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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, December 13, 2019

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

The Roots, Feel It (You Got It)

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: THE ROOTS feat TISH HYMANFEEL IT (YOU GOT IT): The first new music in two years from hip hop giants The Roots arrives in the form of Feel It (You Got It), a self-described “holiday treat for fans”. And there’s plenty to like if you’ve followed this hip-hop outfit, with some sharp beats, some typically cool piano interludes and a sharp mix of vocal flows between The Roots themselves and guest vocalist Tish Hyman. The mid-track breakdown into instrumental territory is also great, offering a slow-time fusion of beats and pianos that feels highly cinematic and ultra contagious. Indeed, it brings the track to its close. The track first appeared earlier this Autumn when Questlove debuted the song at his alma mater, The Philadelphia High School For Creative & Performing Arts, for Citizen Bank’s Made Ready for Music event, which was then followed by a two-minute Alan Ferguson-curated video for the track. Now, it’s been expanded to four minutes and feels highly contagious, ultra hip and downright essential. It’s a track that gets better with each listen.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Raye, Please Don't Touch

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: RAYEPLEASE DON’T TOUCH: Raye returns with Please Don’t Touch, a wistful electro pop song about trust and honesty, that RAYE wrote with hitmaker Kamille (Little Mix, Jax Jones, Clean Bandit) and legendary producer Fraser T. Smith (Adele, Stormzy, Dave). Lyrically, the track takes an honest look at the vulnerability that often comes hand in hand with new love, as the singer declares “please don’t touch, if you don’t mean it”. As such, it also serves as a warning to male counterparts not to treat women as sexual objects, but rather to only engage in the intimate if they intend to reciprocate the feelings of warmth, compassion and romance that accompany true love. The lyrics really are thoughtfully delivered. And yet underpinning it is a sleek electro pop vibe that ensures the song remains radio friendly and far from preachy. If anything, it’s fresh and empowering, zipping along on those fizzing synths and finger-click beats. It’s a cracking single. Raye is proving pretty unstoppable right now. The singer has amassed over 1 billion streams of her music and has a double Platinum, Gold and two Silver singles under her belt. She has written songs for artists such as John Legend, Major Lazer, Charli XCX, Little Mix, Hailee Steinfeld, Quavo, Normani, Ellie Goulding, Jax Jones, Khalid, 6LACK and Jessie Reyez, and worked with the world’s biggest songwriters and producers including David Guetta, Diplo, Bloodpop, Andrew Watt, Jin Jin, Kamille, Julia Michaels, Fraser T Smith, Fred Ball and Justin Trantor.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bear's Den

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: BEAR’S DENTHE STAR OF BETHNAL GREEN: Following the release of their Winter-themed EP, Only Son of the Falling Snow, Bear’s Den have unveiled a powerful video for lead track, The Star of Bethnal Green. The song itself is about someone at Christmas watching a singer in a bar and feeling completely overwhelmed by both the performer and the performance, as if their entire life, identity and purpose is revealed to them with each note of the song. It’s typically thought-provoking and moving, built around soft piano arrangements and subtle vocals. It’s delicately beautiful and simultaneously empowering. The video was written and directed by award-winning trans director, actor and activist, Jake Graf, who puts a unique spin on the story of the ghost of Christmas past, using this as an opportunity to highlight the current pandemic of violence against trans people around the world. A long-time fan of the band, Jake met Bear’s Den after a sold out London show last year and when it came to making a video for The Star of Bethnal Green, it felt only natural for the band to approach Jake to work on this special project. Speaking of the collaboration, Bear’s Den said: “After meeting Jake and his amazing wife Hannah after our show last year we watched some of his work and were overwhelmed by how gifted he was and at how well he articulated the journey of a young transgender woman particularly in his film “Listen”. We’d talked to him at the time about how it would be great to find something to collaborate on, and were delighted when we approached him to make this video and he said yes!” It’s as moving, powerful and mesmerising as this suggests. Speaking about the concept behind the video, Jake shares: “As a trans man who grew up without any positive representations to aspire to, I know how important it is that we start seeing more trans visibility in the mainstream media. We have seen more and more allies to the community standing up and being counted but as our tiny trans community continues to be attacked and vilified we truly need all the support that we can get. In the last few years, trans murders have hit an all time high, with trans women in particular being targeted. This film combines the magic of Christmas with the powerful and hopeful story of an older trans woman being guided towards living as her authentic self. Older LGBTQ people are so often overlooked in cinema and the media that it felt like an important choice to depict such a rarely seen character.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Peter, Bjorn and John, Idiosyncrasy

PETER, BJORN AND JOHNIDIOSYNCRASY: Peter, Bjorn and John release new single Idiosyncrasy as the third new track from their forthcoming studio album Endless Dream (due out March 13, 2020 via INGRID). An off-kilter love song, Idiosyncrasy was penned by the band’s John Eriksson and follows the Moren’s Reason To Be Reasonable and Yttling’s Rusty Nail. It’s a slow builder that has something by turns kooky and cinematic about it. There’s a tick-tock style beat, some stop-start strumming and a wistful, almost haunted vocal that lends the romance behind it something ethereal and vaguely spooky. But it’s this combination of elements that also help to make the track so intriguing and strangely enchanting, especially once the chorus lands and the song reaches its faster conclusion. When asked about the track, John said: “I think I wanted to write the ultimate love song, a love song that everyone can relate to. Okay, maybe not everybody… but definitely some people.” He added: “When I wrote it, I was listening to a lot of blues from the ’20s and ’30s, so this track shaped itself in to some kind of odd, self-aggrandising blues.” As bluesy as elements are, however, there’s also something ‘pop’ and mainstream to add to its off-kilter elements, making this more widely accessible than you’d perhaps think.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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MGMT, In The Afternoon

MGMT – IN THE AFTERNOON: MGMT’s first new music since 2018 is the Depeche Mode like In The Afternoon, albeit with the unmistakeable MGMT style attached. Hence, there’s a heavy psych-rock vibe that’s also reminiscent of 80s era Cure, especially vocally and in terms of the imagery deployed (from lines like “the housecat knows when it’s time to enter another phase” to “brains like nesting dolls plotting their escape”). It’s very Forest-like in that regard. But then there’s a deliberately retro vibe attached, too, thanks to the ’80s sounding synths and guitars, as well as the self-directed video that is shot through with old-school leanings. For that reason, it’s not the best that MGMT have ever offered (that remains Time To Pretend by a long way). But this is quirkily likeable. The track features on a new limited edition 12” vinyl, alongside another new offering, As You Move Through The World. It’s due in March 2020, via MGMT Records (their own new label).
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia

DUA LIPAFUTURE NOSTALGIA: Dua Lipa returns with another typically sassy slice of feminist pop with Future Nostalgia. A polished piece of electro-pop, this drops lines like “I can’t teach a man how to wear his pants” and “I know you’re done trying to figure me out” while dissecting the reason behind a failed relationship. But the uncertainty hinted at in the lyrics is contrasted by the overall sharpness of the track itself, which zips along on its bed of fizzing synths and finger-click beats. There’s a future pop vibe, too, which lends it a sense of timelessness (that’s also alluded to in the track). The chorus, meanwhile, is irresistibly catchy. The only downside is a mid-track descent into more rapped territory, which is as awkward and unconvincing as some of Madonna’s attempts to fill her tracks with the same kind of rap. The song is certainly as its most appealing and accessible when going all-out pop.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Orville Peck

ORVILLE PECKNOTHING FADES LIKE THE LIGHT: Following the release of his debut album Pony earlier this year via Sub Pop, masked country singer Orville Peck is sharing the official music video for his sombre, reflective track Nothing Fades Like the Light. Directed by Deni Cheng, the video consists of behind-the-scenes footage captured throughout Peck’s 2019 worldwide tour. Nothing Fades Like The Light comes from Peck’s critically-acclaimed debut album Ponyand was recently featured on HBO’s hit show Watchmen. The track itself has a low-key, dusky country vibe, with a sombre acoustic guitar and melancholy whistle providing the accompaniment to a hearbroken lament about loss of hope. And yet, it’s oddly beguiling too – evidence of why Peck has won so many good reviews with his new album. He is an endlessly fascinating enigma. After selling out every UK and North American performance in 2019, Peck will continue to tour throughout 2020 with shows in Australia and the US.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Alfreda, This Room

ALFREDATHIS ROOM: Emerging alt-pop artist Alfreda has shared the official video for her dreamy new track This Room, which emerges as an enticing cross between Sia and Lykke Li. Filled with spacey synths and hypnotic riffs, This Room demonstrates the gradual process of coming to terms with reality. Alfreda’s sultry vocal is woven within a subtle yet lively beat, which gives it an introspective allure. But the melodies are tight, the vocals highly appealing and the chorus infectious and satisfying. Commenting on the track, Alfreda said: “This Room expresses a softer side to the same toxic relationship I was in. I really wanted to make things work, and in the chorus I devotedly express this, but in the verses I slowly start to compile all the reasons it was never going to work. In terms of the structure of the song, I wanted all the verses to have a different melody and style to give the feeling of something progressing. But the chorus always stays the same, as that message never goes away.” It’s a noble message that has a timely resonance in the era of #MeToo. The video for This Room was directed by Roger Spy, an award-winning multi-media artist and film director who has worked with the likes of Cara Delevingne, Yoko Ono, Boy George and John Foxx. This Room was inspired by the works of various graphic artists, mainly Jonathan Barnbrook and Lars von Trier, as the video takes place in a plexus reality. With shots inspired by the Mona Lisa portrait, Alfreda’s vulnerability is visible throughout the video, and the intention of bringing the naivety behind the lyrics to life is enhanced only by the purity and simplicity of her performance. Heavily informed by the use of text, director Roger Spy approaches the editing using collage and analogue film texture as a tool to lead the viewer into an upside-down existence, observed in reverse. Alfreda added: “I knew I wanted the video to explore the feeling of desperately trying to put something back together, as the song does. And I feel we achieved this through the visual of the set, as well as Roger’s reversed editing.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Warriors

THE WARRIORSTHE PAINFUL TRUTH: There’s heavy and then there’s overly heavy and the new song from The Warriors is definitely the latter. The hardcore band have dropped The Painful Truth, an incendiary track filled with crunching guitar riffs, pounding drum beats and Goth-like vocals that can only partially be deciphered. Sure, there’s something about “a beautiful life” as well as a “wolfpack” and “dreams and visions, form and formless”. But piecing together what they actually mean is pointless. And therein lies the problem… for a track that professes to have something to say (in delivering its painful truth), there’s not a lot that can be understood. It’s just noise. And unpleasant noise at that. Speaking about the song themselves, The Warriors said: “The Painful Truth was the first song written and recorded for Monomyth. We wanted to throw all convention out the window and push the boundaries of our creativity in every respect, while still honouring the ‘old’ Warriors sound. In a sense, this song was the foundation upon which the rest of the album was built.”
Rating: 1 out of 5

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