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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 28, 2020

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

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Blue Moon Rising

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDSCOME ON OUTSIDE: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds have released Come On Outside as the third track to be taken from the forthcoming Blue Moon Rising EP and, in Noel’s own words, it could represent “the last great Oasis tune?” He qualifies it with a cheeky “maybe not”. But this is certainly the most Oasis-leaning track that the High Flying Birds have delivered. It’s a throwback record, fuelled by an intense, meaty indie-rock guitar riff and those brash, persuasive vocals that only the Gallagher brothers know how to deliver. It’s anthemic, rousing, powerhouse stuff that should delight the diehard Oasis nuts, as well as those who dig Noel’s new sound while pining for some nods to the past. Certainly, the track owes a debt of inspiration to the past, as Noel also reveals: “So I’m rummaging down the back of the couch and found this f*cker!!” It’s a mother-f**ker of a record, for sure. And it completes a terrific line-up for the new EP, which is released on March 6, 2020.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Marsicans, Juliet

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: MARSICANSJULIET: Marsicans drop another giddily infectious indie-rock anthem in Juliet, a bittersweet offering that’s big on feel-good instrumentals but shot through with lyrical uncertainty. And it’s this juxtaposition of elements that makes the track so absorbing. For, while certainly loud in a brash, celebratory kind of way courtesy of siren-like guitars, quick-fire drums and a big, big chorus, there’s an intimacy and rawness to the lyrics that display a lot more going on inside the track as a whole. And for this, we’ll let frontman James Newbigging explain further: “The song is set on the Juliet balcony at the flat where I live. It was written at quite a difficult time, where we were all outwardly happy about what we were doing as a band, but I personally just felt dejected by the uncertainty of it all. Not by the things we could control ourselves, but worrying over things like if we were ever going to release an album. And if we did, would anyone even care? What were we doing with our lives? And basically spending all my time feeling shit about the unknown future. So, each verse is a different night of me on the balcony thinking these thoughts – but then something would always cheer me up (the moon looking cool, thinking about what we’ve done so far as a band, etc). The “I’m overthinking this” lyric in the chorus is me telling myself to stop being so stupid and to not dwell on matters that are out of my control, to just enjoy what I’m doing. The song really helped me contextualise what we were doing for the album. The album title Ursa Major comes from this track. There’s a line “It’s time for a curtsy, Ursa Major” which is kind of tongue-in-cheek, like the album is introducing itself saying: “Right. Here we go. I’m the album. Now enjoy, and let me take a fucking bow”. I’m just glad we ended up calling the album Ursa Major, so it made sense…” It’s also a timely and highly revelant track given the deserved emphasis being placed on mental health issues right now. The song shows it’s alright to have negative thoughts and suggests, via its instrumentals, that hope is always there.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Taylor Swift, The Man

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: TAYLOR SWIFTTHE MAN: Taylor Swift has dropped a really engaging video for her new single The Man that finds her, quite literally, becoming the man. But it’s the type of video that takes pot-shots at everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street character to John McEnroe via Scooter Braun and Jake Gyllenhaal (looks-wise), examining the disparity between men and women and the journey times it requires to attain success. The song itself boasts lyrics such as “Cause if I was a man… then I’d be the man, I’d be the man, I’d be the man They’d say I hustled, put in the work, they wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve”. And while the pop melodies are as catchy and hook-laden as you’ve come to expect from Swift, there’s a serious element too, in keeping with the changing times post #MeToo. Hell, there’s even a nod to the sparsity of female filmmakers when the video ends with a shot of Swift in the director’s chair, subverting expectation by asking more sexually of her male star. It’s a song shot through with a timely message that enables you to have fun while taking notice of what the singer has to say. The video, likewise, is fun but relevant.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ren

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: REN – I DRIVE ME MAD: Seventeen-year-old Toronto singer-songwriter Ren releases her latest single and video I Drive Me Mad, taken from her upcoming debut EP, Teenage Angst, due March 13, 2020, via Polydor Records. The frenetic power-pop anthem and accompanying video addresses the suffocating chokehold of anxiety and is another of this week’s tracks that fearlessly confronts the spectre of mental health problems and how to understand them. Of writing the song, Ren reveals: “I Drive Me Mad is a really important song to me because it’s really a look inside my brain and the anxiety and panic I deal with nearly everyday. I wrote this song after having a really bad panic attack and it made it so hones and easy to write. It’s the first song I’m putting out that I feel like has a really important relatable message and I’m super excited about this one!” The track begins in fragile, almost ballad-stle fashion, relaying the uncertain feelings that precipitate the anxiety that follows. But it gradually layers in loud guitar riffs, big drum bangs and a stop-start instrumental style that, again, evokes the tormented state of mind relayed in the lyrics. There are occasional breakdowns, where the intimacy of the lyrics is allowed to shine through, but it then rebuilds into the noisy state that herals the anxiety rush. It’s a clever record – anthemic, foot-stomping but timely and with plenty to say. And the accompanying video, set in the girls’ toilet of a school, furthers the message in eye-catching, emphatic style.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tatum, Fever

TATUMFEVER: Riding high off the success of her debut single Broken, Tatum’s second offering Fever sees her come out of 2020’s gate swinging, expertly reinforcing the singer’s unique alternative pop edge, ahead of the release of her debut EP. The song’s melodic minimalism allows Tatum’s superb, shadowy vocal to stand at the forefront, while her weighty lyrics talk about the anguishing ambivalence of being in love with someone who is wholly destructive on every level. The ‘Divine Wind’ she references is a metaphor for the unhealthy union, which is doomed to end in pain and suffering. It’s thought-provoking, atmospheric, potent stuff, under-scored by Tatum’s distinct, expressive vocals and a sombre piano arrangement that lends the song cinematic edge. It’s downbeat, for sure, but there’s real emotion in the lyrics, which reflect the pain, suffering and torment of such a dangerously abusive relationship. “This song is about letting the wrong person into your life, about loving someone who is dangerous. Intense love can feel like a fever, but a fever is usually a sign of a deeper infection. It’s ultimately a kind of ruinous attraction. It talks about being sucked into a noxious relationship but because it looks so beautiful and the attraction is so powerful, it becomes an almost poetic and beautiful one way ticket to failure,” Tatum confesses when asked about the meaning behind her poignant ballad.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Trolls World Tour (SZA & Justin Timberlake)

SZA & JUSTIN TIMBERLAKETHE OTHER SIDE: Justin Timberlake blew everyone away with Can’t Stop This Feeling from the original Trolls soundtrack. He’s back for the sequel (he does voice a character in the film, after all!) with new track The Other Side, for which he teams up with Nine-time Grammy® Award nominee, Academy Award® and Golden Globe® nominee SZA. The track was written specifically for the film by Timberlake, Ludwig Göransson, Max Martin, Sarah Aarons and Solana Rowe (SZA) and produced by Timberlake and Göransson. It’s also the first single to be released from the Trolls World Tour (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), which will be available on March 13 via RCA Records. And it has that happy-go-lucky, easy-pop vibe that accompanies most of the material on the Trolls soundtracks to date. Hence, there’s falsetto vocals, boy-girl trade-offs, future soul and snappy beats, all with a pop sheen that’s designed to feel celebratory and ease you into a happy mood, a la Trolls! It’s nowhere near as instantly classic as Can’t Stop This Feeling but it is trademark Timberlake and succeeds in having you nodding along in easy-going appreciation. The visuals for The Other Side pay homage to hip-hop videos of the 90’s and finds SZA and Timberlake dancing and playful in front of a fisheye lens. “I was so thrilled to be invited to participate in this project with Justin,” said SZA. “The creative process of working with him and the team was filled with such excitement. It’s an energy you can feel in both the song and music video. I can’t wait for people to check it out.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Siv Jakobsen

SIV JAKOBSENISLAND: Norway’s Siv Jakobsen has released new single Island, taken from her forthcoming second album A Temporary Soothing, which is out on April 24. Lighter in tone than A Temporary Soothing’s first single Fear The Fear, Island’s breezy melody bounces along to a steady beat but is undermined by melancholic contemplation that is so richly dotted throughout all of Siv’s work. Speaking about the track, Siv herself shares: “At the song’s core sits my need for creative freedom. It’s a sort of reminder to always keep my creativity free and my personal space personal, to retain the freedom to make the music I want to make, work with the people I want to work with, and let them in turn be creatively free when collaborating with me.” The track begins in almost demo fashion, with Jakobsen seemingly experimenting with vocal styles over quick-fire acoustic guitar licks. But then she drops an F-bomb, counts to three, and allows the song to come to life in beautifully melodic fashion. It’s then that the track becomes a breeze.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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American Authors, Seeb, Best I Can

AMERICAN AUTHORS & SEEBBEST I CAN: American Authors come over all Chainsmokers for latest single Best I Can, an attempt to crossover that should certainly help to win them more fans. To do so, the band have teamed up with Norwegian production duo Seeb, ushering in a more synth-driven, dance pop sound. It’s also an ode to love that sets about bringing some positivity to these uncertain times. Or, as the band puts it: “Best I Can is about giving your entire heart to the person you love most. When you strip away the material objects and glamour in the world, all that really matters is the truest love we share.” Hence, there’s a sweetness to the track that’s quite disarming, coupled with the easygoing melodies and that dance-pop energy that Seeb create so seamlessly. True, it’s also shamefully sentimental (with talk of angels and Gods throughout). But if you’re in the mood to swoon, then this will ensure Cupid’s arrow finds its target.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Isobel Waller-Bridge, Flow

ISOBEL WALLER-BRIDGESEPTEMBER: Award-winning composer, artist and musician Isobel Waller-Bridge (aka sister of Fleabag‘s Phoebe Waller-Bridge) releases her new track September, which will feature on the new compilation album Flow – a celebration of three years since the launch of Mercury KX. A piano composition of stark beauty, this is a thoughtful, predictably cinematic offering that displays sensitivity, romanticism and sorrow in equal measure. It’s tailor-made to accompany a soundtrack moment with its two minutes and nine seconds of sedate brilliance. Speaking of the signing and the song, Isobel commented: “I’m so excited to have signed with Mercury KX and to start work on what will be the most personal music of my career. September is my hello to the label. It has a clarity and intimacy that reflect the very personal journey I am about to go on.” She adds: “With the new album, I’m starting from scratch, which is really refreshing. It makes me feel free because it means I can go wherever I like. This project will be set apart from my other work – all of this album will come from within.” On the strength of September, we can’t wait to hear more. As well as providing the soundtrack for her sister’s landmark show, Fleabag, Isobel’s versatility and ability to write with a wide range of idioms, seamlessly blending classical and orchestral music with electronics, has given her music a highly distinctive style. Her score for Autumn de Wilde’s recent directorial debut Emma has pushed Isobel into the mainstream spotlight once again, which, in contrast to ITV’s Vanity Fair contemporary score, draws on the music of Mozart and Haydn, and the lively wit of Jane Austen’s eponymous matchmaker. She is a prodigious talent.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lady Gaga, Stupid Love

LADY GAGASTUPID LOVE: Lady Gaga remains one of the hottest artists on the planet right now and is impossible to ignore. Hence, the arrival of new material, in the form of Stupid Love, demands attention and an opinion. In truth, it’s nothing special. But it will drive the Gaga fans wild. It’s a throwback to her earlier, breakthrough style, when pop elements were very much to the fore, complete with big, brash accompanying visuals. There’s disco elements, giddy melodic structures, powerhouse choruses and a future-synth element that propels the song to some giddy highs. It touches on classic Gaga as well as classic 90s era Madonna, ripping its way into your subconscious and refusing to let go. The chorus is big and brash, declaring “I want your stupid love”. Yet there’s a hint of darkness, too, in its acknowledgement of the stupid love and finding an inner peace. But it predominently exists to have fun and to announce the comeback of Gaga as a pop force, following her detour into somehting more serious with her A Star Is Born material.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini

DANIEL AVERY & ALESSANDRO CORTINIENTER EXIT: Acclaimed UK producer Daniel Avery and celebrated experimental musician and Nine Inch Nails synth artist Alessandro Cortini have shared a second taste of their forthcoming debut full-length collaboration, Illusion of Time, in the form of the gloriously immersive Enter Exit. The track sees the pair build warm, layered synths to an exquisite crescendo, as if auditioning for the soundtrack of a futuristic sci-fi event film such as Blade Runner or Dune. The synths are brooding and highly atmospheric, building softly and carefully into the crescendo they eventually become, all the while evoking those sci-fi elements and inspirational artists such as Vangelis and Hans Zimmer. It’s a beautifully head-spinning offering that, by the time it reaches its climax, sucks you in and captivates entirely. You’ll be thirsting to hear more. The album is set for release on March 27, 2020, via Phantasy worldwide and Phantasy/Mute in the United States and Canada. Gently challenging the hypnotic ideals of ambience that already united the work of both artists, Illusion of Time is in equal parts cryptic and inviting. Wistful chords are boldly buried beneath blankets of soothing noise, as if asking listeners to lean in further. In other moments, Avery and Cortini achieve catharsis when working through bristling electronics more indebted to their heavier influences. More frequently, the soothing analogue textures that drive the album are allowed to linger alone, stripped back in order to conjure the moments of suspended bliss that give the album its title.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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