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Music - Singles of the week - Monday, November 19, 2012

IndieLondon gleefully checks out the cream of the week’s singles…

The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Brain Freeze

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: THE VOLUNTARY BUTLER SCHEMEBRAIN FREEZE: Returning to the sounds of his first album, The Voluntary Butler Scheme hits the heights once more with his inimitable blend of soulful indie with a touch of funk. Taken from his forthcoming album, A Million Ways To Make Gold (out in 2013), Brain Freeze is just a completely feel-good romp of a record with cheeky lyricism married to snappy beats, funky brass sections and a deliriously carefree sensibility. It’s augmented by the equally sharp Smoke Alarms, which drops the kind of beat that Mark Ronson would love and mixes it with a blistering brass workout. This is clearly the sound of an artist having some fun and the feeing is utterly infectious. Forget the Christmas records, this is one to get any party started at any time of the year.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Heavy, Can't Play Dead

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE HEAVY – CAN’T PLAY DEAD: In an album of highlights, it must be tricky for The Heavy to pick out the singles. But they have opted for Can’t Play Dead for their latest offering, which demonstrates their unique blend of swamp-soul-hip-hop-rock that is taking the musical world by storm. Swaby says of the track: “It feels like the soundtrack to a zombie B-movie. There are way too many puppets in this industry now. Real music is getting lost. You have all these shows that make puppets every season and then you don’t hear about them next season. [This business] can take you to the grave and spit you out.” The ensuing track unfolds over gargantuan garage rock riffs and thumping drums, with Swaby once again bringing the monster-soul complete with some sassy backing vocals. It’s just a rollicking good, retro leaning, party anthem of a track – big in every way and really rather infectiously brilliant. A Kenny Dope remix of previous single What Makes A Good Man? is also pretty good too, recalling another of the album’s selling points. But in truth, you should just go out and buy it – it’s one of the records of the year.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Letherette, Featurette EP

LETHERETTEFEATURETTE EP: Three EPs in and shadowy Wolverhampton duo Letherette have arrived at Ninja Tune ahead of the release of their debut album in 2013. Drawing on Bangalter-inflected house, Letherette aim to make infectious, beat-driven music that’s fun and un-self conscious – they’re only partially successful. Lead track Warstones, for instance, boogies along but is perhaps a little too samey and house-inflicted to offer much crossover appeal. But Surface (featuring vocals from Jed + Lucia) has a delicacy and soulfulness about it that’s really appealing and nicely laidback. It’s a good chillout track. Ettewards is more of a four-to-the-floor stomper that doesn’t quite cut it by virtue of its washed out electronics and ghostly vocals, while Wecko ends things on a note of spaced out hip hop with a touch of urban grime in its electronic sound. Again, it doesn’t quite work. But there is some hope that when exploring a more chilled out side to their dance repertoire, Letherette have something interesting to contribute.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Born Blonde, Signs of Fear

BORN BLONDESIGNS OF FEAR: Born Blonde drop the soaring new single Signs of Fears to serve further notice of their stadium filling potential. Backed by a solid back-beat and a keen sense of melodicism, as well as some swirling electronic elements, this is a confident offering that shows the band can do reflective and keep things chirpy (lyrically, it does some soul searching). The video was co-directed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch and Born Blonde’s Joshua Lloyd-Watson, the latter of whom comments: “We wanted to create a video that really meant something to us. Something we can look back on, that captures a moment in our lives and all the people that have been a part of it. I guess we just wanted to make a video that was honest and emotional. We felt like that’s what the song was asking for.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Acres of Lions

ACRES OF LIONSREACTION/SET ME ON FIRE: Canadian heartbreak rockers Acres of Lions drop their first UK material from lively forthcoming album Collections (out, November 26) in the form of double-A sided single Reaction/Set Me On Fire. The former has a sunshine pop vibe that is ripe for comparison to the upbeat sound associated with Scouting For Girls (tight choruses, ‘ba ba ba ba’ hooks, etc), while Set Me On Fire, which opens the album, is also a pretty decent foot-stomper (although an odd choice for album opener given that it has a more generic sound). I reckon it’s Reaction that will get them noticed the most, with all its youthful exuberance, finger-clicking beats and those irresistible ‘ba ba’ harmonies. They have plenty of crossover potential too by virtue of their rock, pop and indie sensibilities.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Among Brothers, I Am Certain/I Do Not Believe

AMONG BROTHERS – I AM CERTAIN/I DO NOT BELIEVE: New Cardiff chamber pop sextet Among Brothers are all about doing things in epic fashion, mixing evocative beats, percussive flourishes and gang harmonies to create what the describe as vibrant, evocative pop. Well, pop may be pushing it as this is only intermittently mainstream accessible in an Elbow kind of way. Certainly, vocally, the band possess uncanny similarities to Guy Garvey and company. But where Elbow combine the accessible with the intellectual seamlessly, Among Brothers threaten to err towards the pretentious as well. The names of both songs, for instance, were drawn from a novel: We, by Zamyatin. And the two tracks comprise a concept single with a narrative theme following the story of a boy falling in love with a cult member, the lyrics revealing his descent into her world in order to get closer to her. It’s consistently intriguing – perhaps never more so than during the constantly evolving I Do Not Believe – but it could also be an acquired taste. Among Brothers are certainly different and bold in what they’re doing but – thus far – only moderately successful. The second of the two tracks is the one really worth visiting.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The 1975, Sex EP

THE 1975 – SEX EP: Following the success of The 1975’s acclaimed Facedown EP last month, the band now release a second offering in the form of the Sex EP. It should arouse further interest in them and is eclectic enough to make their appeal wide-reaching. Opener Intro/Set 3, for instance, is dominated by syncopated samples, glitchy beats and layered vocals but feels quite experimental in some ways, while follow-up Undo displays heart-breaking vocals over a late-night slice of electronica that has a seductive quality. The central electronic hook is really catchy, even hypnotic. This laidback vibe comes in stark contrast to EP title track Sex, which emerges as a powerful electronica-tinged alt-rock piece with bright synths, sharp, grungy guitar riffs and urgent vocals. It builds to a rousing chorus in which the singer laments “she’s got a boyfriend anyway”. It’s pretty kick-ass and anthemic. You rounds things off with a reflective look at a failed relationship (kicking off with the opening line, ‘you’re a liar’), while taking its influence from 90s shoegaze. The 1975 continue to impress.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Girls Aloud, Something New

GIRLS ALOUDSOMETHING NEW: “All I want is something new, something I can hold on to…” Well, this isn’t it. The comeback of Girls Aloud is a forgettable slice of electro pop that finds the girls in supposedly feisty and catchy form. Cheryl takes lead vocal duties, spewing rubbishy lines like “you boys better know know know, we girls gonna run this show”, while sing-speak verses collide with euphoric choruses. But far from getting us excited, it feels tired, well-worn and pretty soulless, with little or no creative value. Did we want Girls Aloud back? On this evidence, no.
Rating: 1 out of 5

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Labrinth, Beneath Your Beautiful

LABRINTH feat EMELI SANDEBENEATH YOUR BEAUTIFUL: As slushy ballads go, this is really, really slushy. Labrinth teams up with singer-of-the-moment Emeli Sande to deliver one of the most contrived and schmaltzy ballads you’re likely to hear in a long, long time. Set against soaring piano chords and manipulative strings, and boasting the central refrain “would you let me see beneath your beautiful?”, this is designed to tug at the heart-strings and make you feel all warm and gooey. Sadly, it has the opposite effect give how much it smacks of trying too hard!
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Dobie, But Fear Itself EP

DOBIEBUT FEAR ITSELF EP: Tony Campbell, aka Dobie, returns with his second EP for Big Dada in the form of But Fear Itself. As with his debut offering, he uses a background in hip hop and soul as a leaping off point for a full-on journey into sound that isn’t afraid to mix things up or drop a catchy melody or even get experimental. As such, he’s a bit hit and miss but perhaps all the more notable for being so fearless in his styles. The tracks on the EP range from the exhilarating to the cool to the unsuccessful. Opener I-Anomaly, for instance, is undercut with a menacing B-line and some addictive electronic hooks and boasts a tremendous energy. But it continually flirts with becoming annoying. Prozac, on the other hand, endears by being more old school hip hop focused, intercutting some toe-tapping beats with some woozy electronics and coming over the right side of funky (a la Mr Scruff). But the standout here, perhaps, is Sectioned, which drops one of the most emphatic beats and a slick electronic that errs towards the edgy and insane. It has a genuine grip-like hold on your attention and just gets busier and bigger the longer it lasts. It’s almost a shame that the hyper The Mouse follows, clocking in at a giddy (even annoying) 165bpm and boasting a wobbly, manic bassline. It’s more house and dance than hip hop and cool and sends the EP off course somewhat (in my humble opinion). But quality service is then renewed with another of the EP’s killer cuts: Day Release, a classic slice of hip hop that boasts an off-centre groove, some spliced vocals and a cool vibe that’s so laidback it’s positively funky. Overall, But Fear Itself is a mixed bag. But when it hits the right notes, it soars.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Procession

THE PROCESSIONCEASE AND DESIST: Four-piece alternative rockers The Procession release Cease & Desist from their You Are Now Leaving The Future LP and succeed in getting themselves noticed. The track is built around some chant-worthy harmonies, some lively guitar riffs and an emphatic chorus that underlines both their ear for a melody and their power. James Best’s vocals remain the weakest part of their armoury but don’t detract too greatly from the overall impact on this occasion. A remix of Lookout is also worth a listen, having been done by DJ Zemion.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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