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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 22, 2019

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

Zero 7, Aurora

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: ZERO 7 feat HIDDENMONO: Mono is one of two tracks taken from Zero 7’s new Ep, Aurora. It’s a change of pace for them, being less trip-hop than normal. New vocalist Hidden adds an element of smooth soul with some smooth groove vocals, which drift between serene and falsetto. The accompanying instrumentals, meanwhile, drift between laidback and blissful, and cinematic and urgent. There’s a stabbing quality to some of them, before they drift into a smooth soul groove that’s tailor-made for washing over you. The longer the track lasts, the more layered it becomes, though, with bassline grooves, intricate guitar licks and added percussion bringing a greater sense of urgency and cinematic sweep. It’s a beautifully composed listen that finds Zero 7 back on form, while also being evocative of artists such as Bonobo. The second track, Aurora, features regular collaborator Jose Gonzalez.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Novo Amor

SINGLE AND VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: NOVO AMORSLEEPLESS (CHAPTERS I & II): Novo Amor has released a new short film with producer-directors Jorik Dozy and Sil van der Woerd (aka Sil & Jorik). The trio’s most recent collaboration was the now multi-award winning video for the title track from Novo Amor’s debut album, Birthplace. Now, we see the release of a two-part video – Chapter I soundtracking a song entitled Sleepless and Chapter II soundtracking Repeat Until Death, both of which are taken from the album. For this latest project, Sil & Jorik headed to Mongolia and spent almost three weeks capturing spectacular scenery of landscapes rarely seen in mainstream western media. This two-part film tells the tale of a young Mongolian girl battling the health effects of air pollution, and her journey of recovery from modern life in the city to a lifestyle in the countryside that is more in-keeping with nature. Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, is one of the world’s most polluted cities. During winter months, temperatures drop well below -35C and residents rely on burning coal for heat. The consequence of this is an intense period of air pollution which is wreaking havoc on the city’s residents. All the while the city’s population is swelling as an ever-changing climate weakens the habitat of reindeer and the nomadic people who herd them (The Tsaatan) and leads them to migrate to the city to seek alternative employment. Today, only 40 Tsaatan families remain. The first track, Sleepless, has the air of the epic about it. It’s tranquil, beautiful, ethereal and evocative of acts like Elbow and Snow Patrol, its cinematic instrumentals befitting the accompanying video, which carries a timely, striking message. Repeat Until Death continues the momentum, slowing things down to something melancholy yet beautiful. The piano is sombre yet stunning in its simplicity (and belatedly accompanied by some stunning strings), while the accompanying falsetto vocal has an air of fragility befitting the fragility of life, and the presence of snow in the video (for its quiet sparseness). It’s another stunning achievement. Indeed, there’s so much to say about this release, that we’ve written a full story that is accessible via one of the links below.
Rating: 5 out of 5

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Vampire Weekend

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: VAMPIRE WEEKENDHARMONY HALL: It may have been six years since we last heard from Vampire Weekend but the wait has been worth it. To mark their comeback, the band have recently dropped two new tracks in the form of Harmony Hall and 2021. The former is stunning. Ezra Koenig taps into some trademark bittersweet elements with the central lyric, “I don’t want to live like this, I don’t want to die”, while summoning swirling melodies around him. There’s tumbling acoustic guitar licks, swirling piano arrangements, classic percussion elements, hints of country, classic ’70s pop riffs, as well as a nod or two to classic acts like Simon & Garfunkel. It’s a work of immense quality, as intricately layered as we’ve come to expect, but different enough to be refreshingly new and oh-so very, very welcome. The song is taken from new album, Father of the Bride, which is already shaping up to be pretty darn special. The accompanying video, while nothing particularly striking, is quirky enough to keep you watching, featuring the band cooking, dancing and, well, being mindful of a snake.
Rating: 5 out of 5

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The Leisure Society, John Simm

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: THE LEISURE SOCIETYGOD HAS TAKEN A VACATION: The Leisure Society share the video for new single God Has Taken a Vacation, featuring esteemed actor (and friend of the band), John Simm. The track has a lazy rock vibe that’s totally endearing, with some laidback riffs to match the easygoing – yet strangely lamentful – vocals. The song itself is questioning of life in general, as well as the global political climate, but was ironically born out of something more intimate – the break-up of a relationship. Speaking on the new single, frontman and songwriter Nick Hemming commented: “I started writing the song about my break-up, but world events started finding their way in too. Division, borders, a loss of hope. There were a lot of shared themes!” The video is stunning. Explains director Matt Campion: “On first listen, I immediately thought about all the things that have gone wrong in the world of late. So, a heist film where Trump, Putin and Kim Jong-un try to steal data, felt like a good starting place in a godless world. Add the brilliant John Simm and a few guns to the mix and we have a film that raises more questions than answers.” It’s a clever political statement that is also evocative of classic genre movies such as Reservoir Dogs (the slow-mo walk) and Point Break (with the dead presidents motif updated for the present day). John Simm said of his involvement: “When I first heard God Has Taken A Vacation, I knew I had to be involved in the video. I have been a fan of The Leisure Society for many years, so was thrilled to be able to work with them on their new album.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Rhys Lewis

RHYS LEWISHOLD ON TO HAPPINESS: Accompanied by a simple stripped-back guitar, Hold On To Happiness presents Rhys Lewis’ soulful vocals at the forefront, instantly gripping the listener from the very first note. Produced by Rhys working alongside Aidan Glover, the track was recorded straight to tape at their studio in South London. Speaking about the track, Rhys explained: “We’re simple creatures at heart, I don’t believe we need a lot to be happy, but we live in a complicated world now that seems to make us focus more on the things we don’t have than the things we do. Social media makes people fall into that trap, and I’ve realised how damaging it is. Life just happens, and it’ll pass you by if you let it. So, I’m trying to stay more in the present, to be truly there when the moment’s golden, to make memories I’ll reminisce not regret.” The sentiments behind the song, as well as the idea of holding onto happiness, are worthy indeed, and delivered in a humble fashion that allows the listener to really take in the song’s meaning. Its unflashy, yet compelling… emotionally honest and socially astute. Lewis’ vocals are fragile, and semi falsetto, while the acoustic backdrop compliments them beautifully. It’s a song to enjoy and put into action.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Tarantina

TARANTINAHEAL: GRAMMY® Tarantina releases her new single Heal through Quite Crafty. Written and co-produced by Tarantina and Tommy Sheen, the track is an incredibly emotive and stark track that highlights her incredible vocal prowess. Commenting on the track herself, Tarantina explained: “Events can leave an emotional stain on a place, Heal is about trying to live with those ghosts.” The starkness is disarming. There’s a sombre, solitary piano arrangement that’s barely there, yet beautifully emotive. While Tarantina’s vocals have a yearning and sense of loss that somehow finds hope amid the pain. It’s a record about healing. But it’s equally a lament for a lost relationship. And the emotional intensity is impossible to ignore. It’s cinematic. Heal is the second track from the self-taught singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and videographer’s second EP Organs, which is set for a spring release.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Teenage Fanclub

TEENAGE FANCLUBEVERYTHING IS FALLING APART: Teenage Fanclub have released a new single, Everything Is Falling Apart, which marks the Scottish indie band’s first new track since the departure of co-founder Gerard Love last year, following a ‘sadly unresolvable difference of opinion’ concerning the group’s touring schedule. Fortunately, the signature sound doesn’t seem to have departed with him. This is a classic indie anthem that marries downbeat lyrics with toe-tapping instrumentals. The guitars, in particular, have that classic indie vibe, while the beats are toe-tappingly good. The hazy vocals add a slacker vibe that’s instantly recognisable as a Teenage Fanclub record, meaning that the core fanbase will welcome the song with open arms. Whether or not the track will generate much appeal beyond the fan-base is debatable, but as a throwback to the classic 90s indie scene, this ticks all the right boxes and offers up an immensely satisfying, albeit lyrically sobering, listen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Sting and Shaggy

STING AND SHAGGYJUST ONE LIFETIME: In a week where songs and videos seem to have got overtly political, Sting and Shaggy team up for another rumination on the current global scene. And while the tone is upbeat, with easygoing melodies and a slick mix of pop and calypso, the message is undeniably serious. Lyrics include “unite the world and survive” and “the time has come a reckoning, we all knew it was coming”. That’s not to say there isn’t the odd surreal moment, such as “the walrus smoked a cigarette, he claimed it was his last”. But the central ideology of there being one life to live, is worth remembering when contemplating issues such as war, global warming, displacement, refugee crisis and political corruption. The trick here, however, is that rather than hammering it home, the upbeat vibe, toe-tapping melodies and easygoing nature of the song, make it easy to nod along to while slowly considering the meaning behind it. The song is taken from 44/876, the collaborative album inspired by Sting and Shaggy’s mutual love for Jamaica, which was released in April 2018. Since its release, the pair have enjoyed chart success around the world as well as taking their collaboration on tour in North America, South America and Europe to critical acclaim.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Orville Peck, Turn To Hate

ORVILLE PECKTURN TO HATE: Masked enigmatic country crooner Orville Peck has dropped another new single, Turn to Hate, taken from his upcoming debut LP, Pony, which is due March 22 via Sub Pop. Turn to Hate is a song about Orville’s struggle in keeping his resentment from building into hatred. A continuous battle between embracing the strength and freedom of being an outsider and the inevitable struggle of wanting normalcy and familiarity – Orville’s dilemma as a cowboy. He sings about having to constantly repair situations in his wake, and fighting with himself over his decision making. To stay or go; to cry or not; whether to leave without saying goodbye in order to soften the blow; And all the while wishing someone would tell him that they “can’t stay” – to make the decision for him. In the words of Orville himself: “Turn to Hate is essentially a song about the anxiety that comes with being on the outside of things. Treading the line between existing as a loner but not letting that solitude turn into resentment. All that wrapped in a good ole’ country stomping barn-raiser!” The song has a country rock twang to it, which is appealing, while the vocals have a similarly to Lloyd Cole in his prime, with a touch of Johnny Cash. It’s an empowering listen, born from self doubt, that is oddly inspiring. Orville’s debut album, Pony, promises to deliver a diverse collection of stories that sing of heartbreak, revenge and the unrelenting tug of the cowboy ethos. Warm lap steel guitars and echoing drums move through dreamy ballads and sometimes near frantic buzzsaw tunes – all the while paying homage to his country music roots
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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