It’s difficult to get an angle on twenty-one year old Jade Williams, a.k.a. Sunday Girl. Her cover of 80s Italo disco classic Self Control (***, 2 Aug) is sweetly sung and pretty enough, but plaudits are more deservedly directed to the original artist. Sunday Girl adds a lick of zeitgeist friendly Ellie Goulding-style electro, but doesn’t reveal much of herself (and neither do the five additional remixes).
Aspiring dance anthem After Dark (**, 23 Aug) is, according to the press release, a “new chapter in the history of forward-thinking, electronic dance music”. Which is odd, since the Count & Sinden’s collaboration with the Mystery Jets seems to be ticking the obvious boxes without ever thinking outside them.
Next, Athens, Georgia’s Dead Confederate return less murky than before, with the verse of Giving It All Away (***, 16 Aug) resembling fellow Athenians R.E.M. in their formative years. They’ve managed to clean up the grunge despite collaborating with J. Mascis, who delivers a typically gnarly closing solo - a balancing act to be applauded.
Raincoats (****, 23 Aug) is an enchanting but imperfect ambassador for Efterklang’s ‘pop-album’ Magic Chairs; though typical of the magnificence the Danes have it in them to evoke, its awkward and brittle beauty is too quiet and slow-burning to astonish when shorn of its context. A deconstructed version of Harmonics on the flip-side, however, is worth a purchase in itself.
Am I Just A Man (****, 16 Aug) asks Steve Mason on the latest single to be lifted from his sterling Boys Outside album. Depends how you look at it Steve: your firm grasp of pop dynamics ensures this cut grows from its humble opening into something special, so if you are ‘just’ a man, you’re one heck of a gifted one.
For a band now exclusively dedicated to the single format, Ash seem to produce a lot of album filler-material these days. If you’re still following their A-Z project (they’ve been releasing a single every 2 weeks since October last year), Carnal Love (***, 2 Aug) is a pleasant ballad entry, but back in their heyday it would have been lucky to be picked as a scraping-the-barrel fifth single.
If Bruce Springsteen is the Boss, The Gaslight Anthem are part-time customer service advisors at best. And like an apathetic and cheerless “thank you for calling!” The Diamond Church Street Choir (**, 9 Aug) struggles to demonstrate authenticity, despite some evocative lyrical storytelling about “hub city girls in their ribbons and curls”. But the Jersey Shore shtick is predictable – if Tommy and Gina wandered up from the diner and into this soft rock chest-beater, they’d fit right in with the clichés.
Identify Reinvention, Enact Reinvention, Fly Into The Charts, right? On Collapsing Cities (*, 9 Aug), Sam Duckworth (aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) is transformed into a Shy FX-collaborating, dancefloor-preoccupied, T4-on-the-Beach-er, a shift which doesn’t quite rival Plan B’s shamelessly shiny makeover, but is just as forgettable. At least Plan B dropped the social commentary in order to focus on the cash; Sam’s still preaching from his first-year politics textbooks.
Thankfully Sky Larkin have foregone any major refurbishment of their indie-rock chops. Dusting off chunky riffs and a big chorus ahead of second album Kaleide, Still Windmills (****, 2 Aug) has the pace to get blood pumping and feet moving. They’ll get the audiences they deserve yet.
As well as supporting them in London later in the month, Teeth could act as a gateway drug for the dark allure of the ascendant Sleigh Bells. See Spaces (****, 16 Aug) mines a similarly hard electro sound, but with the aggressive edge smoothed down and coated in lush synths. And the shouty, grimy, propulsive B-side just might be even better.
And penultimately, Monotonix: a band so Rock their acoustic All Tomorrow’s Parties show was shut down by worried Butlins staff after just five minutes. Fun Fun Fun (****, 9 Aug) lives up to its triple-joy billing, the Israeli garage punks doing their best Stooges impressions without a hint of originality but with plenty of raw aggression.
SINGLE OF THE MONTH
Though only a third as long as the first single lifted from Hidden, These New Puritans cram so many textures and so much originality into Hologram’s (****, 9 Aug) two and a half minutes that playing it three times in a row is both recommended and rewarding. There are hints of Pit Er Pat in the hollow woodwind and space-jazz structure, but what makes this so thrilling is the sense of wide-open possibility. While we contemplate where they’ll go next, here’s a Single of the Month accolade to mark where they’ve been.