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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 24, 2017

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

Lana Del Rey

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LANA DEL REYLOVE: Love is the first track to be taken from Lana Del Rey’s forthcoming album, which is due out later this year. It’s a typically thoughtful, moody offering that’s rich in atmospheric instrumentals and hypnotic vocals. There’s a fascinating juxtaposition in lyrics that state “it doesn’t matter if I’m not in love” and “it’s enough to make you go crazy”, while talking about getting dressed up to go nowhere in particular. As a song, it’s a thoughtful lament about both the folly and optimism of being young, when love could be just around the corner (much like heartbreak). Lana Del Rey’s delivery, meanwhile, is typically captivating. The song bodes well for the forthcoming LP, which is a body of work created by Lana and her long-time producer and collaborator Rick Nowels. Producers Benny Blanco and Emile Haynie also participated on Love. The album is also set to include some exciting guest featured artists – full details of whom will be shared at a later date. Of the announcement, Lana said: “I made my first four albums for me, but this one is for my fans and about where I hope we are all headed.” The future looks bright. And the accompanying video is compelling too.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The 1975, By Your Side

THE 1975 – BY YOUR SIDE: This may seem like an unusual choice for a cover for The 1975, but their take on Sade’s By Your Side still manages to exhibit many of the band’s signature traits. The falsetto-tinged vocals, for starters, owe more to The 1975 than they do Sade’s husky delivery, while the ’80s influenced electronics are also a popular 1975 trait. They have also been partial to the odd ballad. As for the song itself, it’s well realised and nicely bittersweet. There’s a trace of Roxy Music at times, too. But on the down-side, the cover – overall – lacks the pace needed to really make it stand out [it can be too understated], while the use of vocoder laced vocal effects also feels overdone. It’s a long way from being anywhere near the best of what The 1975 can deliver. That being said, the non-album, one-off release is in support of the charity organisation War Child, so it’s well worth supporting., particularly if you’re a fan of the band.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Video Killed The Radio Star

BRUCE WOOLLEY AND THE RADIO SCIENCE ORCHESTRAVIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR (RE-IMAGINED): Video Killed The Radio Star is internationally one of the most instantly recognisable songs of all time. Written by Bruce Woolley, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, the original Buggles music video is famous for being the first ever shown on MTV when it launched in 1981. Now Bruce Woolley and The Radio Science Orchestra have re-recorded the song featuring British singer-songwriter Polly Scattergood and co-produced by Keypad. This darker, more reflective version of the genre-shaping synth-pop classic is a very new direction for the tune, and yet from the first listen. The atmospheric orchestral backdrop is great, while Scattergood’s ethereal vocals have a haunting, even hypnotic effect for long periods, before emerging as something quite serene and soothing by the time the song reaches its beautifully re-imagined [and eventually feel-good] finale. It’s a radical departure from the ’80s rooted sound of the original but proof positive that you can update and re-imagine a classic in ever more delightful fashion. This new song is very much a song for now. Commenting on her involvement, Polly said: “I remember listening to Video Killed The Radio Star as a teenager. It was always playing in my school canteen and it was one of those iconic tracks everyone instantly knew and loved, so when Bruce asked me to collaborate with him and the Radio Science Orchestra on this re-working of it, I was naturally very excited. We both share a love of synths, so enjoyed spending time together in the studio experimenting with building a new soundscape for the track, layer by layer. It began to take shape quite organically much like the video. None of us really knew where any of it was going until it was finished – it was a lot of fun to be part of.” A remix of the track by Steve Dub (Chemical Brothers) will follow in March.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Evawolf, Yellow Ribbon

EVAWOLFYELLOW RIBBON: East Londoners Evawolf have released Yellow Ribbon as their their new single and a further taster of their forthcoming EP, which is due for release on March 3. The track has a beautiful feel with a mix of indie/folk sounds, pop melodies and an epic chorus. Early on, there are traces of bands like Snow Patrol and Mumford & Sons, before the chorus drops in a little more Coldplay. The instrumentals are buoyant throughout and contain some really catchy and endearing melodies, while the chorus eventually reaches some epic, stadium-sized heights. It’s a very good follow-up to the band’s previous single, I Could Be Wrong, which came out in December last year. Evawolf have been working hard on evolving and developing their sound and are now ready to share it with fans. They will be playing at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters on March 3 to support the release of the EP. On the evidence so far, there are some very exciting times ahead for them.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran, Shape of You

ED SHEERANSHAPE OF YOU REMIXES: There’s just no stopping Ed Sheeran at the moment. A week after he released another new track from his forthcoming ÷ (divide) LP, in the form of How Would You Feel (Paean), he comes up with a barnstorming Brit Awards show performance that featured a remix of his No.1 smash by grime artist Stormzy. Days later, that remix became an official release, along with a second remix by Major Lazer featuring Nyla & Kranium. Of the two remixes, we’re rather partial to the Major Lazer remix, which drops three vocal exchanges (thereby mixing up the styles) and some even more different beat and electronic structures. It’s not as good as the original version, but it’s hip enough to do really well on the dancefloors wherever it drops, and has another toe-tapping quality and plenty of urgency. The Stormzy version requires more of a wait to get to anything different. It’s predominantly the original track, delivered by Sheeran, until the halfway point… when Stormzy drops a grime-laden rap over proceedings. It adds an alternative sound, vocally, to the mix and is interesting. But it depends on how you feel about the grime scene as to how much you like it. For our money, it’s the Major Lazer workout that emerges as the best of the two remixes.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Dua Lipa

DUA LIPATHINKING BOUT YOU: There’s no denying that Dua Lipa has a truly striking set of vocals. Her latest offering Thinking ‘Bout You is a dusky offering that is drenched in the longing of someone who just can’t get over a failed relationship. It opens in moody fashion, with Lipa’s vocals taking centre stage against some finger-click beats and an acoustic guitar strum, before introducing some subtle back-beats that enhance the overall experience, as well as some electronics. The lyrics, meanwhile, smack of heartbreak: “I’ve been working later, I’ve been drinking stronger. I’ve been smoking deeper. But the memories won’t stop.” It’s a hugely impressive offering – one that further enhances Lipa’s vocal prowess, as well as her ear for a really well constructed song. As ballads go, this is already one to beat in 2017. Dua Lipa has now revealed her new video for the track, which is directed by London-based Jake Jelicich. It’s well worth checking out, which is why we’ve included it in our singles of the week for a second time.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Chainsmokers and Coldplay, Something Just Like This

THE CHAINSMOKERS & COLDPLAYSOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS: Another of the Brit Award talking points was the collaboration between The Chainsmokers and Coldplay, which drew more of a mixed response than the outpouring of delight that greeted Chris Martin’s duet with the late George Michael. Something Just Like This feels more like a Chainsmokers production, rather than a Coldplay one, although it does fit in with the latest sound of Coldplay, which is more mainstream and pop than indie. And being fans of both acts, this collaboration is pretty good. The synth loops and beats bear all the catchy, bouncy hallmarks of a top-drawer Chainsmokers production, with the added gravitas afforded by Martin’s distinct vocals. The superhero-themed lyrics also add extra resonance at a time when pop culture appears to be fascinated by the comic book genre. Without ever properly blowing you away, as the best of both acts can, it’s a decent crowd-pleaser of a track that marks a worthwhile pairing of two musical powerhouses of the moment. And the guitar workout at the end, which smacks of Coldplay, is worth the wait too.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Pick A Piper

PICK A PIPERSTILL AWAKE: Ontario electronic experimentalist Brad Weber – aka Pick A Piper – will release his most gripping and emotional collection of songs yet, in the form of Distance, on March 3. Ahead of that comes the single, Still Awake, which tackles the sleep paralysis Weber has wrestled with since age 18. As you might expect from such subject matter, the track has a dark, nocturnal vibe that feels vaguely troubled and restless. The beats have a tribal feel, while the electronics are both hynotic and potentially menacing. Weber’s vocals, meanwhile, are understated and haunted, adding an ethereal quality to this highly atmospheric, often cinematic offering. If you’re a fan of acts like Bonobo and even DJ Shadow, then this has something to appeal. The accompanying 360 degree video is also worth checking out. Discussing the concept and processes behind it, director Fezz Stenton explains: “With Still Awake I wanted to create a meditative experience that moves slowly, drawing the viewer in and allowing them to explore,” he explains. “It was inspired by the themes of sleep paralysis, and loss of control. The constant forward motion is there to lead you right into the void with no chance for escape. Animated lighting, and atmospheric effects were added to enhance the feelings of uncertainty and the passage of time.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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AyOwA, Rus

AYOWARUS: It seems that melancholy is coded into the Scandinavian DNA. Many months of darkness and anticipation for a summer that sometimes never comes seems to set the tone for soulful longing and ethereal musical backdrops. Danish duo AyOwA takes this melancholic keynote and make it into music. They come armed with modular synths, old reel-to-reels, and Schneider’s haunting voice, thereby creating dark and moving electronic pop songs. Rus follows the critically acclaimed singles Newcross and Sommer and boasts an undeniably distinct sound courtesy of those ethereal, Bjork-styled vocals and the spliced, chopped up synths that accompany them. There are subtle beat arrangements, the occasional wonky electronic and an abrupt finale, which all serve to make the track more memorable. But it is an acquired taste. The sound is different but there is something that’s perhaps a little too melancholic and ethereal about it. The song will struggle to find much mainstream love. But don’t be surprised if it crops up on a soundtrack at some point either. It’s consistently intriguing.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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