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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 21, 2020

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

Biffy Clyro

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BIFFY CLYROINSTANT HISTORY: Biffy Clyro make a typically sensational return with their new single Instant History, which is the first track to preview their forthcoming eighth studio album. A striking statement of intent from the trio, this once more finds them pushing the boundaries of their sound. Hence, while Instant History captures the band’s collision course of melody, aggression and skyscraper hooks, there’s also a freshly revitalised sound courtesy of strident, cinematic synths and soaring vocal harmonies. Those cinematic synths are particularly distinct once they kick in, providing an instantly gratifying sonic hook, while the chorus is as skyscraping and powerful as the best in the band’s catalogue, building from the central refrain of “this is the sound that we make, can you hear it?” Yes, we can… and we love it. It’s an instant anthem for the band and one that’s certain to delight their burgeoning follower base. Frontman Simon Neil commented: “This time around we wanted to lead with something that was the most out there thing which we’ve got on the record. Instant History is the biggest, most slammest pop moment we’ve ever worked on. It’s a fantastic opening statement, although musically it doesn’t reflect the album’s direction. But thematically, it’s a good pointer for what the album is about: learning from mistakes and realising how you can move things forward. Things can be similar although they’ll never be the same, but let’s not be scared of that.” We can’t wait to hear more.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Avalanches, We Will Always Love You

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE AVALANCHES feat BLOOD ORANGE – WE WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU: Four years after their comeback, The Avalanches deliver We Will Always Love You, a blissful new collaboration with Blood Orange that also incorporates vocals from Smokey Robinson and the Roches. A hopelessly soothing, ultra romantic fusion of hip hop infused beats, spoken word ruminations (“what’s my life gotten me?”) and samples (this time, the Roches’ iconic Hammond Song), this drifts over you like a cool breeze on a hot day. It’s a song befitting the dreamscape it depicts (“night time, I’m fine, dreaming of another life”), offering a laidback slice of mood music that seamlessly fuses nostalgic samples with something more modern. The Avalanches, on form, have long been the purveyors of effortless cool and – just as they did with comeback track Because I’m Me – they have delivered an instant classic that leaves you in a really good mood, albeit this time with something of a relaxed vibe too. It’s a track to fall in love with.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Weeknd, After Hours

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE WEEKNDAFTER HOURS: The Weeknd drops the title track from his latest LP and succeeds in delighting once again. Co-produced by the Weeknd, Trilogy mastermind Illangelo, frequent collaborator DeHeala and singer-songwriter Mario Winans, After Hours has all the classic Weeknd elements, from epic length to falsetto vocals and a slow build towards emphatic beat structures. At six minutes, it certainly adopts a lengthy approach to delivering its goods, but the song continually leaves you with a sense of anticipation. There’s a cinematic element, early on, as the electronics have an orchestral reverb to them, accompanying those soulful, delectable vocals. But once the song finds its legs, and the beat kicks in, there’s a late night sense of revelry that’s cleverly intoxicating. The accompanying video helps, full of neon-lit nightscapes and a driving car, as well as psychedelic elements. There’s traces of past collaborators Daft Punk in some of the beats and electronics, as well as hints of The Weeknd’s work on the Black Panther soundtrack. But this also feels fresh and exciting… a precursor to an album that will surely rate among the year’s must haves.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Strokes, Bad Decisions

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: THE STROKESBAD DECISIONS: One week after The Strokes’ announced their comeback with the wildly different lead single At The Door, the band deliver something more instantly recognisable and trademark with Bad Decisions. Built around quick-fire, thumping drums and a feverish indie rock guitar, as well as Julian Casablancas’ distinct vocals, this has the feel of something resolutely old school, or post-punk. But it’s also slightly deceptive in that it also draws on another inspiration: namely Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself, which is sound-checked at several points. Hence, this is a slick mix of the classic (a la Is This It?) and the new, which suggests the band’s comeback is designed to be one that both celebrates the past and plays to the die-hard fans, while showing how they’ve grown and are capable of appealing to all-new ones too. On the evidence of the two songs so far, new LP The New Abnormal looks set to re-establish The Strokes as one of America’s finest contemporary bands.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The 1975, The Birthday Party

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: THE 1975 – THE BIRTHDAY PARTY: The 1975 drop a really, really laidback single for their latest offering, the subversive The Birthday Party. For while the title suggests something celebratory and upbeat, the result is something completely opposite. It’s all trippy beats, odd banjo licks and a dystopian narrative about narcissism, isolation, incel culture and the divisions created by social media. It’s actually quite a sobering, downbeat offering that points an accusing finger at some of the uglier elements of modern society (as only The 1975 know how). And yet, there’s still a keen sense of melodicism and enjoyment. You don’t feel you’re being preached to. Rather, you nod along in appreciation, absorbing the relaxed vibe while quite possibly reflecting on what the song has to say. The video questions if there is space for meaningful connections within technology. It finds the band reuining with Ben Ditto and co-director / lead artist Jon Emmony, who worked together on their 2019 video People. Says Ditto: “It was truly inspiring to work with The 1975 on this project, combining digital craft with true emotion and a subversive and multi-layered narrative. Matty and I have a shared fascination with the underbelly of Internet culture and how that impacts modern life, and we looked to address this from several directions and created an engaging and beautiful piece of filmmaking to contain these messages and their performance in a revolutionary way.” In the short film, lead singer Matty Healy visits Mindshower, a digital detox center, where he encounters a variety of characters – all taken from reddit / 4chan meme subculture – and his band mates. Working with artist Jon Emmony, Mimic Productions recreated The 1975 as digital humans, clad in simulated digital costumes. Detailed 3-D scans – including scans of all mouth movements – were used to create avatars for each member. Body and facial motion capture were utilized to record their performance.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Night Flight

NIGHT FLIGHTATM: London based band Night Flight are gearing up to release their new White Noise EP (out March 27, 2020 via CRC Records). As they do so, they now drop the latest taster in the form of cracking new single ATM. Leaning a little closer towards the band’s indie rock influences, the track is a cynical examination of the sacrifices made whilst seeking acclaim and success (“I don’t even drink anymore, think anymore, now I’m alone”). Backed by a spritely, acoustic guitar-led instrumental, ATM also has elements of psychedelia thrown in, a catchy chorus and some glorious guitar solos, all with a retro vibe. There are nods to classic rock acts, as well as the more contemporary likes of Fountains of Wayne. And it’s utterly charming – ambitious, infectious, multi-layered and lyrically wistful. It grabs you from the outset and keeps pulling you in. The track arrives towards the end of the White Noise EP and partners thematically with unreleased EP track, Delusions. Speaking a little more on the release, songwriter and frontman Sam Holmes said: “Written as one song, ATM/Delusions acts as a call and answer. ATM acts as a sardonic observation on the debt, dreams and defiance experienced when taking the road less travelled. In response, Delusions is a musing on the fluctuating ambition and realisation that success and individuality can be far easier to imagine/daydream than execute.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Liimo

LIIMOALL I DO: Edinburgh natives Liimo release their new single All I Do, an alt-pop slow jam about obsession and desire that has shades of acts like The Chainsmokers. There’s a synth backdrop as well as wistful vocals that reflect the confused nature of the singer’s mind as he tries to tip-toe a fine line between desire and obsession. Hence, there’s a sense of longing in the vocals, too, that also informs a slight tension in the way the song builds. It’s a slyly intoxicating track that shows why Liimo continue to grow in popularity. Speaking about the new single, Liimo’s frontman Kieran O’Brien explained: “All I Do is about being overcome with emotion, exploring that fine line between desire and obsession. We’d been listening to She Burns by Foy Vance around the point of writing this one and something about the intensity of that song hit us pretty hard; that feeling of craving someone so much that it almost becomes painful.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Morrissey, Love Is On Its Way Out

MORRISSEYKNOCKABOUT WORLD: Morrissey has dropped Knockabout World as the third track to be taken from his new album, I Am Not A Dog On A Chain, due next month.The song opens with Morrissey’s immediately captivating vocals singing “Congratulations – you have survived, congratulations – you’re still alive!” The effect is to fill the track with melodrama, as it then confronts the fluid nature of ‘celebrity’ and the knockabout state of the world. You could call it equal parts biting and sacrcastic, while displaying Morrissey’s trademark playfulness and insightfulness. Hence, where past material – especially that with The Smiths – had a downbeat quality, this new song offers fans a catchy, three-minute song featuring synth riffs, twinkling electronics and jangling guitars which build to an orchestra of lush euphoric strings. It’s surprisingly accessible for fans and newcomers alike, showcasing a more enlightened side to the singer’s songwriting approach. The album was produced by Grammy award winning producer Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, Tori Amos, The Strokes, The Killers, The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, etc) and recorded at Studio La Fabrique in Saint- Rémy de Provence, France, and Sunset Soundin Hollywood, California.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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5 Seconds of Summer, Old Me

5 SECONDS OF SUMMEROLD ME: 5 Seconds of Summer have dropped the catchy, introspective new single Old Me. A falsetto-laced reflection on growth and forgiveness, the track is the latest to emerge from 5SOS’s new album C A L M, due out via Polydor Records on March 27. It’s a bittersweet offering, tight on melodic hooks and a catchy, sing-along chorus, yet laced with the regret of growing up (“shout out to the old me, and everything you showed me, glad you didn’t listen when the world was trying to slow me, no one could control me, left my lovers lonely, had to fuck it up before I really got to know me”. Hence, while the song still has a boy band element, there’s a maturity to the lyrics that showcase an older, wiser set of heads. It’s an endearing, hook-laden offering that should easily please the core fans, while reaching out to newcomers. Speaking on the new music, lead vocalist Luke Hemmings said: “Old Me carries a youthful spirit and follows the narrative of a young person’s life growing up, for better or for worse. Every decision we made, whether right or wrong, has led us to the men we are proud to be today. We were thrown into the public eye at a young age and gratefully had each other at a confusing time. Sometimes it’s important we look back in order to appreciate the journey we’ve been on together.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Jax Jones, Tequila

JAX JONES, MARTIN SOLVEIG AND RAYETEQUILA: Anyone anticipating a cover version of the Ted Heath classic with added dance elements had best think again. This is an all-new production that embodies the Jax Jones elements (big dance emphasis) with a touch of Solveig spirit and some sassy vocals from Raye thrown in (“take it to the mother-f**king dancefloor”). And yet while certainly club orientated and a big jammer, there’s a catchy element that boasts genuine crossover potential. There’s a sexy electronic pulse, slick beats and a gritty, R’n‘B infused set of vocals that add extra edge. Jones has long been able to craft a tune that embraces a number of genres in the one track, and here ensures that the vibe is universally appealing, if X-rated lyrically at times. The overall result is a feel-good party jam that is high on energy, high on sex appeal and tailor made for enjoying late at night, possibly with a couple of shots of tequila for good measure (if that’s your lifestyle).
Rating: 3 out of 5

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