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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 5, 2019

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

Vampire Weekend, This Life

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: VAMPIRE WEEKENDTHIS LIFE: Vampire Weekend drive into bittersweet overdrive with new single This Life, a willfully happy-go-lucky offering instrumentally, that also hints at something darker lyrically. There’s a summery jangle to the guitars and the sleek, hand-clap beats that accompany them (both reminiscent of Brown Eyed Girl era Van Morrison), while Ezra Koenig’s vocals are similarly upbeat (complete with ‘whoa whoa’ harmonies). But the lyrics, on the other hand, opt for something a little more dramatic, with a chorus that declares: “You’ve been cheating on, cheating on me, so I’ve been cheating on, cheating on you”. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition that makes you feel giddy and almost guilty for enjoying it, all at the same time. But it’s another fine example of why the new album, Father of the Bride, looks set to be one of the year’s best and another Vampire Weekend classic.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Vampire Weekend, This Life

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: VAMPIRE WEEKENDUNBEARABLY WHITE: Continuing their newfound ‘tradition’ of releasing two tracks at a time to promote their forthcoming LP, Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend also unveil Unbearably White, the unofficial B-side to This Life. And it’s typically provocative, or playful, depending on how you read it. The name of the song suggests some form of political or social commentary about colour in the age of Trump. But lyrically, the reality is far different. The song doesn’t actually appear to be about much more than nature itself, with references to surviving the cold (perhaps on a ski trip). But it’s just as easily a reflection on a frosty relationship, couresy of lines such as “it’s hard on the body, it’s hard on the mind, to learn what kept us together, darling, is what kept us alive”. There’s a typically bittersweet vibe, too, with Ezra Koening’s vocals sounding melancholy as he laments the ‘unbearably white’ nature of life/love, and background beats that shuffle along in laidback, quasi hip-hop fashion. It’s another gem of a track, though, and evidence of just how intelligent, melodic and enjoyable Vampire Weekend material is.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Lumineers, Gloria

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE LUMINEERSGLORIA: After the triumph of their UK and US No.1 record, The Lumineers are back with their third studio album, III, out on Decca Records on September 13. The two-time GRAMMY nominated band also release Gloria, the first single from the album – and quickly succeed in raising anticipation for the record. Shot through with robust acoustic guitar licks (that veer towards a rock sound), some jangling pianos and a brisk, catchy chorus, this is a blast of a record that rushes into your subconscious and refuses to shift. There’s the spirit of classic acts such as Tom Petty, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen in the delivery, while also embracing some more traditional Lumineers elements. It’s a song to enjoy over and over, which looks set to put The Lumineers on the radar of even more listeners. A conceptual album presented across three chapters, III is described as audacious: every note, every syllable, and every moment of silence in between is emotionally charged. The album is darker in tone anything they’ve done before, with each part centering on one main character from a fictitious family known as The Sparks, who span three generations in the album’s storyline. Mixing raw emotional themes with their ear-catching melodies, expressive vocals and trademark acoustic sound, III moves masterly in artistic directions not yet travelled by the band. The wait begins…
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Aurora, The Seed

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: AURORATHE SEED: Norwegian pop artist Aurora has delivered another slice of emphatic ethereal pop with new single The Seed, a potent lament about the fragility of the world. Described as “a cry for Mother Earth”, the song is a rallying call to the world to take action to save the planet, whether cleaning up polluted rivers or declaring over the angry chorus: “You cannot eat money, oh no”. It’s a powerful sentiment, clearly aimed at the world’s profiteers and conglomerates who go on making money no matter what cost to the environment. Far from coming over too preachy, however, the track has a vibrancy to it in the atmospheric harmonies, the powerfully melodic chorus and the emphatic beats and electronics. It’s an anthemic offering, designed to be chanted aloud whenever played live, or played for influencers to listen to. It’s time we all were forced to make a stand on behalf of Mother Nature.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The National, Light Years

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: THE NATIONALLIGHT YEARS: There’s often a great deal of beauty to be found in melancholy, if you look deep enough. Exhibit A is The National’s new single and video, Light Years. A meditation on life and the nature of relationships (some of them long distance, others divided by time), this unfolds without any back beats and just a sombre central piano line (barring some late strings). It’s a quietly moving piece of work, with lyrics that make you think about the people that have informed your own life. And it’s a beautiful, tender ballad that just gets better and more meaningful with each listen. What’s more, it comes with a video by director Mike Mills, excerpted from the album’s accompanying short film, which is also called I Am Easy to Find. The black and white offering stars Alicia Vikander and is similarly striking, filled with achingly beautiful images of family young and old. Mills is also credited as a co-producer on the forthcoming album, I Am Easy To Find, which is due for release on May 17.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tom Speight

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: TOM SPEIGHTHEARTSHAKER: Tom Speight has finally dropped a video for his excellent new single Heartshaker – and it’s suitably eye-catching. Commenting on the video, Speight said: “When it came to filming a video for Heartshaker, I wanted to give a little nod to its 80s influence (Paul Simon Graceland and Tom Petty), via the video… I thought it would be cool to create a kind of Blade Runner neon world. Grant Taylor [the director] decided we should build our own set from scratch so it would have its own unique look! I didn’t expect they would be as ambitious to build a train in Hackney! It was a lot of fun filming with Grant, plus working with the talented Bianca Hendrickse-Spendlove (actress).” The track itself is also a gem. Inspired by both Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend, and reminiscent of both, this also adds strong rhyhtmn and African influences and rates as the most upbeat track to be taken from the LP so far. Commenting on the track himself, Tom said: “Heartshaker was written after travelling back from New York City. I was in a relationship at the time and it felt like everything was moving very fast for me and I was struggling to take it all in. I got back from the trip and finally had a chance to write about how I was feeling and had time to process the feeling of being afraid of being left behind in a relationship.” It may be a song steeped in a certain self-doubt, but there are some suitably lovely lyrics about seeing a girl from the West Side on the A train, or “dancing girl watch the sunrise”, while those lively beats and robust acoustic guitar licks provide an inspiring backdrop. It’s a track steeped in classic songwriting values that could easly become one of Speight’s most crowd-pleasing songs to date.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Divine Comedy

THE DIVINE COMEDYQUEUEJUMPER: Neil Hannon, one of the country’s foremost songwriters, releases a sublimely catchy new single in the form of Queuejumper, the first taste of new Divine Comedy album Office Politics (out on June 7). It’s the follow-up to the acclaimed top 10 2016 album Foreverland. Office Politics is being described as a 16-track tour-de-force full of inventive, timeless music peopled with a typically irreverent cast of characters. “It has synthesizers. And songs about synthesizers,” Neil says. “But don’t panic. It also has guitars, orchestras, accordions, and songs about love and greed.” As a taster track, Queuejumper is an utterly infectious crowd-pleaser of a record that leaves you hungry to hear more. Featuring a chorus that declares “I jumped the queue, I jumped the queue because I’m better than you”, it has a playful quality that offsets some slightly arrogant lyrics with a jaunty pop style that’s high on slick bassline grooves, toe-tapping beats and playful vocals. It’s irresistibly fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Diving At Dawn

DIVING AT DAWNTHE HUMBLING OF A GOOD MAN: The Humbling of a Good Man is drescribed as a soundtrack to everyday life. Dreams fall by the wayside, ambitions get cut to the quick and lives aren’t lived to the fullest. The song finds the protagonist at the end of a journey, the end of a dream, crash landing back into suburbia and trying to make sense of where he’s been and what’s to come. It’s shot through with everyday observations of surviving life’s struggles – the day today grind of getting up, going to work, providing for you and the family, and setting aside your hopes and ambitions – a different kind of hero, or good man. Yet, in spite of the inherent sense of realism and melancholy, there’s a bittersweet beauty to the delivery, which finds Pete Hobbs (formerly of The Boy Least Likely To fame) delivering harmonic vocals around swirling string arrangements and robust acoustic guitar licks. And there’s something reassuring in hearing lyrics that declare “it’s hard to get by when you’re living a lie, it’s hard to get by when a part of you dies”. It’s a sentiment we’ve all probably shared from time to time.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Pocket Sun

POCKET SUNTIGHTLY: Tightly is the second track to be taken from Pocket Sun’s debut EP, Sleep Inventions, which is released on May 17, 2019 – and it stays true to their musical ethos of delivering kaleidoscopic, hyper-melodic sound through lush layers of vocal harmony, synth and beats. Hence, there are trip-hop beats, dreamy female vocals and woozy electronics that serve to create a soundscape that’s, by turns, laidback, trippy and blissful. Tightly is therefore a great track to kick back and relax with, and a really nice introduction to a fascinating new band. The Bristol quintet have also released an accompanying animated video that’s every bit as quirky as you’d perhaps expect. It somehow fits in nicely with the overall vibe of the track, though. Pocket Sun is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter GMT, who has been quietly hatching a mountain of audiovisual art from her Bristol home. In 2018, the colourful five-piece came together to embrace her vision, and have since been working behind the scenes on their blissful live show.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Away Days

THE AWAY DAYSDESIGNED: Istanbul-based dream pop duo The Away Days return with a new single, Designed, out via Epic Istanbul/Sony Music Turkey. It’s the first track to be released since You Think You’re High in 2018, which was released to celebrate the first year anniversary of their last album, Dreamed at Dawn, in 2017. The track finds melodic synths washing over lush guitar harmonies, designed to create a swirling atmosphere as a ghost-ridden, dreamy vocal talks of unknown powers controlling our daily existence. It’s a very dream-pop offering, which succeeds in easing you into a relaxed state of mind. But there’s also something very Eurovision Song Contest sounding about it, which adds a somewhat cheesy element that gets in the way of the overall enjoyment. Speaking about the single, the band said: “Istanbul feels like a black hole, more and more each day, pushing us to question life itself. We are left to wonder if everything around us is being touched and dictated by another power… not by God, but something else.” Eurovision comment from us aside, the message behind the track is well worth contemplating though.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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James Deacon, Not Givin' Up

JAMES DEACONNOT GIVIN’ UP: Hailing from Johannesburg, 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist, musical prodigy James Deacon has teamed up with recording outfit Bad Future Records (Hunter As A Horse) for his new release, Not Givin’ Up. The track heralds from Deacon’s awakening to his own powerful determination. It’s billed as a blistering clarion call to those who yearn to give their managers and imposers, their higher ups and inhibitors the two-finger salute and to take their destiny into their own hands. And while it opens in soulful fashion, the track quickly drops an emphatic, hip-hop infused beat and some quasi-rapped vocals to emphasise the determination inherent in the lyrics (which declare “I’m living freestyle”). It’s a mix of styles that’s designed to get Deacon noticed, arriving with an unapologetically brash style of delivery (instrumentally and vocally) that is very pronounced and, therefore, notable. At times, it reminded me stylistically of Rag’n‘Bone Man, which can only be a good comparison to further the attention surrounding him.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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