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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 23, 2018

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

Janelle Monae

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: JANELLE MONAEMAKE ME FEEL: Grammy nominated singer-songwriter/performer/producer/actress/activist Janelle Monáe has unveiled new details of her highly-anticipated third solo album project, Dirty Computer; the ‘Emotion Picture’ includes an album and an accompanying narrative film. The album is available for pre-order now and arrives everywhere on Friday, April 27. Funky lead single Make Me Feel is a beast of a track – and one to get you genuinely excited for the new material. A Prince-inspired slice of funk, this drops sexy guitar riffs, with echoed mouth beats and a sultry set of vocals that declare: “That’s just the way you make me feel.” And once that chorus drops, boy does it layer on the sass and the funk. It’s set to make you stride towards the dancefloor in giddy abandon, determined to feel the same way too. The accompanying video, directed by Alan Ferguson, captures the spirited, celebratory voice of Monáe as she affectionately nods to the ripe sounds surrounding the 1980’s music and dance revolution. Delivering electric vocals, pop hooks and confident, female-driven lyrics, Monáe brings the song to life in a vibrantly colored video highlighted by provocative silhouettes moving across the screen.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Magic Numbers, Sweet Divide

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE MAGIC NUMBERSSWEET DIVIDE:I never wanted to be a part of anything, the cool kids at school, the pretend outlaws. I was always an outsider, we’ve always been an outsider band. We don’t fit in, never have and never will. Especially now. As you get older you realise your strength in not giving a fuck. You realise what you’ve been trying to do your whole life. Create something that’s yours, your own world, your own views, make something special, start your own gang but always be YOU within it. Don’t conform. Don’t fall in line. Be free. Be inspired. Inspire. Live & Love. To all the Outsiders – Romeo, The Magic Numbers. And so reads the mission statement of The Magic Numbers as the make their musical return after a three year hiatus with new album, Outsiders. And let us tell you, the wait has been worth it. Lead single Sweet Divide is a barnstromer. A classic sounding slice of rock, this drops a lazy, bluesy but totally compelling central guitar riff, some laidback, almost stoner vocals and a keen sense of questioning (“what if this is all we find?”), to deliver a retro-heavy slice of psych-rock that also sounds blisteringly beautiful. It’s another wake up call to the rock guard of old… that guitar music certainly isn’t dead. It’s alive and kicking. You just need to know where to find it. And The Magic Numbers have delivered a terrific starting point. By the way, the new album runs with the theme of the outsider and misfit, capturing the Stodart and Gannon siblings with a grittier sensibility, that’s immediately evident on Sweet Divide.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Eels, Today Is The Day

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3/VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: EELSTODAY IS THE DAY: Eels drop the second track from their forthcoming LP, The Deconstruction, in the form of the ultra catchy Today Is The Day. And, in a world that sometimes seems like it’s gone completely mad, it’s an unapologetically upbeat slice of power pop that declares, somewhat defiantly, that “today is the day it starts right here… come on man, don’t you worry now.” It’s a song about change that Mark Oliver Everett just wants to sing, enabling and empowering all who listen to do the same. Whether or not it starts a movement is a moot point; the idea is to bring a little cheer and thanks to its tight melodic hooks, insistent, catchy drum beats and those trademark laidback vocals, the song succeeds in making you feel good and easing away the worries for the duration of its running time. And yet, it does have something important to say. As with any really good song, it offers up a good time, while giving a little pause for thought. It’s a righteous song. The Deconstruction, the first Eels album since 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, is released on April 6.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Editors, Hallelujah

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: EDITORSHALLELUJAH (SO LOW): Editors have unveiled the video for new single Hallelujah (So Low), the next song to be unveiled from forthcoming album Violence. The song itself was premiered on Radio 1 as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in The World – and it’s easy to see why. There’s a relatively quiet opening, early on, as the song lays down a moody intro, before then exploding to life over each chorus with some Muse-inspired guitars. Indeed, the rock blasts neatly offset the more electronic focus of the remainder of the song, providing a nice juxtaposition of old and new Editors, as well as a seamless transition into a more mainstream sound for the band. The video was directed by renowned photographer, director and long-term Editors collaborator Rahi Rezvani and is as brutally urgent as the song itself. Crackling with a kinetic energy, the barbed jabs of Benjamin John Powers (Blanck Mass) additional production run parallel to Tom Smith’s pointed lyricism. Tom said: “I wrote the words to Hallelujah (So Low) when I got back from a trip to Oxfam, visiting refugee camps in Northern Greece. It was obviously an incredibly moving trip, seeing people living in dust, surviving only on the help of others was very moving. Musically, the track hung on the relationship between the acoustic guitar and the drum machine, that was part of the track from my demo, it has something special very early on… then when Justin came up with his outrageous guitar riff, we knew we had a winner. It’s the most rock we’ve ever been and it’s exhilarating. I think the video attempts to capture this intensity, both in the track and in us as a live band.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Saint Clair, I'm Still Standing

SAINT CLAIR – I’M STILL STANDING: Following a great reception to previous release Human Touch, Londoner Saint Clair (real name Emma Topolski) has offered up a stripped back, electrified take on Elton John’s ’80s anthem I’m Still Standing. Her first self-produced pursuit arrives just ahead of a highly anticipated EP, D2, due in April 2018 via her own imprint Dearly Beloved. Nowhere near as cheesy or misguided as this cover version suggests, the stripped back version actually enhances the original, while also sounding resolutely like Saint Clair’s own. Her beautifully wistful vocals drop a bittersweet element into a song more synonymous with a celebratory vibe. But the hand-clap beats, bass-line groove and electronics also combine well to provide an alternative backdrop. It’s very much a modern re-imagining, where even the stark piano moments have a melancholy undertow. It’s a highly classy offering. What’s more, the inspiration behind the cover is innocent, as Saint Clair reveals: “I was touring in Australia last summer, and after exhausting almost every film on the long-haul flight home, stumbled across the animated film Sing. The gorilla performs a rip-roaring version of I’m Still Standing, which reminded me how much of a banger it was. So, I got my laptop out and started playing around with how to approach it differently and ended up making it into a proper cover.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Janelle Monae, Django Jane

JANELLE MONAEDJANGO JANE: The second new single from Janelle Monae this week comes in the form of the feisty Django Jane. The track underscores Monáe’s ability to unleash her biting, unapologetic flow in a song that embraces contradictions as part of the beauty of individuality. It has more of an urban, hard-hitting vibe than the far more accessible Make Me Feel, relying more on Monae’s rapping ability than the funk and pop sensibilities exhibited in the actual lead single. But it’s still worth taking notice of… Monae is as unapologetic as ever (“we gave you life, we gave you birth”), while lamenting some of the failings of modern world culture, and she’s accompanied by some sparse beat arrangements and a subtle electronic bed. Essentially, though, this is a song where the vocals take centre stage and Monae has a lot to say. The accompanying unofficial video was directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning with additional vagina monologue footage directed by Lacey Duke. The song is a powerful black girl magic womanifesto that celebrates the strength of black women and black culture while addressing the trials and tribulations of identity in the 21st Century.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Pale White, Loveless

THE PALE WHITELOVELESS: Emerging Newcastle indie-rock trio The Pale White return with their new single Loveless. Produced by John Martindale and the band at Blank Studios, this explosive track is the shot to the arm British rock needs right now, especially in the week that Muse suggested that guitar music is no more. Without relying on that instrument, the band nevertheless deliver a propulsive, emphatic statement of intent that manages to be both rock-driven and pop friendly too. There’s elements of blues, some funky riff-making, and even a dance undercurrent that enables the song to boast genuine crossover appeal. The vocals, too, are strong, combining elements of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with Shed Seven. They seem destined for big audiences to accompany the big sounds they’re crafting. Speaking about the new single, frontman Adam explained: “After hiding away and recording our next batch of releases, it felt so good to burst through the doors of 2018 and hear your own songs being screamed back at you at our sold out homecoming show. It’s going to feel even better to show the world what we’ve been working on. We couldn’t be more excited for Loveless.” And with good reason…
Rating: 4 out of 5

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DJ Snake, Magenta Riddim

DJ SNAKEMAGENTA RIDDIM: Grammy-nominated French DJ and producer DJ Snake releases a new single, Magenta Riddim, and continues to build on the momentum generated by former release, A Different Way last year. Hailed as an absolute festival banger, written and produced by DJ Snake himself. It’s a big record that honours several musical cultures, while keeping its ear firmly on the mainstream. Hence, there’s accessible dubstep, Jamaican dancehall beats and African flute sounds meshing together to create a heady whole. The song is driven by those snake-like horns, which wind their way around the emphatic beats, and the chanted vocals. It’s energetic, inspiring and innovative by virtue of the fact that it is combining so many cultures. And it’s sure to be a dance smash that reverberates around the club and festival scene all year round. Following the release of Magenta Riddim, DJ Snake played a sold out arena show at AccorHotels Arena in his hometown of Paris on February 24th, including more new music and over 668 square metres of LED in a huge new stage design and visual show debut.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Rika, The Others

RIKATHE OTHERS: Rika is not your average pop singer. Of multi-cultural Indian and Serbian heritage, she is also every inch a modern young Londoner. Confident and determined, she boldly fuses her personal history with the thoughts and concerns of world events happening around us to produce powerful narratives on love, life and meaning in the world. Now, she takes the synth-pop route with her new single The Others, the video of which combines lush dark pop with tropical visuals. “I knew that this song was my next release as soon we pencilled the track,” says Rika, explaining The Others (co-written by English artist Karen Harding) is about finding true love and why that one person is meant just for you. “It’s about having that special person in your life and how they’re ‘nothing like the others.’ It’s very sweet sounding.” Produced by David King — who also worked on No NeedThe Others explores lush, darker waves of synth-pop, adds subtle touches of R&B and aims for a more anthemic sound than Rika’s previous releases. It drops some emphatic R’n‘B beats, some sassy R’n‘B vocals and an infectious sense of energy (epitomised by its catchy chorus). If there’s a criticism, it’s that it fits a little too seamlessly into the current mainstream sound and needs more of its own identity. But that’s not to detract from the catchiness, or the fact that it should become a massive hit for her. “Production-wise, we wanted to go a bit bigger than No Need,” adds Rika. “We definitely took inspiration from Major Lazer.” The vibrant, tropical-themed music video showcases Rika playing a video game where an animated version of herself is searching for love and getting closer to finding it as she crosses each level. The clip also features segments of energetic neon-bathed choreography before ending with the singer finally meeting her perfect guy.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Alex Lleo

ALEX LLEOBEDROOM DOOR: There’s a mellowness and warmth to Alex Lleo’s debut recordings that feels both timeless and fresh, akin to listening to an artist like Jeff Buckley (in its lyrical honesty) or Newton Faulkner (thanks to its acoustic guitar backdrop and husky delivery). Recorded live with his six-piece band at Park Studios in Birmingham, his debut EP is a masterclass in soulful, addictive songwriting. Lead single Bedroom Door is disarmingly effective. Constructed around two distinctive melodies, brass and string arrangements intertwine to build a song that’s infectious and impressive. More so that it was recorded live in one take, with Alex intent on capturing the spontaneity of first time performance. But while some may be quick to write Lleo off as just another of those acoustic-based troubadour acts, it’s the complexity of the instrumental layering (courtesy of those brass and string arrangements), coupled with the heart-on-sleeve nature of the song’s delivery, that makes him standout. He’s certainly an artist to keep an eye on as 2018 progresses. Bedroom Door is a deeply impressive debut.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Frank Turner

FRANK TURNER – BE MORE KIND: Frank Turner has released the title track from new album Be More Kind, which is due out May 4 via Xtra Mile Recordings/Polydor Records. Speaking about the song, Turner says: “Be More Kind, the song, is at the heart of the album, both lyrically and musically; when I finished it I could see the rest of the album coming together around it.” It’s a low-key, acoustic effort that sends out a simple but telling message: to be more kind. Indeed, Turner imbues the build up to this sentiment with a sense of sorrow and regret at the state of the world… a world in which more and more walls are going up. But he urges people to think about others, too, and to exhibit that very human trait of being compassionate and kind, “to hold on tight when the wind blows”. As the song gains momentum, a sense of hope also filters in, which is enhanced by the inclusion of some beautiful string arrangements. Turner does eventually strip things back down for the finish, to underline his lyrical points. But on the whole, this is a resonant song, timely in delivery, and something to aspire to. It’s a lovely piece of songwriting.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Arcade Hearts

ARCADE HEARTSDIFFERENT PLACE: After the release of a trio of singles in 2017, which led to regular support from BBC Introducing Solent, online support from the likes of Clash Magazine and Gigslutz, and a huge show at the Indigo 02 supporting Razorlight, Gosport newcomers Arcade Hearts kick off their 2018 with the release of new single Different Place. Combining upbeat, engaging indie-disco energy with soaring vocals, slick hooks and a large, bombastic chorus, this looks set to continue to get them noticed. The mix of indie and pop works to the song’s advantage, in lending it crossover potential, while some of the more retro leanings (‘80s style vocals, for instance) should also appeal to those with a keen sense of music nostalgia. It’s a lively record that shows plenty of potential. The band, as a whole, have already drawn comparisons with Friendly Fires and Two Door Cinema Club, so if you’re a fan of either of those, then Arcade Hearts are also worth checking out.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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RAYE, Cigarette

RAYE feat MABEL AND STEFFLON DONCIGARETTE: Fresh from the success of her smash Decline and a BRIT Award nomination for ‘Best Single’ with Jax Jones, RAYE releases new tune Cigarette featuring Mabel and Stefflon Don. The track is taken from an upcoming wider project set to drop in the coming months. RAYE has curated a culturally relevant collection of music featuring a number of collaborations with her artist friends. This body of work is set to solidify RAYE’s status among her fellow pioneers of UK music. Sadly, the new single isn’t particularly memorable. There are some chopped up beat arrangements, some typically sassy, R’n‘B infused vocals, some urban elements and plenty of edge. But it somehow feels a little generic. It’s a mainstream safe sound. Admittedly, the rap midway through offers a different perspective on the song – but that also struggles to work. It’s a mish-mash of a song that never really adds up to a satisfying whole.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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