From Damon Albarn to Drive-By Truckers…
The Subways

You know The Subways. ‘Rock & Roll Queen’, ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Alright’ – the Hertfordshire band, it’s had its share of hits since breaking through in 2005 with a corker of a debut LP, ‘Young For Eternity’.

Now, the trio is a little older, a little wiser, but still releasing what can only be described as winners. Out this week is ‘My Heart Is Pumping To A Brand New Beat’ (video just down there), which precedes the release of a fourth studio LP, currently being worked on in Brussels. The single’s release is well timed, as it’s now 10 years since The Subways made their Glastonbury Festival debut, at the time with an average age of just 17. They play there again this coming weekend, so go see them, yeah?

The band’s frontman Billy Lunn (pictured above, right) has kindly agreed to review a bunch of other songs also out this week. Thanks, Billy!

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Damon Albarn – ‘Mr Tembo’

“There is clearly a joyful sense of abandon in ‘Mr Tembo’, Damon Albarn’s song about an elephant he met on a visit to a zoo in Tanzania. In keeping with the gospel music that Mr Tembo was surrounded by during his early years, Albarn brought in The Leytonstone City Mission Choir, who round off the feel of the track with a bright fog of happy. It is just so bloody lovely!”

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TOY – ‘As We Turn’

“As the track lulls us into its initial phrase, it would be easy to simply say that these guys are doing what The Horrors have forcibly been doing bit by bit since their critically lauded second album. TOY manage to pull off the psychedelic feel with a much greater sense of ease, however, as they shift gears simply by taking elements away, allowing the languid, reverb-soaked vocals to wash to the fore. It also helps that TOY don’t feel obliged to smash the audience in the face with a barrage of backing tracks and triggers like their contemporaries do. And good on them for that.”

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Foster The People – ‘Best Friend’

“As soon as this song kicked in I knew it was going to be a killer. I’ve never been 100% bowled over by Foster The People, though it’s clear that Mark Foster (not my childhood hero and Olympic competitor swimmer, Mark Foster) can write and hold a tune with swagger – and I think he’s totally nailed it on ‘Best Friend’. I can see this being a melody I’ll whistle all summer, and as Foster hits that spine-tingling minor third at the end of the chorus, I’ll be reminded exactly why! And they’re not afraid to let it jam either – nice.”

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Beyoncé – ‘Pretty Hurts’

“If Beyoncé was really, genuinely interested in challenging the idea of how women are portrayed in the music industry and in popular media, with all the unfair expectations of beauty, body image, thigh-gaps and Venus-like perfection (which then drip-feeds into the masses of the dissatisfied), she would make a somewhat more convincing case if she were not consistently a crucial cog in the system itself. Looking down all the other Beyoncé videos on YouTube, one bears witness to endless reels of skimpy dresses, slim legs and flat tummies – and I haven’t even mentioned the photoshopped-to-buggery Vogue cover shoots. This is the epitome of hypocrisy and narcissism. Oh, and in the video for ‘Pretty Hurts’, Beyoncé still looks the image of perfection. Oh…the song itself? Yeah. It’s boring. NEXT!”

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Drive-By Truckers – ‘Made Up English Oceans’

“This is a lovely little shuffle in a bittersweet minor key, and you can plainly hear how frontman Mike Cooley’s poetry, clearly written before the music, has been cutely jammed into the song. This was the first of the tracks I was given to review in this column that I felt needed another listen, just so I could try and grab onto it again – and again it escaped me. That’s not a bad thing at all. This song makes me want to get in my car, wind the windows down and go for a long drive. Lovely.”

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Prides – ‘Messiah’

“Strap on your shellsuit (stay away from open fires), because we’re totally in a late-1980s romantic comedy starring Andrew McCarthy. I really like the melodies on display here, but it’s not really something I’ll be playing on the tour bus. Good luck to them, though!”

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The Subways (online here) do a lot of touring later this year, hitting the road on October 1st (Colchester Arts Centre) and not stopping until November 1st (Norwich Owl Sanctuary). Between these points they call at Cardiff, Belfast, Newcastle, Derby, Portsmouth, Preston, York, Coventry… all over the place, really. Find full dates here.

Related: more Singles Round Ups

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