Our distinct lack of military training really showed this week. When track after track sprang up like training dummies in a war movie montage, our reviewing bayonets cut neither the mustard nor our assailants: we positively quaked as muso behemoths – Sigur Rós, Regina Spektor – loomed large over the lonely outpost of the Tracks column’s two-man battalion.
But we think we’ve done it. We think we’ve given worthy singles the what-for, like Michael Cane in Zulu. We believe we’ve fettled the week’s pop promos with all the arousing androgyny of Sigourney Weaver in a power loader.
So pick through the battlefield of this week’s tracks and see what you can salvage. And, for God’s sake, if Katy Perry rolls up with more power pop poison, save yourselves; we’ll take the bitch down with us.
Sigur Rós – Ekki Múkk
Let it be known: Sigur Rós’s indefinite hiatus is at an end after four years, and in May they’ll unleash their sixth album proper, Valtari.
Lead single Ekki Múkk is nothing short of their hypnotic best – ditto for its found footage-style visuals of a distant ship floating above the horizon – even if the title is something an exasperated 1950s Yorkshire housewife might yelp (“Eeh, Ekki Múkk! You’re wearin’ outdoor shoes on’t rug!”).
Regina Spektor – All The Rowboats
Spektor! Spektor! Spektor! The Russia-via-New York bombshell propels a track into the ether ahead of a May album release (see the trend emerging here?) and it’s something of a powerhouse: slightly unsettling Kate Bush-style evocations that see Miss Spektor shed her erstwhile relative timidity.
All The Rowboats, in fact, has been rattling around Regina’s catalogue for donkey’s years now; a rarely-aired gem now entrusted as lead single for What We Saw From The Cheap Seats and subject of a stop-motion video Ray Harryhausen himself would be proud of.
Amanda Mair Sense
Kids these days. When we were 17, we were hanging around bandstands drinking cider and doing our best to look cool doing wheelspins in our Mum’s Polo. Although, not, obviously at the same time. No, it’s hard enough doing wheelspins when sober.
Amanda Mair at 17 is already signed to one of Sweden’s most respected labels (Labrador) and has her debut album written, wrapped, and due out in June. But does she know of the sweet embrace of a two-litre bottle of White Lightning? We say probably not.
Sense is sort of amazing though. A sparkling, effervescent pop wonder, all finger-clicks, and do-do-do’s, that sounds a little bit like Robyn and Lykke Li and Annie got together to form a girl-group doing covers of Fleetwood Mac. Rumours? No, it’s absolutely true.
Julia Holter – Moni Mon Ami
We know by now that Julia Holter’s sophomore LP, Ekstasis, is something a bit special. Moni Mon Ami, wrought from the company of its fellow trackmates, remains powerful: a simmering, shimmering exercise in less-is-more.
We’d very much like to shed similar light on our opinion of the video – in which Holter is portrayed as both subject and object or her own desire… or something – but let’s just say that it’s every bit as avant-garde as its creator’s neo-classical calibre and leave it at that, shall we?
La Sera Real Boy / Drive On
Things within things are brilliant. They make both the thing, and the thing within the thing at least seventeen times better then the things would have been had the first thing been outside the second thing.
La Sera (aka Katy Goodman from The Vivian Girls) has invented the music video within video. Which, almost probably, makes this video at least seventeen times better than they would have been had they been released separately.
The outer layer has the sashaying Real Boy accompanying a fairground themed promo with a over-sensitive strongman called Vladimir, and the delicious centre has the skuzzy Drive On next to a homage to George Franju’s Eyes Without A Face.
Deadbeat Echoes – Surge Of Youth
We’ve not felt the surge of youth for quite some time now: deathly forays into the murky depths of neo-jazzstep have slowly given way to folk, cardigans and a comfortable pair of slippers.
New lads Deadbeat Echoes, though, cut through Father Time’s thick malaise with a loud, twisted and borderline-chaotic slab of guitar pop – heavy on the overdrive, light on the psychedelia. They provoke fairly aggressive shape-throwing by skating a fine line between The Enemy, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys; we’ll pick a closest comparison once the swelling in our knees has gone down a bit.
Ty Segall and White Fence I Am Not A Game
Sometimes we like to just go freak out. Properly. You know, dress up in a kaftan, run into the woods and start a fire and dance around the burning logs while smearing our face with the ash from the embers.
And while we’re doing it we like to listen to songs like I Am Not A Game. With a swirling psychedelic Hammond organ, incessantly stabbing guitars and howling vocals, it is perfect for our next freaky breakdown.
Maxïmo Park The National Health
Give it a few years, and you’ll probably have to pay to hear it. Or at least go on a list for six months until they can find you a set of headphones. Unless you’ve got insurance, in which case you can have it right now. While lying on a mattress lined with polar bear fur. While nurses feed you peeled grapes.
But for now, we can all get the same level of care from the new single from Maxïmo Park. It’s the first sighting of ‘wor Park for a few years (since the disappointing Quicken The Heart), and it’s a pretty decent return.
It’s not massively different, but there’s a panic-ridden energy to proceedings which suggests that they’ve rediscovered their joie de vivre whilst they’ve been away.