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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, January 24, 2020

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

Pearl Jam, Dance of the Clairvoyants

SINGLE OF THE WEEK: PEARL JAMDANCE OF THE CLAIRVOYANTS: Pearl Jam make an ear-catching return with Dance of the Clairvoyants, the first song off their highly anticipated upcoming album Gigaton. And while those Eddie Vedder vocals remain as distinct and gruff as ever, there’s a cleaner, crisper sound attached that marks this out as something different. As bassist Jeff Ament said in a statement: “Dance was a perfect storm of experimentation and real collaboration, mixing up the instrumentation and building a great song, and Ed writing some of my favourite words yet, around Matt’s killer drum pattern. Did I mention Mike’s insane guitar part and that Stone is playing bass on this one? We’ve opened some new doors creatively and that’s exciting.” The excitement is worth stoking. There’s a Talking Heads vibe at times, as well as Trent Reznor based, thanks to the seamless blend of beats, guitars and synths. Hence, the grunge sound that’s usually more synonymous with Pearl Jam is largerly absent. And the result is, perhaps, the band’s most accessible song to date… albeit one that should continue to delight the die-hard fans too.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tom Grennan, This Is The Place

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: TOM GRENNANTHIS IS THE PLACE: Tom Grennan has released the official music video for his catchy new break-up single This Is The Place, debuted as Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record’ on BBC Radio 1 and marking the first new music since his 2018 Top Five breakthrough debut album, Lighting Matches. A lyrically reflective tale of lost love inspired by raw emotion, This Is The Place arrives built on a gigantic chorus and delivered with searing honesty. Shot in South Africa, its video is a cinematic epic with some stunning backdrops to offset some of the darker, more intimate moments where Grennan finds himself looking anguished and tormented. The song itself drops an insanely catchy chorus (“This is the place that I come to forget you, these are the nights that I drink to regret you”) that’s anthemic and sing-along, despite being offset by lyrics that suggest the depths of emotional turmoil Grennan finds himself in. But there’s a gutsy guitar backdrop, too, as well as some sliding beats that lend the track an urgency to match Grennan’s gruff but appealing vocals. Speaking of the track, Tom said: “This song is about finding a place of complete calm and escaping utter chaos and carnage. My happy place, my go to place! Whether it’s on my own or with the person I love. The song documents the kind of journey I go on to get there, and one that I would make any time of the day to reach a serene and cleansing state of mind.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Gracie Abrams

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: GRACIE ABRAMSSTAY: Emerging artist Gracie Abrams has released the video for her spellbinding single Stay, which has already garnered millions of streams around the world since its release in November and is currently one of the most played songs on Australian tastemaker radio station Triple J. A fitting introduction to the Los Angeles-born 20-year-old artist, the diary-like visual for Stay perfectly channels the raw intimacy of her music: a stripped-back yet nuanced sound centred on her sharply detailed lyrics. The song itself offsets Abrams’ endearingly fragile vocals over some layered guitar licks and a growing sense of cinema… with piano and subtle beats eventually added to the mix to heighten the emotional impact of the song. Lyrically, the song represents an inner exploration of feelings that eventually gave rise to something empowering. Explains Abrams: “I needed to confront feelings I had pushed down and denied for a while. Stay helped me do that.” It’s beautifully cathartic. Shot in her hometown of Los Angeles and directed by photographer Moni Haworth, the video for Stay offers an up-close glimpse into Abrams’s world. With all the hazy charm of a home movie, the visual collages together candid snapshots of her everyday life, unfolding in dreamlike images of spilled Slurpees, smoggy sunsets, beaches and birthday cake and fallen bougainvillea petals.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Siv Jakobsen

SIV JAKOBSENFEAR THE FEAR: Norwegian solo artist Siv Jakobsen is back to follow up her much loved debut album The Nordic Mellow with new offering A Temporary Soothing, which was recorded with producer Chris Bond (Ben Howard, Nick Mulvey) and mixed by Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth). The record is described as a beautifully intimate exploration of fear, anxiety, change and the struggle between being healthy and being productive. The soothing element is to be found in dreamily atmospheric lead single Fear The Fear, which bridges the sonic shift from the skeletal and haunting songs of The Nordic Mellow and transforms her willowy vocals that spin fragile folklore stories her to the more in-depth production of A Temporary Soothing. Hence, while opening in stark, stripped back fashion, the slow-building song eventually blossoms into something cinematic and orchestral, with some beautifully ethereal synth flourishes and vocal harmonies. It’s a beguiling, enchanting listen, rooted in thought-provoking lyricism. Commenting on the inspiration behind the track, Jakobsen reveals: “Fear The Fear was born from a spiralling worry that I wouldn’t be able to create well if I was well, happy, content with myself and my life. It touches on my tendency to hang out in my own head and stay there, worrying about something in a constant, stressful loop. Fear is a big element in my general state of being, and I’m often run by it. I had a thought that perhaps my good songs were be behind me if I was in a truly happy place and I couldn’t get away from this for a long time but writing this song helped me get that spiralling fearfulness out of my system.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Four Tet, Baby

FOUR TET feat ELLIE GOULDINGBABY: Four Tet has dropped a new song called Baby, featuring a sample of vocalist Ellie Goulding. Taken from his forthcoming new album, Sixteen Oceans (released in March 2020), the song mixes ambience with late night groove material to both relaxing and dance-worthy effect. The central thrust of the track finds hypnotic synths mixing with those spliced Goulding vocals and persuasive back-beats (the kind that could also grace a Bonobo creation). But there’s a mid-track breakdown into blissfully ambient territory, where the vocals are dropped, the beats fade and the dance vibe is replaced by something more meditative courtesy of tweeting birds and ambient synths. Of course, the beats start back up and the vocals to return to usher the song to its close, but it’s a nice mix of styles that create a highly enjoyable, epically cinematic offering. You can well imagine it gracing the background of many late night London bars.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Awolnation

AWOLNATION feat ALEX EBERTMAYDAY!!! FIESTA FEVER: As Awolnation prepare to release Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders, their new LP, on April 24, they now drop the livewire Mayday!!! Fiesta Fever, featuring Alex Ebert, of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The result is a crazy, crazy offering that begins in manic fashion and just gets more and more insane. Early doors, the song kicks off with the claim “All I wanna do is play rock and roll at a disco party”, before then dropping a catchy disco vibe interspersed with fiery guitar hooks. The shouty lyrics, meanwhile, enhance the ragged feel, building to a chorus that hits fever pitch with lines like “fiesta fever running through my veins” and added stabs of brass. The track then maintains this feverish momentum, dizzying the listener with more guitar blasts, further riotous vocals, kick-ass beats and detours into Goth wailing and – finally – wall of noise guitars and chanting. It’s likely to put a lot of people off given its continuous shape-shifting and high intensity. But there’s also something strangely addictive, too, if you’re in the right mood.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Pet Shop Boys

PET SHOP BOYSMONKEY BUSINESS: Pet Shop Boys have released their 14th studio album, Hotspot, via x2 Records / Kobalt – available on CD, vinyl, cassette and digital formats. The album is the third instalment in the series of PSB albums produced by Stuart Price, following Electric in 2013 and Super in 2016. To celebrate, the duo also revealed the new video for their latest single Monkey Business, directed by Vaughan Arnell. The track itself contains many classic PSB elements, from an ear-catching central synth arrangement to slick disco-pop beats and those trademark Neil Tennant vocals. There are traces of classic elements (West End Girls springs to mind), as well as something resolutely kitsch and disco (“bring me margeruitas, champagne and red wine”). But there’s an urgency, too, that makes this one easy to want to get up and dance to – something born out by the accompanying video that finds the duo delivering their song amid a lot of dance acts in several flamboyant outfits. Fans will lap it up.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jessie Reyez

JESSIE REYEZLOVE IN THE DARK: To conicide with the announcement that Jessie Reyez will release her forthcoming debut album Before Love Came To Kill Us, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter has also dropped a new single and video for the piano-based Love In The Dark. The track is billed as a poignant song that tells the story of being there for a loved one and providing them strength as they go through life’s challenges, emphasised by an uplifting and bold melody. The visual was directed by Se Oh and features Jessie submerging and eventually getting lost in a serene body of water reflecting a starlit sky. It’s a heartfelt offering, dripping with emotion as Reyez offers a helping hand to someone undergoing a massive personal crisis (“I’ll be there to pull you back up”). The pianos are suitably melancholy and subtle, allowing Reyez’s earthy vocals to offer a sense of hope amid the despair. It’s quietly empowering and more than a little cinematic. Speaking about the inspiration behind the visual and song Jessie, shared: “I wrote this during a really sad time in my life, I remember crying. I hope people understand how vulnerable it is.” They will.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Roger and Brian Eno

ROGER AND BRIAN ENOCELESTE: Roger and Brian Eno explore the nature of sound in their first ever duo album, Mixing Colours. Set for international release on March 20, 2020, their Deutsche Grammophon debut is a major milestone in their ongoing creative collaboration. The album’s 18 soundscapes invite listeners to immerse themselves in the infinite space that lies below their surface. New single Celeste offers a serenely beautiful taster, weaving a lazy electronic offering around equally laidback piano arrangements to create something that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Vangelis Blade Runner soundtrack. It’s romantic, wimsical and tantalisingly seductive. The piano arrangements are particularly intricate the longer the track lasts, offering a beguiling, intoxicating listen that leaves you thirsting for more (as well as a futuristic visual to accompany it). Mixing Colours grew over a number of years, with both artists drawing on their long experience as composers, performers and producers. The creative process began with Roger Eno playing individual pieces and recording them using a MIDI keyboard. He then sent these recordings to his older brother, who set each piece in its own particular sound world, by revising and manipulating its content. Their exchange developed an effortless dynamic as the project unfolded. Roger’s compositions evoke the yearning melodic style of late Schubert, while Brian’s sound design draws from his ground-breaking conceptual work with electronic music and lifelong fascination with the creative potential of new media. The album promises to offer something special.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Navina, Pieces

NAVINAPIECES: Singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Navina has been gaining industry recognition and momentum since releasing her first two singles 27 Hearts and Circles in the last year. Her latest release, Pieces, premiered on BBC Radio London as part of a live session and Premier Radio’s Unsigned Podcast. Pieces sees the songstress jumping back on the piano to bring you uplifting tunes inspired by baroque melodies and middle 8s that spreads the message that in life’s big jigsaw, progress doesn’t come instantly, it comes in pieces. Its playful yet meaningful, driven by some beautifully upbeat swirling piano arrangements, and a sweet set of vocals that are high on melody and harmony, while delivering their message of positivity. To compliment this feel good tune, Navina has also released an equally as feel good visual, featuring the artist amongst friends in a lighthearted, playful environment. It echoes the epitome and essence of the track and shows the joy of the simpler things in life, such as playing games and just having a good laugh with your nearest and dearest.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Inhaler, We Have To Move On

INHALER – WE HAVE TO MOVE ON: Hotly-tipped Dublin quartet Inhaler have released their new single We Have To Move On as the follow-up to their first single Ice Cream Sundae, which was released in September. The jubilant indie-rock of We Have To Move On showcases the band’s way of combining sharp, hooky melodies with expansive, atmospheric brooding. The latter element is to be found in the vocals (which occasionally channel early Bono), which serve as a decent contrast to the more catchy, breezy guitar hooks that lend the song its indie vibe. Hence, while evocative of a tried and tested indie-pop sound, there’s enough here to justify the fact that Inhaler were recently announced as fifth place in the BBC Sound Of 2020. The band have also recently completed a UK and European tour that saw them sell over 7,000 tickets and play to frenzied, sold-out crowds. Four friends, Inhaler formed while they were still at school… Elijah Hewson, Robert Keating, Ryan McMahon and Josh Jenkinson bonded over a love of similar groups, taking in The Stone Roses, Joy Division, The Strokes, Depeche Mode, Interpol, Kings Of Leon, The Cure and more.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Arin Ray

ARIN RAYTHE GET DOWN: Emerging singer-songwriter Arin Ray delivers a suspenseful new video for his latest musical offering, The Get Down. Co-produced by Ray alongside The Rascals and Sir Dylan, the soulful soundscape was given the cinematic treatment by director, Bobby Hanaford (DRAM, Vic Mensa, and its suitably eye-catching. The single itself is the third offering from the Cincinnati native’s surprise EP, Phases II, which dropped in mid-December. And it’s a classic soul offering that carries with it a heavy ’70s vibe reminiscent of both Marvin Gaye and Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson, not to mention something more contemporary akin to John Legend. The beats are sleek and seductive, the vocals suitably soulful (yet R’n‘B infused) and the synths sexy and late night orientated. The EP includes Ray’s biggest song to date, Change, featuring Bay Area vocalist, Kehlani.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Joel Corry, Lonely

JOEL CORRYLONELY: Fresh from returning from his first ever Australian Tour, Joel Corry kicks off 2020 with the release of new single, Lonely. Featuring a trademark, booming lo-slung bassline and an earworm vocal hook by collaborator Harlee, this is targeted towards the dancefloor and feeling good, in spite of lyrics that confront loneliness and post a warning. It’s this mix of commercially savvy pop and deeper meaning that doesn’t work, though, with the beats and harmonic synths jarring when set against lyrics that state “just because you’re lonely, doesn’t mean we go back to the start, just because you’re lonely, don’t mean that you can play with your heart”. True, the same kind of sentiments reverberate around many a pop song, but the l-l-l-l-lonely element is particularly tonally off. It would be interesting to hear what the song would sound like if they stripped back the beats and turned it into a piano ballad.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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