…and you’ll be delighted to know that I intend to continue during the vacation, mostly so as to inflict an albums/singles of the year list on you, my hypothetical ‘readers’ – easily the most horrifically self-important thing possible. For now, business as usual, save that all these singles are from ‘credible’ artists for a change.
Florence and the Machine – Dog Days Are Over *****
OK, she’s offensively cool right now and the NME’s obsequious sycophancy grates somewhat tautologically. But there’s a reason for all that. Energetic and eccentric live shows aside, the quality of the records is stunning. This track is joyous, propelled by the simplest of rhythms and the most mellifluous of ukuleles (they’re everywhere these days). ‘Happiness hit here like a bullet in the brain’, she hollers, sounding suspiciously like Joan Armatrading. ‘I never wanted anything from you’ she breathes, sounding deliciously like Stina Nordenstam or Allison Goldfrapp. The middle eight wrenches at your heart, the coda pulls you upwards by your ears to some higher place. Love this girl.
The Decemberists – Record Year For Rainfall ***
This band’s cult following is seriously scary, numbering a certain homeplate-possessor amongst them. These fans do a fine job of ignoring the more embarrassing/indulgent forays into the depths of prog, weakness of voice and general patchiness of quality that Colin Meloy et al inflict upon them. And the fact that they cancelled a gig in Oxford last year at the last minute. Not that I’m prejudiced: this B-side-cum-single is a cosy, slightly out of tune ramble that’d fit neatly on a ‘kooky’ film like Juno and the strings, unlike on most pop releases, actually add something. There’s genuine lo-fi depth and menace here, and the lyrics always help. Still, the melody’s virtually indistinguishable from some of their others.
Oasis – I’m Outta Time **
I felt we needed a contrast to Florence. Oasis might be her Luddite, antediluvian antithesis, were those words not somewhat out of their ken. OK, ‘Wonderwall’ was a great, great song for Ryan Adams to cover. But not for buskers. And didn’t Blur write ‘Out Of Time’ a few years ago so brilliantly that for this band of all bands to try something similar is deeply insulting. What does it sound like? It sounds like the Verve single I slated a while back, but with Liam Gallagher singing. Which makes it worse. And someone should point out that the way to honour John Lennon is not by murdering his songwriting techniques. Worst of all, unlike ‘Lyla’, which was obnoxious, this is a truly inoffensive ballad with some nice touches and I should really leave the poor sods alone.
Glasvegas – Please Come Back Home *
It’s very impressive that they recorded a six track Christmas EP in two weeks in Transylvania, if a little cynical. What’s less impressive is that they’ve gone from reinventing shoegaze to retreading U2. This song is exactly what ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ would sound like if sung by The Proclaimers in a karaoke contest. And aren’t we all a little grown up for this sort of rock anyway? Bored now.
Titus Andronicus – Titus Andronicus *
They’ve just signed to XL and some people might be fooled into thinking they’re cool. For the sake of the public interest, I’d best point out they sound like the scrawny spawn of The Others and Scouting For Girls. Punk pop at its most asinine, without a Shakespearean reference in sight. Still, they’ve got a good name, which may get them far.
The Shortwave Set – Glitches ‘N’ Bugs ****
Remember The Beta Band before they became The Aliens? They were really good. So’s this. A homely strum-and-chug approach to arrangements disguises one hell of a hook. This is horrifically catchy and the dual vocals work charmingly, reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Sticking With You’. It sounds about ten years old, but it’s great.
Top of the Ox: Local Tune of the Week
The blog may continue but this feature ends this week. I’m sure you’ll mourn its loss. The eighth and final band to showcase is Witches. Most of you will have heard of them, but some might still confuse them with the terrible and also local The Glitches, and we wouldn’t really want that. Anyhow, ‘B O K’ is dark and deranged and will creep you out if you’re under the influence of anything at all, and helpfully combines the principles of dance and hard rock in a palatable, infectious fashion. Well done them.
Next week – who knows? Or dares to dream? Enjoy the vacation. Stay in touch.