The Singles Jukebox
Shock and Awe Pyrotechnics



this week, the Jukebox is founded on but one question: who is the most twee? Is it Mylene Farmer with her pointless swearing? Is it OK Go in their matching tank tops and NHS specs? Is it Basshunter with his dancing, alone, on a pedalo? Is it The Pack, with the way that one of them goes "rain-bows"? Maybe it's Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, for being named after a command line from a Spectrum game? Or perhaps it's Camera Obscura. Actually, no, it's fairly obviously Camera Obscura. It's definitely not Blue October, anyway...


Blue October - Hate Me
[Watch the Video]
[3.50]

Joseph McCombs: Having been fortunate enough to come of age before emo, it's rare for me to hear someone sing so matter-of-factly about getting over drinking and suicidal ideation. Usually that stuff is milked for a lot more melodrama, and I congratulate them on reining it in.
[7]

Peter Parrish: In 1984, the USSR's best submarine captain in their newest sub violates orders and heads for the USA. Is he trying to defect, or to start a war? Neither, he’s planning to vigorously torpedo Blue October in order to prevent them from penning this self-loathing, acoustic dirge. Give me a score, Vasili. One score only, please.
[1]

Martin Skidmore: I can't quite decide whether this is whining or fairly brave confession, which is to its credit, but I can't see anything else of interest in this smoothed out and polished tepid post-grunge.
[3]

Joris Gillet: This starts out pretty nice. During the first few bars it comes across a bit quirky and old-fashioned. Like it could be this year’s “No Rain” or “Breakfast at Tiffany's.” But as soon as the chorus kicks in any sympathy garnered goes straight out the window. From here on it's sub-standard grunge-pop; whiny and lacking any sort of grace and, most importantly, very, very dull.
[2]


Basshunter - Boten Anna
[Watch the Video]
[3.75]

Rodney J. Greene: Euro-pop of the variant least likely to do anything for me. Sad (perhaps) song in some language or other, untsss-untsss, woman yelling "empowering" buzz-phrase, skittering synth playing something vaguely Teutonic, whatever.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: A huge hit in Scandinavia, I'm told. The vocal is extremely sing-song and the bass pumps along behind it, with that house-techno-electro sound that has been fashionable for a while. It's hard to spot exactly why it's been such a big hit—maybe understanding the lyrics would help—but it's a pretty smart pop appropriation of a trendy dance sound, and such things do sometimes catch a mood and an audience.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Sometimes the Borg make dance music that shows their happy, ice cream-eating side. This is colored in neatly with Swedish magic, making a case that they’re the master race of bouncy pop.
[6]

Peter Parrish: Propelled by a synth sequence which sounds like someone inflating a series of ducks and then rapidly squeezing them like an accordion until they fart through a plethora of airhorns. The rest is an uncanny audio representation of an irritating cretin answering every question with “whhhyyyy?” until a passer-by has the good sense to stab them.
[0]


Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. - The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager Part One
[Watch the Video]
[3.80]

Teresa Nieman: Not only did I have no desire to ever hear any chronicles about a bohemian teenager, I also didn’t need to hear it sung by some raspy-voiced whiner. Waste of a cute band name.
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: Singing like a precocious 10th grader, Sam Duckworth’s disarmingly guileless vocal contrasts with the mannered complexity of the instrumentation to create a song far more intriguing than the sum of its parts. It makes him sound preternaturally gifted; surely, we keep thinking, someone this emotionally tempestuous couldn’t possibly be behind such restrained songwriting.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Such a great artist-title combo could only bring false expectations. The minimalist superhero manual lured me in with fraudulent hope, the opening acoustic guitar plucks were pleasantly inoffensive—but the chronicles never came. Someone had replaced them with a weak breakup-in-a-bottle mopefest stuffed with yawnsome couplets like “Drinking to forget / Somehow breeds regret.”
[2]

Martin Skidmore: Indie as hell: po-faced and tedious.
[0]


Vanilla Ninja - Rockstarz
[Watch the Video]
[4.20]

Peter Parrish: I probably don’t know very much about ninjas, but I have picked up that they’re supposed to go about their deadly work rather quietly. Not these ninjas though. They’re ROCK STARS. Sorry, ROCKSTARZ. They’re gonna destroy this place with their GUITARS (possibly GEEEETARZ). Does anyone remember when the Bratz™ range hilariously tried to release a single? This is a similar kind of weird, plastic rock played with equally dead eyes.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: The rock star is a meaningless concept outside the world of reality TV, and Vanilla Ninja doesn’t even have Tommy Lee’s… um… credibility, nor his train-wreck history to support its ill-advised role-playing. Yet, even if this baby-boomer fantasy moonlighting as teen-pop single survived the hoary clichés it peddles, it nevertheless fails dismally due to the completely soulless delivery—apparently the band has forgotten that passion and emotional resonance were a rock star’s key touchstones.
[2]

David Moore: When the girls in Vanilla Ninja say they’ll wreck the place with their guitars, I don’t completely believe them, which isn’t to say they couldn’t do some damage. But they’ve got nothing on Lindsay Lohan in terms of tunes or wrecking potential.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: Prosecution's Exhibit One in the case against White people being allowed to make music, ever.
[0]


J Dilla ft. D'Angelo & Common - So Far To Go
[4.40]

Rodney J. Greene: Before J Dilla passed, he somehow managed the daunting task of luring D'Angelo out of his hiding place (with drugs, doubtlessly). Dilla pairs D with one of the crooked, off-beat creations he started making after jacking Madlib's style, and with Common, still playing his role as rap geezer well. The problem is that Com and D'Angelo are all too willing to meld into the background of Dilla's winding monstrosity, and this ends up as more of a pleasant musical existence than a song.
[5]

Joris Gillet: More a collection of sounds—some television dialogue, a couple of not very gripping rap verses, the occasional random burst of horny warbling (that'll be D'Angelo) over a laidback hip-hop beat—than a proper song.
[2]

Hillary Brown: Pleasant to jam to in the background, but this is not actually a song, more just pieces of one picked up here and there in a browsing fashion.
[5]

Mallory O’Donnell: After the psychedelic maestro-piece that was Donuts, J. Dilla can be forgiven for retreading past efforts as new material. Thus, a veritable Who's Who of over-the-hump 90's heroes—D'Angelo, who makes ODB look good in recent photos, and Common, who will actually be reclassified as a white dude if he gets any more hippie—weigh in on a beat that sounds like it was stapled together from six previous Soulquarian outings.
[3]


The Fratellis - Chelsea Dagger
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Joseph McCombs: If Marc Bolan had been commissioned to write the Sesame Street theme it would've sounded like this.
[8]

Ian Mathers: At least the Kaiser Chiefs had an entertainingly annoying single. The Fratellis are what the Arctic Monkeys sound like in the feverish nightmares of popists the world over.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: Mainline UK indie rock with aspirations to wit. It clumps along and they mouth the kinds of lines their mates think are dead clever and funny, and it almost makes me long for the Sultans of Ping.
[1]

Rodney J. Greene: Purely Franz-oid. Big DOR stomp, check. Doo-do-do doo-do-do hook, yep. Maybe-this-is-homoerotic-but-probably-not subtext, close the book.
[6]


OK Go - Here It Goes Again
[Watch the Video]
[5.17]

Teresa Nieman: There’s no way this track will ever emerge from the immense shadow of its adorably dorky video (you know, the one where the band treats us to a synchronized tread mill dance). That’s probably for the best, since this song is most definitely nothing to write home about. Unless you’re, like, a really big Franz Ferdinand (& co) fan.
[5]

Ian Mathers: If it takes a gee-whiz video to interest people, then so be it. On Oh No “Here It Goes Again” doesn't even stand out, but on rock radio right now it's a blessed breath of fresh air. Long may they tread.
[8]

Peter Parrish: Proof that you can try to rip off the Buzzcocks and still sound a bit crap.
[4]

Hillary Brown: Shades of early Joe Jackson in bits, but far less inspiring.
[4]


Mylene Farmer - Peut-etre Toi
[Watch the Video]
[5.20]

Teresa Nieman: “Peut-etre Toi” makes me wish I was watching a trashy French new-wave horror/adultery thriller/surreal drama on DVD and eating gourmet chocolate bon-bons. It’s been too long since I’ve done that.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Oo-er, sounds a bit rude! The name does not refer to an undiscovered Viz comic about censorship though, sadly. In fact, this is a chunk of soft French dance ... something or other. Standard issue BPM and breathy vocals with (bonus!) someone chanting “Shut the fuck up” every now and again. Which ultimately sounds like fairly wise advice.
[1]

Joris Gillet: Combines two of my favourite things in the world ever: husky French female singing and stylish and atmospheric, but still pumping, euro-trance beats. Sadly, this is one of those 'sum = less than its parts' situations.
[6]

David Moore: My French is awful, so the only words I caught in this song were “shut up” (in English) and “regardez-moi.” That was enough to figure out she’s saying “shut up and look at me.” Actually, she’s saying perhaps you should do that, but I think she’s being passive-aggressive.
[6]


Jamelia - Something About You
[Watch the Video]
[5.83]

Joseph McCombs: I can't imagine anyone ardently adoring this or even remembering it come winter, but it’s marginally pleasant.
[5]

Ian Mathers: Files nicely next to Lillix's “Sweet Temptation” and Kelly Clarkson's “Since U Been Gone,” only a tad more restrained.
[8]

Rodney J. Greene: Jamelia has found the exact mid-way point between the Kelly Clarkson ballad and the Kelly Clarkson rocker. Luckily she has the pipes to match, but lacks the cool confidence that informs the Idol winner's best songs.
[5]

David Moore: In a year without the Veronicas, Pink, Paris Hilton or any other Max Martin and/or Dr. Luke collaborators, this song would stand out as a decent pop/rock crossover. It’s not really Jamelia’s fault that it isn’t; the lyrics are sweet and her performance is strong, but the music just can’t quite keep up with the curve. The verse doesn’t build naturally into the dynamic shift in the chorus and the guitars kind of jump in out of nowhere. Max/Luke have this sort of thing down to a science.
[6]


Lloyd Banks ft. 50 Cent - Hands Up
[Watch the Video]
[6.00]

Jonathan Bradley: “Hands Up” could have been the unexpected break-out hit to help Banks live up to the too-high expectations for his second album, but his surprisingly effective understated flow, bolstered by a militant beat that conquers through brute force rather than shock-and-awe pyrotechnics, can’t compete when 50 shows up on the hook. It’s getting unbelievable that dude’s sing-song choruses were ever considered anything but a crippling liability.
[5]

Ian Mathers: Saying that Lloyd Banks is the most charismatic G-Unit member is most certainly a backhanded compliment. But “Hands Up” is a little more interesting than their usual fare, if only for the constant roughneck chant of “Put 'em up” hectoring the track forward. As for content, Lloyd would like to remind you he's still better than you are.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: His rep is for more thoughtful rapping, but here he is very much looking for the big club banger. If he wasn't tied in so close with 50 this would seem rather like a rip-off of "In Da Club," but it doesn't have quite as mighty a hook. Nonetheless, it has some of the same muscle and swing, and I can see it being pretty popular.
[8]

Rodney J. Greene: 50 Cent has apparently given Lloyd Banks some much-needed charisma lessons. Dr. Dre has apparently given Eminem some pointers on avoiding the martial kathunk for which he is notorious. This all makes for one surprisingly tolerable, if unspectacular, party jam that has G-Unit's stamp all over it.
[6]


The Walkmen - Louisiana
[Watch the Video]
[6.33]

Jonathan Bradley: A travelogue in less than four minutes, it is gloriously unhurried, and it most certainly captures the atmosphere and environs of the Pelican state, if not its current musical state of mind.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: The singer is deeply awful, with the tunefulness of Dylan but a hundredth the character, while the music is like a failed attempt to do one of Creedence's gentler numbers, except occasionally they throw in what sounds almost like a mariachi section, perhaps fearing they might actually be creating an atmosphere or something. Dreadful.
[2]

Joseph McCombs: I missed the first round of interest in the Walkmen; have they always evoked 1966 folk-rock? Seriously digging the brawn-on-blonde of it all.
[7]

Ian Mathers: A Hundred Miles Off is the aural equivalent of a hangover and those who don't drink, or don't drink well, may slight it for being unpleasant. What they're missing is the strange but potent pleasure of the blear and blare of tracks like “Louisiana,” wherein a trumpet-and-piano interlude perfectly encapsulates the foggy morning-after romanticism of the album. It's a shit single choice, but a great song, and for the same reasons: No drive, no real energy, and Hamilton Leithauser's so-bad-it's-great voice.
[8]


Phoenix - Consolation Prizes
[Watch the Video]
[6.50]

Joseph McCombs: I don't understand their higher math ("dark is one and bright is two"?) and the clumsiness of these lyrics keeps me from having a Hoodoo-Gurus-on-120-Minutes flashback moment here. Nice choices of guitar chords, though.
[5]

Mallory O’Donnell: A fine second single that unites the 3-D R&B of their last record with the balmy sunshine pop of their new one. A perfect tonic for the end-of-summer blahs, all jumpy slap chords and inaudible but perceived handclaps.
[9]

Ian Mathers: I have slowly accepted that nothing else on Phoenix's new album comes within spitting distance of “Long Distance Call,” but there are subtler delights therein. Sure, the emotional range might best be described as Sofia Coppola to Wes Anderson, but this kind of blankly stylish poppy rock can be mighty comforting if you just relax and stop wanting it to be more than it is.
[6]

David Moore: I don’t know if this constitutes a “new direction” for Phoenix, since I get the impression they just do whatever they feel like doing. And usually it turns out pretty well; here they try out indie rock with a little swing to it and it works. I appreciate that they can be “eclectic” without announcing themselves as such—modest but ingratiating.
[7]


The Pack - Vans
[Watch the Video]
[6.60]

Ian Mathers: Unlike Dem Franchise Boyz, this is actual rap minimalism; sure, I find product placement more palatable when I like the product in the first place, and sure I appreciate the Pack doing their research as far as dates and Vans' history as “punk rock shoes” go, but really I'm just in love with that oddly sumptuous bass pulse.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: Fuck one-chord wonders, The Pack rock zero chords and call it a day. Still, the product placement is just a little much here—"My Adidas" for the MySpace generation.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: It’s testament to the efforts of pioneers like Timbaland and the Neptunes that a track built on little more than an undulating electronic bassline and a robot that loves cheap shoes fits so comfortably within 2006’s pop music. Simultaneously forward thinking yet determinedly mundane in both a musical and lyrical sense—the rappers don’t floss so much as joyfully catalogue the best features of their favorite sneaker—the track is so unassuming that it almost slips by unnoticed. Yet the rough-hewn amateurism eventually ingratiates itself to the extent that we welcome its unhurried nature and detached delivery.
[6]

Rodney J. Greene: As far as hip-hop footwear anthems go, this is lower-key than "My Adidas" or "Air Force Ones," but Vans are a low-key type of shoe. Usually this kind of rap minimalism is countered by big bluster, but with the grainy bedroom snap beat and apprehensive flows, everything about this song is small.
[7]


Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
[Watch the Video]
[7.00]

Teresa Nieman: A pretty little cocktail of shoegazy pop-rock, and a big enough dose of melancholy to make it okay for the terminally hip indie scene to like it. The most admirable aspect here is Tracyanne Campbell’s well-worn optimistic vocal sentiment, which gives this kiss-off some much-needed depth. As she asks “what does this city have to offer me?” it’s both self-pitying and empowered—and, thus, kind of moving.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: It's all done very well, but I have never grasped what it is in this kind of thing that people care about.
[4]

Hillary Brown: No one will believe me that this is the real hit on the album. It’s messier than “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken,” and the cymbal sounds can almost hurt your ears on headphones, but that messiness helps it move at a quicker, cheerier pace, and the guitar hook dances around, catching the light until you bite.
[9]

David Moore: For a song about wanting to get out of the country, this sure is pleasant (blame the culture gap): a full, theatrical arrangement swells behind wistful fantasies of getting away from it all and finding yourself. A little dull, but lovely nonetheless.
[6]


Lupe Fiasco ft. Jill Scott - Daydreaming
[Watch the Video]
[7.80]

Jonathan Bradley: As a title, Food and Liquor had a gritty everyday quality that lined up nicely with the reasons Lupe Fiasco was initially so intriguing. He retained a strong connection to the streets, but resonated due to his ability to carve “realness” from his environment without resorting to gangsta grit or gloss. But after the initial leak of the record, his career has constantly threatened to tip him off the face of the earth, and each floating in space album cover or superfluous Jill Scott guest appearance furthers fears Fiasco may waste his talent on froth and fantasy. The track is still a worthy single, but, oh dear god, Lupe, the gigantic robot is the least interesting part of this song. Don’t fuck this up, please.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: I really like Jill Scott's sweet mouth voice when she is low key, though far less when she switches to her more powerful and throatier voice; and Lupe sounds much more at home on this, which reminds me of Ghostface's raps over old soul records, than on his last one, "Kick Push." Very much a mixed bag for me.
[6]

Rodney J. Greene: "Daydreaming" is unusually twee for its genre. It is, after all, about a grown-ass man imagining himself flying around in a giant robot. It resembles the more precious portions of Late Registration with its cutesy hook and tinkling xylophone breakdown, and Lupe demonstrates his love of concept, rhyming about where everyone around him is in regard to his super-sized toy.
[8]

Mallory O'Donnell: With just one song, Lupe Fiasco and Jill Scott have found the escape route for both neo-soul and backpacker rap out of their respective cul-de-sacs : embracing the colorless dynamic of 60's MOR pop. You know why? Because 60's MOR pop was fucking great—and it's made even greater when placed in the hands of performers who can play their instruments. Dionne Warwick, meet Jill Scott. Enoch Light, meet Lupe Fiasco.
[10]


Check out the Singles Jukebox podcast to hear some of the tracks talked about here.


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-09-12
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