THE SINGLES SCENE
BY TIM HINELY
Ahh... the 7" single - you remember those, right? Of course you do. They (whoever "they" is) say vinyl is making a comeback but as far as I'm concerned it never went away.
Also, I'm sorry folks, but it has to be said: When someone posts a new single at iTunes it's not really a single. Oh sure, it may be a new song, but to truly be a single it has to be a 7' piece of vinyl (preferably colored) with a sleeve (preferably a picture).
The ten singles listed below are more of the pop persuasion, some bands you may have heard of and some you may have not, and while some are better than others, all are worthy of your time. So you can keep your iPods running and I won't flip you any - no iPod for this writer - as long as you don't flip me any for keeping my turntable all lubed up and ready to spin... here goes!
Rating: 7 (out of 10)
"A Month of Spring" b/w "The Rainbow's End" and "She Knows"
This Bay Area band is actually brother Ryan and Dale Marquez who have been creating their hazy pop nuggets for a few years now. Ryan sings and plays guitar while Dale plays bass and keys (and some guitars, too). The a-side is noisier than what they usually offer while the two songs on the flip slip back into a Sarah records-esque groove (especially on "The Rainbow's End"). Nice.
"(I'll Beat Me Chest Like) King Kong" b/w Le Grande Opening" and "Forever in Armitron"
One of the hardest-working (yet most underrated) bands in indie rock land is Seattle's Boat. On this swirly-colored vinyl single they drop a groovy mid-tempo nugget on the a-side while in the flip offer two more cuts that coulda been AM radio hits back in 1968 (which was probably before these guys were born), especially the snappy "Forever in Armitron." Righteous.
"Caroline's Dream" b/w "Stalling and Laughing" and Looking to the Sun"
The Matinee label never seems to slow down in its quest for pop perfection. The a-side was on their latest record, Sophomore Release and it's yet another song in the long line of Scottish pop royalty. The b-side offers up two songs; "Stalling and Laughing " clocks in at just over a minute and a half and sounds easily tossed off while "Looking to the Sun" cranks up the fuzz and points more to the Jesus & Mary Chain than Orange Juice (which is a-ok). Lovely red vinyl.
Portland quartet Derby seems to have undergone a change here. The band was once known for its sweet pop but I'd heard a few years back that there was some sort of upheaval. That is probably old news by now. Main guy Nat Johnson is still at the helm but these two songs are darker, moodier. "Don't Believe in You" slowly unfold and then build with a solid drumbeat throughout while the flip begins as a dreamy acoustic number that, quite frankly, should have been the a-side. Just sayin'.
"Row" b/w "This Here Year"
This Portland bunch, led by vocalist Courtney Morrissey, has been spreading their good-natured cheer for a few years now and this 2-song single, while not their best, is still solid pop music. They add horns and keys to the basic guitar/bass/drums set up but then you have Morrissey's helium-voiced squeal which will appeal to some while putting off others. It takes some getting used to on record but in a live setting she'll have you eating out of her hand within minutes.
"Life Returns to Normal" b/a "Some People"
The word on the street on this Danish band is that they love The Smiths and sound quite a bit like them - and you know what? It's all true, but who cares; the songs are superb! The a-side is from their excellent debut record, Criminal Art Lovers, while the flip, a Cliff Richard cover, might be even better with a groovier beat and vocalist Stefan Larsen stretching his pipes out a bit more. Not sold yet? How about the perfect clear vinyl?
"Baby, We Love Each Other" EP
This band hails from NYC and got Sex Robots maestro Mario Viele to produce a 4-song 7", but while I had not heard the band before they are not newcomers. Go to their webpage and see they have a previous full-length, an EP and a few other singles too. This is upbeat, poppy garage rock. The guitar leads are short and fun while the rhythm section is happily bashing away and the vocalist sounds like a smart-ass motormouth (in the best way possible). "The Beach" is my pick to click but all 4 of these cuts are pretty fun.
"Farewell" b/w "When You're Lonely"
It's nice to see the Shelflife label back in the swing of releasing 7" records (and who doesn't love white vinyl?). This NYC duo is Drew Diver (from another Shelflife band, Horse Shoes) and Maria Usbeck (from Selebrities) and here they offer up two terrific pop nuggets. The a-side is pure ‘60s AM radio stuff (a la She & Him) while the flip slows it down and saddens it up (if just a bit). The public demands more.
"Lower Away" b/w "Tidal Waves"
Had never heard of this Palmdale, Calif., quartet previously, and it's probably because they're a fairly new band (never heard of the label before, either). "Lower Away" is a real laid-back, warm pop tune with lots of silky piano and smooth vocals. The b-side get a bit folkier and wasn't as inviting (or as catchy) but still not a bad song. Apparently they have big plans for the future, so have at it, boys.
Adalita Srsen + Robert Scott - "That's What I Heard" b/w The Puddle - "Average Sensual Man"
This split single offers up 2 terrific songs from some New Zealand legends. The a-side is Robert Scott (of The Bats, of course) and a female friend laying down the beautiful "That's What I Heard" with a strummed guitar and both of them singing. Not unlike what he was doing with The Magick Heads. The b-side is New Zealand's long-running band The Puddle (who have a few full-lengths out on the Fishrider label) led by Mr. George Henderson, but with a full-band. This tune cuts a warm groove with viola, accordion and some simmering backing vocals. Nice.
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