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July in singles: a bored actress, Pammy’s ex, and the next Arcade Fire?

Attic Lights
[Attic Lights: recipients of July single of the month]

To look at bespectacled Glaswegian Ross Clark, you might expect him to be a modest, sensitive, home-spun folkster. But, au contraire, Silversword (****, Out Now) is a raucous, joyous, full-band-with-horns blitzkrieg, taking the populist bent of The Fratellis and filtering out all the bad stuff. Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences almost use up their entire word quota with You Can’t Make Somebody Love You (***, 7 July). Which only leaves me to say that this Nick Cave-inflected rock’n’roller is worth a listen. This month’s ‘Next Arcade Fire’ award goes to Californian art-popsters Port O’Brien, with I Woke Up Today (***, 7 July). Chanted chorus? Check. Scrappy folk aesthetic? Check. Ye olde world charm? Check. Sticking with upbeat West Coast (of America, that is) tunesmithery, She & Him‘s debut single This Is Not A Test (**, 7 July) is pleasant, inoffensive guitar pop. Just what you might expect from a collaboration between actress-turned-singer Zooey Deschanel and Portland singer/songwriter M Ward.

At the risk of ‘not getting it’, I have no time for Hadouken! The hoodie-clad, Nintendo-referencing Northerners may set some kind of record for genre agglomeration, but the result, Crank It Up (*, 7 July), sounds like a 15-year-old Liam Howlett’s demo-tape. Officer Kicks are a much more straight-up proposition. But Pictures Of Me (*, 9 July) is attention-sappingly homogeneous rock: not only stale, but well past its sell-by-date. Back in May I praised chipper Londoners The Thirst for their Enya-erasing single ‘Sail Away’, and they stay on form with follow-up My Everything (3stars, 14 July). Sure, the lyrics scream of Radio 1 ambitions, but the musical quality wins out. The Brute Chorus aren’t quite as tight as their Cockney neighbours; just as well the charm of Grow Fins (***, 14 July) lies in its ramshackle, bar-room vibe then.

As a fashion choice, White Denim should be avoided. But as a band, this Texan outfit receives a firm seal of approval. All You Really Have To Do (****, 7 July) is a manic 138 seconds of psychedelic blues-rock. While we’re on the subject of unpretentious American rock, let’s have a listen to The Hold Steady. New single Sequestered In Memphis (****, 7 July) is possibly the best single these Church of Springsteen elders have given us so far – blaring horns, a drum solo and a lesson in legalese to boot. He is just as overtly American, but Kid Rock is American in all the wrong ways. All Summer Long (*, 7 July) is a cringe-inducing Lynyrd Skynyrd pastiche, but what else would we expect? As the shivers of disgust recede, it’s back on home soil for July’s single of the month. Attic Lights are the latest purveyors of jingly-jangly pop to sprout from the fertile West Coast (of Scotland, that is) music patch. Bring You Down (****, 7 July) has more than a hint of Teenage Fanclub; not surprising really, since it was produced by Fannies drummer Francis McDonald.

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May in singles: new music from New York, Norway and… Dundee

The Gussets

Most agree that the indie-fication of pop has been a change for the better. Except, that is, when bands like The Pigeon Detectives bring their knuckle-dragging post-Libertine shtick to the table with new single This Is An Emergency (**, 5 May). A rush of equally naff computer beeps heralds the debut single of Philadelphian electro-rock-bots Innerpartysystem. Don’t Stop (**, 5 May) is quite good fun, in an emo kind of way. Speaking of emo, I’m not sure if Paramore fit the criteria, but they’ve got that strangely sanitized angst-rock down pat. That’s What You Get (*, 12 May) might be gash, but they sport some splendidly coiffured ‘dos on the cover.

Figure 5, this month’s new-band-from-Glasgow, offer a kind of garage punk that’s anything but forward-thinking with debut single Rock of Gibraltar (**, 26 May). With cited influences like The Jam and Buzzcocks, they probably want to be seen as retro rockers anyway. Another debut single from the other side of the indie continuum: Oxford’s A Silent Film come over all sensitive and slick on Sleeping Pills (***, 12 May), but they sound better than many of their soft-on-the-ear southerner peers. Just.

This column wouldn’t be complete without an Australian singer/songwriter, so step up Mr Kris Morris. Someone Sometimes (**, 5 May) is a downtempo love song that will fit nicely into Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 playlist, if you catch my drift. Cazals are an utterly different proposition, but with Somebody, Somewhere (***, 5 May) they obviously attended the same vague school of song-naming. Nevertheless, this is sharp, punchy indie – and Casio keyboard noises are always a winner. This month’s female singer/songwriter, Norwegian Ida Maria, upstages her male counterpart with Queen of the World (***, 12 May). An ode to getting sozzled that drinks from the same (presumably spiked) pint glass as the unnaturally chipper Jack Peñate.

Why should a band from Dundee pine for the Big Apple, as The Hazy Janes do on New York (***, 19 May)? Is the silvery Tay not inspiration enough? Whatever their home-town gripes, they make indie-pop that’s safe but satisfying. Proving the theory that the point of art school isn’t to paint but to form bands, Edinburgh’s The Gussets arrive through our mailbox with Gortex Erotique (***, out now), a paean to seedy subculture that falls somewhere between The Slits and Le Tigre. Banish all thoughts of Enya before listening to Sail Away (***, 12 May) by The Thirst. This Brixton quintet make quality indie-rock that couldn’t be further removed from the ’80s warbler. Given that this blog is already a signed-up fan it’s no surprise that Frightened Rabbit should take single of the month with Fast Blood (****, 26 May), a beautifully simple track that takes its cue from the ragged-edged panache of The National.

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