As we bid farewell to another US Election campaign, with Obama back in the White House and Mitt Romney wandering back to Massachusetts with a binder full of women under his arm. Could Mitt have been saved if he was slightly cooler?
For any challenger in 2016’s Presidential race, we recommend bookmarking this column and keeping up to date with the best new tracks. It could be the difference between a triumphal march to the White House or a wound-licking hobble back home.
TRACK OF THE WEEK: Foals – Inhaler
It’s a pleasing thing to listen to Foals’ evolution over the last few years. Making their debut with yelping math-rock in 2007, streamlining and loosening up their sound in the follow-up Total Life Forever and now seemingly fixing their eyes on a future in stadiums, if Inhaler is anything to go by.
But not that rubbish stadium-indie, that horrible, soul-destroying empty sound most bands happen upon once they’ve had enough of playing sweaty little rooms in clubs (HIYA Kings of Leon!). Inhaler is intense, loud and absolutely huge. The contrast of the band’s cacophony against Yannis Philippakis’ funky falsetto gives the impression of Kevin Barnes fronting a early ’90s grunge band.
And yes, it is as good (and bonkers) as it sounds. Particularly where Philippakis hollers “SPACE!” and the band seem to break into a cover of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin.
Haim – Don’t Save Me
They’ve already released a potential track of the year in Forever, and now the trio of Haim sisters have to prove that sublime slice of pop genius was no one-off. Which, as it turns out, it wasn’t.
If you loved that you’ll love this. The same early ’80s Fleetwood Mac stylings, the same heartbreakingly gorgeous harmonies, the same funky edge that had you scrambling for descriptions like ‘Aaliyah meets Stevie Nicks‘. Best of all, it’s just effortlessly confident and assured, with a world-weariness that belies the fact that they’re only just out of their teens.
Like Forever, it’s the type of song you can listen to over and over again and never get tired of. We’re already salivating for the album.
Raime – Your Cast Will Tire
From Haim to Raime. Just two little letters, but a whole world of difference. Because while one sounds quite like an apathetic Fleetwood Mac, one sounds like a dystopian chain gang from the near future.
A chain gang reduced to humming as all verbal forms of communication have been oppressed, leaving convicts to signal each other through a low murmur, occasionally pausing to hoe the ground with some kind of stringed instrument.
Your Cast Will Tire is mighty fine. A subtle build, a gentle rise and a heart of pure darkness.
Ed Harcourt – The Man That Time Forgot
Aw, we’ve not forgotten you, Ed. It may have been a while since we’ve heard from Mr Harcourt (over two years in fact, since that last album Lustre), but anyone who could write heartbreaking odes like This One’s For You and You Only Call Me When You’re Drunk will always have a place in our hearts.
The Man That Time Forget is taken from Harcourt’s forthcoming album Back In The Woods, which was apparently written in a month, and then recorded over 7 days. There’s more than a touch of Magnetic Fields here, albeit in Stephin Merritt’s more low-key, resigned moments.
A lovely return, and the perfect way to become reacquainted with one of the country’s most enduring talents.
Stereophonics – In A Moment
Ah, Stereophonics. They’ve been around so long – 20 years since they formed – they’ve almost become part of the furniture. Every couple of years you can bank on them cropping up with some bluesey, gravel-voiced rock that their fans will adore, and the rest of us will ignore. Apart from Dakota. That was genuinely brilliant.
In A Moment is the first taster of the Welsh band’s upcoming eighth album and if you were expecting something full of energy and pizzazz, you’ll be disappointed. In A Moment is a woeful dirge, severely lacking in any kind of memorable melody.
On the plus side, it’s being given away as a free download (from their website, so if you really feel the need for another Stereophonics song, knock yourselves out.
Nadine Shah – Aching Bones
CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! The sound of a iron railing being hit with a stick. God. If we were to do that now people would look at us well funny. But my how we miss it. CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!
Of course, when we were used to do it we weren’t often accompanied by a portentous bass rumble that made you glance fearfully over your shoulder. Or the occasional plink of near histrionic keys. Or, indeed, a pure purr of a voice yearning over the top.
And you know what, it’s much better when accompanied by all those things. So Nadine Shah, thank you for this. The title track from her new EP, and a fantastic thing. CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!
Officers X Gary Numan – Petals
Now firmly ensconced in ‘national treasure’ territory, Gary Numan can rightly claim to be one of the true pioneers of electronic music. His work in the ’70s and ’80s still sounds as fresh as a daisy, and when you have people like Prince, Trent Reznor and Kanye West citing you as an influence, you have to be doing something right.
Officers are one of the many bands who are influenced by Numan, and the feeling is clearly mutual. Ahead of his upcoming December tour (on which Officers will support), comes this collaboration: a clunking industrial monster featuring Numan’s unmistakable tones. It’s the sort of track that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and refuses to let go.
Given that its subject matter is suicide and its aim is to raise awareness of the worryingly high cases of depression in young men, it’s a tad dark. Not in an unlistenable sense, of course – quite the opposite in fact – but you don’t really expect Gary Numan to go all happy-clappy, do you? Instead, this is another effortless example of the man’s genuine presence.
BenZel featuring Jessie Ware – If You Love Me
You can’t accuse Jessie Ware of resting on her laurels and milking her debut album to death. After the well-deserved Mercury nomination, she’s now collaborating with little-known production duo BenZel for this cover of Brownstone‘s 1994 hit If You Want Me (nope, us neither).
BenZel are so little-known in fact that a quick Google search reveals precisely nothing about them. From what little we can unearth, they appear to be a staggeringly young 15 and 16 year old pair who met on a message board over a shared love of ’90s RnB. For a debut track, it’s remarkably confident – layering a melancholic gospel-tinged atmosphere over Ware’s now familiar, wonderful voice.
If Ware’s already casting around for a production team for her second album, this makes for a pretty good audition.
Alan Moore – The Decline of English Murder
Yes, that Alan Moore. The legendary comic book artist, author of such stellar works as Watchmen and V For Vendetta, has recorded his first single at the age of 58. There are unlikely to be cries of ‘don’t give up the day job’ though, for this is very likely to appeal to Moore’s likely audience – a pro-Occupy movement protest song released to commemorate Guy Fawkes Day.
It’s also pretty good, if not really a number to incite furious rebellion. There’s a resigned tone to the gently plucked guitar and Moore’s dour Northampton tones tell an inevitably beautiful written tale of the struggles of the working class against the tyrannies of Government, bankers and those that people of a certain age may once have referred to as “the Man”.
Moore half-speaks his lyrics rather than sings them, but nobody’s likely to complain when listening to lyrical gems such as “your average psychopath at least kills with a hammer or brick, and not with greed and incompetence” or describing a bleak world where there’s “scabby anti-climb paint and withdrawn amenities, in case socialising promotes anti-social behaviour”. A bleak world indeed, which just happens to be our world. Which is all the more reason that this starkly beautiful song should be listened to by as many people as possible.
Tom Odell – Another Love
Lily Rose Cooper, as she’s now known, is rumoured to be recorded another album, but she’s kept herself awfully busy during her hiatus. Not only has marriage and motherhood taken up some of her time, she tried to set up her own designer clothes shop with her sister, and has now created her own record label.
Tom Odell is one of Lily’s first signings, a young singer/songwriter from Chichester. The phrase ‘male troubadour’ may conjure up images of intense young men rather old before their time, such as Michael Kiwanuka, acoustic guitar clutching boys who like to burst into rap now and again or the avowedly “I’m dead authentic and I write all my own songs, me” Jake Bugg. Odell is a bit different though – the intensity is there, but Another Love has an edge to it that makes it quite riveting.
It’s an epic piano ballad that nods to both Jeff Buckley in its emotion, and early Springsteen in its scale. When those Sound of 2013 polls are released at the start of next year, you can put your house on Tom Odell’s name being on them.
Sally Shapiro – What Can I Do
The Swedish duo who make up Sally Shapiro are perhaps the very definition of enigmatic. A producer and singer, who refuse to perform live and haven’t been heard of since 2009’s My Guilty Pleasure album, they specialise in self-styled ‘Italo-Disco’ which is light, breezy and almost too twee.
What Can I Do picks up where they left off, a typically Scandinavian ice-cool, wistful dance number – the sort that you can imagine the recently dumped dancing around with a tear in their eye. So far, so Robyn you may think: but the problem is that it’s all a bit too lightweight. Shapiro’s voice almost floats away on the breeze, and where Robyn has the attitude to go with the heartache, Shapiro seems almost apologetic for even singing.
It’s nice and it’s inoffensive. But when you’re scrambling around for descriptions like ‘nice’ and ‘inoffensive’ to describe music, it’s probably about time you turned down the tweeness factor a bit.
Frankie Cocozza – She’s Got A Motorcycle
Frankie Cocozza has a stated intention with this song of wanting to “piss people off”. And yet this first single from the staple of reality TV is so utterly wretched, so comical in its ineptitude, you can’t be pissed off. You can only laugh.
For She’s Got A Motorcycle is completely, undeniably dreadful. From Cocozza’s awful Mockney-inflected vocals, to lyrics that would be rejected from a Carry On film for being a bit too unsubtle, you can’t shake the feeling that Cocozza is just having a massive laugh on everyone. “She’s got a motorcycle, it’s so damn delightful, she won’t let me ride it”, and “why am I out of luck, ‘cos I’ve seen others fill you up” are just two highlights of the lyrics on display. And, to give him his due, not many people would use a motorcycle as a metaphor for a woman’s vagina.
In a way, you have to admire him. Not many people would embrace their complete lack of talent so brazenly, and seemingly get away with it. He’s the musical Eddie The Eagle – and really, you can’t blame him desperately trying to hang onto his 15 minutes for as long as possible.
For, not too far in the future, a sad, hollow-eyed figure will be sat in a bar somewhere, telling someone how he used to be Frankie Cocozza. And nobody will know what he’s talking about. There’ll be embarrassed silences, and people backing away slowly. And he’ll take another resigned swig of his beer, and think back, to the days when he used to, sort of, be somebody. And we’ll all be to blame.