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ in quite a unique and interesting way. If you enjoyed their debut then this song – not a million miles away from it in style – will float your boat too. It’s not as immediately grabbing as their first hit, mostly because it’s too similar, but the interpolation of all the inspirations works and the rap is added in nicely. It’s also very danceable and will bridge the gap between radio and the club. (7/10)
Watch the video

Lonely The Brave – ‘Trick of the Light’
Cambridge alternative rockers ‘Lonely The Brave’ release their latest number. ‘Trick of the Light’ is a middle-of-the-road rock track, conforming to all the expectations but offering very little fresh moments to the table. Sounding a little like Maximo Park if they suddenly became heavier, the catchy repetition of the title in the song’s closing moments almost redeems it, but never quite lifts it up to must-listen status. I enjoyed listening to the number, but it’s not one that sticks it head into the sunlight of this week’s releases. (6/10)
Watch the video

Michael A Grammar – ‘Random Vision’ (EP)
This four-track EP kicks off with ‘The Day I Came Alive’, which isn’t available for preview. Second track ‘Suzanna’ is a raw, retro-sounding number that is surprisingly catchy underneath its low-budget production. Fans of early rock ‘n’ roll will be at home here with its neat bridges between elements and focus on riffs and drum work. There’s also plenty of echo-work present on ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and a very familiar sound that I can’t quite put my finger on. Good guitar work and an overall successful production makes this a smooth and slightly unusual way to spend over three minutes, soaking in the retro values of early Nirvana-like sounds. The EP concludes with ‘The Way You Move’. (5/10)
Watch ‘Suzanna’
Watch ‘Upstairs Downstairs’

Naomi Pilgrim – ‘Naomi Pilgrim’ (EP)
The self-titled EP opens with ‘Money’, a slow moving moody number with a throbbing backing number and a determined, building feel, though a lack of a distinct chorus or structure undoes the interesting, well composed production side. ‘Rainmakers’ is a funkier number with more exciting production and a more listenable structure, combining atmosphere with vocal power, proving to be much better in holding your attention even if a five minute running length makes it seem a little bloated. Third and final track ‘No Gun’, the lead single, is the most accomplished of the three with the production sound and lyrics finally coming together to make a great tune. With shades of Macy Gray this song full of contradictions and comparisons boasts a chorus that will grow on you and some well composed lyrics. It lifts it up an otherwise OK EP. (5.5/10) (EP) (6.5/10) (Gun)
Watch ‘Money’
Watch ‘Rainmakers’
Watch ‘No Gun’

Nina Nesbitt – ‘Selfies’
The third single from her upcoming Peroxide album, which finally lands later this month almost a year after the brilliant ‘Stay Out’ is a bouncy number that adapts the rhythm line from Take That’s ‘Shine’ (at least to my ears!) and builds a strong, modern-referencing pop song around it. A catchy pop number that should hopefully stand on its own feet away from its probable connection with news stories about selfies and her sudden transformation into Pixie Lott-look-a-like. Poppy, memorable and a real grower, this screams out for radio play and karaoke performances. Great third track. (7.5/10)

Paul Carrack – ‘Life’s Too Short / The Living Years’
‘Life’s Too Short’ is a jaunty number from Carrack that easily slips into the feel-good or positive categories thanks to its uplifting lyrics and happy guitar and piano lines. Yes, it’s a little twee, but there’s nothing wrong with that when a song can be so positive. Great for radio play with shades of Elton John and Randy Newman, plus a singable chorus thrown in for good measure. [No preview available for ‘The Living Years’] (6.5/10)
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Reverend and the Makers – ‘The Only One’
It’s always great to hear a new track from the Sheffield rockers and this first cut from their fourth album sounds like a neat bridge between their first and most recent albums. Lacking the political bite that we expect from the group, instead replacing it with a well put together and catchy pop number that manages to both keep their edgey vocal sound whilst also being much more commercial than you’d expect. Catchy but perhaps not as ballsy as you might hope for. (7.5/10)
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Rufus Wainwright – ‘Me and Liza’
The lead single from his 2014 greatest hits about his earlier feud with Liza Minnelli is a sweet, smooth cut-back number headed up by the sultry vocals of Wainwright. It’s not the greatest showcase ahead of his best of but it boasts a pretty catchy chorus that you will quickly find yourself singing along to, making up for the slower and more ponderous verses. Smooth and sultry. (6.5/10)
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Selena Gomez – ‘Slow Down’ (EP)
With the titular song Selena Gomez goes fully clubby in this generic, but enjoyable enough club banger, that at least doesn’t whip out too many of the clichés. That said, its familiarity is so much that any moment you expect Pitbull to appear and do a rap, though this doesn’t actually happen. ‘Slow Down’ will keep the pop-dance crowd happy and it’s actually pretty good, just don’t expect any more than a J-Lo sound-a-like pop-club anthem with a few unsubtle innuendos. (7/10)

‘Lover In Me’ is a bit more generic as a club-based ballad but still holds together enough to keep the party going and, alongside ‘I Like It That Way’ a far more overtly club number, and a remix of the main track, it creates a pretty solid pop-EP.
Watch ‘Slow Down’
Watch ‘Lover In Me’
Watch ‘I Like It That Way’

ZEDD Feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore – ‘Stay The Night’
And finally Hayley Williams of Paramore, as explicitly said in the spelt-out title, teams up with Russian-German producer Zedd for this number that is great for the verses thanks to her powerful, very listenable vocals, alongside more Daft Punk elements, before the song descends into heard-it-all-before electro-dance territory. It’s a level above the usual Avicii clones thanks to Williams’ contributions and just about holds its head up in the charts. Please, electronic producers, more originality please! (6.5/10)
Watch the video

Post Author: Philip Lickley