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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, December 15, 2017

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

Amanda Mair

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: AMANDA MAIREMPTY BLOCKINGS: Amanda Mair’s new video for Empty Blockings is about a battle of anxiety and depression, and running away from these problems for so long that it’s often forgotten what you’re running from. The accompanying record is a striking addition to Nair’s already impressive catalogue of songs. Built around swirling synths and slick beat arrangements, this finds Nair adopting a typically ethereal set of vocals that are, by turns, as vulnerable as the subject matter suggests, and simultaneously as soaring as the record demands in order to find a wide audience. It’s a seamless fusion of intelligent, heartfelt and resonant song-writing with the type of synth-pop sounds capable of enabling the song to reach out to the masses. Thematically, Mair has described the song as “an apprehensive approach to love”. The rolling beat is designed to echo a pumping heart, afraid to open up to a damaged lover’s ‘demons getting louder’. There’s a promise of protection and security, but will it be strong enough to stabilize the relationship? You’ll be hoping for a positive outcome.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Moby

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: MOBYMOTHERLESS CHILD: Moby has released a new single and video for Like A Motherless Child, taken from his forthcoming album Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt. Featuring LA-based soulstress Raquel Rodriguez, Like A Motherless Child is a re-work of the well-known spiritual, with its origins in the slavery of the American South. The track describes the void left when one feels separated from a parent, higher power or similar guiding force. Over the years this powerful song has been reinterpreted by the likes of Odetta, Lena Horne, Mahalia Jackson, Laura Mvula and Van Morrison. In this form, it’s moody, atmospheric and just as thought-provoking. There’s a slick bassline hook, some subtle beat layering and a satisfying mix of spoken word vocals from Moby and soothing vocals from Rodriguez. It manages to impose Moby’s signature to a song that also remains distinct in its own right. On the evidence of this, Moby’s latest could be another great piece of work. The album is being described as a glowing tapestry that explores spirituality, individuality and the brokenness of humanity and it finds him returning to his orchestral, soul, trip-hop and gospel roots.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Monarchy, Hula Hoop

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: MONARCHYHULA HOOP 8000: Having already clocked up in excess of a million streams for their single Hula Hoop 8000, Monarchy herald the release of their forthcoming album with the premiere of Hula Hoop 8000’s stunning video. Given Monarchy’s long-standing reputation for delivering innovative and sumptuous looking videos, their latest one – the work of Grammy nominated production team Canada directed by Virgili Jubero – doesn’t disappoint. The song, explains Monarchy’s singer Ra Black, was written “as an escape from reality”. “I created a fantasy about how someone would feel when they get emotionally and physically engaged with someone that suddenly appears in life. In some way, I’m always wanting to create music that makes me feel like a kid again. I’m really happy with how Hula Hoop 8000 turned out, cause it’s both authentic and fantasy.” The song itself has a disco-pop sound akin to the likes of Scissor Sisters, with falsetto vocals set over ’80s infused electronics and slick, dancefloor-friendly beats. It’s kitsch, cool and as hip-swingingly good as its name suggests.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Anna Leone, I Never Really

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: ANNA LEONE – I NEVER REALLY: Anna Leone makes a welcome return with her second single, I Never Really, released via indie-label Awake in collaboration with All Points/Behave. A piano-led track, the song is beautifully realised – displaying some heartfelt, intimate sentiments in a sincere but highly endearing manner. It’s an exploration – a personal one that resonates beyond the singer’s own experiences. The mix of piano and acoustic guitar blends well with Leone’s husky vocal style, which is reminiscent of Sia at times and Martina Topley-Bird at others, while retaining an identity of Leone’s own. She really is a talent to keep an eye on. This blossoms in ever more wonderful ways, the longer it lasts. Anna says of the track: “The song deals with the idea of suppressing things you don’t want to deal with and wondering if that’s right or wrong and how that impacts your life and relationships. This is the most recent song I’ve written and the latest one recorded in the studio, so it all came together very quickly. I was writing a lot at home and this one stood out as something very sincere. I discovered the riff first and everything sort of fell into place after that, both the lyrics and melody.” To accompany the track, Leone has now unveiled a beautifully shot night-time video, co-directed by Victoria Lafaurie & Hector Albouker. It features Anna and some very cool synchronised car action and is well worth a look.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli, Perfect Symphony

ED SHEERAN with ANDREA BOCELLIPERFECT SYMPHONY: One week after releasing his Perfect duet with Beyonce, Ed Sheeran now delivers a Perfect Symphony with opera legend Andrea Bocelli. As ever, the beauty lies in its simplicity. For while this version embellishes the background sound with a string backdrop, it remains understated (an acoustic string accompaniment if you will), with the emphasis – as ever – on the vocals. For his part, Sheeran remains on-song, delivering the song in his usual disarming, heartfelt style. The big interest lies in hearing what Andrea Bocelli brings to it – and it’s typical class. His booming vocals, delivered in his native Italian tongue, bring even greater romanticism to the song (if that were possible), sweeping you along on a love-struck high. Bocelli remains understated in his delivery, never fully unleashing his powerhouse chords, but there’s something grand and operatic about the song in this form. And it’s a pleasure to listen to. If anything, it’s a better collaboration than the one with Beyonce. Hell, it even has a mandolin moment that really brings on the appreciative shivers.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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MGMT, When You Die

MGMTWHEN YOU DIE: MGMT drop the second single from their latest album, Little Dark Age, in the form of the dark, psychedelic When You Die. In spite of its dark themes and lyrics (“we’ll all be laughing with you, when you die”), the song retains a jaunty Congratulations-style vibe, whereby the beats are upbeat and the guitars wonky and ever so slightly loopy. If anything, the song exists in its own state of delirium, with a self-consciously trippy sound accompanying lyrics that speak of eating hearts out and more. The accompanying video is just as messed up in its own right, featuring somewhat disturbing images of operations in progress and that heart being eaten. It’s not for the squeamish. Your overall enjoyment of the song largely rests on what you think of modern MGMT. If you like the Time To Pretend sound, then this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for something that continues to be adventurous and playful, as well as dark, then this might tickle your fancy – particularly if you’re tiring of the schmaltzy Christmas songs that get wheeled out endlessly this time of year.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Sad Song Co

THE SAD SONG CO. – WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT: The Sad Song Co have delivered a somewhat rousing new single in the form of What You Make Of It, albeit one that’s couched in melancholy sentiments. Drawing on Talk Talk’s Life’s What You Make It, and emerging as something of an anti-response, this is shot through with swirling piano arrangements, lively drum loops and soaring vocals, that grow bigger with each chorus. The central sentiment of “life is what you can make of it” is followed with the somewhat more realistic, “so don’t despair, look to the sky and see there’s nothing there”, which brings the listener down a notch. But it’s delivered with such indie-pop gusto that you’ll probably find yourself swept along anyway. What You Make Of It is the first track to emerge from The Sad Song Co’s new album, Worth, which is out on February 9, 2018. Tracks from Worth will get their first live performances in January and February 2018.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Major Lazer

MAJOR LAZERBUSCANDO HUELLAS: Major Lazer has shared a new video for Buscando Huellas, featuring J Balvin and Sean Paul. The track is taken from the global superstars’ new EP, Know No Better, which was surprise-released earlier this year to widespread acclaim. Buscando Huellas drops a Caribbean-infused back-beat over Hispanic vocals that create something of a Samba-orientated, celebratory whole. That being said, the mid-track musical breakdown also draws on Indian and Pakistani influences, while Sean Paul drops some typically dancehall sounding vocals. It’s arguably the track’s weakest point. But in all other areas, this struts a lively swathe through the current mainstream scene, to deliver something that’s fresh, invigorating, distinct in its own right and a fine example of why Major Lazer’s Know No Better EP has been generating such positive buzz.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Mikaela Davis

MIKAELA DAVISLITTLE BIRD (LIVE): Mikaela Davis is the kind of songwriter who routinely defies expectations. The 25-year-old artist is a composer of striking maturity. Her arrangements deftly combine elements of psychedelic rock, folk and chamber pop, and her vocals display a wisdom and a ruefulness that belie her years. Mikaela and her band recently stepped into the studio to perform a live session version of her current single Little Bird – and it’s really rather beautiful. The track finds the singer-songwriting taking on dual singing and harp-playing responsibilities and crafting a song that’s shot through with emotional highs and cinematic sweeps. There are finely layered beats, piano and guitar arrangements to accompany the distinct sound of the harp. Yet throughout, Davis’s swoonsome vocals drift over proceedings in dream-like fashion. It’s an assured piece of work that also showcases just how great a live performer Davis is. She’s definitely an artist to keep a close eye on in 2018.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Susanna

SUSANNAFREIGHT TRAIN: After recently announcing her new album Go Dig My Grave, which is a unique project between Susanna, Swiss baroque harp player Giovanna Pessi, accordion player Ida Hidle and fiddle player and folk singer Tuva Syvertsen reworking 10 eclectic songs from seemingly disparate worlds, Norwegian artist Susanna is sharing the second track from the record, Freight Train, online now. It’s a disarmingly simple, but tellingly effective offering, that finds Susanna adopting a reflective, even melancholy vocal, as if aware of her own mortality throughout. And yet, there’s a beauty to the subtle harp-playing and accordion that infuses the song with an element of warmth – and never more so than during the various instrumental moments. It’s a beautifully realised offering from a singer who has most definitely captured our attention. Speaking about the track, Susanna said: “Digging for gold in LA’s vinyl stores, I came across Elizabeth Cotten’s album When I’m Gone, which is an appealing title in itself. A wonderful record, and one of the songs is Freight Train. I am deeply fascinated by how people think of death, as the final rest or the moving beyond to something new- do you find comfort in thinking it’s all going to end some day or do you fear it. Freight Train is such a master piece of a song, cut to the bone about being content with what this life has to offer, the tempo of it all and how some day it’s going to be just fine to wrap it up.” The album, Go Dig My Grave, is due out on February 9, 2018, via SusannaSonata.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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