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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 7, 2017

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

Meadowlark, Postcards

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: MEADOWLARKPOSTCARDS: Meadowlark have announced details of their anticipated debut LP, Postcards, which is set for release on June 30, 2017, via AllPoints (previously Believe Records). Marking this announcement, the album’s title track is now available – and it’s a typically enchanting effort from them. For while the lyrics of the song may act as an ode to an ex-lover (in that it’s what you wish you could have said to someone but never felt you could at the time), it’s a somehow optimistic listen that’s dripping with ear-pleasing folk-pop melodies and serene vocals. There’s a classic vibe, too, which bears all the hallmarks of classic singer-songwriter acts, while the belated piano solo is beautifully delivered. Alongside the release of Postcards as a single, Meadowlark are calling on their fans to be involved with creating the official video for the track. They are calling on their fans to write postcards to someone that’s impacted their life in a significant way, good or bad, and send them in. The anonymous postcard notes will then form the basis of the official Postcards video.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Noga Erez

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: NOGA EREZOFF THE RADAR: Continuing her roll of fierce singles, Tel Aviv’s Noga Erez has shared the title track from her forthcoming debut album, Off The Radar, due out on June 2 via City Slang. The track finds her continuing to pack punches amidst dance-heavy beats and dynamic melodies, her words cutting a savvy and forthright commentary on the world as she sees it. “Off The Radar addresses contemporary fears of being anonymous or forgotten, and our indecent urge to leave our mark by publicly sharing thoughts and ideas without due consideration, purely for the rush we get from approval and affirmation,” she explains. It’s a timely point, well made, but done so in a way that doesn’t sound preachy or condescending… more worth taking notice of and considering. The beats are prpopulsive, urgent and kick-ass cool, while the ballsy vocal delivery smacks of someone screaming out to be heard (and deserving to be). It’s undeniably catchy pop-rap that further enhances Erez’s rapidly growing reputation.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Alt-J, In Cold Blood

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: ALT-J – IN COLD BLOOD: Hot off the back of their recent single, 3WW, Alt-J have now made In Cold Blood available – and it’s every bit as good. By the band’s own admission, the track was conceived in their ‘Leeds days’ but recorded in London, including at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, where the brass was added. It’s a laidback offering, delivered in typically hangdog vocal style, with some lazy beats and Heavy-esque stabs of brass. It’s also evidence of the band’s growing diversity, as well as their ability to mix a rock/alternative vibe with something melodic and radio-friendly enough to tap into the mainstream (something the presence of some sing-along ‘la la la’s’ helps over the chorus). The trademark guitar sound is also evident, which brings about that welcome ring of Alt-J familiarity, albeit liberally enhanced with electronic flourishes too. There are times it’s also psychedelic. There’s a lot going on. And we’re really liking the new material. Alt-J’s new album, Relaxer, drops on June 2. The countdown is well and truly on.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Oh Wonder, Ultralife

OH WONDERULTRALIFE: When we last heard from Londoners Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, they were capping an incredible year with a sold-out show at London’s Roundhouse. In the space of 14 months, they went from tentatively playing a first live show at London’s ICA to touring the world, playing shows across Latin America, Australia, Russia and Asia, and repeat UK, Europe, US and Canada tours to ever increasing rooms. Now, they drop the new single Ultralife, which marks the sound of a new confidence seeping into the pair’s songwriting. It is muscular in its delivery, celebratory in its message, and plays with a dizzying array of textures and sounds. The melodies are sunshine and breezy, the vocals sweet and textured, and the lyrics resolutely upbeat and optimistic. It’s the type of bright offering that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good about the day; and it’s great for playing loud on a summery day. This could easily become something of a summer anthem for 2017 – breeze alt-pop that celebrates positivity.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Chainsmokers, The One

THE CHAINSMOKERSTHE ONE: Having turned themselves into global sensations with their singles Something Just Like This (featuring Coldplay) and Paris, the producing duo now return with new single The One – and they continue to impress. Admittedly, the formula here is pretty much the same – easy lyricism, catchy melodies, a sing-along kind of vibe. But the pace is slower, with less emphasis on the dance-pop formula and more on piano-soaked balladry. But the same indie spirit that has informed several of their records thus far (the notion of outsiders trying to escape the norm) remains intact and it’s that, more than anything, that helps them stand out from a lot of their mainstream contemporaries. So, while it is designed with maximum crowd-pleasing ability in mind, there’s that edge that keeps them fresh. And when those more dance elements do eventually kick in (albeit with darker back beats), it’s toe-tappingly, reassuringly good. The One is another success for them.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paul Weller

PAUL WELLERLONG LONG ROAD: 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Paul Weller’s first album, In The City, which he released with The Jam in May 1977. For most artists such a landmark would be greeted with extensive retrospective celebrations: lavish reissues and all that jazz. But Paul Weller is not like most artists, instead releasing a new studio album. Always moving forwards, almost clinically averse to nostalgia or checking his progress in the rear-view mirror, A Kind Revolution (out on May 12) finds Weller delivering a new set of songs that fit the classic modern Weller mode, in that they’re instantly recognisable but in no way predictable. Evidence of this can be found on new single Long Long Road, which has a bluesy, piano-ballad kind of vibe (with a touch of R&B). It’s an earnest offering, reflecting on the past, which soars to some epic heights courtesy of string arrangements and a bold, continually growing chorus. Weller doesn’t often do the crooner thing, but here he does it well, injecting the song with a keen sense of nostalgia and reflection. It’s sure to become a firm favourite among the Weller fanbase.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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CHAMPS, The Garden Is Overgrown

CHAMPSTHE GARDEN IS OVERGROWN: CHAMPS, aka brothers Michael and David Champion, have delivered a new track in the form of the lively The Garden Is Overgrown. The track emerges into the spring sunlight with an exhilarating eruption of guitars and keyboards partnered with Michael on lead vocals cascading almost immediately into a hook laden, engaging chorus. There are traces of bands like James and Delays (especially when the falsetto vocals drop over the chorus), as well as the inimitable CHAMPS style. It’s a catchy offering that suggests the band have recaptured the energy of old, while playfully combining retro elements with something fresh and exciting. Indeed, the past year has seen the pair commuting between their home on the Isle of Wight and London whilw also venturing across South East Asia combining their love of travelling and surfing. Work on the follow up to former album Vamala begins in earnest and The Garden Is Overgrown, produced by Sean Oakley (Rick Rubin’s go-to engineer), is the introduction to the next chapter (which already looks an enticing prospect).
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ulrika Spacek

ULRIKA SPACEKFULL OF MEN: With their new LP set for release on June 2, 2017, via Tough Love Records, London-based five-piece Ulrika Spacek share new single Full of Men and instantly impress. Speaking about the new track, the band said: “Writing Full of Men came at an important time writing our second record. It was one of those songs that we knew quite quickly would characterise the second record, it pins a particular era for us. Lyrically, it’s quite aggressive for us. Sometimes I feel this world is just so full of men’.” In spite of those lyrics, though, the song itself has a much catchier, less attritional vibe. Indeed, with its slacker-indie guitar vibe, akin to acts like Jesus & Mary Chain or The Drums (or even The Shins or Rogue Wave), and its hazy vocals, this has a head-nodding, passive kind of feel to it that makes it utterly engaging. Indeed, the guitar sound is a major attraction, given that the instrumentals are very much to the fore; thereby letting the band off the hook somewhat for the vocals that sometimes are so laidback as to make the lyrics themselves hard to decipher. Nevertheless, it’s an amiable listen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Feist

FEISTCENTURY: Feist has shared the latest track to be taken from her forthcoming new album Pleasure, entitled Century and featuring a spoken word outro from none other than the intimitable Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp fame). The stormy, brooding track is available as an instant grat download upon pre-order of the album. Feist’s first album in six years reflects on secrets and shame, loneliness and tenderness, care and fatigue and is at its core a study on self-awareness. And perhaps fittingly, the new song has a keen sense of edge to it, with an uncertainty born out of the emotions informing the songwriting. Instrumentally, though, the song has a raw, ragged vibe courtesy of gutsy blasts of guitar that carry a classic PJ Harvey vibe. The closing vocals from Cocker, meanwhile, have a haunted, thoughtful vibe that brings the song to a distinct close. It’s a potent cocktail that whips you into an emotional whirlwind, providing enticing evidence that Feist’s new material could well be worth hearing. As the fourth full-length from the Canadian singer/songwriter born Leslie Feist, Pleasure builds off the warm naturalism of the Polaris Prize-winning Metals and emerges as her most formally defiant and expansive work so far. Recorded over the course of three months — in Stinson Beach, Upstate New York, and Paris — Pleasure was co-produced by Feist with longtime collaborators Renaud Letang and Mocky. In addition to re-affirming Feist as a cagily inventive guitar player, the album threads her shape-shifting and often haunting vocals into sparse and raw arrangements.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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