The Dirty Dozen - March, 2009
This month's dozen includes Mancunian rock, weird folk and... Dutch soul. But is any of it any good? Nick Mitchell will be the judge
With bands like M83 and School of Seven Bells being hyped to the rafters, it looks like the lush dream-pop that Ladytron have been plying for years is suddenly the indie zeitgeist. And Tomorrow (****, 2 Mar) is a typically sultry number, revealing the Liverpudlians at the height of their powers. Contrast that with Micachu & The Shapes, who sound like practically nothing you’ve ever heard. Twenty-one-year-old Londoner Mica Levi revels in off-key tinkering, unidentified found sounds and extreme brevity, on the evidence of the 79 seconds of Lips (***, 16 Mar). If that was the sensual equivalent of someone pulling a party popper in your close proximity, Doubtful Comforts (***, 2 Mar) by Blue Roses is more like pulling on a woollen balaclava, without the connotations of violent crime. But perhaps that's an unfair comparison - its combination of kalimba (like a marimba, but cooler) and lilting melody is actually quite effective.
Not another bloody female singer-songwriter? Yep. Unfortunately Karima Francis is one of those warbler clones who stuff their words with extra syllables in the name of ‘passion’, and Again (*, 9 Mar) – or should that be Aga-ee-eh-ee-ehn – is utterly forgettable.
I refuse to believe that Jake Flowers is a real person. Touted by his PR as a new folk talent plucked from “a remote farmland dwelling in deepest rural England”, it sounds too Emmerdale to be true. And sure enough, rather than offering up anything authentic or distinctive, all Flowers gives us is Small World (**, 30 Mar), a suspiciously slick nu-folk song aimed straight at Radio 2. On a completely different sell, Alain Clark is apparently a “Dutch soul superstar”. Why am I reminded of the 'Dutch wine' scene in Nathan Barley? Anyway, Father And Friend (*, 30 Mar) is a frankly laughable, gag-inducing song about, y’know, being a father AND a friend - about as soulful (and indeed traditionally Dutch) as Gareth Gates.
The latest Oasis single is called Falling Down (***, 9 Mar), but, alas, stop visualising Liam Gallagher on the rampage in his local McDonald’s, because this has nothing to do with Michael Douglas’ mental breakdown. Rather, it’s a perfectly good Noel-sung number that shows how they’re mellowing with age. The same can evidently be said for fellow Manc veterans Doves. After a four-year hiatus, comeback single Kingdom of Rust (***, 30 Mar) is an elegiac, part-Morricone, part-country and western song about how it’s grim (and rusty) up north. And he’s not the only one grappling with the dark stuff. The Hours’ new song Big Black Hole (***, 30 Mar) is basically a warning to an alcoholic friend to give it up before he ends up in the titular grave. Weirdly, the music is quite jaunty and uplifting, if a tad bland.
Irish indie outfit Bell X1 are band #2874 to claim Talking Heads as the major influence on their current output. Listening to The Great Defector (***, 2 Mar) any discernible similarity is hard to find, until the chorus kicks in and it’s blatantly, copyright-infringingly close to Little Creatures-era Heads. Still, it’s pretty good. This month’s unlikely collaboration is supplied by ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and beatmaker-to-the-stars Timbaland. Part of Me (**, 2 Mar) sounds exactly as you’d expect: a distinctively cigarette-stained voice and a distinctively clipped R’n’B backing. But any actual tune is missing.
My Girls (****, 23 Mar) isn’t this scribe's favourite track from the ludicrously good new Animal Collective album Merriweather Post Pavillion (that honour goes to Bluish), but it’s still mind-fuckingly brilliant enough to earn them Single of the Month - like a cross between a barbershop quartet and Boards of Canada overheard through a waterfall. Far out? Damn skippy.