Aw, phooey! Back in issue 2 I noted that I'd spotted a girl I used to know and her sister in Sutton High Street after insulting her on here. Last week, I alluded to a "gristle-grabbing guttersnipe", and last Wednesday I went shopping in that high street's Asda… you can guess what happened in there. (Her sister and mother actually, but even so - that one wasn't even directed at her…)
AlunaGeorge has released Mediator this week. Seductive strings wrap themselves round the funky howl of a guitar for a record that would sound at home during the mid-1970s. A touch of harp at the beginning of the record adds a touch of class to the record; a spunk of synths in the same place adds a touch of farce. Good luck with that.
Continuing their tradition of decorating their records with monologues, Bastille have released Send Them Off!. Billed by frontman Dan Smith as "Othello meets The Exorcist", the song reacts robust horns against furious but otherwise fleeting percussion and pockets of aggression; the horns, which are the musical equivalent of an inflamed appendix, could easily be removed with only the track noticing. Next!
The Black Eyed Peas have re-recorded Where Is the Love with The World in response to assorted acts of violence. I like to call this version the "In My Day remix", because whereas the original was a loose-limbered jam that sounded like a bunch of blokes throwing something together as a middle finger to the September 11th terrorist attacks, this version sounds like a bunch of old men in a pub complaining about today's state of affairs - and bizarrely so, since the eldest, Jamie Foxx, at the time of writing is 48 and this is the sort of behaviour I would expect of pensioners in a care home.
I have no idea why they called it this - most of the titles of the tracks on their new album look like the result of a cat kipping on the keyboard - but Bon Iver have a record called 33 "GOD" out. The song sounds like a cat was tossing and turnng on one of the synth machines after the main track had been laid down but otherwise trots along coherently; a simple piano and later drums works on its own for the first couple of minutes, whereas the second half feels like a half-hearted tack on. No chance.
Norwegian Dagny has produced the Ultraviolet EP, a set of five songs ineligible for the UK Singles Chart consisting of Fight Sleep, Ultraviolet, Too Young, Backbeat and Fool's Gold featuring BØRNS. Backbeat premiered 24 September 2015, while Fool's Gold went out on 30 June 2016. Unfortunately, all five songs sound the same - guitar, synth and drums - and by the end of Backbeat, a guest verse on Fool's Gold is just too little too late. (The best solution to a dull EP is to stick a recalcitrant guest verse in the middle of the record, Abbaesque-style.) I expect only those professionally obliged to do so to last the whole EP.
Fetty Wap has released Make You Feel Good this week, a slow track with muttering synths and some weird fuzz-box slur over the verses which, as my sister rightfully pointed out, were actually his vocals. My other qualm is that the song is simply too short; stopping after the third chorus (the first precedes any verses) is an abrupt ending. Give the chorus singer a verse, or something…
Jack Savoretti has released When We Were Lovers this week. A light-weight guitar-based piece with acoustic percussion to start off with which builds into a climactic chorus. Two things jut out like an iceberg on an ice rink; the irritating single-note guitar riff for much of the song ages very quickly, and the extended extroduction would have worked well as a third verse but has the effect of delaying the agony. Not bad, but not a hit.
James Blake's Timeless has been re-released with a verse from Vince Staples; it would have included Kanye West but that collaboration collapsed, and a near-instrumental version was released on 15 April 2016. While the original is a dreamy four-and-a-half minute track with an irritating fade-out, the new version - which is far shorter but does not fade out - is the equivalent of taking two thirds of a rosebush and dipping them in gold paint; it's still a pretty-ish record, but there's too much going on.
Kent Jones has followed up Don't Mind with Alright, which samples the chorus of Earth, Wind & Fire's Let's Groove. Because following up a top ten hit by sampling a funky track from the 1980s is such a good idea, WSTRN's In2 follow-up Come Down (which sampled Evelyn "Champagne" King's Love Come Down) shot straight to the dizzy heights of #121… As for this record, it's an ingratiating hotchpotch of trashcan sound effects that crawl cacophonously and imitate a broken record. In the early sixties, the BBC were banning records left, right and center for mutilation of the classics; is it time for the BBC to resume this practice?
Zayn features on M.I.A.'s Freedun this week, Freedun being a deliberate misspelling of the word 'Freedom'. The song itself is only being trundled out because Zayn wanted to collaborate and she would otherwise have felt this to be too mainstream for her; we suspect M.I.A. may have much to thank Zayn for, since this combines M.I.A.'s usual racket with mainstream beats to fantastic effect. We would be appalled if this did not enter the charts.
Rebecca Ferguson has covered Ginny Blackmore's Bones for release this week. Whereas the original was intended as a pop song centered around laidback guitar and snatches of percussion, allowing Blackmore's vocals to shine, Ferguson's version is rocky, including harder guitar, angrier drums and snatches of organ which not just combat the prominence of the vocals but make them feel as out of place as a health and safety inspector in a Bangladeshi clothes factory.
Skylar Grey has released Come Up For Air this week. A slow record, it sounds like nearly four-and-a-half minute of drums practice with Grey adding laboured vocals and sparse percussion to justify their release, and bits of guitar at the end of the record really add to the sense of let's-throw-stuff-at-a-wall-and-hope-it-sticks. No chance.
SOHN has released Signal this week. It's a relaxing record with gentle synths and for the most part primitive percussion (which start and end the record) on which Sohn lays his calming vocals. Unfortunately, the slow speed makes parts of the record sound amateur (which I'm sure it isn't). Overall, not bad, but it's not a hit.
Oooh, yes! Sylvan Esso have released Radio this week, a snarling, at times almost tribal tirade aimed squarely at technology and consumerism's interference with the industry. Angry synths spit fire, while the scathing female vocals complement the enraged instrumentation. This is surely the hit they've been waiting for.
Isn't it amazing that of all the records out in the last ten weeks, Tulisa's Sweet Like Chocolate - which sampled Shanks & Bigfoot's song of the same name - is the first to be truly critically vilified. Sweet Like Chocolate wasn't commercially available initially, and copies sold for as much as £80 - a bit like Tulisa's sex tape nowadays. (Sorry, couldn't resist…) The original is a jarring but jammy juxtaposition of a menacing introduction and saccarine vocals, while the 12" version introduces vocals not found in the radio edit and the far better (in this column's view) Marc Andrews remix uses piano instead for a far better version. Tulisa's version is a updated reworking complete with guitar and synths which really bolsters up the record, and new verses. "Let it rush through my veins like sugar", she sings. [Ed: Don't even think about it.] In addition, Akelle adds a nice touch with his verse, although why Tulisa decided to follow that up with a verse from the original I do not know. Otherwise, it is a fine record, and one that embodies the warmth of summer. I prefer it to the original (but not the Marc Andrews remix), and cannot understand the poor critical reception it is receiving - there are tracks far more worthy of vitriol.
Zara Larsson has produced Ain't My Fault this week. An angrier record than her previous stuff, the record reacts drum 'n' bass together with a set of horns that get through half a bar before being cut off at the end of each bar. Either is fine, both is messy, and the result is that they stick out horribly. I doubt this will do as well as its precedessors.
Adrenaline is an instrumental by Zedd and Grey that is out this week. It is a solid instrumental, but although it's nearly three minutes long, you can't help but feel robbed because there's a longer introduction and only one drop, making it feel like this is part one. (Martin Garrix's Animals, an instrumental which topped the chart a few years ago, crammed two drops into the same length of time.) I'd love to see it spun out to several minutes longer with another drop added to the end and a third verse and drop added, because at the moment, it feels too short.
We have a new number one. Closer, by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey, has done a direct swap with Cold Water (Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and MØ). And that is the entire movement of the top fourteen - nothing's fallen out, nothing's entered it. In the Name of Love by Martin Garrix ft. Bebe Rexha has achieved a new peak of #17, while Can't Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake remains on the chart. Still Falling For You is doing a Cool Girl (Tove Lo), You Don't Know Love by Olly Murs, Cruel by Snakehips and Zayn is at #34, Who Do You Think Of? by M.O. and Ain't Giving Up by Craig David & Sigala remain in the chart. Blow Your Mind (Mwah) by Dua Lipa, Starving by Hailee Steinfeld, Grey and Zedd and Don't Need No Money by Imani, Sigala & Blonde have all achieved new peaks: #50, #55 and #70. Cool Girl by Tove Lo's still on the chart, Make Me… - which departed the charts several weeks ago - has re-entered the chart at #75 and A-List by WSTRN, Mercy by Shawn Mendes, Kids by OneRepublic and White Tiger by Izzy Bizu are all still on the chart. It's a shame the same can't be said for Nobody But Me (Michael Bublé), though the departure of Mollie King's Back to You is less lamented.
I found two errors in issue 3 when compiling this issue for which I must apologise: Justin Timberlake had a #1 with the Black Eyed Peas' Where Is the Love? (though he was uncredited) and Zayn did not have a #1 with One Direction's Drag Me Down since he'd already left the band by that point. During the next week or so I'm having a good rummage through the previous issues to do some double-checking myself.
On Challenge, Coleen Nolan's on Blankety Blank on Tuesday (6:30pm), while Darren Day, Lesley Garrett and Kevin Kennedy are all on Wednesday's episode (6:30pm). Music's unluckiest man Ian 'H' Watkins is on Thursday's episode (7:15pm), Britain's joint-youngest chart act Natalie Casey is on Friday's episode (7:15pm). On the BBC, there's an edition of Pointless Celebrities on 10 September consisting of musicians Fish and Barbara Dickson, Nick Heywood and Toyah Wilcox, Heather Small and Mari Wilson, and Jessica Taylor and Kelli Young (7:00pm), while the following day's repeat of a different episode contains Michelle Gayle and Adam Rickett (5:45pm). The X Factor airs at 8pm on both Saturday and Sunday on ITV, The Xtra Factor airs at 9pm on both Saturday and Sunday on ITV2.
Oh, and Chris Brown's been nicked for allegedly shoving a gun in someone's face.