Young Knives and many more
Summer Camp - ‘Better Off Without You' (Apricot Recording Co / Moshi Moshi)
On ‘Better Off Without You' (and if you can forgive the unfortunate expression) Summer Camp pull off having it both ways. Raging smartarses, they manage to present us with pop music that is reverentially indebted to the past, but which has no pastiche stinking up the place and no sense of cold calculation. As Liz'n'Jez are not ticking hip off their fingers like two Bond Villains dawdling in Urban Outfitters; and as they have dodged the retro bullet like double-jointed Matrixers; let us rejoice in a song which could have quite easily been sung by Patsy Kensit were she blessed with stouter lungs and a braver heart. And which has a giddy metallic sheen that puts you in mind of the excitement that must have greeted the invention of plastic, long before everybody decided it was the devil. All in all, a smashing break-up song with range, depth and joy. Even the talkyish bit is good.
Laura Marling - ‘Sophia' (EMI)
This is a song of four quarters, each minute more ramped than the last. But it feels like a dirty trick to start it with lyrics as unsatisfyingly drafty as this, given that ‘Oh I have been wondering / Where I have been pondering' is not quite the Lesson From The Source I expect (if not demand) from one as wise as Marling. And though I wish I had not read how the man who produced Ray Lamontaine was behind the desk when Laura recorded it (it imbues I Speak Before I Can and A Creature I Don't Know with a fiftypoundmaniness I could do without); let me be fair, and honest, and good of heart - Laura is so rare and wonderful a talent that these criticisms are gauze-light, quickly vanishing as the song gathers pace. As ever, ‘a cut above' is a phrase that seems curiously lacking - except to say that I almost feel pity for any stinkpots and suckholes who don't get a prickly feeling when they listen to her.
Dent May - ‘Fun' (Paw Tracks)
Lovely Dent has ditched his ukelele - he put it down one day and now it sits in the corner with a coat of dust, tutting at the fancy synthesisers he now employs. And though ‘Fun' is a damnably plain sort of title it serves well as a promise of what is to come; escalating drum beats where the handclaps should be, the woozy sunrise of the opening, a close-harmonied, escalating melody that talks dappily of knowing there are smiles on the horizon. With dippy solos, lyrics of careworn lethargy and a nice dollop of hope, in the general scheme of larks ‘Fun' is probably more ‘autumnal stroll in the park' than ‘eating a bucket of drugs'. But as with such things, is all the more edifying for it.
Young Knives - ‘Vision In Rags' (Gadzook)
Like at least three of this week's sevens, ‘Vision In Rags' is both intensely amiable and hearteningly ramshackle. And if it is anything to go by, Young Knives' M.O. appears to be to follow their pop-smart hearts - changing up their song so it has turned at least 6 corners by the time it finishes; each new road chosen just for its hooks. By all of which I mean, Young Knives are brilliant because they are doing exactly as they please - and having not bothered to tire themselves out or waste any time being cool, they simply perform loads of curious and lively snippets and string them together, without ever compromising the whole. Having listened to precisely 8726262 singles over the past few years in the course of writing this column, it's strange how few bands actually sound like they're enjoying themselves. So we should celebrate those that do.