The Hives are back.

You know there was a time when you could rely on these boys to deliver a straight up and down guitar anthem that in a live environment smeared you all over the wall like graffiti. Add to this the unwavering confidence they in their own abilities as musicians and you hide something of a dynamic force on the music scene. So just in case you were expecting the usual high octane kick about they are so well renowned for perhaps its time for you think again.

This time around they have been hanging out with Pharrell Williams and his production style has left an unquestionable stamp on their material. This time around they have forsaken the energy of their previous more frenetic outings and gone for something of a more laid back…dare I say it…funk approach.

Sadly for me it just doesn’t seem to work. These guys don’t work so well at anything other than a breakneck pace and even with the assistance of remixes by the likes of Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Matt Helder (Arctic Monkeys) they only serve to add electronic flourish by degrees to a track that in all honesty bemuses me as a listener.

Despite this there is a nice surprise in the package with Nick Zinner’s remix of ‘Tick Tick Boom’ which single handed saves this release from the mediocrity which laps at its shores.

Next up is Blake with their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s rendition of Hallelujah, a song that in turn was made famous by the late Jeff Buckley. Sadly as renditions go, this acapella reworking is something of a by the numbers release stripping any honest emotion from the song in favour a glib professionalism that is at best soulless. It’s done in a good cause as Blake are now the ambassadors for the War Widows Association of Great Britain, good causes aside this really is a sallow release. Out on February 25th.

Next up is Alphabeat with their single ‘Fascination’ which sounds strangely like S Club Seven after a nasty car accident with Elton John and a host of pop factory rejects from X Factor. It rolls along on wheels of enthusiasm reminiscent of something from a ‘Kids From Fame’ soundtrack album, quite honestly I don’t see the point.

Just in case you think that I am completely miserable bastard and everything I listen to is crap I find salvation in a rather radio friendly offering from Panic At The Disco and their new single ‘Nine In The Afternoon’ a rather lush almost Beatlesque has a nice radio friendly appeal about it. Fairly pleasing stuff if not life changing in its execution. Its out on March 17th

Estelle returns with her new single ‘American Boy’, you might previously remember her making ripples with the single ‘Born In The Eighties’ a couple of years back. She returns armed with a superstar collaborator in the form of Kanye West. This makes strictly radio fodder but in this case that’s not a bad thing. A pleasing enough easy on the ear pop/rap crossover that shows Kanye coasting and still delivering the goods (incorporating the word ‘bloke’ into his rap, is an oddity but there you go). Estelle meanwhile is on decent enough form vocally and while this will never be a classic it will do for now. Its out on digital on the 10th March and in physical format on the 24th.

We’ll close today’s proceedings with Tom Baxter who releases his second single ‘Tell Her Today’ on March 17th. Strangely likable in an old fashioned ‘lament to love’ kind of way. With a backdrop that sounds like Los Lobos on tranquilisers and a voice not a million miles away from Thom Yorke (although less bipolar) this shapes up as something of a decent prospect if only for the fact that it’s Latin flavour sounds a little different to all the other ‘earnest’ singer/songwriters who are wringing out their hankies on the desks of countless record executives these days.