Welcome to the first singles round-up of the year! It’s been a bit delayed unfortunately as clumsy me went and dislocated a knee, but all is well now (plus, girls love limps). With 2011 relying largely on previous eras (in particular grunge) to define its year of music, we’ll be hoping for perhaps more creativity in the upcoming twelve months. Bands and artists now seem a little reluctant to take risks, but with the slow death of ‘indie’ (thankfully), we may now see a creativity resurrection.
Texan duo Boy Friend have released the hazy blue mist of Egyptian Wrinkle this week. In what could very much become the ‘Sound of 2012’, the track is a deep well of intriguing, rolling beats and ice-cold strains – it’s Warpaint, but without the heavy riffs and a greater emphasis on raw emotion. The keyboards within the opening bars are a chink of warmth amidst an amphitheatre of glorious taciturn, before siren harmonies take the lead for the rest of the track. Deep, poignant bass resonates throughout the single – giving the listener a shaky foundation to build an understanding of the lighter-than-air melodies. Egyptian Wrinkle could easily be lost within a gap in music’s floorboards, but sharp-eyed (and eared) listeners will spot Boy Friend before they are overlooked. It is very easy to disregard ‘lo-fi-atmospheric-synth’ (or something), but once you unlock a desire to allow the sound to fill up in your head, you’ll never regret it.
In a similar vein to the aforementioned, Fortune Cookie Blues (yep) have given us Where Is My Plough. Starting solely with vocals, the track slowly builds to a crescendo cacophony of jarring and unsteady sounds that somehow fit together wonderfully. The bass guitar snarls and growls whilst industrious crackling metal bashes the listener on the head with relentless percussion (not too dissimilar to Tom Waits’ Goin’ Out West). At over five minutes the track still doesn’t feels too long, with an array of ideas packed neatly into a single entity. The lyrics are gorgeous – complimenting the brooding, frustrated feelings of the music perfectly at the same time as not feeling overly sentimental or sluggish. You can feel that the track isn’t faked – the attitudes are real and not just plucked out of a fixated desire to create this type of sound. The final bars endure and leave the listener with a feeling of insecurity and emptiness – emphasised with trailing vocals. If you’re a fan of PJ Harvey then you will adore Where Is My Plough – a track of genuine sincerity that straddles the line between over-zealous melancholy and candour perfectly.
Whales In Cubicles’ We Never Win is more conventional that what we’ve looked at so far, but still possesses the same despondent undertones. With a prolonged guitar intro and lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place on a 70’s punk track: “We never win / We never win because we’re fine with it / We never tried, but that is half of it”, the composition of the track is quickly found. Just as things are getting slightly longwinded, the chorus elevates proceedings slightly in order to snap at our attention spans. We Never Win has excellent lyrics and succinct minimalistic music that doesn’t overbear the listener – however, you can’t help but think that if just a little bit more anguish and anger was maintained rather than being sieved out for more radio-friendly sounds, then the single would have benefitted immensely. Nevertheless, Whales In Cubicles have given us a highly-polished piece that is easy on the ear, albeit sounding slightly paint-by-numbers angst rather than the real deal.
All these miserable songs, along with the shitey January weather, getting you down in the dumps? Well, The Loose Salute are going to try and cheer us up with Run Out Of Morning. A general ‘head-up-shoulders-back’ ideology resonates in the track, with listeners rueing over-indulgence and promising to treat themselves better. Rather than being serious, the sentiments feel much more tongue-in-cheek, with mid-January being around the time we forget the New Year Resolutions and get drunk whilst eating chocolate and smoking twenty cigars. Echoing The Beautiful South and Texas, the track reassures the listener that we are all going to be fine, with bright and warm sounds heating up the heart and mind – perhaps we can finally see the dawn of Spring on the far (far, far, far) horizon. Run Out Of Morning reminds us that a bit of indulgence isn’t a bad thing and is actually a cornerstone of what makes being human so bloody wonderful – whether this was intentional with the use of jingly bells, big harmonies and country instruments, remains to be scene.
Embodying the soundscape of a living, breathing metropolis whilst embracing Joy Division, Kraftwerk and The Cure, Aftershocks is the debut E.P. by Midnight Davis. The wonderful feeling of disassociation and loss within the crunching electronic tones is undeniable, repeating that of previous generations but with an altogether more online feel. The lead track shows us the artist’s intentions as we walk down a Blade Runner street of pure electric and harsh lights with steely confidence and assuredness, before casting us to the more human Timely and Medicine, where our true opinions are really shown. In Midnight Davis’ music we can hear our era’s passive mindsets and our feelings of uselessness, whilst detecting that this is in fact not a new phenomenon. The final track, Nothing Is Obvious, is a mass of electronic smog which we gleefully endure before trailing off into nothing. Aftershocks is the digital shadow that broods and hangs over our modern-day thinking and mindsets, in musical form.
Finally we come to Salt Flats with Fair Ohs. The track starts off with so much promise – a long-drawn intro flourishes with a bass guitar and catchy riff. But then, unfortunately not that much else happens in its entirety. Not a bad song in the slightest, but still not particularly great. The constant looping melody that was originally quaint and interesting becomes tedious and tiresome due to overuse, along with vocals that don’t command enough power and prestige. There’s still a lot of promise for Salt Flats in the future, but Fair Ohs shows little of this. The track would have worked much better as a B-Side and should never have been allowed to be a single. Releases should demand the listener take interest and develop intrigue for the artist – not be background o.k. music. If Salt Flats were in school their report would read “…would reach their full potential if they spent more time working and not staring out the window”.
Well there we are, another round-up done – the first one for a year (har-har!) We’ve seen a somewhat subdued sound composition, which could perhaps develop into a regular pattern for this year. The single of the week is going to Midnight Davis, although Fortune Cookie Blues very nearly clinched it. Aftershocks doesn’t just sounds clean and fresh – it also feels clinical and wonderfully static in a way that compliments the plugged-in and logged-on world of 2012 perfectly.