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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 12, 2019

IndieLondon gleefully checks out the cream of the week’s singles

Mark Ronson

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: MARK RONSON feat LYKKE LI – LATE NIGHT FEELINGS: Now here’s a collaboration to die for… producer Mark Ronson and sultry Swedish pop superstar Lykke Li. The results are as classy as you might have predicted. A self-proclaimed ‘sad banger’, this plays to the strengths of Li’s vocal tones, offsetting her ethereal vocals with a sense of melancholy. The beats (some of them with a Caribbean tinge) and synths are as slick as you’d expect from a Ronson production, albeit more restrained than some of his more club leaning material (such as the recent country-pop offering Nothing Breaks Like A Heart). But the change in pace works a treat, broadening Ronson’s appeal, while bringing Li even more fans. The mid-track breakdown, in which Li’s vocals are allowed free reign, is a particularly striking touch, allowing for the confused emotions in the lyrics to really be heard. But it also allows for a near-perfect re-introduction of the hip-hop infused beats, paving the way for a climax that’s, by turns, disco-pop and – belatedly – dreamy harmony. It’s a track that just gets better with each listen.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Novo Amor

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: NOVO AMOR – I MAKE SPARKS: The ever excellent Novo Amor has released a new track entitled I Make Sparks. The track originally featured on physical copies of his debut album Birthplace, sold in Japan, and has now been made available on digital streaming platforms for the first time. And it’s a typically beautiful, beguiling offering that’s actually a cover version. Opening amid some intricate guitar licks, the song slowly ushers in some tender, ethereal vocals, some trademark intelligent lyricism and some atmospheric background electronics, to create another soothing, effortlessly laidback track. Speaking about his reasoning for recording this track, Novo Amor himself said: “I Make Sparks is a cover of a song by Irish artist Katie Kim, from her album Salt. I fell in love with her bedroom demo a few years ago and have been looking for an opportunity to record my own version, to show my appreciation for Katie’s music. I found time after I’d finished my debut album, Birthplace, and it became a bonus track on the Japanese release. I’m really happy it’s getting a release worldwide now.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Avicii, SOS

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: AVICII feat ALOE BLACCSOS: Avicii’s new song SOS (featuring Aloe Blacc) is out now – and it’s a great way to remember and enhance his legacy. The first track to be released from the upcoming album TIM is a sleek and modern song, built on Aloe Blacc’s soaring voice and brightly layered pop production from Tim Bergling, Albin Nedler and Kristoffer Fogelmark. It’s a song that’s every bit as memorable as Avicii’s signature tunes, with Blacc’s soulful vocals providing a powerful focal point, laying down a chorus that invites you to chant along: “We could be more than just part-time lovers.” Avicii’s production values are typically pristine, too, combining pop with dance to create a bright, breezy sound that also has a bittersweet side, given its themes of asking for help. In the personal notes recovered after his passing, Tim wrote that he wanted to work with Aloe Blacc, the vocalist on his previous hit Wake Me Up. This prompted Albin and Kristoffer to invite Aloe in to work on the song. Talking about this, Aloe explains: “I feel like SOS was a song that was probably ahead of its time for when he wrote it. He wrote these lyrics obviously about some of his battles and I think it’s a really important topic to approach and to share, especially with his visibility and his access to ears and hearts. To give people the words to be able to say ‘I need help’.” Avicii’s new album TIM will be released on June 6, 2019. Avicii’s net proceeds from the album will go to the non-profit Tim Bergling Foundation and the purposes it will work for, among other things, to prevent mental illness and suicide.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tom Morello, Can't Stop The Bleeding

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: TOM MORELLO feat GARY CLARK JR & GRAMATIKCAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING: Tom Morello has released a genre-crossing new single in the form of the blistering Can’t Stop The Bleeding, featuring Gary Clark Jr. and Gramatik. The track exclusively premiered as Zane Lowe’s World Record on Apple Music’s Beats 1 – and it’s easy to hear why. With a clear guitar nod to one of Morello’s heroes, Jimi Hendrix, the song also manages to incorporate elements of electronica (around the midway point), as well as future pop and hip hop late on. The second half of the song, in particular, takes you to all kinds of crazy places, turning the track on its head for some genuinely thrilling electronic take-downs and mixing that lend it more dancefloor appeal than rock (with Beastie Boys elements). Morello tosses in some blistering guitar hooks during that outro, too, as if to amplify the crossover nature of the song. It’s a monster of a song. Tom says: “Can’t Stop The Bleeding is the latest Marshall stack bass drop banger from Gary Clark Jr., Gramatik and myself. Influenced by W.B. Yeats, Jimi Hendrix and terrified Ultra fans, this latest salvo of Shred Step just erupted from The Atlas Underground.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bear's Den

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: BEAR’S DENLAUREL WREATH: Bear’s Den have released the new video for their latest single Laurel Wreath and succeed in blowing you away sonically and visually. Much like its predecessors Fuel On The Fire and Blankets of Sorrow, Laurel Wreath reminds the listener how organic, intimate and deeply moving this record is set out to be. The guitars are atmospheric, but beautifully so, while the vocals have a tenderness to them, there’s also something poignant and bittersweet too. It’s a trademark offering in that it’s so thoughtful and layered, you get more with each listen, especially in reassuring moments such as “you don’t have to be lonely alone, I could be there in a heartbeat”. It’s quietly empowering stuff, complete with a rousing, charged finale. The Laurel Wreath video was shot in the Marzahn-hellensdorf neighbourhood of Berlin, which is a neighbourhood that is both home to many immigrants to Germany, but also a stronghold of the far right. It features local actors from an East Berlin housing centre for refugees, and, like the track, explores the idea of loneliness, with the cast living their lives blindfolded, only able to remove them within the confines of their own homes. Brazilian director duo ‘Jungle’ commented: “When we were sent the brief, the last scene immediately came to our minds: Layers and layers of people stashed above each other separated by 50cm walls. People living their lives in the private cubicles they call home, willingly unaware of each other. Paying a price for their individuality. A dreamlike reality where people embodied their isolation through blindfolds.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Callum Beattie, Connection

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: CALLUM BEATTIECONNECTION: Callum Beattie has dropped an eye-catching video for his equally ear-catchy new single Connection. The humourous mini film is designed to offer a clever take on the word ‘Connection’ as it follows an endless, unbroken chain of a diverse group of people holding hands in different everyday settings. Filmed as a continuous shot, the connection between people of all sorts shows a common humanity as they enjoy each other’s company and the single. Co-written with long-time friend and songwriter Michael Ochs whilst in Berlin, Connection is an easygoing, effortlessly upbeat track that’s led by Callum’s distinctive, powerful vocal. The effortless melodicism and surging uplift of the track is reminiscent to the rush of the beginnings of a budding relationship. There are easygoing hooks, toe-tapping beats, sunshine melodies and a headrush chorus that’s tailor-made for getting more than a little giddy with. You can predict that a lot more people will have a connection with Beattie after hearing this and then watching the fun video.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Good Lovelies, I See Gold

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: GOOD LOVELIES – I SEE GOLD: Juno Award winning Canadian trio Good Lovelies return to the UK this Spring with the physical release of new album Shapeshifters, impacting in the UK on April 5. As a taster, the new single I See Gold offers a beautifully disarming shot of optimism. The track actually opens the new album with the band’s signature blend of beautiful harmonies, pop choruses and sweeping instrumentation. An ode to parenthood, which is augmented by a lovely video, this finds the Good Lovelies offering up warm melodies over reassuring lyrics that declare: “Let it go, let it go, everything’s going to be alright.” The gold of the title refers to children… and there’s a sense of wonder attached to the accompanying visuals, which celebrate parenthood from the perspectives of both mums and dads. The lush instrumentation and harmonies make for a completely lovely listen, which showcase Good Lovelies at their absolute best and most catchy (you may well be singing along to the infectious chorus). This newest collection of songs offers a perfect balance between a more modern production style and the musical influences that have made them a household name over the years in their native Canada.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Charlie Cunningham

CHARLIE CUNNINGHAMDON’T GO FAR: Having clocked up five million streams in the last two months for both the title track and follow-up single Sink In, Charlie Cunningham announces his second album Permanent Way released on Infectious / BMG on June 7. As a taster, he also drops the new single Don’t Go Far. The track is signature Cunningham, swooping and diving to capture the deftest melody, the deepest emotion. It’s an acoustic offering, that’s gentle and reflective and more than a little bittersweet. There’s a sense of yearning in the lyrics, which find Cunningham imploring someone to go, “even though it’s hard”, before adding: “Just don’t go far.” And in those vocals, there’s a sense of sorrow and loss that’s difficult to resist, tapping into feelings that we’ve all probably experienced at some time, and can therefore easily relate to. Cunningham’s low-key delivery is evocative of the style of Jose Gonzalez, which only makes the track more memorable. Permanent Way documents life’s uncertainties: the need for intimacy and love, but also space and independence. “I’m quite a private person outside of performing,” Cunningham admits. “There is some autobiographical stuff in the lyrics, but it flits in and out quite a lot; it’s much more about people generally and their interactions.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Tommy Ashby

TOMMY ASHBYSOMEONE NEW: Scottish singer-songwriter and doctor in ‘the perception of sound’ Tommy Ashby releases Someone New, the third single from his forthcoming Golden Arrow EP (set for release April 2019). The track sets the scene of a break-up and describes the raw emotions that can be stirred from memories that associate that special someone to specific places. It’s got a haunted, ethereal vibe to it, which is found in the subtle acoustic guitar licks and near falsetto vocals that accompany them. The thoughtful lyrics tap into the pain of heartbreak and having to move on. But it also has a quiet resolve attached, which allows room for some optimism. It’s quietly affecting stuff. Tommy said about the song: “I like the image of a specific table in a favourite café where a couple’s life together unfolds from the first sparks and through all the ups and downs. Their conversations held in that same spot… It’s really exciting to inhabit another character when you’re writing to describe your emotions.” The song is produced and mixed by Grammy award winner Sam Okell (John Grant, Graham Coxon), who stripped back the song to just vocals and acoustic with just a few atmospheric touches.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Menke, Echo

MENKEECHO: Swedish singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Menke has released her new single Echo, the first new music she has released in 2019, following the release of her internationally acclaimed debut EP, Till Havet, in 2018, where she put music to eight poems by Swedish author Karin Boye. With Echo, the lyrics are not by Boye but Menke herself. It’s also the first release that sees her sing in English, showing us that this is only the beginning of a very grand musical journey. Her vocals soar over a soulful soundscape constructed by the most unexpected instruments that Menke brings to bear: glass, lyre, cello, banjo, saw, guitar and piano. The result is quietly intoxicating, with Menke’s serene, beautifully mellow lyrics soaring above the lush soundscapes created by her sometimes obscure choice of instruments. But it makes for a highly appealing listen – something different but reassuring. Speaking about the single, Menke says: “What’s an echo? An echo is a reflection of sound. For me, my life and who I am is also an echo of all that I have experienced and done.” The track found meaning in the mental health issues that her mother was suffering from – issues that bounce from the person affected to those around them; and then back again. Just like an echo. After living in Berlin for a period of time, Menke decided to move back to where she was born, to the Swedish village of Järna. Because she wanted to and because she had to. This is where she addresses her inner thoughts, feelings and emotions in music and turns them in to beautiful and fascinating sonic landscapes, as evidenced on her new single.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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James Morrison

JAMES MORRISONFEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: James Morrison released his new album, You’re Stronger Than You Know, to winning reviews earlier this year. He now shares the album’s second single, Feels Like The First Time, which is arguably the track on the album that best captures his soulful take on the Motown and Stax traditions. And even though the track shimmers with an uplifting energy, it was inspired by a tough time in Morrison’s life. He wrote the song while his long-term relationship was on the verge of collapse. As he explains: “This song is me saying to her, when things are right it still feels amazing. But I didn’t know if she felt like that too, and we nearly split up.” There is a sense of hope, though, born from the fact they are still together. Overall, however, the song offers trademark Morrison gruff vocals, heartfelt passion and a keen sense of intimacy. The Motown and Stax elements are apparent in the cute guitar hooks and the organs, lending it a retro feel. And it’s perhaps for this reason that the track doesn’t completely blow you away instrumentally. By wearing its influences a little too keenly on its sleeve, there’s a sense of over-familiarity to it. But there is a power to the lyrics and Morrison’s vocal delivery that still make this an appealing listen.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jax Jones

JAX JONES & MARTIN SOLVEIGALL DAY AND NIGHT: Following Jax Jones’ triumphant sold out hometown show at London’s Roundhouse, where Europa – his collaborative project with Martin Solveig – saw its live debut, the pair have premiered a dizzying, CGI-peppered official video for their lively debut single, All Day And Night, featuring white-hot US singer Madison Beer. A club banger that does actually boast crossover potential, this mixes some hard club sounds (courtesy of some banging electronics) with a more pop vibe, courtesy of Beer’s gutsy, soulful vocals. She brings a sense of purpose and emotion to the song, lamenting that she’s giving up on her love with a genuine sense of sorrow. It serves as a nice contrast to the song’s more dancefloor-leaning tendencies, which taken on their own terms work well in appealing to the masses. Hence, while offering the potential for that crossover appeal, there’s also no doubting that the track will also be a big summer anthem on the club scene, from Ibiza to Miami. The video is eye-catching as well.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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