In our new feature for 2017, each week we will take five new tracks, and ask our three guest reviewers to give them a few spins and then air their opinions as to whether they deserve a big walloping Yes, or just a big fat No from them.
This week's panel: Sam Geary - Little Indie contributor; vocalist with band Surge and freelance writer George King; Earworm Events promoter Deb Highfield.
THE LIGHTNING YEAR - ENDLESS MEMORY
This single from The Lightning Year - the former solo project of south-London-based musician Matt Bishop, now expanded to a five-piece - originally saw light of day last year. Described as “a brooding rumination on a one night stand that you can’t get out of your head, and the admission that this one person and one night will stay in your head forever, for better or worse", it now returns for a 2017 release on new label Nice Swan Records. Shimmering guitar, synth hooks hypnotic post-punk percussion, effervescent key/synth line.
Sam Geary: Nice intro, good 'clicky' tune, but shaving off 30 seconds might have helped tighten it a bit as it tends to drag. 3/5
George King: A beautiful and icy, reverb-ladened track that encapsulates your attention almost instantly thanks to its promising, drum-galloping start. It's a stunning, glimmering soundscape that's sonically picturesque. Shame it doesn't really go anywhere. 3/5
Deb Highfield: I really like the instrumental on this, but on first listen I was a bit disappointed with the slightly saccharine vocals. It quickly grew on me though, and is a fabulously catchy, dreamy synth-pop song. 4/5
Total score: 10/15
NIGHT GAMES - REPLICANT
London sibling duo Paul & Constance follow up 'Faithless' from early last year with the dark yet ethereal vibe of this new crisp, electronica track produced by Grammy nominee Bryan Wilson.
SG: London Grammar vibe here. Constance has a voice you can get lost in. 3.5/5
GK: Despite having a chorus that boasts the qualities of a good earworm, this track somehow fails in its bid to manifest itself in your skull for days to come. It does, however, harness a relevant sound that’s very, ‘now’ and therefore is still more likely to break the Top 40 before any of my band’s tracks do, but it’s not for me I’m afraid. 2.5/5
DH: This is a lush-sounding electro-pop song - very chilled. A bit too chilled me - just a personal taste thing. One for the early hours I think. 3/5
Total score: 9/15
STRONG ASIAN MOTHERS - JUST ANOTHER
New single of skittering electronics, vocal samples, and an undeniable groove by the London trio, taken from upcoming EP 'Animal', self-released on March 17, once again tying together influences from hip-hop and trap, along with ebullient pop sensibilities.
SG: The Mums are always interesting in what they turn out, that manages to cross several genres. This is a mother of a tune. 4.5/5
GK: Well, it definitely sounds impossible to pigeon-hole Strong Asian Mothers. On this track, their genre blend of almost everything modern and popular epitomises uniqueness, but also somehow manages to exude a sense of timelessness. Maybe they’re time-travellers? 4/5
DH: I like the mix of synth sounds on this and how they work with the vocals. The start of the song builds really well, but I was hoping for a bit more attitude in it. 3.5/5
Total score: 12/15
SUMMER MOON - HAPPENIN'
Side project of Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture with Jane’s Addiction’s Stephen Perkins, Uh Huh Her’s Camila Grey, and the Airborne Toxic Event’s Noah Harmon. From their debut album - 'With You Tonight' out February 24 on DTF/Membran - comes this chugging single cut.
SG: As not a fan of any of the members' respective other bands, I'm not surprised this doesn't move me either. 2.5/5
GK: This track is certainly more of an interest to me than this Roundtable’s predecessors, due to its slightly loose, but also regimented bass and drum driven sound. It’s not made for massive festival stages, but arguably never were the Strokes. But it’ll definitely put Nikolai back within touching distance of his fans. 3/5
DH: This has a bit of a motorik feel to it and a really cool sparseness. I really like the staccato drumming and the slightly distorted repetitive vocals. Sounds ace. 4.5/5
Total score: 10/15
GLASS PEAKS - SPEAK AND SPELL
Second single release by Bexley, Kent-based melancholic-alt-pop four-piece, out last week on Wham Head Records. Produced by Kristofer Harris (Bear's Den, Clock Opera, Smoke Fairies) and premiered by Huw Stephens on Radio 1, it intertwines between raucous hooks and desolate eloquence in equal measure.
SG: Another with a good intro. Moves along nicely, and I like the vocals, but spoilt rather for me by the rock-out end. Definite radio-friendly appeal. 4/5
GK: It’s got an awesome introduction worthy of Brummy band PEACE and a great, heavy guitar thumping outro-instrumental to boot, but sadly, everything in between just falls a little flat. But if it’s good enough for Huw Stephens, then who am I to judge? 2.5/5
DH: This is clearly a band that wears its influences on its sleeve - that’s a good thing as there’s lots of bands I love in there. It’s quite anthemic and very atmospheric, but I’d like it a notch darker. 4.5/5
Total score: 11/15