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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 7, 2020

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

Balthazar, Halfway

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BALTHAZARHALFWAY: Twelve months on from their last album Fever, the tireless Balthazar now share a new track in the form of the excellent Halfway. A joint composition from the Devoldere / Deprez partnership, Halfway features Jinte on lead vocals, drawing upon his penchant for old school R’&‘B, while Maarten and his bandmates prompt some extraordinary harmonies that have long proven to be a distinctive trait of one of Belgium’s most successful artists. Hence, the background beats have an effortless cool about them (as well as a cinematic, David Holmes style edge), married to vocals that combine that love for R’n‘B with something vaguely Doors/Jim Morrison (especially when the organ kicks in beneath them). And then there’s the gospel element that helps draw the song to a layered close. It’s an endlessly alluring offering: edgy, sexy, cool as hell. And it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Balthazar boys. To have something new so soon after the Fever catalogue is something special indeed.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Raye, All Of My Love

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: RAYE & YOUNG ADZALL OF MY LOVE: Raye continues to shine with the release of new single All of My Love, a sleek, sexy mix of R’n‘B and hip-hop that has real seductive edge. The track begins in impressive fashion with layered vocals and a throbbing pulse of a back-beat dropping a keen sense of anticipation ahead of the main beat kicking in, and Raye’s stunning vocals really opening out. Midway through, Young Adz drops an equally ‘dangerous’ rap contribution, which drops lyrics about ‘pussy’ and ‘guns’ to heighten the illicit, late night nature of proceedings. It’s all very dark, all very tantalising, all intricately layered, yet imaginatively produced for maximum effect. There’s a cinematic quality, too, that should ensure the track crops up on a soundtrack at some point. On a week when Pussycat Dolls returned in their own inimitable style, Raye has dropped her own calling card that there’s a new queen in town.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Beach Bunny, California

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: BEACH BUNNYPROMISES: The ever appealing Beach Bunny drop Promises as the fourth single from their hotly-anticipated debut album Honeymoon (out February 14 on Mom+Pop). It’s a typically breezy slice of indie-pop that sonically overcomes the feelings underpinning it – which are much more mixed up and confused. Or, as Lili says: “Promises is a song about the frustration, doubt and pain experienced before and after a break-up. It’s a song about loss and the most vulnerable song on the record.” And with lyrics such as “part of me still wants you, part of me wants to fall asleep, when I’m all alone in your bedroom, you came like a reoccurring dream”, it’s easy to see why. There’s a lot of pain and confusion. And yet, the song itself zips along in typically brisk, breezy fashion, delivering its dose of melancholy on a tidal wave of melody. And yet if there were any doubt about the emotions underpinning it, then the video follows lead singer, Lili Trifilio, transported in her bed to romantically significant places from a newly ended relationship before setting her bed ablaze. It’s powerful stuff.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Sharon Van Etten

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: SHARON VAN ETTENBEATEN DOWN: Sharon Van Etten follows 2019’s Remind Me Tomorrow with a new single, Beaten Down, and its eye-catching accompanying video. “Beaten Down is about love, patience and empathy,” says Van Etten. “It’s about making life-changing choices and remaining strong enough to see them through.” Produced by John Congleton, the song opens with dark, minimalistic percussion and Van Etten’s smouldering voice before growing more textured, expanding with layered vocals, synths and keys. It’s a brooding, slowly empowering track with a genuinely atmospheric synth underscoring everything. Her gritty vocals contain a hint of the PJ Harvey about them, too, while drifting between ethereal and moody. It’s a thought-provoking but ultimately empowering offering. The Beaten Down video was directed by Nicky and Juliana Giraffe at Giraffe Studios and features Van Etten and the dancing duo of Allison and Veronica Huber. “Our goal was to create a striking and psychedelic video set in the California desert, a welcoming of Sharon’s next chapter here,” explains Nicky and Juliana Giraffe. “Upon hearing the song, our minds automatically drifted into stark black and white, fever dreams, dark silhouettes contrasted against a barren desert landscape. Our intention was to give Sharon’s song and performance space to breathe and echo. It was important to us that the dancers were strongly connected and we’re so lucky to have worked with the talented Huber Twins on this project.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Pussycat Dolls, React

THE PUSSYCAT DOLLSREACT: Global megastars Pussycat Dolls have made a typically emphatic return to music with the powerhouse new single React. A pulsating slice of electro pop, this drops slick beats, throbbing synths and feisty, sassy, breathy vocals over a song that reflects on a tumultuous relationship (“every time I leave you pull me closer, I hang up the phone you call me back”). It calls out for the target of its criticism to spice up a stagnant relationship. It’s got plenty of trademark Pussycat elements but it also sounds fresh and contemporary, with a chorus that is as catchy as hell. As a result, it’s a comeback that’s all but guaranteed to restore them to the superstar status they enjoyed before taking their extended hiatus. The accompanying video is directed by Bradley and Pablo, who have recently created videos for Rosalia, Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Sean Christopher

SEAN CHRISTOPHEROUR HOME: Dutch-born, Bristol-based singer-songwriter and composer Sean Christopher releases his new single Our Home, through Dumont Dumont (Charlie Cunningham, RY X, Josin, ViVii), and continues to impress. This soothing lullaby is the second single taken from his second album Wander, which is set for release on May 29 and the follow up to most recent single, Oheja. Gently composed and reassuringly beautiful, this reflects on a place called home that means so much: a safety net, a place filled with love and somewhere that’s OK to be yourself. It’s likely to resonate with anyone who has a fondness for home, while also displaying cinematic inclinations courtesy of its lovely piano, soothing vocals and wider perspective on the plight of our planet [or global home]. It’s a really well constructed ballad. Speaking about Our Home, Christopher explained: “Home is a place where we feel safe and grounded. Where we can put away our masks and shields and be vulnerable. A place where we can ‘be’. From a bigger perspective, Our Home is about our tiny planet in an endless universe. We only need to zoom out a little bit, to see the planet is such a magnificent ‘home’.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Anne-Marie, Birthday

ANNE-MARIEBIRTHDAY: Pop powerhouse Anne-Marie returns with her new single Birthday, an assured slice of empowering pop that exudes the singer’s much-loved mischievous personality and renowned vocals. Hence, we have the tale of a heartbroken girl who decides to throw caution and heart-ache to the wayside because, well, it’s her birthday. As she feistily declares: “It’s my birthday, I’m gonna do what I like, I’m gonna eat what I like, I’m gonna kiss who I like”. In doing so, the song takes a tale of loss and turns it into something celebratory and empowering, complete with a brash, kick-ass chorus. The vocals are as edgy and powerhouse as ever (evoking the same sense of girl power as P!nk), while the accompanying beats and synths combine pop astuteness with something a little more punchy. The accompanying official video – a modern-day nod to Cinderella – has been directed Hannah Lux Davis (Anne-Marie, Ariana Grande) with creative direction coming from Kate Moross (Spice Girls, Sam Smith). A wonderfully shot, playful visual, the video sees Anne-Marie celebrating her birthday like a princess, complete with a lavish, show-stealing ball gown and dancing in a huge, opulent drawing room. But at the stroke of midnight, she finds herself back in more modest surroundings at home, celebrating with her friends.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Niall Horan, No Judgement

NIALL HORAN – NO JUDGEMENT: Niall Horan opts to come over all carefree for new pop mid-tempo ballad No Judgement, an ode to a friendship/relationship that comes with no strings attached (“I can be your lover or a shoulder to cry on”). It’s a frivolous, seemingly carefree offering that’s designed to offer reassurance… but which could just serve as a riposte to Halsey’s most recent single, You Should Be So Sad. Reflecting on the new track Niall comments: “When you’re with me, there’s no judgement. There’s enough people judging, so you don’t need to be judged by me.” The accompanying video is also wilfully glib, featuring an old couple indulging in their passions without the need to be judged. It’s fun but forgettable – much like the track itself. Niall wrote the song with Julian Bunetta, Tobias Jesso Jr., John Ryan and Xplicit. Bunetta, his frequent collaborator, produced the song. The video, meanwhile, was helmed by MTV VMA-winning director Drew Kirsch (Taylor Swift, John Legend, AFI) and shot in Los Angeles.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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5 Seconds of Summer, Calm

5 SECONDS OF SUMMER – NO SHAME: 5 Seconds of Summer continue to hone the art of delivering a highly infectious pop-rock offering with new single No Shame – a track that drips with melody while also delivering some edge. Hence, while there’s easygoing, pop-savvy elements (courtesy of melodic hooks and harmonious choruses), the lyrics suggest something a little darker and grown up courtesy of lines such as “I only light up when cameras are flashing, never enough and no satisfaction” and “go on and light me like a cigarette, even if it might be something you regret”. It’s also another song to show how the band are continuing to adapt and play around with their sound, while also tapping into the elements that helped make them so successful in the first place. No Shame joins Easier and Teeth on forthcoming album, Calm, which vocalist Luke Hemmings had this to say about: “For a band to make it to four albums is no small feat in itself, but to be reinventing and constantly pushing our song-writing, and to come out with music that we’ve never been more proud of makes me so happy to be in 5 Seconds of Summer. Calm speaks on a journey through a young man’s life, for better or for worse. We are all human and all make mistakes, sometimes we hurt the ones we love and inevitably, ourselves in the process. Calm leaves the band in a much happier, unified and calm state of mind to continue making albums for years to come.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Dagny, Come Over

DAGNYCOME OVER: Norwegian cult pop singer Dagny has returned with a new single Come Over, along with news of her long-awaited debut album – due for release later this year. The track marries joyous synth pop with feisty girl vocals… not unlike Anne-Marie. But there’s more of a kitsch element underpinning the instrumentals, with the synths containing a vaguely ’80s sensibility akin to classic Cindy Lauper. But above all, it’s fun and sassy with an element of sexuality and playfulness – all with an empowering feminist edge. The singer is in control here. Speaking about the release of the new single, Dagny said: “I am beyond excited to finally introduce Come Over, the first single from my upcoming debut album. The song is a pretty self explanatory, cheeky little thing that celebrates the ‘meet and greet’ phase of a (potential) relationship. Let me put it like this: if you meet someone you’re intrigued by, then Come Over is your fearless, ballsy and excited invitation to get to know’em… particularly if they are a fireman who likes puppies.” The Come Over video was directed by directing duo TUSK and is similarly playful and kitsch (or pink).
Rating: 3 out of 5

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