17 June 2009

>>>TRACKS>>>17.06.09>>> Ash, Florence And The Machine, La Roux, Marina And The Diamonds, Jack Penate, Noisettes, Sam Bennett And The Sharp Knees, Gossip

Ash - Return Of White Rabbit
Rejoice! Arguably the finest singles band of recent times have returned. Having given up making albums to concentrate on a series of singles for the next year (although the best of the lot will be compiled into an album, which kinda defeats the point...), Ash have released this as a precursor to the A-Z singles run. Whilst the heavy bass and disco guitars may be surprising, the amount of pop hooks are as high as ever. Funky and catchy enough to make it a Proper Hit™, it gives a few hints that Ash have some surprises up their sleeves this year.

Florence & The Machine - Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
Probably the oddest title of any song released by a much-hyped pop star so far this year, but this doesn't stop it from being Flo's best single to date. Lyrically it's a postulation on how ruthless the music world can be (a bit dangerous for a fresh, new star who has yet to release her album I reckon), but musically it's far from the ponderouse and worrisome subject matter. A mix of angelic harp-plucking, powerhouse drums and piano that verges on house, with only a little bit of synth tucked in for good measure, it may not be in vouge a la La Roux's/Litte Boots' throwbacks, but it's all the better for it and with a chorus that needs to be shouted out should make Ms Welch very popular at the summer festivals. The pick of the b-sides is Jamie T's lo-fi, dancey & dubby 'Lionheart' mix giving the option of dancing 'til you drop if you don't like the folky feel of the original

La Roux - Bulletproof
The biggest and most successful of the three hyped music-press-darling poplets (including the aforementioned Florence and Little Boots) having spent a month in the No 2 spot in the charts with "In For The Kill", La Roux look like grabbing their first Number 1 with this. The duo have created a track so 1980s that it should come with free shoulder-pads/Rick Astely/mass unemployment (delete where appropriate). Awash with synthesisers and enough 808 drumbeats to make Kanye West envious, it's a messy contrast to Elly Jacksion's simple vocal melody. The sheer amount of keyboards and electronic noise may not be too appealing to those of advanced years, but it's too catchy to ignore.

Marina And The Diamonds - The Crown Jewels EP
A challenger appears! Whilst everyone else is getting concerned with La Florence And The Roux Boot Machine (or something along those lines) young Marina has come along and produced some fantastic pop. Combining the simple charm of Kate Nash with the kookiness of Kate Bush, but without having the name Kate, Marina should be the alternative popstar of choice. Highlight "I Am Not A Robot" is reminiscent of Regina Spektor in it's perky, unusual lyrics and a charming, homemade feel. Definitely one to watch/namedrop to feel "indie".

Jack Peñate - Be The One
Biggest suprises in music this year? Blur getting back together? The Horrors' amazing second album? Alex Turner's hair (seriously he needs it cutting. Now!)? It could very well be Jack Peñate's second album "Everything Is New". This, the first proper single before the album's release, starts with trumpet blasts usually heard at South American carnivals or Timbaland's latest musical atrocity, instantly a world away from the overly-chirpy ska-pop of Peñate's debut. Despite including a hipster's handbook of influences, from Philidelphia soul to Afrobeat, this is pure pop from start to finish, and all the better for it. It's a remarkable turnaround for indie's whipping boy (circa 2007) and shows he clearly has bigger things in his sights. It's even got a "Born To Run"-style breakdown in the middle, for Pete's sake! Continue with tunes like this, and Mr Peñate could enjoy reverence reaching the level of The Boss...

Noisettes - Never Forget You
It's amazing what an advert can do; relieve mid-programme tedium (those Cadbury's ads), make you want to chuck the remote through the TV (again, those Cadbury's ads) and even revive a band's career. First The Clash with those jean commercials aaages ago and now the Noisettes. Okay, it's a bit of a jump between the two in terms of importance and overall greatness, but were it not for "Don't Upset The Rythmn" soundtracking a car ad, then the Noisettes would have been consigned to the pop scrapheap quicker than you can say Danni Minogue. But they've come back with a suprisingly good album and this soulful gem of a single. A Motown-esque bassline 'n' beat along with a smooth croon from Shingai Shoniwa amake for a delightful pop tune, even before the chorus, which is catchy enough to rival Swine Flu, brings in the distorted guitars of their earlier work as well as lucious, lilting strings. They're already fairly big, but if this doesn't cement their place, I'll eat my straw hat.

Sam Bennett And The Sharp Knees - Hummingbird EP
Odd name, good pop. The unsigned indie-poppers from Nottingham combine the bubblyness of The Rumble Strips and Jack Peñate's debut with The Undertones knack for a good hook to great effect. A warning though; this isn't for any indier-than-thou hipster who's favourite band haven't played one gig, released an album and the only thing available by them is 5 seconds of noise on Pitchfork. Okay, OTT stereotype, but SB&TSK are poppy and don't seem to care. "Two Headed Girl" is a sure-fire future hit whilst the title track shows a softer acoustic side before bursting into pure happiness in pop form and ending with a pretty epic-sounding wall of guitars. In my opinion they're just a Jo Whiley play or two away from the big time.
[>>>Download a selection of Sam Bennett & The Sharp Knees tracks for free>>>]

Gossip - Heavy Cross
Completing this female-dominated edition of NEU! are Gossip. Remember them? Apparently their record company don't think you will, and have resorted to using uber-hit "Standing In The Way Of Control" on the promo advert for the new album, with a disclaimer saying "'...Control' appears on the previous album of the same name, not on new Gossip album "Music For Men"". It just smacks of desperation to me, but I digress. Basically "Heavy Cross" is Franz Ferdinand, with Beth Ditto's warbling on top. Nothing new, innovative, special. Okay, it's a pretty funky track Ditto is a good singer (and rather scary looking in the video) but there's a feeling that, having soundtracked so many parties thanks to Skins, they should be making awesome pop instead of mediocre retreads. As Beth says herself "it's already been done".

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