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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 27, 2018

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

Jason Mraz

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: JASON MRAZHAVE IT ALL: “May you always know the meaning of the word, happiness”… so sings Jason Mraz during his latest, happy-go-lucky single Have It All. And it’s a joyous offering. Backed by some breezy acoustic guitar licks, a toe-tapping beat and Mraz’s typically upbeat, vibrant vocals, this puts a smile on your face from the moment it starts and keeps it there for the duration. It’s an endlessly positive song (“may you win prizes, shining like diamonds”/“here’s to the hearts that you’re going to break, here’s to the lives that you’re going to change”) that brashly proclaims: “I want you to have it all.” There is a sly, bittersweet undertow stemming from the fact that the person Mraz wants to have it all may not always be in his life. But it’s inspiring nonetheless. Have It All was written by Mraz with David Hodges (Christina Perri, Kelly Clarkson) and JKash (Maroon 5, Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor) in collaboration with his friends in Raining Jane. The track was originally conceived after Mraz received and translated a blessing from a Buddhist monk during a moving visit to Myanmar in 2012. However, current events compelled him to bring Have It All fully to life at last. “The world had changed a lot since 2012,” Mraz says. “More people are marching for their freedoms and equality; to be seen and heard. Activism is back in style. I wrote a lot of frustrated, angry, even sad songs between then and now, but nothing I wanted to come forward with; nothing I wanted to sing. Have It All stood out as a song with a hopeful message to help me heal and move forward; a song with a message of generosity – the antithesis of despondency; a song bestowed to me by translating a message from a monk. It’s a blessing disguised as a rap song and it’s meant to be paid-forward and shared.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran, Happier

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: ED SHEERANHAPPIER: Ed Sheeran has unveiled his new single, Happier, alongside his Emil Nava-produced accompanying official video. Lifted from Sheeran’s record-breaking, 14 million-selling third studio album ÷, the track is accompanied by a brilliant visual from Emil Nava (Eminem, Rihanna), who has worked on many of Ed’s official videos since the start of his career. Shot to the backdrop of New York and following the song’s emotive narrative, we see Ed’s lookalike puppet, which made its debut in the official video for Sing, return for yet another show-stealing performance in the accompanying video. The song itself is a typically heartfelt, disarmingly simple offering. A confessional ballad of sorts (“aint nobody hurts you like I do”), it nevertheless retains a sense of hope in its lyrics with lines like “I know I was happier with you”. The backing harmonies build nicely, culminating in an epic finale in which the acoustic guitars and drum loops work together brilliantly. Happier, for all of its bittersweet sentiments, is a rowsing slow builder that showcases Sheeran at his best yet again.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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NONONO

NONONOFRIENDS (ACOUSTIC): Swedish alt-pop powerhouse Nonono have released an acoustic version of their latest single Friends – and it’s every bit as brilliant as the original. This acoustic performance was recorded at Atlantis studios in Stockholm and is accompanied by a live video, stripping the original track back with stunning effect. The original version was released on March 23, when IndieLondon described it as “an empowering electro-pop anthem with ethereal elements”, adding: “It has an undeniable energy, born from a central hook that’s really catchy. But the finger-flick beats work well, too, as do the ethereal vocals that come alive during the chorus that proclaims “I need a little bit of help from my friends… I’ll be just fine”.” In acoustic form, Stinja Wappling vocals really resonate, and are truly emotive, while the acoustic layering is subtle but beautifully realised. It takes an already great track and transforms it into something that’s by turns more intimate, striking in a different way and equally as memorable.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mike Shinoda

MIKE SHINODA feat BLACKBEARABOUT YOU: Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda continues with his policy of penning brutally honest songs following the death of band made Chester Bennington last year. New offering About You, featuring Blackbear, is an introspective look at Shinoda’s feelings, even though he denies they’re directly about Bennington’s death. Featuring lyrics like “I buckled up, told myself to suck it up, I was scared to death to get up there and spill my fucking guts”, it wears its anguish and hurt on its chest, even dropping edgy percussion and blitzing synths early on. But once Shinoda curtails his own lyrical flow, Blackbear adds some more poignant lyrics and eases the track into a mellower close. But the confusion, pain and anxiety of Shinoda’s tumultuous life, post Bennington, is evident for all to hear, with a chorus that laments: “All of a sudden it’s about you, Even when it’s not about you.” It’s raw, powerful stuff. The track will appear on Shinoda’s debut solo album, Post Traumatic, which is due out on June 15.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Aloe Blacc, Brooklyn In The Summer

ALOE BLACCBROOKLYN IN THE SUMMER: With a name like Brooklyn In The Summer, you’d expect the new single from Aloe Blacc to be, well, summery (ie, breezy, upbeat, positive). And you’d be correct. With upbeat piano chords, breezy soul-infused vocals and toe-tapping beats, this becomes progressively more bright and positive the longer it lasts. Its designed as a love letter to NYC, as well as the joy of being in love, and it ticks all the right boxes for doing so. It’s destined to become a soundtrack moment, as well as a summer anthem, especially for anyone with an appreciation for the Big Apple and Brooklyn itself. They’ll know what Blacc is singing about. Co-written by Blacc, Brooklyn in the Summer is the first single to be announced off Blacc’s new album, which will be released on XIX Recordings/Interscope Records later this year. Commenting on the track himself, Blacc said: “Brooklyn in the Summer is a soulful ballad that reminds me of classics like Al Green‘s Let’s Stay Together and Earth Wind & Fire’s After the Love Has Gone. If you’ve ever fallen deep in love you can relate. If you haven’t yet, then this is what real love feels like.” Well said!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Hilary Woods. Photo by Joshua Wright

HILARY WOODSBLACK RAINBOW: With debut album Colt set for release on June 8 via Sacred Bones, Dublin multi-disciplinary artist Hilary Woods is sharing a new single, Black Rainbow, as a taster. And it’s beautifully beguiling. Speaking about the new track, Woods said: “Black Rainbow was so named because I loved that image, the idea that when that’s all one can see overhead / when a relationship is dying between two people that once loved each other very much – there is no choice but to believe that there is something better for you at the end of it all.” The melancholy inherent in that description is evident in the song, with a sad but still beautiful piano and string arrangement providing a cinematic backdrop to the lyrics. Woods, meanwhile, drops a tender, vaguely ethereal and entirely heartbroken vocal, which only adds to the fantastic impression this song leaves. After the release of two critically acclaimed EPs, Woods spent 2017 writing and recording songs on an eight-track in an abandoned flat she was living in at the time. Layering piano, synth, tape machine, field recordings, vocals, drone, unadorned beats, and old string instruments, these songs culminate in her debut solo LP, Colt. Straddling the acoustic and electronic worlds, Colt is an intensely personal journey through grief, abandonment, and mutating love. Woods navigates this journey with a lyrical potency that cuts through stark piano, sensuous synth work, and textural acoustics. Somewhere between Marissa Nadler, Grouper and Julee Cruise, these songs evoke both the anguish of their content and the ecstasy of their craft.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kyle Falconer, Poor Me

KYLE FALCONERPOOR ME: After five hit albums, a Mercury Prize nomination and countless sold-out shows with The View, the band’s frontman Kyle Falconer now drops his debut single Poor Me on Riverman Records. Sweeping cinematic strings are prevalent in the track, which grows in anthemic intensity before Falconer’s distinctive vocals explode in a visceral roar of emotion. Its chorus is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.” “Every day you get triggers and traumas stuck in your head, and you’re hearing all of these horrible stories,” reflects Falconer. “You want to hear it, but at the same time you’re thinking, ‘I’m here to help myself but I’ve got to listen to everyone else’s story.’ It’s quite hard to hear, and I was thinking that a lot of these people were worse off than me.” A weighty subject matter is nontheless delivered in rousing fashion, combining those impassioned [but still distinct] Falconer vocals with stirring strings and, belatedly, some indie-esque guitars. Falconer really gives it his all towards the end of the song, belting out the lyrics in impassioned fashion and bringing the song to a rousing, rock-style close, before then stripping it down for a final, strings-backed thought. It’s a stirring song and evidence that Falconer looks well equipped to flourish as a solo star.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Plan B, Stranger

PLAN B – STRANGER: Plan B has unveiled a striking new video to Stranger, taken from his forthcoming new album Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose, which releases on May 4 via Atlantic Records. The video features a couple of dancers in a white, body-hugging sheet, moving in eye-catching ways. Their features are obscured. But they mesmerise by virtue of their striking moves. The song itself is an impassioned slice of soul that explores themes of self-identity and confidence within the wider context of a relationship, featuring lines like “you treat me like a stranger, but I guess that aint no different to how I treat myself”. Ben Drew’s vocals are as emotive and soulful as ever, while the background instrumentals combine pianos, synths and strings to increasingly stirring effect. It’s another highly impressive offering from Plan B.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Liines, Cold

LIINESCOLD: Liines are Zoe McVeigh (vocals/guitar), Tamsin Middleton (bass) and Leila O’Sullivan (drums). Cold is the latest and final single to be taken from their forthcoming debut album, Stop – Start, which follows on May 4 via Reckless Yes Records. Stop – Start is described as an album that bridges the gap between Riot Grrrl, alt-rock, new-wave and post-punk. Cold therefore offers a punchy musicality that sits somewhere between alt-rock and punk, while its addictive drum loop and repetitive guitar riffs – alongside Zoe McVeigh’s ever emotive delivery and raw lyrical honesty – are reminiscent of the brooding and angular post-punk of Joy Division. It’s an acquired taste given its alt-rock, post-punk energy, and raw vocal style. But there’s no denying that the song has a gutsy intensity that’s difficult to ignore. As a statement of intent, it does the job in a highly effective manner. McVeigh says of the song: “I originally wrote this with a drum machine and an acoustic guitar. I played the drum loop through an iPad, pressed record on my phone then played the guitar over it. I then played the recorded version, set record on my iPad then overlaid the guitar in a sort of back and forth way. It sounds almost like the xx on the demo. When this was taken to rehearsal, it really came alive.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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