SINGLE REVIEWS: February 2015 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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A mixed bag of singles this month, and an issue to ponder this New Year: what are the British doing to folk music? Two of this month’s singles rest entirely on a dull notion of what folk music is and can be, a bland gesture towards the genre’s clichés: mainly, the creepiness of the outdoors. First, Stornoway’s The Road You Didn’t Take has an uninteresting guitar pattern, with the vagueness of the lyrics matched only by the singer’s smugness.

But smugness is preferable to self-pity, which is about all Bear’s Den manage to muster on Think Of England. With sparse, ponderous guitars, an irritating hand-clap drumbeat and weak, floaty vocals, the song never gets going.

If Bear’s Den and Stornoway smack of fastidious self-regard then thankfully Chloe Chadwick’s Settle Your Heart shows an artist with a simple and disarming affinity for her music. Hailing from Sunderland, Chadwick’s lyrical craft may border on the contrived, but the stirring, acoustic-led rhythm and the passion of the performance are undeniable.

Helsinki’s Rising Heights was a welcome surprise. Starting breezily with a country lilt in the weightless rhythm, then shifting with genuinely psychedelic weirdness into a nauseating carousel. The inoffensive smile of the first verse mutating into a maniacal grin.

Withered Hand’s latest, King Of Hollywood, is also worth a listen. The accordion-led melody, evoking Lorde’s twisted cover of All Apologies, is plaintive, if a little aimless. Neither the singer nor the music quite grasp what they want to say, until a guitar solo opens an instrumental that says everything.

The best moment on this batch of singles comes on Horse Party’s spiky Out Of Sight. The distorted bass and guitar set an insistent, pressing rhythm and when Ellie Langley sings “Dead in the water”, leaving the line hanging before repeating it, it’s intimidating.

The chirpy instrumentation of Lonelady’s indie-dance excursion Bunkerpop can be irritating, but there are hypnotic passages: the world of the song rushing past the singer quicker than she can keep up with.

Finally, the affably generic rock and roll of Durham’s The Hazels with In Control. Over a searing guitar and fuzz-tone bass, the singer strains for a drama he can’t quite convey. But the bravura and the passion create momentum nonetheless.

You can listen to all the tunes on a handy playlist now on our Soundcloud page!

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