Singles of the Week
As a a Yank held captive in this strange land, all this Jubilee hoopla is a bit perplexing. However I have been spared from participating in the celebrations, locked up as I am in the ivory tower of Music Fix HQ, toiling away on this week's hottest singles and having the honour of crowning the Single Of The Week. Now that is something to celebrate.
The latest X Factor finalist to try and ply their trade in the big bad music industry world, Aiden Grimshaw's debut single 'Is This Love' has nothing about it to suggest Grimshaw is set to follow in the recent success of Rebecca Ferguson. Sure people might fall for his brooding charm, but 'Is This Love' drowns out his solid vocals - which often had their quirky edge during the show - in favour of some dreadful techno backing that has no place in what is essentially a ballad. Is this terrible? No. It's just utterly forgettable.
It’s always great when bands have an interesting anecdote about what uncontrollable forces of nature brought them together creatively. For Brooklyn-based, multi-instrumentalists Friends, fronted by childhood besties Samantha Urbani and Lesley Hann, it was an infestation of bed bugs in Hann’s apartment that caused the five of them to cohabit for a week. Initially named Perpetual Crush, they played their first show in Urbani’s back yard, just six days after forming; a year later, with a much more un-Googleable name, Friends have a BBC Sound of 2012 nomination under their belt and a trendy hipster following that transcends Atlantic boundaries.Manifest! is their debut, a fun-filled album of catchy hooks, funky bass and unadulterated pop melodies. Experimental, as all debuts should be, it opens with ‘Sorry’, unapologetic in its hand percussion chorus, Urbani’s vocals alluring and demanding at the same time: "I want you to come over to my house". Friends can’t help but seem like a band lost in time: there is a distinct 90s feel to their music and style, and Urbani’s lyrics seem nostalgic for a lost adolescence, all casual relationships (‘I’m His Girl’), lust (‘Friend Crush’), and fuck-yous to sex-wanting exes (‘Home’). ‘Van Fan Gor Du’ is semi-Swedish ("you’re an asshole" doesn’t quite sound that Scandinavian) and brilliantly animated, radiating sassy attitude and a tambourine infused chorus. Final track ‘Mind Control’ is an album highlight, probably something to do with it being mixed by the gold-fingered Paul Epworth, but also due to its prospective foregrounding; this is probably one of the most developed songs on the album, polished but still emanating their signature sound, casting a light on great things to come.
How you doin'?
The third part in Jack Hayter's expansive singles series, 'Sweet JD' sees his old London town croon set to a backdrop of electronic bleeping almost drowning out the soothing guitars buried deep within. A tribute to poet John Dunne and not the spirit, this is an altogether different four minutes of new meeting the old.
Further evidence, after a couple of earlier tasters, that Victoria Hesketh's second album sees the singer abandon the piano stool and head for the dance floor. While Hands was driven by silky beats, we gave it top marks on release because it married its sharp production with a deep, accomplished songcraft. This shift to the kind of minimal, sleek dance-pop best exemplified on the likes of Kylie's Fever seems something of a waste. 'Headphones' is likeable enough but, at this stage, we reserve the right to reserve judgement.
Up-tempo, rootsy-influenced pop from New York city that provides a taster for forthcoming album Shake The Tree. It's a bit C-list Radio 2 daytime for this punter.
For a self-released, self publicised first single, Raging Jupiter's debut is an astoundingly assured piece backed up with a solid, professional video; you'd never think this was stuff put together on a shoestring budget and shows that, if you're good enough, extensive production isn't a requirement. Madeleine Clark's gorgeous vocals evoke an almost Americana sound which marks the band out as something unique. Highly recommended.
There are a lot of great British heavy bands doing the round at the moment but Bristolian rockers Turbowolf are near the top of the tree as this latest singles ably demonstrates. There may be a bit of a Queens Of The Stone Age vibe about 'Bag O' Bones' but Turbowolf infuse it with their own enjoyable brand of pschyed up power riffiing that is seeing them garner deserved plaudits wherever they go.
Single of the Week
With a wonderfully rustic feel, Jake Bugg's 'Lightning Bolt' is an absolute delight. Bugg's gruff, folky vocals make it hard to believe this Nottingham troubadour is just 18, and it's all driven on by some cracking acoustic riffage before an electric guitar comes in to bolster matters. It may only be two-and-a-half minutes long but it makes a big impact.