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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 13, 2018

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

Snow Patrol, Life on Earth

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1/VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: SNOW PATROLLIFE ON EARTH: The second offering from Snow Patrol’s new album, Wildness, is the slow-building epic Life on Earth – and it’s typically impressive. Containing ethereal elements of acts like Jose Gonzalez, as well as the space odyssey elements of the late, great David Bowie, this also manages to retain a signature Snow Patrol sound. The guitars build nicely, there are organs, strings, moody vocals, thoughtful lyrics and a truly emotive overall experience. It’s the kind of offering that Snow Patrol built their reputation on delivering and shows that despite being away for seven years, their capacity for brilliant songwriting remains undiminished. The accompanying video was premiered by British Astronaut Tim Peake (read his tweet here) and was shot at the European Space Agency in Holland. It’s as epic and sweeping as the song itself. Roll on the rest of the album!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Florence + The Machine, Sky Full of Song

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: FLORENCE + THE MACHINESKY FULL OF SONG: Florence + The Machine marked Record Store Day with the release of the sweeping new single Sky Full of Song – but you have to wait for the sweep. Early doors, it’s marked by Florence Welch’s emotive vocals, which are marked by something of a melancholy undertow (“And I can tell that I’m in trouble, when that music starts to play”). It’s the sense of uncertainty that makes the track somehow more endearing, especially when something of a reassurance comes in the lyric “I can hide from the thunder in a sky full of song”. As the song progresses, the instrumentals become more layered, with the solitary bass and piano eventually being accompanied by some beautifully realised string arrangements and choral vocal harmonies. It’s at about the three minute mark that the song really blossoms into life – making an already mesmerising piece of work all the more stirring and notable. It’s a cracking piece of work.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Janelle Monae, Pynk

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: JANELLE MONAEPYNK:Pynk is a brash celebration of creation. self love. sexuality. and pussy power! PYNK is the color that unites us all, for pink is the color found in the deepest and darkest nooks and crannies of humans everywhere… PYNK is where the future is born….” So says Janelle Monae of her new single, Pynk, the latest offering from her keenly anticipated new album, Dirty Computer. And it’s a belter – as proactive, life-affirming and positive as that sentiment suggests. Early on, it’s disarmingly simmple: finger click beats, an ’80s style synth and Monae’s sassy R’n‘B infused vocals. The simplicity of the production allows the message of the vocals to shine through. But around the minute and 30 second mark, the song takes on a more robust form. There’s a gritty guitar lick, more pronounced beats to accompany the electronics and clicks. It’s vibrant and alive and urgent. Monae then strips things back down and rebuilds, allowing the enjoyment to revisit you as the song once again repeats the trick. Coming off the back of Make Me Feel, this only heightens the excitement surrounding Monae’s imminent LP (out on April 27).
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Esther Vallee

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: ESTHER VALLEEHARDCORE: Swedish indie-pop artist Esther Vallee has released a live studio version of her latest single, Hardcore, and instantly impresses. The live performance was recorded at the legendary Swedish studio Svenska Grammofonstudion and is accompanied by a live video (below). Speaking about the recording, she said: “The acoustic Hardcore version and video was recorded in the Svenska studio. It felt unreal to spend some time in this legendary studio. Especially to record it live with my band. And together we actually improvised this version on the spot. This is the result.” Hence, while Vallee is well known for her pop hooks in her home country, this showcases a rawer, more intimate sound that is stunning. Vallee’s vocals are moody and expressive, bringing a greater sense of darkness to the lyrics. The accompanying pianos and guitars are brilliantly realised, especially during the expansive chorus. But it’s the rawness and intimacy that really stand out. And while there’s a keen sense of melody, befitting the song’s pop roots, this is a brilliant alternative [and improvised] version.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Biffy Clyro, MTV Unplugged

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 5: BIFFY CLYROMANY OF HORROR (ACOUSTIC): Although their live shows are best known for their electrifying and explosive energy, Biffy Clyro have often demonstrated that their songs possess an added poignancy when stripped back to their essence. Now, the band can announce details of their first acoustic album, MTV Unplugged: Live At Roundhouse London on May 25. Recorded at London’s famous Roundhouse venue on November 8th last year, the set represented the UK relaunch of the iconic MTV Unplugged series. Biffy Clyro follow in the footsteps of influential rock bands who had previously performed as part of the series, notably Nirvana, Oasis, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and George Michael. The set is rich with favourites from the Biffy catalogue. Machines is already long established as a highlight of the band’s live shows as Simon Neil performs accompanied by a single acoustic guitar, while the likes of Many of Horror, Re-arrange and Medicine are all natural fits for an Unplugged performance. Indeed, as a taster of what to expect, the band have released Many of Horror and succeed in blowing you away. Stripped of its rock elements, this takes on added emotional resonance, beauty and poignancy. It’s a mesmerising showcase of just how brilliant this MTV Unplugged collection promises to be.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Inner Tongue

INNER TONGUETEETH: Incredibly, the guy behind Inner Tongue had vocal surgery in 2013 and it’s taken him five years to recover from that and get the album ready (it’s out in May). New single Teeth shows that the wait [and journey back] was worth it. A mix of nonchalant beats, intimate delicacy, and falsetto vocals, there’re flashes of James Blake, Death Cab For Cutie, Sohn and Chet Faker all in there. And while the pace of the song is very deliberate (and maybe a little too laidback for some), this is the type of serene offering that rewards the patient listener. The instrumentals are intricately composed, the vocals thoughtful and reflective (and somehow soothing), while the song as a whole simply washes over you. It impresses without doing anything overly showy and bodes well for the rest of the album.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Johnny Marr

JOHNNY MARRTHE TRACERS: Legendary Smiths guitarist and acclaimed solo artist Johnny Marr releases his new album Call The Comet on June 15. The first taster is The Tracers, a typically super-charged, guitar-led offering that blends something of a classic Smiths sound with elements of other acts like James and early Cure. There are echoed ‘woo hoo’ harmonies, 80s styled synths, slick bassline grooves and fiery guitar riffs to ensure that this sweeps you along in a psychedelia laced indie-rock swagger. Marr’s stoner style vocals actually accentuate the psychedelic elements, while the guitars retain a moodiness and energy that drive the track into your subconscious. Hence, without being explosive, it does impress on its own level. “Call The Comet is my own magic realism,” explains Marr, of the forthcoming LP. “It’s set in the not-too-distant future and is mostly concerned with the idea of an alternative society. The characters in the songs are searching for a new idealism, although there are some personal songs in there too. It’s something that people like me can relate to.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jenny Hval

JENNY HVALSPELLS: Norwegian multi-disciplinary artist Jenny Hval returns with a new EP, The Long Sleep, set for release on May 25 via Sacred Bones. The first single from the EP, Spells, is streaming online now. The track underlines Hval’s idiosyncratic qualities. It begins in something of a haze, almost throwing some sounds together. But it quickly takes shape with a sharp, seductive mix of ethereal vocals, slick pop melodies and alternative elements. Admittedly, the song does drift back off into some slightly more haphazard instrumental cycles as it builds to its climax, but it always manages to bring itself back. It’s these flights of fancy, however, coupled with the beauty inherent in the song’s more conventional elements, that enable it to make such a different impression. It does, however, remain something of an acquired taste at times. The Long Sleep EP is the first Jenny Hval release since 2016’s acclaimed full-length, Blood Bitch. It follows the Lost Girls collaborative EP, released this past February, and precedes Hval’s debut novel, Paradise Rot, published by Penguin Random House’s Verso, and out October 2.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Superparka

SUPERPARKASKIP: Parisian duo SuperParka have dropped their ultra cool debut UK single Skip. Initially self released in their native France to critical acclaim, support from Spotify and radio support means they are now going global. Skip is best described as a neo-pop meditation on friendship that is layered, complex and combines the best parts of indie with a stuttering 90’s Hip-Hop heavy beat. They blend easy-listening strokes with more visceral moments on the turn of a coin. Hence, there’s a laidback swagger to the central bassline groove, some dreamy late-night electronic arrangements, and some equally laidback vocals to take you on the lyrical journey that lies in wait. But it’s head-noddingly cool, as well as lyrically intelligent, meaning that it appeals to the head and heart as much as it reaches those dance feet. SuperParks are Paco and Simon. They describe themselves as ’2 guys who love flying stuff such as Flying Mutant Ninja Turtles or Flying Lotus. We sing about our bros and potential UFO invasions and one could describe us musically as a mix of hip-hop/RnB & stoner. Roughly.’ They have been friends since school bonding over a shared love of Dragonball Z, the pair are hoovers of popular culture. They talk about Flying Lotus, Pharrell (the Neptunes era), Jai Paul and Madlib, they play a sort of lo-fi r&b led by fat hip-hop drums recorded on iPhones.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ash, Annabel

ASHANNABEL: Sometimes it’s great just to drift back into the way things were. Ash’s new single Annabel is shot through with the same kind of energy, vigour and indie-rock melodicism that they thrived upon delivering in their heyday. That is to say, crunching guitars, a slick mix of boy-girl vocals and a fine balance between heaviness and radio-friendly. Hence, while it’s undoubtedly an indie-rock anthem that harks back to a bygone era, it does enough to retain a contemporary edge and to satisfy both pop fans and indie fans in equal measure. It’s a blast. Annabel is the second track to be lifted from the forthcoming album Islands, which is due for release on May 18 through their newly cemented return to original home, Infectious Music. The albium is being described as an open-hearted collection of songs drawn from frontman Tim Wheeler’s reflective lyrical axis dealing with friendship and betrayal, love and loss, an album which reaffirms the band’s status as one of the most idiosyncratic and singularly thrilling guitar bands on these islands.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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