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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, January 10, 2020

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

Celeste, Stop This Flame

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: CELESTESTOP THIS FLAME: What a way to start 2020…. Celeste follows-up the announcement of her 2020 BRITs Rising Star award with new single Stop This Flame and further news that she is the newly crowned winner of the prestigious BBC Sound of 2020 poll. The new single shows why this ascendant soul singer is so hot right now. A soul-pop offering that’s shot through with ear-pleasing melody, sleek and moody style and those blistering, husky vocals, it’s a single that’s designed to empower. There are slight comparisons with both Adele and Amy Winehouse (in terms of power and retro leanings) but Celeste is also a force all of her own and this gutsy, catchy new offering is an emphatic way to announce herself to an even bigger listener base. Commenting on the single herself, Celeste explained: “In essence, Stop This Flame is a song about seeing it through to the end. Whether it’s about not letting go of love, not letting go of a dream or stridently coming through some form of adversity. The song has always evoked those feelings within me.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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SYML

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: SYMLFLAGS: As with millions of people around the world, cancer is personal for Seattle-based artist and producer SYML (aka Brian Fennell). While supporting loved ones’ battles with the disease, he dealt with his anguish the best way he knew how, through his music. The result is the heartbreaking and delicately beautiful Flags, which offers a heartbreaking but ultimately empowering insight into the battle anyone suffering from the disease goes through. And with its central refrain of “fuck this cursed cancer, send it straight to hell”, there’s a rallying call worth getting behind. Intriguingly, the song is told from the body’s perspective, to give it that sense of originality and to provoke thought among listeners about what, excatly, a body experiences when battling the disease, courtesy of the drugs and chemo that get pumped in (“I’m hurt, not hurt enough to die”). And while certainly a melancholy subject, it’s a song that is capable of touching and inspiring, while the acoustic-folk guitar and gentle drums that accompany it have a fantastically warm, melodic quality befitting the sensitivity of its subject. Fennell explained: “I struggle with things that seem supernatural but are actually very natural. Cancer is one of those natural things. Nature is undiscerning and unforgiving. Cancer is raw and shapes the landscape of our lives. The metaphors run deep but they don’t make mourning someone any less painful, especially before they leave us. I wrote Flags, like I write many of my songs, as a form of therapy to deal with people in my life who have battled cancer. The song is from the perspective of the body experiencing cancer. We meet pain and hopelessness with community and fight, and the fight is meaningful. Cancer fucking sucks and life is beautiful.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Halsey, You Should Be So Sad

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: HALSEYYOU SHOULD BE SO SAD: Halsey limbers up for the release of her keenly anticipated new album Manic with the release of the volatile new single You Should Be So Sad. A break-up anthem of sorts, this flips the traditional script by emerging as a sense of relief that a relationship has failed. Lyrics are put-downs, with lines like “you’re not half the man you think that you are” and “I’m so glad I never had a baby with you”, culminating in a chorus that tells the man “you should be so sad” that the affair is at an end. As such, it strikes a blow for female empowerment, while setting those words against some spare acoustic guitar licks and a ticking ryhthmn section. The accompanying video is just as eye-catching and designed to leave the person it’s aimed at thirsting for what he’s lost: Halsey struts her stuff in various skimpy outfits, while surrounded by fellow dancers who occasionally engulf her with their bodies. It’s stylish, sexy, anguished and powerful.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Seafret, Most of us are Strangers

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: SEAFRETMOST OF US ARE STRANGERS: Seafret open the start of the decade with the release new single Most Of Us Are Strangers, complete with eye-catching video. The emotive track, featuring their trademark folk-pop sound, is the title track from the east-Yorkshire duo’s highly anticipated second album, which is set for release on March 13. A quietly empowering offering, the single itself offers a rallying call, or supportive arm, to anyone who is struggling with emotional upheaval (whether mental health related or loss). The central chorus concedes “most of us are strangers, looking for someone to save us”, while talking about having to “suffer in silence”. But it offers hope in the idea that there may always be someone willing to listen. And the video embraces that idea, juxtaposing black and white sequences of the Seafret duo singing and playing the acoustic guitar that is a feature of the instrumentals, with a couple finding each other in slo-mo rain. It was directed by their long-term visual collaborator Stuart Alexander. Seafret commented: “Most Of Us Are Strangers is based around hiding emotions or troubles to save inflicting the worry on others. We go about our daily lives interacting with the same friends, colleagues and loved ones, but most of time the appearance that we give is not a true reflection of how we may be feeling on the inside. If we were to share our true feelings, our triumphs, battles and our defeats there’s a big chance people’s opinions of us would completely change, thus making most of us strangers. We tend to hold things back because people are all too quick to judge. To us, although melancholic, the song is hopeful and says, “It’s ok to open up and it’s ok not to be ok.” We hope you all love this as much as we do. Jack and Harry x.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Grouplove, Deleter

GROUPLOVEDELETER: Grouplove unleash a riotous new single in the form of Deleter – a marked change of pace for them in many ways. Where former tracks, such as Tongue Tied and Welcome To Your Life, have gone more pop or electro to get their infectiousness across, Deleter opts for boisterous, riot-pop. It’s alive with fiery guitar riffs, shouty lyrics and pot-shots at the craziness of modern life (courtesy of lyrics like “All this time I thought you were a leader, it turns out you’re only a deleter, tell your friends that you’re OK, you’re never gonna see them anyway”). It retains an anthemic edge, however, thanks to some high velocity “yeah yeah yeah” chants and those always endearing boy-girl vocals that help to set them apart from other alt-rock groups of their nature. The equally eye-catching video was directed by Chris Blauvelt, who was the cinematographer on Jonah Hill’s crowd-pleasing film Mid90s.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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John Legend, I Won't Break Your Heart

JOHN LEGEND – I WON’T BREAK YOUR HEART: John Legend drops the hopelessly romantic I Won’t Break Your Heart as a precursor to his guest appearance on hit US TV series This Is Us. The heartfelt song details the moments while falling in love, when a couple chats quietly together after the rest of the world has fallen asleep. It’s designed to be heart-warming and honest… a song filled with hope at what many view as a dark time for the world as a whole. There’s mention of gazing longingly at another person, and why – in the singer’s eyes – his object of affection is “perfect, the way you are”. As such, it’s empowering, informing people to be confident in themselves and true to their instincts – as that will shine through. Lyrics such as “I’ll be there when you get lonely, lonely, keep the secrets that you told me, told me, and your love is all you owe me” add to that sense of security the song is offering, while being shamelessly and hopefully romantic. It’s a ballad to rival anything that the likes of Coldplay and Ed Sheeran can deliver and it’s almost certain to inform a few first dances at forthcoming weddings across the globe. The accompanying video only heightens that sense of romance.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sofia

SOFIA feat JESSE MARKLINSORRY: Emerging Finnish artist Sofia steps into the new year with the brooding, R&B-tinged single, Sorry, featuring Jesse Markin’s thoughtful verses. Opening up on the story behind the song, Sofia explained how the idea for the track came from the ‘cheesiest’ quote she found – “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” She continues: “I wrote this song while going through a break-up, just admitting that you’re through can be a pretty hard thing to do, but some things can’t be locked out and need to be experienced.” Jesse wrote his part as an answer to Sofia’s experience, sating: “My aim was to capture the thoughts of one going through a break-up. The questions one might be asking, for example: does she love me for my public persona or is it just me? Why continue if the spark is missing? Am I making the right choice by leaving? What love should feel like and is our generation too hasty with these decisions? At the end the answers are something we have to figure out for ourselves.” The thoughtful, probing lyrics are offset by atmospheric beats and equally moody electronics, all tinged with that R’n‘B groove. It’s a stylish duet that sounds positively cinematic, while provoking some serious thought about the complexity of love.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Alfreda, Miss World

ALFREDAMISS WORLD: Rising singer-songwriter Alfreda leads the new year with the enthralling, genre-bending Hole cover, Miss World. Originally written and performed by ’90s rock icon Courtney Love, this new version places the stark lyrics very much to the fore, while giving the song a contemporary twist with occasional synth flourishes and some subtle beats. It’s an atmospheric alternative that plays up the melancholy elements, with lyrics such as “I’ve made my bed, I’ll lie in it, I’ve made my bed, I’ll die in it”. When that chorus becomes whispered late on, the synths really surge offering repeated juxtapositions that thrill. On Miss World, Alfreda explains: “The thinking behind doing a Miss World cover was partly because I’m a fan of Courtney Love. Her style, her voice and when she gate-crashed Madonna’s interview at the 1995 VMA’s. But it’s mostly because I feel like I relate to Love’s all-consuming feelings of self-criticism. To me, this song is about how she felt lost in the judgement and opinions of others, seeing herself through their lens instead of her own. I’ve often felt I need to be liked by others in order to like myself. And if I don’t meet the exaggerated high standards of myself then I’m self-destructive. Sonically, we’ve produced it to be more my style. It’s rather a glittery sound bite than a rock song.” Mission very much accomplished. This is a complete makeover that has a different kind of power.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Megan Thee Stallion, Diamonds

MEGAN THEE STALLION & NORMANIDIAMONDS: Girl power and bad attitudes collide in Megan Thee Stallion and Normani’s collaboration, Diamonds, taken from the soundtrack to the forthcoming Warner Bros/DC movie Birds of Prey (featuring the return of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn). It’s as badass as the character, seemlessly fusing hard-grooving R’n‘B, dirty pop (thanks to a surprisingly melodic chorus) and shades of hip-hop. There’s plenty of diamond envy (courtesy of a chorus that proclaims “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”), and sass aplenty thanks to lines like “I like it when you call me crazy” and “it’s good that I know how to shoot, don’t be scared if I point it at you”. And while certainly flaunting some dubious stereotypes [sexually], there’s something undeniably naughty, catchy and infectious about it – something that Harley Quinn would be proud of. The accompanying video is slick, too, fusing footage from the film with scenes that are designed to mirror the events in it (thanks to dance routines involving sledgehammers!)
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Beach Bunny, Cloud 9

BEACH BUNNYCLOUD 9: Beach Bunny reveal Cloud 9 as the third single from their hotly anticipated debut LP Honeymoon (out February 14) on Mom+Pop. The dreamy new song is accompanied by an animated video created by Margaret Bialis. Put together, the whole package is something of a daydream, a slice of dream-pop that arrives like a shot of summer sun amid these cold, wet and windy wintery days. The sunshine vocals, the livewire indie guitar riffs and the crashing drums combine to create a really sweet, ultra feel-good blast of energy that’s also shot through with doses of punk edge. Lili Trifilio says of Cloud 9: “I sought out to write a true, gushy, genuine love song when creating Cloud 9. At the time, I was at a questionable point in my relationship and I was reflecting on the last few years and how despite the ups and downs, love held us together. I hope that anyone who listens to this song can feel the love in the lyrics and give love a chance, as well as remember to always love themselves first and foremost.” It’s mission very much accomplished with this one!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ivory Wave, Young Blood

IVORY WAVEYOUNG BLOOD: Birmingham quintet Ivory Wave have released a new video for latest single Young Blood, the stripped back closing track from their debut EP Dream Nights. Driven by an infectious central guitar hook and some honest, heart-on-sleeve lyrics and vocals, this is a disarming listen that reflects the fragility of life, as observed from two perspectives: young and old. Explains frontman George Johnson: “This is a really special song for me, I wrote it when I was around 18 after a conversation I had with my nan, who was ill at the time. We were talking about dreaming and she told me that when she dreamed she was still young and was able to do anything that she wanted to do. So the song stemmed from that, it’s a real celebration of life and a fitting tribute.” A slow-builder, the song eventually erupts into a powerful, gospel-tinged anthem, which turns from melancholy and reflective to celebratory, amid lyrics that proclaim “I wish you could see all the memories, you’re my forever, I’ll see you again”. It’s empowering, emotional stuff.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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