Colin Macleod - ‘California’ (Middle Of Nowhere Recordings)
Hello and welcome to this week in singles, where we’re immediately drowning in sorrow and lamentation as singing-songwriting-Geffen-Records-fleeing Colin Macleod thrusts upon us his dreamy ode to the great west coast state of California. This is his first single since going independent and is an emphatic love song full of beauty, finger picking and yearning ambient wails. The production is glossy and thick, with obvious influences coming from Ben Howard’s Every Kingdom album, as there is a Rizla paper’s worth of difference between these two in terms of sound. A charming single that bathes all in a warm orange sunbeam even if you’re listening to it in an 70s prefab office block in Dundee. 8/10
Until the Bird - ‘Nightingales’ (Meta Limb Records)
More folk you say? Well ok, how about Until the Bird with their swooning new single ‘Nightingales’? The band call the epic melodrama of their music “post-apocalyptic alt-folk”, but more apt perhaps is the label “big music”, a name the Waterboys gave to their own brand of giant folk back in the 80s. For ‘Nightingales’ recalls many an influence from the guitar strummers of yesteryear, all which blend together in this soup of sound that swirls and moves with abandon. At over five and a half minutes in length, there’s nothing small or compromising about this release, and thank goodness, as it’s all the better for it. 8/10
Black Submarine - ‘Here So Rain’ (Self Release)
Band membership isn’t normally important when it comes to dissecting new singles, but Black Submarine sure have a notable line up. An ex-Verve guitarist and an ex-Verve bassist, an ex-Portishead drummer and a Goldfrapp/Coldplay multi-instrumentalist have all joined forces with warbler-extraordinaire Michele Schillance to create slabs of shoegaze tinged alt-rock. ‘Here So Rain’ is a noisy, multifarious ride through layers of instrumentation that ends up sounding like Garbage from 15 years ago. Perhaps it is the band’s own 90s roots, but the song, for all its perfect guitar tone and expert craftsmanship, sounds dated. Not retro, not nu-gaze revival, just dated. Of course, lest we forget how appealing this can be, but that doesn’t change the fact that, no matter how well executed this single is, it takes us nowhere new, and familiarity breeds contempt. 5/10
The Crookes - ‘Play Dumb’ (Fierce Panda)
Angular, too cool for school strutting from the house of Fierce Panda with The Crookes. Trite but unavoidable comparisons for this single could include Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, The Vaccines and any other bunch of cheeky chappies with guitars and art pop sensibilities. Yet, a fantastically addictive bassline and an usual video save this mid-noughties guitar romp from an otherwise certain doom. 7/10
Terry Emm - ‘Starlight’
Scintillating and dexterous guitar playing coupled with rich and warm vocals make Terry Emm’s ‘Starlight’ the best folk offering of this week. Or perhaps, any week. All the usual boxes are ticked, but somehow, like all great artists, Emm creates something special from the ordinary. Every chord and every key has been used before but these three intimate minutes ring out clear and pure above all else. Emm’s voice is close and confiding whilst violins soar and wound metal strings snap against maple guitar necks in effortless melody. It’s raw, lucid, and the whole song far outweighs the sum of its simple parts. Fantastic. 9/10
More attention needs to be paid to this excellent unsigned band of bizarreness
'I'm Not Part of Me' by Cloud Nothings
So good it’ll force and drink into your hand and make you dance even if you’re a teetotaller with two left feet.
‘All I Wanna Do Is Break Some Hearts’ - Kreeps
Sexual Bass and flute intercourse for funk perverts.
‘The Night Shift Lullaby’ by Magnolia Electric Co.
A heart breakingly pure country lament.
‘Twisted’ by Zeke
Drunk guitars kick you in your stupid face.
‘Steady Rollin’’ by Two Gallants
Disenfranchised whiskey soaked alt-country hates everyone.
‘Cutsman’ by Horse the Band
Nintendocore turned up to 11.
‘The Rattler’ by Goodbye Mr Mackenzie
80s’ tinged Celtic big music for big quiffed romantics.
‘Sun Brother’ by Brant Bjork
Brant Bjork explains why he’s cooler than you via stoner ambience.
‘Battleships’ by Baddies
Angular and sharp grooves that need gloves to handle.
‘Queen of Apology’ by The Sounds
Scando-pop strutting from the mid noughties.
‘Yoga Means Union’ by Ambulance Ltd.
Instrumental, multi-guitar meanderings.
such as Gary Barlow
1. Who would you say your biggest inspiration as an artist is?
2. What projects are you currently working on?
3. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on tour?
4. Any regrets? Things you wished you’d done differently?
5. Dating anyone special at the moment?
6. How do you write songs?
7. Have you ever cut a hole into a corpse with a knife and then had sex with the hole?
8. What’s your favourite colour?
9. What was it like being at the top of the Amazon chart?
10. What artist would you most like to work with?
11. What else makes you tick aside from music?
More singles released in the week reviewed yeah?
Etches - ‘Let’s Move In’
Deadpan moping with shrill guitars from Etches. The verses are full of weighty, thudding bass and monotone vocals that glide into light, fluffy choruses that swirl around your ears. The contrast is satisfying and tasty, much like eating hot apple pie with ice cream whilst watching a band cover an Editors’ song. Mmm, metaphorical. 7/10
Bad Religion - ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ (Epitaph) Single of the Week
Rather aptly, punk legends Bad Religion take a swipe at er, bad religion with their up and coming Christmas album. (Look, it worked for Bob Dylan, go with it). This flagship single is a holy hymn about the prophecy of Jesus Christ that’s been given a good kick up the arse with distorted guitars and a dose of brazen blasphemy. It’s a surprisingly great makeover. Brett Gurewitz explains “To me, what the album is indirectly stating is that this music, and thus the world, can be powerful and beautiful stripped of God and religion.” Notably, the band will contribute 20% of proceeds from ‘Christmas Songs’ to SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Amen to that. 9/10
Asaf Avidan - ‘Different Pulses’ (Universal) Single of the Week
This single sounds like an old soul tune from Billie Holiday or Etta James. Yet Asaf Avidan is no soul singer from the past. He (yes he) is an Israeli artist with this, his debut solo single in the UK. This track is nothing but an obscenely beautiful cross section of his bleeding heart; a voyeuristic journey into one man’s soul bearing. It weeps, swoons and flows like a giant body of emotion as pianos and trumpets decorate his woe and lamentation. It’s bewitching, delicate, wondrous; an enormous oil painting of sound and artistic flair. Truly great. 10/10
Brother & Bones - ‘To Be Alive’ (Last Step Records)
This is the lead title track taken from Brother & Bones new EP. It’s a slickly produced, multifaceted bubble of melancholic rock that flits back and forth between warm acoustic intimacy and huge, yearning choruses. It’s a refreshing take on what could have been just another tired strum-a-thon as the band plunder the depths of folk, alt-country and grunge to end up with something fairly special. 7/10
Robin Parris - ‘Feeling Alright’ ft. Kelly Hayden (Jalapeño Records)
Electro-Westcountry producer Robin Parris amusingly proclaims he’s “Straight outta Newquay”. New song ‘Rollercoaster’ is accessible, pop drum and bass that’s upbeat with a hint of soul, provided by the rich vocal wails of Sam Frank. This track is undeniably nostalgic, with 90s’ dance synths and the swirling, intoxicated feel of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. Start growing that curtain haircut again as, what’s not to like? 8/10
Skream - ‘Rollercoaster’ ft. Sam Frank (Rinse)
Out now, this remix of Skream’s forthcoming single is by the hitherto faceless DJ: Route 94. This offering is sleazy funk, a Daft Punk-esque groove that bounces around Skream’s own falsetto tones. It’s an upbeat party tune for sure, but lacks any stand out moments, residing firmly in the shadows of those it imitates. Too much disco and too little dance. Nice but no euphoria. 5/10
Disclosure - ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ featuring London Grammar
Riding on a wave of commercial success, electro duo Disclosure have cleverly got London Grammar’s own Hannah Reid to warble skilfully on new single ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’. Everyone on this track is SO FUCKING HOT RIGHT NOW. However that doesn’t necessarily translate in terms of quality and alas, as deep and rich as the production is, the single feels a little bland. It’s easy to imagine it being piped into a faceless wine bar on the South Bank. Where’s the beef? 5/10
Poeticat - ‘Kind Words Soft Kill / Centre of the Concrete Square’
Spoken word poetry is a genre littered with gobshite morons, but occasionally when mixed with a meandering soundscape, it can produce something wonderful. Think Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Sunscreen’ or the synth epic that’s Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’. This Arts Council funded double A side release is actually pretty good, but I can’t help thinking it would be improved as a stand alone instrumental. Poetic provided us with no streaming link. It’s the 21st century yeah? Bloody poets. 6/10
Sonic Boom Six - ‘High Cost of Living’ (Xtra Mile Recordings)
Frontman Barney Boom said of this song “I don’t think there’s any other band that sounds quite like the mix of sounds in this song “. I’d agree. Everything’s been thrown at this wall of sound. Elecro dubstep rhythms jabber around a glittery, 8-bit pop chorus that morphs into metal guitar workouts. Oh and there’s rapping. And a bit of ska. No, really. It should be a bloody disaster but it works. Mostly. Like a bag of Pick ‘n’ Mix, there’s something for everyone in this assortment of sound. 6/10