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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 1, 2019

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

Bear's Den

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BEAR’S DENFUEL ON THE FIRE: Bear’s Den are one of those bands that are synonymous with quality. Hence, the arrival of their third album, So that you might hear me (out April 26) is a cause for celebration, particularly as it comes accompanied by two taster tracks. The first, Fuel on the Fire, pulses and blossoms from the visceral throb of drum machine beats and electric guitars into an orchestral beauty that showcases the more electronic side of the band. The electronic pulse is particularly catchy, getting into your head and refusing to budge. But while there is a pop element to it, which is augmented by the snappy guitar riff that also winds its way in and out, the lyrics are typically heartfelt and thoughtful. This finds the band declaring “fuel on the fire, remembering how to love” over some suitably emotionally charged back-up lyrics, which are by turns bittersweet and hopeful. It’s the warmer of the two tracks and – perhaps – the most instantly accessible by virtue of its charming melodies. But it’s also a damn fine reminder of just how great Bear’s Den can be… and why they should have a bigger army of followers by now!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bear's Den

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BEAR’S DENBLANKETS OF SORROW: The second new song from Bear’s Den is as brilliant as the first, albeit completely different. Blankets of Sorrow, is a self-consciously bewitching song that demonstrates the more intimate Bear’s Den sound and explores themes of familial love and of trying to reach someone who can no longer be reached. Hence, there’s a melancholy undertow to be found in the lyrics, as well as the central piano arrangements (which are beautifully composed). At times, there’s a Snow Patrol vibe to the vocal delivery, albeit delivered with less intensity and more laidback beauty. Bear’s Den create some vivid lyrical imagery (“frozen lake or raging storm, the same damn thing…. the water only reflects what it’s been shown”) to compliment their lush instrumentals, which even in intimate form resonate with the listener. It’s a magnificent return.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Odette, Lights Out

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: ODETTELIGHTS OUT: Odette has shared the stirring new single Lights Out ahead of the highly anticipated arrival of her debut album To A Stranger (out February 8). Co-written with Sarah Aarons (Alessia Cara, Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey) and Alex Hope (Troye Sivan, Years & Years), the beginning of the track starts with faint pops of a vinyl record before a beautiful piano melody immediately sets the mood, which moves in perfect harmony with Odette’s lyrics of heartbreak and hope. Odette explains: “I wrote Lights Out in a really awesome session with two very talented women [Sarah and Alex]. It’s a song about realising your precarious situation and feeling a need to protect yourself. It’s a song about my endurance in a time when everything was a little shaky.” Hence, it’s an empowering track, yet one that also builds from a position of vulnerability (“as I found out on the way down”). Odette’s lyrics are particularly striking: soulful, hopeful and beautifully delivered, so as to be inspiring and yet endearing. But the backing harmonies, the trickling beats, the lush electronics and the melodic chorus contribute to a song that is instantly gratifying and well worthy of numerous repeat listens. It’s easy to see why there’s such a great buzz surrounding the forthcoming album. Odette is also set to embark on her first headline UK and EU tour, which includes a London gig date at St Pancras Old Church on February 18 – tickets on sale now. One can only get excited about how songs like this will sound in live form.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HYYTS

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: HYYTSBULLET: Scottisd duo HYYTS have unveiled the video for their new single Bullet, the follow-up to previous singles, Butterflies In My Head and DWY. The track finds them continuing to explore the boundaries of modern pop misic, as swathes of keyboard, a choral backing chant and a hypnotic drum beat built to a likeably harmonic chorus, built over skittering and pulsating beats. It’s a song that purrs seductively, evoking memories of some great soul-pop songs, as well as some R’n‘B ones. The chorus is genuinely catchy, complete with some provocative lyrics that tie into the bullet theme. Commenting on the accompanying video, Adam of HYYTS said: “We were really interested in it being quite shocking and a little bit scary. We teamed up with filmmaker Harry Barber and basically put ourselves into a bunch of sado-masochistic scenarios in a house on the outskirts of London. Harry absolutely nailed bringing the ideas we had to life and really got behind the whole project. When I showed it to my dad, he was freaked out and said that I scared him, so I think that can only mean we did what we set out to do.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jax Jones and Years and Years

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: JAX JONES AND YEARS AND YEARSPLAY: BRIT-nominated Jax Jones and Years & Years channel Supermarket Sweep in the video for their top 10 hit single Play, out now. Directed by Oliver Jennings (behind killer videos for Avelino feat. Stormzy & Skepta, Chase & Status and MIST), the video sees a miniature Jax and Years frontman Olly Alexander take over the conveyor belt, dodging Fruit Loops and fruit n’ veg. The track itself is fairly populist – but the video is worth checking out. Built around slick beats and playful electronic loops, this is tailor-made for the NYE party-seeking crowd. It’s a dancefloor filler that plays to the mainstream, from the Ibiza-leaning, garage inspired beats and synth loops, through to the catchy but repetitive chorus. And while that’s not necessarily a good thing, there’s something disposably catchy about the track that gets under your skin. On the creation of Play, Jax commented: “Olly’s got one of those unique voices – he commands your attention as soon as you hear him sing – he’s a compelling artist. We had a lot of fun writing this song together and it was great to collaborate with someone so down to earth and open to new ideas. After we had written the song I started building a track with a strong UK Garage influence, as well as my love of soul and house.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Interpol, Fine Mess

INTERPOLFINE MESS: Interpol have dropped a new track in the form of the fiery Fine Mess – bit it’s only partially successful. The track continues the urgent and visceral spirit of Interpol’s acclaimed 2018 album Marauder, with Paul Banks’ feverish vocals and haunted lyrics interlocking with serpentine riffs and a thundering rhythm section, coming together around the seditious refrain: “You and me / make a fine mess.” But while the guitars are as angular and art-rock leaning as ever (often impressively so), there’s something deliberately messy about the track [in keeping with the song’s title and emotions] that makes for an uneven listen. It catapults the listener straight into the song, for starters, almost opening mid-track, while Banks’ vocals are as angsty as the lyrics suggest. It means that the band feel more edgy and experimental than on better tracks such as Pioneer To The Falls or Rest My Chemistry. It’s one for the purists. Paul Banks says of the track: “Fine Mess is about a sanguine and starry pair, buoyed and dashed alike by their own dreams and appetites.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Alexander Wolfe

ALEXANDER WOLFEAVALANCHE: Alexander Wolfe releases his rousing new single Avalanche through Dharma Records. The track is featured in BBC 6 Music’s Tips for 2019 and is taken from his anticipated forthcoming album Little Death, which will be released on March 22. Speaking about Avalanche, Wolfe explains: “I initially wrote the bones of Avalanche with my friend Starling in a little studio in Hackney a couple of years ago. The instrumental was knocking around for a while and I loved how raw it was and I wanted to match that with really self-effacing, honest lyrics. It was written as a stream of consciousness when I was feeling out of control, It’s about trying to start afresh, it’s like confronting yourself and saying, you’re not doing good things, you’re not being kind to yourself. There’s some stuff about self-medication and mortality on there.” Going further to speak about the record he adds: “There are a lot of really big themes on my new album, some of it feels a little uncomfortable talking about. Sex, death, religion etc.” The song is big, foreboding and atmospheric, yet robust too. There’s some striking guitar riffs, a brooding back-beat and a vigorous chorus that finds Wolfe dropping incendiary lines such as “I’m just trying to reset… I’m just trying to forget”. It’s stirring stuff, with some really standout instrumental work. Avalanche marks Wolfe’s return after a short hiatus at the end of 2018 where he again performed the music for the critically acclaimed theatre piece The Trench – a dark, otherworldly fantasy set in the World War One trenches- by theatre company Les Enfants Terribles, of which Wolfe was nominated for an Off West End award for the soundtrack, which he also wrote.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Chemical Brothers, Got To Keep On

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERSGOT TO KEEP ON: Got To Keep On is the third single to be lifted from The Chemical Brothers’ forthcoming No Geography LP – and arguably the best offering to date. A lighter dance track than the hard sound of MAH, this dips into the psychedelic territory of former tracks such as Star Guitar and thereby delivers one of their most accessible tracks in a while. There are chants to back the song’s title, with a looping “got to keep on, got to keep on, getting me high”, which should appeal to the festival crowds this summer. But the ‘high’ could just as easily not be pharmaceutical, but high on life in general, as the track suggests you should let go, feel its rhythm and just have a good time. It’s easy to do so, too, with chiming bell sounds, trippy electronics, toe-tapping beats and a general feeling of letting go infusing the track and giving added impetus to those vocals. This track boasts genuine crossover potential and is a nice contrast to the far more politically charged MAH.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Astrid S, Someone New

ASTRID S – SOMEONE NEW: Rising pop star Astrid S releases Someone New, out now via Virgin EMI Records / Universal Music Norway, and continues to make a good impression. The track, co-written by Charli XCX [which shows], is a catchy, melodic pop anthem with an energetic bassline that’s paired perfectly with the Norwegian pop star’s stand-out vocal talent. There are some sharp melodic hooks, a catchy chorus and a keen mix of the euphoric and the humble. Astrid says of the track: “Someone New is a song about being a little obsessed with an ex. I wanted it to sound a bit childish and desperate, but still have a chorus you can sing along to in your car. I made it with Noonie Bao, Charli XCX, Jakob Hazell and Svante Halldin. I’m very excited for people to hear it.” The obsessiveness comes in a confessional sense (“I can’t stop myself from thinking about you”), while also being drenched in melancholy (“but you’re thinking about someone new”). But it’s that bittersweet juxtaposition that makes the song so striking… and where it’s easy to find the influence of Charli XCX, whose assistance here looks virtually guaranteed to help land Astrid S a well deserved super smash hit single. Someone New is Astrid’s first release of 2019 and comes just off the back of a successful tour of UK and Europe with Years & Years.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Kawala, runaway

KAWALARUNAWAY: Kawala return with a spring in their step in 2019 with the release of their new single Runaway, through Mahogany Records. Speaking about the track, Kawala explain: “With our new single, Runaway, we wanted to start the new year with something more upbeat, rhythmic and dancey. While we’ve maintained a strong running theme of journey and exploration, we’ve also managed to pair that with a video about space aliens and monsters, obviously.” There’s a tremendous sense of energy to the song, with an almost African intensity to it, which is married to some radio friendly ‘pop’ sensibilities. It’s also a song that’s high on positivity, boasting no-nonsense lyrics such as “I’m on an A train and I won’t be wasting my time”. Hence, that energy is married to a sense of optimism that is empowering to boot. It’s a welcome return from Kawala. Runaway is the second single to be taken from their forthcoming sophomore EP, Counting The Miles.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Heather Woods Broderick

HEATHER WOODS BRODERICKWHERE I LAY: Oregon-based artist Heather Woods Broderick will release her new album Invitation on April 19 via Western Vinyl. The cinematic first single from the record, Where I Lay, is streaming online now. Laden with beguiling baroque-pop, Where I Lay is a powerful anthem whose immense drums and persistent piano are sincerely pained, delivering a strong centrepiece for the upcoming album. It’s evocative of the ethereal pop tendencies of acts like Lykke Li (no small compliment), while also being distinct enough in its own right to help Broderick standout. Speaking about the new track, Heather said: “Where I Lay is really a poem about the impermanence of all things. So many of our questions will remain unanswered but if we slow down and appreciate things as they are it can provide a simplicity and an ease that inspires wonder amidst the chaos.” The lyrics are thought-provoking, for sure. But it’s the way they’re surrounded by such cinematic instrumental arrangements that helps them to standout. The electronics and pianos are stirring, indeed, while the percussion is suitably brooding and nicely layered, so as to give the electronics and Broderick’s striking, ethereal vocals the biggest focus. The chorus really sweeps you along.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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