The Singles Jukebox
Still Rubbish



most emo jukebox everrr! Yes, Hawthorne Heights, Taking Back Sunday AND Angels & Airwaves all get a look in this week, alongside Blog27 playing a slightly over-elaborate game of 'guess the lyrics' with Teddybears STHLM, Chambao becoming the first ever Spanish entry in the Jukebox, and Christina Milian being all empowered and stuff. First, though, Nick Lachey, who would like you to know that despite not being with Jessica Simpson anymore he is doing absolutely fine, and, to be fair, he is selling quite a few records nowadays. Still rubbish, mind.


Nick Lachey - What's Left of Me
[2.50]

Andrew Unterberger: I think at this point, everyone assumed Nick Lachey’s rep had been cemented as being “that dude who was on that show with Jessica Simpson and was in that boy group that wasn’t LFO.” “What's Left of Me” definitely has hit potential, but I feel like it’s a composite of a number of recent, arguably superior pop ballads—the biggest of which, unsurprisingly, is recent BSB reunion single “Incomplete.”
[4]

Fergal O’Reilly: Nick on some meta-pop shit about how he’s been down on his luck but he’s gonna KEEP GOING in an inspirational and possibly lucrative fashion. It would’ve been much more entertaining if instead of stupidly bland epic ballad fluff he’d gone for a concept album with nothing but amazingly spiteful diss-tracks on it, but there he goes again proving he’s not Marvin Gaye.
[2]

Iain Forrester: Eschews some of the very worst excesses of the standard-issue boy-band ballad (the strings even stay the right side of overbearing), and the guy has a really impressive voice, but while I’d take it over “That’s My Goal” any day I still find it a bit of a chore to listen to.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: Memo to Americans: we do not need another answer to James Blunt. Emo singer-songwriters are unwanted domestically, and the last thing we need is to import more, whether or not they are ex-boy band stars trying for an adult market by whining about what their ex-wives have done to them. Fuck off.
[1]


Angels & Airwaves - The Adventure
[3.75]

Edward Oculicz: Like a more constipated All American Rejects. Except twice as long. And that's just Tom DeLonge's vowels, which can be an asset with legitimate feeling, but this is just aimless guitar rush, with the sugar replaced by aspartame.
[3]

Andrew Unterberger: Angels and Airwaves very badly want to be compared to U2—they’ve basically said as much in interviews. Unfortunately for them, that riff sounds a whole lot more “Space Age Love Song” than “Where the Streets Have No Name,” as do the nothing lyrics and wispy production. Fortunately for us, Tom DeLonge sounds more in his skin imitating A Flock of Seagulls than a band with y’know, aspirations to seriousness.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: Perhaps the phrase "Blink-182 spin-off" makes you energised rather than enervated, in which case ignore me. “The Adventure” sounds desperately tired, as if they can barely be bothered playing the same predictable chords that a million others have played before, which strikes me as a praiseworthy reluctance, rather screwed up by releasing the dreary results.
[1]

Ian Mathers: In the wake of Tom Delonge's increasingly ridiculous pronunciations about how his post-Blink 182 project was going to change the face of rock and roll, it's a crushing disappointment to hear “The Adventure.” There was no real danger of him becoming some sort of Messiah, but I was at least hoping for some sort of wild, entertaining train wreck. Instead we get an arena-sized Box Car Racer with atmospheric keyboards.
[4]


Hawthorne Heights - Saying Sorry
[3.83]

Jonathan Bradley “Saying Sorry” is all bland power chords and emasculated vocals, and has none of the dynamics, creativity or nuance required to do this sort of thing well. Singer J.T. Woodruff can’t even muster some throat damage to liven his band’s half-hearted punk-pop bounce. Hawthorne Heights have done better, but “Saying Sorry” is Fall Out Boy without the melody, vampires, or Michael Jackson dance moves.
[4]

Fergal O’Reilly: Useful in that it showcases the three vocal settings of this particular brand of lame emo-punk; pathetically weedy falsetto for the Sensitive bits, progressing to the standard nasal shouty voice for the Anthemic bits, and then subsequent liberally scattered appearances of the full-on throat-injuring screaming typically provided by a fat man with a beard. Other than that? Not especially interesting.
[4]

Andrew Unterberger: I’m always about one step away from stepping up in defense of Hawthorne Heights. “Ohio Is for Lovers” was sort of a cool song, and I found the chorus of this one unforgettable on first listen. Their uber-sincerity trips me up though—their hooks and music videos rate about as high in cheese as Fall Out Boy, but unlike FOB, it’s without any evidence of self-awareness. Youthful exuberance or blatant audience-baiting? Hard to tell. Nice 90s guitar tone, though.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: The guitar charge of this is buffed to magnificent perfection, but it's such a flat, lifeless riff—charge through volume rather than bona-fide kinetics. And the vocals have much the same problem. No amount of absolutely wonderful studio magic can autotune or compress charisma. Loud, but you can't hear anything.
[3]


Chambao - Pokito a Poko
[4.20]

Andrew Unterberger: It might be the fault of the recent influx of Shakira hitting the US, but I think I’m currently allergic to this much flamenco guitar. The sax & liter-than-helium production don’t help matters.
[4]

Martin Skidmore: A spacey, dubby opening, then some superb Spanish guitar (the genre is apparently flamenco chill), and a female voice (María del Mar Rodríguez) reminiscent of Eartha Kitt's feline tones. The song doesn't seem to go anywhere much, just rambling around for a while, but it's an extremely pleasant ride to no real destination.
[7]

Ian Mathers: If this song is any indication, all you really need to know to understand Chambao's music is that they debuted on a compilation called Flamenco Chill. That's right—this is some Putumayo-grade shit right here, “tasteful” electronics and “tasteful” flamenco guitar and “tasteful” vocals. As the woman said, gag me with a spoon.
[1]

Iain Forrester: There’s a really fantastic moment after this has been rattling along for a couple of minutes where the song suddenly takes a back seat and allows the drums and trumpets to take over for a while before slowly finding its way back via some acoustic guitar that’s practically the definition of languid. Nothing else quite matches it, but a fine soundtrack to a couple of days of sun this week.
[7]


Li'l Kim - Whoa
[4.50]

Martin Skidmore: I know her more by her sexy reputation and image than by her music. She has a strong voice but is a rather ordinary rapper. This has punchy beats and a good chorus, but the bulk of it is mediocre.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: Musically, this is "In Da Club" redux, except with more faux-80s production. The self-aggrandising would irk even if her rhymes were good—as it is, this is about as weak as she gets. The greatness of "The Jump Off" seems a long way in her past now—"niggers," "sexy ladies," whatever, get one piece of originality, get one idea, get one ANYTHING.
[2]

Jonathan Bradley Without impending imprisonment or a Jamrock-aping crossover hook, “Whoa” lacks the buzz surrounding The Naked Truth’s previous single “Lighters Up,” requiring the track to stand or fall on its merits. Lil’ Kim does well, riding an unexceptional but solid New York beat and impressing without the aid of zeitgeist coattails to hang from or tacky sexual metaphors. The ordinariness of the track is both its strength and weakness; it is by no means a natural hit, but it keeps Lil’ Kim in the public eye and avoids being embarrassing. Far from the six mics she demands in the lyrics, and hardly a natural single, but enjoyable nevertheless.
[7]

Hillary Brown: I actually find this song physically embarrassing to listen to, meaning it’s a bit like the experience of seeing most photographs of Lil’ Kim. Those lame-ass drums are like trying to figure out how she chose a particular shade of purple leather, and the keys are like realizing there’s a nipple showing. The vocals are the moment when it comes to you that you’re still looking at the picture.
[3]


Orson - Bright Idea
[4.60]

Hillary Brown: Look. What you mostly need to know about Orson is that they’re named after Orson Welles, but really after a sandwich that was named after Orson Welles. So their “bright ideas” are about 25 watts’ worth of illumination. Their attempt at this kind of California melody is mildly appreciated, but spotless minded.
[4]

Iain Forrester: For a song as ubiquitous and annoying as it is, it’s weird that I can’t remember how “No Tomorrow” goes in the slightest. This will probably be the same way soon enough but is for now surprisingly listenable in a sub-Maroon 5 type of way, with a really lovely bit of guitar straight from Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” in the verses (maybe that’s the great similarity that they apparently have to Scissor Sisters?)
[5]

Fergal O’Reilly: Orson are on some Scissor Sisters “big in UK but can’t get arrested at home” shit, and this seems unnervingly likely to be omnipresent over here all summer. In about three months time hearing so much as the opening bars will probably be enough to make me want to gouge my own eyes out, but for the moment it’s just grudging respect at how it manages to be such a meticulously calculated FM Radio Alt-Rock Smash in every respect and still be pretty engaging; it may well be that the stadium-apt minor chord riffage of the backing track manages to be convincingly wistful enough that you’re vaguely sympathetic to the singer’s misery even though he sounds like a gurning idiot.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: I thought their previous one was one of the better singles of its kind in the last couple of years, though it's a genre I have no affinity with. I think he's a good singer on fast lines, which is fairly uncommon, and this is well arranged and produced, but it doesn't really have the leaping-around giant chorus, so I'm much less taken with it.
[4]


Taking Back Sunday - MakeDamnSure
[5.50]

Edward Oculicz: Screaming! Shouting! Stupid lyrics obscured by screaming and shouting! Heavy breathing, over-emoting, and seems to be about something, even if it is nebulous and probably focus-grouped to within an inch of its life. But there's a definite chugging, energetic charm to it and the structure is pleasing; the pre-chorus with the doubled vocals is very effective as it leads into the jerky, thudding chorus. Enjoyable, for what it's worth.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: What an appalling band name. I can't imagine how a band can end up choosing something so lame. This is more US punk emo, sadly, and it sounds like that usually sounds, faster and slower bits, quieter and louder, whiny and annoying. It's such a deeply conservative and unexciting genre, fatally so for one with aspirations/pretensions to rebelliousness and danger.
[2]

Jonathan Bradley Adam Lazzara struts and frets his three and a half minutes on the mic, but his weary croak still commandeers the song from the sharp intake of breath that kicks it off to the fevered screams that accompany the guitar ringing finale. He gives his fantastically frail voice such a confident swagger that the uncertainties of his relationship appear to take on vital importance, even though the “We lie together, but not too close” hook seems to be concerned with little more than a sleeping arrangement. It is gleeful sincerity with a soundtrack to match; the punk thrust emulates the vocal performance, stretching taut before releasing in a flood of volume and melody, then winding back up to prepare for the next outburst.
[10]

Hillary Brown: Boys, if you’re going to scream about your emotions, could you try to use the AutoTuner? It really does improve the sound considerably.
[3]


Clemence - La Vie Comme Elle Vient
[5.80]

Edward Oculicz: It's the French version of The Seekers. Without the charming, wistfully beautiful songs. Nice, sharp rhythm to contrast with the sweet singing, but no hooks to find purchase in the brain.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: Annoying ironic plinky lounge piano backs a pretty good sexy French chanteuse. Too much oompah in the beat for my tastes as it gets going, but the singing is fine throughout, so it's not bad.
[6]

Fergal O’Reilly: A pleasant change of pace to all this bells n’whistles nonsense; basically a French woman singing things I can’t understand over a stilted piano backing. It’s actually a tiny bit like “Love Cats,” only slow, and French.
[7]

Hillary Brown: Clemence manages to be stereotypically French without a) accordion, b) sexpot phrasing, or c) total lameness, which makes this a pretty charming little song. Its little bouncy melody line and gypsy guitars are very sweet, as is her not entirely technically excellent voice.
[6]


Shawnna - Getting Some Head
[5.80]

Andrew Unterberger: It’ll be sorta disappointing if this is the song to break Shawnna—that should’ve been the excellent “Shake That Shit” a few years ago, if not something before that, and this song is more memorable for its super-noticeable chorus than anything she has to say. Plus, how annoying is it to hear a song on the radio where an oft-repeated chorus line has to be censored? As far as one-line hooks go, though, I guess it could be worse (especially in this post-Laffy/Hump world of ours).
[5]

Hillary Brown: Boring boring boring boring. Glockenspiel? Hmm. Shawnna’s rhythms can be graphed in a near-straight line, but whoever decided to throw in the chimes gets a nod of appreciation.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Trust Shawnna to have a new single with a sampled guy saying “I was gettin' some head” with gusto, and then to loop and stutter that sample until it's the best thing about the song. Unfortunately the production isn't as good as “Shake That Shit,” and there's no Ludacris, but Shawnna's delivery is still a delight. Someone hook her up with one of those super-producers, please.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley I haven’t heard the radio version of this, but I fear it may be nowhere near as appealing, since the whole point of the track appears to be the charmingly candid crassness of the Too $hort sample. TMI doesn’t work if you take out the I.
[6]


Kraak & Smaak - Keep Me Home
[6.00]

Martin Skidmore: Nice (if standard issue) soulful female vocals start us off with a tune a bit like the Stones' "Miss You," then it's into a deep-ish house number, keyboards and bass and all that. It swirls around to very likeable effect. Lovely production, likeable singing, a rather beautiful and funky number that I like a lot.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley A lot like Groove Armada’s later work, Kraak & Smaak make dance music that sounds like the most strenuous thing anyone has ever done while listening to it is sip a high priced drink in a stylish inner city pub. Not that there is anything terribly wrong with that; cocktails and minimalist furniture can be very enjoyable. But when I’m listening beverage-free at home, I spend too much time marvelling at their ability to make funk so polite, soul so emotionless, and disco strings so unexciting.
[4]

Edward Oculicz: Wow, as far as lightweight dance numbers go, this is surprisingly taut, warm, and kind of groovy. The bass springs, the vocal lines coil around a deliciously floaty melody and there's a tiny bit of a flute sample and, um, it's kind of like a "Gypsy Woman" for the 00s, in some alternative universe, isn't it?
[8]

Fergal O’Reilly: Dutch coffee-table funky house-ish thing with a decent female vocal line; generally quite tasteful and pleasant, but over-long and so ultimately bland that it doesn’t have much use beyond perhaps being played on loop on a cable auction channel that’s gone off the air for the night.
[4]


Lord Kossity et Kool Shen - Oh No
[6.00]

Jonathan Bradley Since I can’t understand the lyrics of non-English hip-hop, the sound of the rapper’s voice dramatically increases in importance, which is why Kool Shen’s verse is such a highlight. Lord Kossity growls agreeably over the satisfyingly banging beat, but it all kicks up a notch when the guest star, sounding like a Parisian Paul Wall, swaggers in for the second verse, his steady flow effortlessly commandeering the track. If this has even half-decent lyrics it could be fantastic, but until Stylus ponies up for that all-expenses paid trip to France I’ve been asking them for—purely to improve my French, mind you—it is only going to be about that second verse for me.
[7]

Andrew Unterberger: I know nothing about French rap, except that rap scholars tend to use “MC Solaar” as a sort of musical punchline. The production here is all right, and Kossity does a suitable job of sounding like a French Beenie Man, but without the lyrics, there’s still not much for me to go on.
[5]

Fergal O’Reilly: A tad bewildering, being some spectacularly gruff-voiced French men rapping, with the occasional recognisable phrase slipping out (well, “West Indies” and “Judgment Day”). Backing track is also somewhat gruff, and agreeably intense.
[7]

Ian Mathers: I like Shen's gruff dancehall bark, and I love the one strangely delicate-sounding synth sound after every couple of lines. Once Kossity takes over with some mush-mouthed French rapping the track goes a little downhill, but I'm kind of eager to hear Kool Shen given something Dizzee Rascal-esque to absolutely tear apart.
[6]


Christina Milian ft. Young Jeezy - Say I
[6.80]

Andrew Unterberger: It’s nice to see Christina get a second lease on life—releasing the chilly, seductive “Dip It Low” before the effervescent and superior follow-up “Whatever You Want” was a huge mistake, and she almost paid for it with her career. But this Cool and Dre number, if a bit too much of a “Hate It or Love It” retread, should be enough to give her a second crack at Beyonce status. Sounds like Jeezy’s letting that World’s Greatest Dad mug get to his head, though.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: I'm not sure how, but it hadn't struck me until listening to this how good and likeable a singer she is. There's a real strength of feeling, an urgency, to her singing. R&B has been among the most musically inventive genres in the last decade, and this is a lovely combination of orchestration, strong beats, multiple vocal lines, and an almost acted guest rap—it strikes me as a very strong example of where the form is right now, rather than any great advance. Tremendous.
[9]

Hillary Brown: How is this characterized as “featuring,” when he’s on the song at least as much if not more so than she is? Maybe Jeezy thinks lower-billed appearances don’t require the same quality as regular ones. It’s kind of hooky without being very good, though their voices go together nicely.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley It’s the first day of your summer vacation, which means you can sleep in, and when the blazing sun finally prods you out of bed, you decide to fry something for breakfast. And when you drop that first rasher of bacon into the frypan, listen to the sizzle it makes as the fat starts popping, because that’s the sound of Christina Milian’s new single. It’s not so much a song, as an unrelenting barrage of beautiful summer heat, oppressive and all encompassing. The only thing that can grab your attention on a day like that is the ice cold of the Snowman, a.k.a. Young Jeezy, who wants to… fuck up the party by whining about child support? Even deadbeat Dad defensiveness can’t keep this from being ridiculously great, but Jeezy should stick to trap talk, not because it’s any more moral than stiffing your baby Mama, but because at least when he’s doing that he sounds untouchable rather than petulant.
[10]


Vanilla Ninja - Dangerzone
[7.00]

Andrew Unterberger: Streamlined production, overzealous rhythm section, cheesily mysterious lyrics, and unnecessarily impassioned delivery? Kenny Loggins would have been proud.
[7]

Hillary Brown: Vanilla Ninja does their mix of inane lyrics and inane music, both of which come from different worlds, and for once, it doesn’t really work. I’m not saying I couldn’t dance/fist pump to this if it came on in a club or groove to it in a movie theater, but it would be more half-hearted than in times past. They’re missing the girl hair metal mark.
[4]

Martin Skidmore: Rock with female singers, some excellent keyboard interventions and a real tune and chorus (you know, like you have to have in pop music), plus a terrific band name. I like it enormously—it's probably my favourite rock number of the year so far—though I don't imagine Estonian pop-rock stands much of a chance in the anglophone world.
[9]

Edward Oculicz: Business as usual for Estonia's finest musical export, despite losing their (second!) songwriter and producer. Sounding exactly like an above average Vanilla Ninja single from any of their previous three albums, very similar to last year's excellent "I Know," to be accurate. I'm not sure if I don't wish some of the vocal lines were replaced by guitar riffs, and as a three-piece, they lack a powerful singer like Maarja, but the hooks are sharp and punchy enough to work well enough.
[8]


Blog27 - Hey Boy (Get Ya Ass Up)
[7.25]

Martin Skidmore: Quirky electro pop from Germany. I rather like it—a bouncy tune, bits borrowed from any number of diverse sources (I hear hints of Daphne & Celeste and Digital Hardcore!). Shame about the dreadful band name.
[7]

Ian Mathers: In which two 13-year old German girls act all tough over a drum machine, a tambourine, and some bleepy-bloopy synthesizers. The verses are amusingly halting, the chorus naggingly catchy, the minimalism in the backing deeply appreciated. The album this comes from is called LOL. I suddenly feel very old. I'm just going to focus on the background “boom-chicka-boom”s for now, I think.
[7]

Hillary Brown: There is no point in me doing any research on Blog27, as they’re clearly the German version of Bratz Rock Angelz, only minus a lot of the rock and some of the songwriting skillz. I believe you can actually hear the injected plastic hair and the sprayed-on eye makeup. The unexpected lowness of the beat is a small pleasure, as is liberal use of “ass” in the song, but other than a bit of cuteness, there’s not much here.
[5]

Iain Forrester: More 8-bit than internet, this sounds like The Go! Team if they were stripped of anything musically beyond the basics needed for pure, gleeful enjoyment. Features too many quotable lines to list, of which “Party without 27 is a party without fun!” might be the pick if they didn’t end by shouting “B! L! O! G! Y!” Amazing.
[10]


Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken
[7.8]

Edward Oculicz: I have an aversion to songs with forenames in the titles—they always sound plonked, and "Lloyd" is such an awkward name. But make no mistake, this is absolutely gorgeous. The chorus is so poised and elegant, the drums, the voice, and the kite-soaring strings are like a mini-wall of sound, even though the whole thing is so light and airy it might float away at any moment. Puts the "pop" in indie pop, while taking the "unlistenable tosh" out of it at the same time.
[10]

Fergal O’Reilly: A similar sort of indie-chug to “First of the Gang to Die”, but more affecting as it has a 60s-fixated bittersweet indie-pop vibe similar to that Johnny Boy song what everyone liked. Also, Tracyanne Campell’s vocal stylings are in this case more engaging than Morrissey being sympathetic to imaginary dead Mexicans; the repeated chorus of “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken, ‘cos I can’t see further than my own nose at this moment” sounds so beautifully fatalistic amongst all those lush string swoops and jangly guitars.
[8]

Iain Forrester: Their best single to date, giddily lovestruck, but as a result all the more worried that it could end at any moment (unless I’m reading it all wrong), all emphatically backed up by lush strings and horns which, OK, do remind slightly of “I’m Waking up to Us.”
[7]

Ian Mathers: For the longest time, having not actually heard them, I had mentally relegated Camera Obscura to the status of Belle & Sebastian clones. And to be fair, even this song has the kind of rhythm B&S nicked from the old girl groups on songs like “Lazy Line Painter Jane.” But Stuart Murdoch has never quite managed a backing as ambrosially rich as this, never managed a song quite as (dare I say it?) pop.
[10]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-05-16
Comments (5)
 

 
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