2004 was supposed the year MOR got its own back but despite the best efforts of Radio 2. this fortnight's crop of singles are an entertaining bunch. Of course. there are low points: ex-Abba siren Agnetha Faltskog's 'If I Thought You‘d Ever Change Your Mind‘ (WEA O ) is a vomit-strewn waffle of a ballad. while Shania Twain's ‘She's Not Just 8 Pretty Face’ (Mercury 00 ) is perky nonsense about how a woman can be a waitress, a judge. and a teacher as welt as a ‘mother of the human race'. Fancy that.
More productive weirdness comes from Air. who dream their way through funky but resolutely unhummable new single ‘Surfing on a Rocket“ (EMI 000 ). Closer to home but not quite back to earth. Dogs Die in Hot Cars continue their trail through the 803’ more dubious corners with ‘Godhopping‘ (V2 0000 ). a propulsive, eccentric jaunt through Dexy's territory that is probably their best record yet. The Beta Band. of course. do Ieftfield better than most. and 'Assessment' (EMI 0000 ) is an exceedingly auspicious return. starting like U2’s ‘I Will Follow' before upping sticks and launching into a full jazz wig—out.
Pop tarts Bellefire are currently supporting Westlife. and the bouncy ‘Say Something Anyway' (Warner COO ). suggests the Irish girly threesome are already rather better than their odious c0untrymen — the record‘s refrain of ‘When you‘ve got nothing to say/ Say something anyway’ even acts as a neat critique of the pop culture that spawned it.
Down in the underground. London's fragmented garage scene is spewing out all manner of ambitious MCs at the moment. although no one seems quite sure exactly what music they're making. Scene leader Wiley does his best to muddy the water with ‘Wot Do U Call It' (XL 000 ). a would-be—anthem with a great. twitchy backdrop. l think they’ll probably end up calling it grime. if that helps anyone.
There’s a spot of local branding from Glasgow indie quartet the B—Men. whose insistent new single ‘Run Away with Me' (no label 000 ) is part of the launch for the city's current style makeover. although you'd have to say that the upbeat jazzjfunk of the Fusion Experiences self-titled EP (Fusion 00” ) might inspire a more carnival atmosphere. Over in Leith, things are looking darker: Polymyth SOUnd more like Massive Attack than Massive Attack do these days on the bass-driven atmospherics of debut EP ‘Failed to Bloom (Black Sugar 0.0 ).
But Single of the Fortnight. despite some stiff competition from the beautiful guitar instrumentals of Will Oldham's 'Seafarers Music' EP (Drag City «no ) and the delicate melodies of ex-Belle 8. Sebastian (and now ex- surname) babe Isobel on ‘Time is Just the Same” (Snowstorm COCO ). goes to Snow Patrol. whose angry and touching ‘Chocolate’ (Polydor 00000) completes their transformation from decent indie janglers to sublimer sorrowful pop superstars. (James Smart)
108 THE LIST I 1:") Apr 7004
. 4 .: " gr”
INDIE ROCK HAVEN
All for a Reason (Radiate) CO
One would think a legend like Johnny Marr (the mastermind behind the Smiths) would have sense enough not to involve himself in an indie rock group anything short of brilliant. especially in an age in which Coldplay's reign seems far from over. Mr Marr co- produced the Manchester quartet's decent yet uninspiring second album. adding some fleeting musical energy (mainly during track intros where Nat Watson's dynamic guitar riffs can actually be heard) to generally washed-out vocals. and lyrics that may well have been taken off the pages of a self-help manual. Don‘t expect Haven to overthrow the king any time soon. (Emily Jones)
POP THE DIVINE COMEDY Absent Friends (Parlophone) .00
The words 'fop' and ‘Divine Comedy' go together like 'mess' and 'Whitney Houston'. If yOu don't know what to expect from an album by the Comedy — essentially. these days. just the solo project of former frontman Neil Hannon — then yOU really haven't been paying attention. As such. this album's a predictable introduction — lush arrangements. bittersweet nostalgia. arch lyricism and enough gentlemanliness to make John Steed look like Sid Vicrous.
There's nothing quite as immediate as ‘Something for the Weekend' or ‘National Express' here. but Lauren Laverne-featuring Single 'Come Home Billy
INDIE THE TRACK & FIELD ORGANISATION
What do you do when you’re feeling down? Well, instead of scoffing a packet of digestives or calling their mums, these two country-tinged guitar acts have made whole albums out of obvious pain and sadness with rather glorious effects. The Broken Famin Band’s second effort, Jesus Songs 0000 , is a stunning seven-track tribute to the big J himself and features ramshackle ballads and weird folk pop counterbalanced by frantic rushes of
riffage from this rather lovely Cambridge four-piece.
Yorkshire-born folk balladeer James William Hindle’s second offering, Prospect Park 0000 , is also utterly beguiling, and by taking heartbreak into desolate places his shadowy guitar sound and wistful vocals making for a warm and enveloping emotional upheaval of a record.
Tompaulin also sound a little lovelorn on their singles collection Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt O... ; imbued with a lazy, hazy feel, sublime boy/girl vocals and subtle arrangements. They truly make a soothing, fragile and rather beautiful sound, unlike The Loves, who break the reflective mood and add a shot of sleazy adrenaline with the superb guitar fuzz of debut LP Love 0000 . The Cardiff six-piece tout gritty guitars, Hammonds and 605 girl group harmonies and count the Yeah Yeah Yeahs among their fans. With their trendy haircuts and hippy chic they absolutely look the superstar part, and with a collection of tracks as good as this have finally proven they’ve got the music to match.
An impressive and utterly magnificent bunch of albums from the Track & Field label then. Who’d have thought they could get it so right? If you were going to choose one out of this collection as a must-buy don’t bother. Get them all - each one is damn near perfection. (Camilla Pia)
Bird' is a charmer. while ‘Freedom Road' makes for a pleasantly delicate croon. Preaching to the converted. but Hannon still makes his point masterfully.
SOUL HIP HOP JAZZ VARIOUS
Detroit Soul: Real Soul Music from the Motor City
The follow-up to the Unisex label's fine Phil/y Sou/ collection proves there's more to modern Motor City music than the belligerent aggression of Eminem or the throbbing intensity of techno. Here. Anetria Wright's soothing ‘Feeling of Love' and Detroit Experiment's snappy 'Think Twice' rub shoulders with choice
hip hop cuts from Jaylib. Slum Village and the superbly-named Athletic Mic League. The somewhat disparate fragments — soul. rap. jazz — melt together to form a tight. coherent blend. with only the overrated coffee-shop staple Amp Fiddler detracting from the set 's consistency. That aside. this is an engaging. invigorating journey through Detroit's best new black music.
ELECTRONICA EMMANUEL SANTARROMANA
Metropolitain (Pschent) C.
Using the Paris rail network and its main stations as musical reference points. French electronica DJ Emmanuel Santarromana's debut long-player attempts to fuse the city's vast assortment of sounds with his rather insipid brand of downbeat electronic loungecore.
Drawing in African and Arabic influences alongside jazz and hip hop. Metropolitain is on the whole a Surprisingly tedious affair. There's little of the atmosphere or vibrancy for which the city is famed. and if this really is meant to be the Spundtrack to cosmopolitan Paris. it falls well short of the mark. A nice idea. perhaps. but one which leaves the listener thoroughly unmoved. (Hugh Leask)
INDIE DELAYS Faded Seaside Glamour (Rough Trade) 0
Trips down memory lane can be rather lovely. but not when the path spirals back to the worst end of Britpop. and