Tag Archives: lightspeed champion

April in singles: beatniks, soulsters, the usual fluff

Lightspeed Champion's Dev Hynes with a very small guitar

Pitched somewhere between O Brother Where Art Thou? and The Pogues, The Ballad of Bess Houdini (***, 7 Apr) by Paul Vickers and The Leg is nothing if not intriguing. Which means it is, by the way. So we’ve established that SL Records have an ear for quirky, beatnik troubadours. Thomas Truax is further proof: Stranger On a Train (***, 14 Apr) is a skiffle ode to locomotive life that showcases his weird and witty narrative style. Over on the more conventional side of the singer/songwriter scale is Rory McVicar. No More Do I Care (***, 7 Apr) really benefits from repeated listens – a pleasant strum by the Norwich native. White, English, mid-30s, but Jamie Lidell does his best Stevie Wonder on Little Bit of Feel Good (***, 14 Apr). A less flattering tagline would be ‘the male Joss Stone’, but we know better.

Scouting For Girls have a new song out. It’s called Heartbeats (*, 7 Apr) and the rhythm is timed to a human heartbeat sample. Clever? About as clever as these fuckwits will ever get. It’s a risky business calling only your second single Listen Then Leave (***, 28 Apr) but then Midlands metalheads AFD Shift don’t seem like a worrisome bunch. Their glitchy thrash is surprisingly listenable, even for this metal-sceptic’s ears. The same can’t be said for Las Vegans The Higher, whose UK debut single Dare (*, 14 Apr) sounds like it’s been marinated in The Feeling singer’s melted hair gel. Less gloopy are Blood Red Shoes, who up their game with Say Something, Say Anything (***, 7 Apr). Although the subject matter is a family bereavement, its garage-punk blast is not at all funereal.

In these esoteric days of math-rock and Afrobeat, simplicity, it seems, is not a fashionable concept, but The Envy Corps use just that to good effect in Story Problem (***, 21 Apr), a rousing terrace-style chant that’s more British Sea Power than Fratellis, thankfully. Make Model sing “we’re here with a mission” on The LSB (***, 21 Apr), and with their major label backing and ear for bright punk-pop, this Glasgow mob could be on the cusp of ubiquity. A rich seam of indie runs through Canada, and even if you don’t like latest exports Tokyo Police Club and their single Tessellate (****, 21 Apr) – and it’s hard not to – you may at least have learned a new word. This blog wasn’t complementary about Lightspeed Champion‘s debut single back in January: “distinctly ho-hum“. But Galaxy of the Lost (****, 14 Apr) is a big improvement, big enough for single of the month. The lap-guitar tags it as folk-pop, but Dev Hynes’ love-torn lyrics are in pointed contrast to the trad sound.

Listen to the single of the month.

This article – or one very similar to it – originally appeared in The Skinny magazine

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A month in singles: January

The Mae Shi

Plenty of new music to sample this month, but before the young pretenders come  the old-timers. But you could hardly apply that moniker to Sons And Daughters. I have to declare an interest: I’m a fan, but Darling (14 Jan, ****) is still another winner from the best exponents of Spector-meets-Cave pop. The Kills were often tagged a poor man’s White Stripes, but were always better than that, and comeback track U.R.A Fever (7 Jan, ***) returns to their primal chemistry with overhauled production. The ever-reliable British Sea Power return with a fanfare, Waving Flags (7 Jan, ****) no less. Big and epic without the self-importance, the waves of guitars break overhead while a chanted chorus aims straight for the heart.

And now those fresh-faced newbies…

Hello Wembley claim to be a backlash against “style over substance bands like Bloc Party or Franz Ferdinand”. But their meek rebellion, Up Great Britain (14 Jan, *), is an embarrassingly daft, Sex Pistols-aping take on modern ennui. Kele and Kapranos can sleep soundly for now. Lightspeed Champion’s Tell Me What It’s Worth (7 Jan, **) is disappointing, given former Test Icicle Dev Hynes’s talent: this sugary warbler is distinctly ho-hum. Similarly uninspired is Single Sedative (14 Jan, **), the debut from Pennsylvanian trio Eastern Conference Champions. For those old enough, this has a whiff of Reef about it. Says it all really. The Courteeners are, ostensibly, another northern band who sing about dole queues and a ‘bit of rough’, and What Took You So Long? (14 Jan, **) is stuck in a time-warp of ’80s chiming guitar and social inertia.

Matters improve with Brighton’s South Central, the latest act to scale the boundary fence between rock and dance. Golden Dawn (7 Jan, ***) is a gut-wrenching mash of feedback, techno, vocoder, and the processed, charred remains of guitar. Former OBE frontman Matt Thomson crops up with a new band and a record deal: Disco Dancer (7 Jan, ***) by Parka will be familiar to fans of Edinburgh’s favourite punk-funk sons, although it’s been given the commercial treatment here.

In its short history, this column has spared its harshest words for acoustic solo artists, but Aussie troubadour Derrin Nauendorf’s Shipwrecked (17 Jan, ***) is undeserving of the usual scorn – he’s got character see. The eccentric SAY may hail from darkest Lancashire, but they’re not another bunch of miserablists. Instead, Yr Kicks (28 Jan, ****) is a happy-clappy, shimmering indie-pop mirage. But single of the month goes to The Mae Shi (pictured) for Run To Your Grave (14 Jan, ****), for the completely objective reason that they use one of the pre-installed beats from my childhood keyboard as the intro. This infantile opening is developed with fuzzy guitar, musical madness and an ice-melting chorus.

Listen to my single of the month on The Mae Shi’s MySpace. Go on.

This article was written for The Skinny magazine.

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