Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The National readies 'Trouble Will Find Me'


Over the last two years American rock band The National have become one of my favourite bands. Their fifth album High Violet (click for review) introduced me to a style of atmospheric and somber rock that I hadn't experienced listening to any other band that wasn't Radiohead. The album became their first commercial success, debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200. Their follow up album, Trouble Will Find Me, is out in May. I cannot wait!

Check out their performance of, "I Need My Girl," taken from the forthcoming record.

Album Review: Justin Timberlake - 20/20 Experience (3/5)


I once had a dream about a contemporary pop LP, in which the majority of the tracks clocked in at nearly ten minutes a piece. I awoke from said dream laughing, deeming no sane contemporary pop musicians would even dare. Well, I didn't really, but if I did, that dream would probably have been foreshadowing Justin Timberlake's third album 20/20 Experience. For instance, only three of the tracks runs under seven minutes, which is hard enough to digest on its own, but no--there's a second half which arrives later this year, because 70 minutes just isn't enough.

That said, the albums longest track, second single, "Mirrors," is fantastic and indeed the best track on the album. It's soft electronic guitar flushed undertones, its beat-box stapled backdrop and its gulping beats. It's classic Timberlake that wouldn't feel out of place on his last album, FutureSex/LoveSounds. It also has a "Cry Me a River" essence to it. Unfortunately, for such a magnificent song, it's a shame that it doesn't end at the five minute mark, but instead adds another three minutes with a plodding assortment of piano keys, soft beats and distorted background noise--almost like an extended interlude. It might be the ninth track down, but it mimics a problem that the majority of the album has and why it's so hard to love. However, there are times where Timberlake's sense of melisma works pretty well. Opening track, "Pusher Love Girl" re-calls Prince at his most soulful. The track straddles a choppy electronic guitar, horns and bulky beats. The beats become more prominent and Timberlake's vocal becomes more distorted in its last three minutes. The drug metaphors ("I'm just a junkie for your love") are fun too. Closing track, "Blue Ocean Floor," is another stunner. It's a rather somber ballad, which begins with an interesting atmospheric reverse-effect before soft pulsating beats and piano keys emerge.

Now, the rest of the album isn't bad by any means--the main problem here is that they don't need to be as long as they are. Sometimes melisma, length and experimentation are mistaken for artistry whereas in cases like these, the length should accentuate and compliment the song not over-blow or minimalise it. "Don't Hold the Wall," has an interesting composition with its rhythmic backing--a nice experimental take on R&B that, again, wouldn't sound out of place on FutureSex/LoveSounds. It's latter half pushes the heavy beats to the forefront while Timberlake and Timbaland mutter beneath the composition. "Strawberry Bubblegum," is less impressive with its ho-hum production of clattering beats and bleeps.

"Tunnel Vision," is nice slice of downbeat pop, with bursts of strings and heavy beat-backing. "Spaceship Coupe," follow on its heels, another downbeat track with a heavier R&B edge and a little more sultry--it sounds very Usher--to be specific, it sounds like a mix between "Burn" and "Promise" by American R&B singer Ciara. There's also a great guitar solo in its mid-section. The last two minutes are spent with sexual moaning beneath the composition and Timberlake's murmuring. "That Girl," is albums only normal length track (along with the '70s influenced R&B of lead single, "Suit & Tie") and seems take inspiration from the doo-wop era, motown and Prince's melisma.

It's difficult to class 20/20 Experience as a good or bad album. Its sound is certainly cohesive and it's a magnificent sound he's a exploring--a not quite so ambitious but still interesting and captivating modern take on classic pop, R&B and soul. But it's hard to enjoy when one listen through this ten-track LP is exhausting and unnecessarily bloated.

Best: Mirrors, Pusher Love Girl, Blue Ocean Floor, Tunnel Vision

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Saturdays Score First #1


It took awhile but it finally happened--Rihanna decided to take a year out and not release an album this November--but even more importantly, British girl group The Saturdays finally landed their first chart topper with, "What About Us," the lead single from their forthcoming fifth album (or fourth if you count Headlines! as an album) and their first ever single over in the states. And it only took six years worth of singles. Moving 114,000 in its first week, it's the years fastest selling single, eclipsing One Direction's Comic Relief single, "One Way or Another." Here's a look back at their previous singles:

If This Is Love (#8)


This frothy inoffensive pop ditty was released on the heels of the impending hiatus of fellow girl band Girls Aloud. So in true music industry fashion, The Saturdays were touted as their replacement. But this Cutfather produced track didn't quite hit the mark--a little too sweet and void of distinctive energy--it made sense that it entered the charts at a modest #8. Even its accompanying video lacked certain something that they would soon exhibit in droves in their later work.



Up (#5) 

Now, where "If This Is Love," lacked in energy and "that certain something," its follow up single, "Up," more than made for it. Coming in just a that little bit more stronger, more polished and feisty--with its sirens, prominent bleeps, heavy beat and burst of synths. The single scored the band their first top five single, peaking at #5. The group's debut album Chasing Lights was released shortly after.



Issues (#4)

After the upbeat dance-pop of the previous two singles, this mellow guitar-backed number was a welcomed release. The single landed the group their second top five and bested "Up," becoming their highest charting at the time.



Just Can't Get Enough (#2)

Technically, this was the first Saturdays single to see the top of the charts. Their cover of Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough," was released head to head with Flo Rida's "Right Round." They topped the midweek chart, but Flo got the last laugh by Sunday--the same thing would happen again four singles later. But this indeed became the group's highest charting single at the time, debuting at #2. And it also gets the award for their sexiest video.



Work (#22) 

After a consecutive string of four top ten singles, then came their first flop in the form of "Work," peaking at a disappointing #22. The single sported a more distinctive urban flavour than their previous singles, accompanied by its similarly raunchy video--inspired by Britney Spears' infamous "I'm a Slave 4 U" clip.



Forever Is Over (#2) 

The lead single from their sophomore album, Wordshaker, "Forever Is Over," scored the group their fifth top ten, debuting at #2. While it's one of their more underwhelming single for me, it showcased a move from their more glossy dance-pop and to a more rock-studded venture in pop.



Ego (#9) 


British pop doesn't get more decent than this (well, British pop by a girl group). Wordshaker's second single was indeed their best single and probably still is. Melody-studded production, catchy chorus and plenty of synths and beats--it had everything needed for a great modern pop tune. It is quite the shame it only managed the lowly peak of #9.



Missing You (#3) 

Another #1 that got away (this time thanks to Flo Rida). Doped with vocoders, mellow synths and a shimmering backdrop, it's doesn't strike the biggest chord but it's still nice.



Higher (#10)

What do you do to the person that's stopped you from hitting the top spot twice? You collaborate with them. Unfortunately, it's not a magic potion for a chart-topper. "Higher" debuted at #10 becoming their eighth top ten. But charts aside, where the majority of their previous singles had a rather melancholic lyrical undertones, this was there first dance with unadulterated fun.



Notorious (#8)

The lead single from their third full-length album On Your Radar was a rather misguided and a little disingenuous venture into dance-pop. From its clunky production to the unfitting lyrics--it didn't quite work. Still, the single debuted at #8 scoring another top ten.



All Fired Up (#3) 

There's no question that with the right producers, the group can produce some great pop. Where, "Notorious," underwhelmed, its follow up, "All Fired Up" more than made up for it. Its glorious synth-drenced production (and mesmerising video) knocked it out of the park. Behind, "Ego," it's their best single, which was also reflected in its chart performance, debuting at #3.



My Heart Takes Over (#15) 

One could have only assumed that after the flop of this melancholic ballad, it would have been over the group. With each single up until this point barely scanning 100,000, underwhelming album sales and no chart topper, things certainly looked dim.



30 Days (#7)

Things continued to slope with the release of their blandest single to date, which peaked at the bottom half of the top ten and left just as quickly.



What About Us (#1)

The Saturdays finally have a #1, so what's changed? The group have an air of new found life, which could only stem from their mildly successful attempt at success stateside. While the single isn't particularly interesting--it's synth-driven production is interesting enough to tantalise the commercial minds of its mainstream audience. Where their previous singles barely sold 100k, this moved that much in its first week, which is a feat in itself.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Album Review: Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob (4/5)


From what I've read, the seventh album from Canadian duo Tegan and Sara brings with it a switch up in sound, which sees them moving away from the indie folk-rock that they explored on previous albums and into a shimmery world of synths and dance-pop.

Right off the bat, first track, "Closer," launches the album into a synth-charged euphoria, backed with prominent drum patterns and pulsating bleeps, perpetuating that spacey and atmospheric sensation. It's great dance-pop, with a blustery chorus and catchy reptitive lyrics ("I won't treat you like you're typical") intact. I believe it was featured in this week's episode of Glee. "Goodbye, Goodbye" follows swiftly. And where the message on the previous track was to "get a little closer," things take a bitter turn on here as they sing, "you never really loved me." Stripping back the glistening production for the verses--where the drums and guitar chords pluck beneath the layers of soundscapes--before letting loose on the chorus.

"I Was a Fool," the albums first mid-tempo begins with melodious piano keys, before it's layered beneath drums and then synths for its Ellie Goulding-esque chorus. It's a great track; making way for its follow-up mid-tempo, "I'm Not Your Hero," which boasts a slightly skittering synth-beat and guitars. It's melody-charged chorus is particularly nice--it's sounds very synth-rock--the production comes together perfectly. "Drove Me Wild," is another winning synth-charged number. Re-calling dance-pop of the '80s somewhat, with its layering of distorted guitars, heavy synths, prominent backing beat, which make up the fantastic chorus.

Third mid-tempo, "How Come You Don't Want Me," feels a little Robyn with its pulsating backdrop. The chorus isn't as flashy as the previous tracks--it's more stripped down--bringing the duos boisterous vocal to the forefront. "I Couldn't Be Your Friend," starts with a persistent high-pitched guitar chord before the drums and synths kick in for the chorus. Excuse the barrage of comparisons, but it sounds like something Katy Perry would sing--even the vocal sounds a little like her.

"First time I saw your face, I knew I was meant for you," begins lovelorn, "Love They Say," which introduces layers of acoustic guitar for the first time, which dissolves into the synth, drum and soundscape in the chorus. "Now I'm All Messed Up," has a cool skittering synth-drum production, alternating between that a subtle section of distorted keyboards and twingy synths. "Shock To Your System," closes on the album on a somber and slightly anthemic note. The production is dramatic and haunting--an aura that is stapled beneath the prominent drum beat, synth, piano keys and the blustery vocal that repeats, "what you are is lonely."

Heartthrob might stay strictly within synth-charged dance-pop genre, but it still has a lot going for it. It's a cohesive collection of mostly fun pop and (what I now know is called...) synth-rock, that's pretty hard to argue against.  

Best: Closer, Goodbye Goodbye, I'm Not Your Hero, I Was a Hero, Drove Me Wild

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Big Reunion: Discography Review

If you've been watching, you'll know that we're seven weeks into the ITV series, The Big Reunion, which reunites six (as of this week, seven) of the biggest turn-of-the century pop bands, which include Five, Atomic Kitten, 911, Honeyz, Liberty X, B*Witched and Blue,  in preparation for a one-off UK arena tour this year. The series so far has detailed the highs of their success (some dangerously exaggerated) and their lows. Here's an in-depth look of at the records that best define each of their peaks.

Five - Invincible (1999) Five, like so many of their peers, worked best as a 'singles' band rather than a full-fledged album band--which when capitalising on teen-pop stardom, is the best way to work. If their first self-titled album was their 'N SYNC, then this was their No Strings Attached, only without the harmony-tight ballads and more edgy beat-heavy pop and rapping. Where the first album was a rougher, Stateside inspired diluted urban-pop, Invincible felt more refined and polished, spawning their first set of chart-toppers with the guitar-backed, happy-go-lucky pop of "Keep on Movin'" and the energetic sort-of-cover of Queen's "We Will Rock You." The album generally trails between laidback-pop ("It's Alright" and "How Do Ya Feel") and the more hard-edged, electronic-guitar studded pop ("Two Sides to Every Story" and "Don't Wanna Let You Go") but mainly takes the route of sugary mid-tempo's--the best being the syrupy, but charming title track and the Backstreet Boys inspired balladry of "You Make Me a Better Man." Essential: We Will Rock You. (3.5/5)

Atomic Kitten - Right Now (2000/2001) While on the show, they grasp at straws attempting to chart the success of Atomic Kitten in its orignal line-up, when in fact up until the infamous Kerry Katona departed, their record was underwhelming both quality and chart wise. The first edition of their debut album landed the band three top ten's with intechangable bubblegum-pop numbers "Right Now," "See Ya," and "I Want You Now." But it wasn't up until the re-vamped version of fifth single, "Whole Again," with new member Jenny Frost, that the world paid attention. And rightly so, the catchy and slightly-whimsical beat-heavy single scored their first chart-topper, becoming their signature hit. Their cover of Bangles' "Eternal Flame," quickly followed, scoring their second #1--then followed the #1 debut of the  albums re-issue. However, behind the success, remains a rather inconsistent and weak album, with its highlights--which were mainly the singles--sticking out like sore thumbs. Aside from, "Whole Again," and "Eternal Flame," only the cancelled seventh single, "You Are" and the sweet balladry of "Cradle" strike a chord. Essential: Whole Again. (2/5)

911 - The Journey (1997) More so than their peers, 911 didn't have a particular album that capitalised on their success. In fact, where albums were concerned, sales-wise they underwhelmed, but combined they landed ten top ten hits. This debut album may not contain their only chart-topper, "A Little Bit More," but it did spawn the most hits and the most singles, including their signature hit, "Bodyshakin'" a funk-studded, New-Jack swing inspired number--a sound that the majority of the album mimics, save for the pure-90s balladry of "The Day We Find Love" and "Our Last Goodbye." Essential: Bodyshakin'. (3/5)

Honeyz - Wonder No. 8 (1998) While, I don't particularly remember Honeyz that well, their debut album Wonder No. 8 is indeed my favourite out of the bunch. Their sound harboured a sultry mix between the fiestiness of En Vouge and the subtlety of SWV. The album was their only release and only a moderate hit, only peaking #33 upon its release. But they did score five consecutive top ten hits. The album begins with the sultry R&B of "Finally Found," and "Never Let You Down," and drops in a bit of hard-edged urban-pop along the way, like "Won't Take It Lying Down," which I in fact remember for its ridiculously sexually-charged video. But everything pales in comparison to the swooning, Motown-inspired balladry of  second single, "End of the Line." Essential: End of the Line. (4/5)

Liberty X - Thinking It Over (2002) Initially being labelled "flopstars" for not quite making the cut on talent show Pop Idol, Liberty X formed in 2001, releasing the moderate hit, the garage inspired pop of what would become the title track of their debut album, "Thinking It Over," they followed up with the more urban influenced single, "Doin' It," which became an unfortunate flop. Like Atomic Kitten's "Whole Again," it wasn't until a later single that turned their fortunes around. It was the seductive, guitar-backed pop of "Just a Little," that catapulted Liberty X into UK pop stardom, landing their first chart-topper and winning them Best Single at the BRIT Awards. Thinking It Over, is a surprisingly good album. Varying between stabs at R&B ("Everyday," "I Got What You Want" and "Right Here Right Now") the more downbeat balladry ("No Clouds" and "Holding On For You"). Even the more energetic pop of "Saturday" and "Dream About It" aren't too bad. Essential: Just a Little. (3.5/5)

B*Witched - B*Witched (1998) While their peers harbour some level of cheese, Irish pop group, B*Witched take the crown. Their debut single, "C'est la Vie," and its denim-drenched video, launched the Irish quartet's impressive consecutive run at #1, with their first four singles debuting at #1. B*Witched is a surprinsgly varied album from such a cheesy-pop group--there some some "what the fuck" moments, like on the trippy, downbeat "We Four Girls," which feature some strange whispered lyrics. But ultimately, the highlights are the singles--particularly the haunting, "To You I Belong." Essential: C'est la Vie. (2/5)

Blue - All Rise (2001) It's hard to pin-point an album that the JLS of their day, Blue were at the peak of their success, but for the opposite reason of 911 as Blue were consistent in their success up until their split in 2005. But in any case, their debut album All Rise kicked things off, launching four top ten hits, including two #1's "Too Close," and "If You Come Back." The album itself is sexually-charged, which meshes well with its R&B inspired pop collection, which I suppose set them apart from Five. While the upbeat balance out the album, the more subtle moments win the album over me, like the melodic pop of "Best In Me," the more dramatic, "Back Some Day," and the guitar-backed, "Long Time." Essential: If You Come Back. (3.5/5)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Taylor Swift "22"

Taylor Swift debuts the video for new single, "22" the third lifted from her fourth album, Red. It follows one of her biggest pop hits to date, "I Knew You Were Trouble." The song isn't my favorite from Red, but it's fun. Now if "All Too Well," were to get the single treatment...


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Album Review: Biffy Clyro - Opposites (4/5)



Scottish band Biffy Clyro rarely disappoint when it comes to their winning mix of abrasive, anthemic and serene alternative rock that they showcased on their first five albums--particularly on the last two Only Revolution and Puzzles. This new effort, Opposites doesn't pick up where Only Revolutions left off, as much as it does up the anty a little. For starters, its's a double album runnung 78 minutes, therefore it's expected that the scope of sound here will be varied and more exploratory. And that's exactly what it does.

The first half of the album is titled The Sand at the Core of Our Bones. The first three tracks kick off the album with that heavy electronic guitar and drum backed anthemic rock that we've come to expect. "Different People," begins with a mildly intense soundscape layered of twinkling synth before the layered guitar work and drumming kick in. The melody is particularly enthralling. "Black Chandelier," is a little more pulled back, with the drums becoming a more prominent, but still harbouring the energy of its predecessor.  Of course, the multiple guitars still come out to work on its anthemic chorus. "Sounds Like Balloons," begins with a twingy assortment of guitar chords (that remind a little of Red Hot Chilli Peppers) but picks up for the blustery chorus, where the production of slightly threadbare guitar work and drums.

The title track is the albums first true moment of subtlety, stripping back the galvanising the guitars and heavy drum backing to a soft guitar backing, percussion and a melancholic melody--almost recalling Goo Goo Doll's "Iris." It's a very sweet track, which makes way for the more upbeat and energized rock of "The Jokes on Us."

"Biblical," sports multiple levels of energy, with the light guitar work and prominent drumming of the first verse before upping the intensity on the chorus, where the production comes magnificently together--including the blustery choir-like vocal blended in the instrumentation, Snow Patrol style. "A Girl and His Cat," rocks a little harder than the other tracks on the first half. The guitars are more boisteous, with less emphasis on melody and more on rocking out.

"The Fog," is the first track on the second half that doesn't quite stick. It plods along with its atmospheric synths and a quiet pulsating bass line--but nothing as captivating as the albums other subtle moments. "Little Hospitals" begin with sharp guitar chords and diverges into an all around muscular rock production. Closing the album is "The Thaw," which is another mood shift back to the more stripped back sound of drums and light guitars--well, for the first half before things get more intense for the second. The lyric: "The secrets in the snow will always come out in the thaw," is particularly nice.

The second disc is titled The Land at the End of Our Toes, which I'm less fond of. Opening track "Stingin' Belle" is quite a trailblazer, with its aggressive electronic guitars and rapid drums burning through the track. "Modern Magic Formula" and "Victory Over the Sun," are just as hard-hitting, with their dramatic, chugging layered guitar productions and heavy drumming. "Spanish Radio," is a nice switch up, beginning with horns which bleeds beneath the drums and guitars. "Pocket," boasts no horns, but is just as lighthearted with its summery melody.

"Skylight," is a beautifully dramatic, with its haunting backdrop, poignant piano keys and acoustic guitar. "Trumpet or Tap" and "Accident Without Emergency," are interesting mid-tempo's--striking guitar chords, percussion and drums. The second disc ends on anthemic note, with the fun energetic rock of, "Woo Woo" and "Picture a Knife Fight."

There's a lot I like about Opposites, including its well-executed mood-shifts and the blend of the anthemic and melancholic--although the first disc hits the mark better, where the second seems to tip over the harder rock of the alternative spectrum a little more. I can't remember the last time an alternative rock band released a double-album--for this type of genre, in which you can only churn out so many different sounds, it's quite challenging. This isn't perfect, but it's a pretty damn good album.

Best: Black Chandelier, Different People, Opposites, Bibical, Skylight, Picture a Knife Fight

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Album Review: Foals - Holy Fire (4.5/5)



Off the bat, British band Foals became critical staples with their first two albums, Antidotes and Total Life Forever. Unfortunately, it wasn't until this mesmerising third LP that I begun to pay attention. Lead single "Inhaler" was an intense and fiery number, wrapped with Yannis Philippakis' static drenched vocal and aggressive gouging guitars. If anything, it was one of the most intriguing alternative rock songs of 2012, for its diversity--sharp drum beats and an underpinning plucking synth on the verses and a relentless barage of electronic guitar, drum and bold vocal on the chorus, wrapped in a slightly distorted scape.

"Prelude" kicks off the album with what begins as subtle alamagation of twinkling synths, percussion and murmured vocal, before the drums and guitar chords join, which become more prominent as the track reaches its subtle mid-section. Then there's a burst of aggressive electronic guitar and a harsher static effect that drowns out the vocal. Following the intensive scape of "Inhaler," "My Number," picks up the mood, with its upbeat and joyful synths and ebullient guitaring, perfectly underpinning the jovial lyrics: "I feel, I feel alive." "Bad Habit," boasts a rather skeletal production with its clattering synths and percussion, before it beefs up the production on the chorus with fuller synths and guitars.

"Everytime" had a nice prominent drum backing pedling beneath the haunting guitar chords. Its clattering undertones is a sharp contrast to following track, "Late Night," a dangerously downbeat number, with subtle bells and soft percussion. Guitars, soft drumming and strings softly emerge as the song progresses. Philippakis's boldly rugged vocal plays nicely against the subtle production. The last two minutes are particularly stunning as the instrumentation comes together, before playing out with a slightly distorted guitar solo with underpinning drumming.

The following track, "Out of the Woods," returns with the clattering production--drums, picky guitar chords, percussion. "Milk & Black Spiders," has a pulsating bass line, with the obligatory clattery production. It has a slightly more atmospheric (almost re-calling that of Temper Trap) aura than the other tracks on the album, particularly towards the end of the song. The accumulation of synths, soundscapes, drums and guitars is mesmerising.

"I know I cannot be true. I'm just animal, just like you," begins "Providence," rocking a vintage '70s rock style a'capella. The production is upbeat and aggressive, harsh and relentless drum beats and boisterous guitar chords, especially in the last two minutes. "Stepson" has a skittering, tongue-clicking backdrop which is layered by swooning distorted piano keys. The second half brings in the strings--perpetuating a very lush and melancholic production.

Closing the album is the subtle percussion of  "Moon." It's atmospheric and haunting, pushing a nice somber ending. Holy Fire, is indeed a winner and certainly deserves its almost perfect score from NME. While, I do tire a little of the scattering production that backs a handful of the tracks--it is a solid and enjoyable body of work, nicely balancing the melancholic, the upbeat and the dark.

Best: Inhaler, My Number, Milk & Black Spiders, Late Night, Stepson

Singles Roundup

Almost Home - Mariah Carey (4/5). Mariah's last... let's call it a "buzz single" (like so many underperforming buzz singles are so shamelessly labelled) "Triumphant" may have turned out a dud to both the ears and the charts--this new effort "Almost Home," the soundtrack for Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful film, is distinctively better. First, she sings on more than just the chorus and the bridge. And second, her vocal is mesmerising--layered over prominent beats and a great melody. Pop radio may be reluctant, but my ears say it's a winner.

When I Was Your Man -  Bruno Mars (4/5). Since I've been away for so long, you probably wouldn't know that I wasn't too fond of Mars' last single "Locked Out of Heaven." But its follow-up, "When I Was Your Man," is slice of irresistible, lush balladry. Poignant piano chords wallow in the backdrop as Mars swoons desperately with those sweet melancholic lyrics.

Mirrors - Justin Timberlake (4/5). "Suit & Tie" was slick '70s inspired soul, but a little damp for a comeback single. This new single hits the mark a little better. A thick beat-box backed, beat heavy number, topped with soft electronic guitar chords and swooning strings. It's Timberlake's fourth UK #1. 

Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (3.5/5). The first independent single to reach #1 on the Hot 100 since "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb back in '95. It's a hilarious little kinetic hand clap and horn backed ditty, but unfortunately, also reeks of one-hit-wonder, but who knows.

I Could Be the One - Avicii vs Nicky Romero (3/5). The last we heard of Avicii, he'd scored his first UK #1 with the Etta James sampling "Levels." Now he's back with the even more intensely synth-charged dance number, scoring his third top five single.

Scream & Shout - will.i.am & Britney Spears (3/5). Yes, it's a little too late for this one, but why not. It's a shame it took such a generic synth-driven number to score will.i.am his first worldwide mega-hit and Britney her first #1 in the UK since 2004's "Everytime."

One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks) - One Direction (2.5/5). This isn't particuarly bad. In fact, it sounds the majority of their other singles, despite it being a cover. If anything, a little unspired, but they probably weren't going for inspired anyway. It's their third #1.

Harlem Shake - Baauer (2/5).  After watching most of the viral videos, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the song (or instrumental rather) that had become a sort of ear-worm for the last few weeks, was an actual full-fledged 3 minute song. But once you've heard the first minute, you've heard it all.