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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, January 25, 2019

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

Vampire Weekend

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: VAMPIRE WEEKENDHARMONY HALL: It may have been six years since we last heard from Vampire Weekend but the wait has been worth it. To mark their comeback, the band have dropped two new tracks in the form of Harmony Hall and 2021. The former is stunning. Ezra Koenig taps into some trademark bittersweet elements with the central lyric, “I don’t want to live like this, I don’t want to die”, while summoning swirling melodies around him. There’s tumbling acoustic guitar licks, swirling piano arrangements, classic percussion elements, hints of country, classic ’70s pop riffs, as well as a nod or two to classic acts like Simon & Garfunkel. It’s a work of immense quality, as intricately layered as we’ve come to expect, but different enough to be refreshingly new and oh-so very, very welcome. The song is taken from new album, Father of the Bride, which is already shaping up to be pretty darn special.
Rating: 5 out of 5

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Beck, Tarantula

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BECKTARANTULA: The continually evolving music box of wonders produced by Beck continues unabated with new single Tarantula, a track inspired by Alfonso Cuaron’s award-winning [and now Oscar nominated] Netflix film Roma. Befitting its inspiration, this is cinematic, yet thought-provoking. Dripping with atmosphere, this finds Beck’s distinct vocal offering a hushed, contemplative exploration of life over echoed, atmospheric electronics, the occasional string arrangement and piano. It’s beguiling stuff, evocative of Bowie and Peter Gabriel in its design and scope. The central line of “and when the thunder breaks, it breaks for me” cuts to the core of the film’s message, which offers a very personal journey for its filmmaker. Beck has long been a master of combining outlandish moments of trendy yet original alt-pop with something more sombre, introspective and heartbreaking. Here, he adopts the latter style to conjure something equally brilliant and lasting. Cuaron will be proud.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Julia Michaels, Anxiety

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: JULIA MICHAELS feat SELENA GOMEZANXIETY: GRAMMY® Award-nominated multi-platinum singer and songwriter Julia Michaels is set to release her new album, Inner Monologue Part I. To celebrate, she’s dropped the single Anxiety, featuring Selena Gomez – and is simplicity is disarming. As confessional as it is catchy, Anxiety finds acoustic guitar bristling against Michaels’ breathy delivery on vivid lyrics such as: “My friends, they want to take me to the movies. I tell them to f*ck off, I’m holding hands with my depression.” It’s a timely release, too, given the newfound impetus that recognition for mental health issues are generating at the moment. But it’s also honest, underlining the complexity of coping with a mental condition while also struggling to keep up with the demands of modern life (from friends to family). It should, therefore, become a go-to anthem for anyone struggling with such issues. That it does so in a way that’s so catchy, should also ensure that the song reaches a wider audience, thereby fostering a culture of greater understanding beyond those living with it.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Twenty One Pilots, Chlorine

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: TWENTY ONE PILOTSCHLORINE: Twenty One Pilots have shared the official music video for standout album track, Chlorine. Directed by long-time collaborator Reel Bear Media, the video finds the band initially inspecting a disused swimming pool before being joined by an alien-like, Gremlin-style creature. Eventually, an unlikely bond develops between band member and ‘beast’. It’s an endlessly fascinating watch and well worthy of video of the week status. And then there’s the single itself, a bona fida classic that underlines why the band’s latest album, Trench, has enabled them to grow enormously in popularity. Marked out by a hip-hop style back-beat, a classic chorus and some really nicely interwoven piano loops, this is melodic, cinematic and catchy as hell – breaking between mainstream and alternative EDM in effortless fashion. It is one of the many highlights to feature on the LP.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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David Gray, Watching The Waves

DAVID GRAYWATCHING THE WAVES: Watching The Waves is the latest single to arrive from Gray’s forthcoming new album, Gold In A Brass Age. Produced by Ben De Vries, the record takes its name from a Raymond Carver short story, with artwork provided by tattooist London Boy. Speaking about the track, which is notable for its quiet sincerity, Gray said: “In part, this is a song for a friend who died. The lyrics are all over the place. You can extrapolate them in to countless corners of life, depending on your own experiences. It’s up to the listener to decide. I’ve been through a phenomenal amount of emotional upheaval in the past few years. Life itself is often more than you can take and a person can only process so much.” The sentiments behind that statement, as well as some of the lyrics of the song (“Thoughts like crumbs in the sheets, Words thrown like coins in a cup, Just one more house in the rain, Just one more spoonful of salt” or “I gave it all I could give, I took that ghost for my bride, Went day by day trying to live, With my heart on the outside”), are genuinely thought-provoking and applicable to most lives. The accompanying instrumentals, meanwhile, are low-key, electronic and quietly beautiful, allowing Gray’s equally reflective vocals to shine through. It may not be the most instantly accessible of the releases from the album so far, but it’s undeniably thoughtful and it stays with you.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Newton Faulkner, Don't Leave Me

NEWTON FAULKNERDON’T LEAVE ME WAITING: Newton Faulkner has dropped new single Don’t Leave Me Waiting to kickstart an exciting year ahead, having previously announced his new album, The Very Best Of Newton Faulkner… So Far, which will be released in March with a major UK headline tour taking place this Spring. Commenting on the track, Newton said: “I wrote this on a trip to Australia when I was meant to have a day off, which doesn’t normally happen when working so far away so I put a writing session in and I’m very glad I did. It’s a song about a friend’s relationship and a situation I think most people have found themselves in, of waiting to find out if someone wants to go out with you, or not. She said yes, so it’s all cool.” There’s a sense of uncertainty in the lyrics early on, which is echoed in the hushed early style of the song (and its soul-pop vibe). But as the optimism grows, the song begins to soar, layering in background vocals and harmonies, as well as lusher instrumentals. It’s a slow-builder that blossoms beautifully – just like all classic Newton Faulkner records tend to.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Vampire Weekend

VAMPIRE WEEKEND – 2021: The second new song from Vampire Weekend [after their six year hiatus] may not be as great as Harmony Hall [few songs can be] but it’s distinct in its own way. A very short, stripped-down offering that’s barely two minutes in length, this is built around a sample of a track by Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono, which was written to be played in Muji stores in the Eighties. It finds a steely guitar intertwining with a soft synth, while Koenig sings: “2021, will you think about me?/I could wait a year but I couldn’t wait three.” It doesn’t instantly register as a worthwhile single, given its brevity, but there’s a striking beauty and a disarming simplicity that suggests it could work really well within the album as a whole. As a stand-alone, it merely drops more temptation and anticipation ahead of the release of Father of the Bride as a whole.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ian Brown, Ripples

IAN BROWNRIPPLES: Ian Brown has released Ripples, which is taken from his highly-anticipated upcoming album of the same name – his first solo material in nine years. As you’d expect from Brown, it drops a funky back-beat, as well as some unmistakeable vocals, as well as the occasionally playful electronic (a kind of zany loop that zig-zags its way in and out of proceedings from time to time). It’s arguably the type of song that long-time fans of Brown will lap up. But while certainly fun, complete with a blistering mid-track guitar breakdown, it’s not really stretching the singer-songwriter into new territories. It feels like a song that operates well within Brown’s comfort zone – and that’s taking into account the fact that Brown produced all the album’s new material himself, as well as writing the majority of the tracks and playing guitar, drums and a host of other instruments. It’s good, just not as great as we all know he’s capable of. Incidentally, the release date of Ian’s eagerly anticipated album has been brought forward to February 1, 2019.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Diplo, Boom Bye Bye

DIPLO feat NISKABOOM BYE BYE: Following the global success of his acclaimed California EP last year, global superstar Diplo has released the new single, Boom Boom Bye featuring breakout French star Niska. The track will feature on a follow-up sister EP to California, called Europa, out soon. The resulting track is sung in French but embodies many Diplo traits – from its hip-hop beats and slick electronic instrumentals, to its easy appeal (which boasts crossover potetial beyond the hip-hop market). And the French vocals add some European allure, virtually guaranteeing the song’s appeal on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s highly catchy, effortlessly danceable and typically cool. For those that don’t know, Niska is a pioneer of Afro Trap in France, having already achieved 5 diamond certified singles and accrued over 1 billion YouTube views, leading him to become a ubiquitous figure in France and across social media, where he has over 2 million Instagram followers. His influence even extends to Blaise Matuidi, the tireless Juventus midfielder, who celebrates each of his goals by mimicking Niska’s signature gesture. Commenting on the collaboration, Diplo said: “Niska came over late one night in Paris and we played this idea down on a piano loop that I made. I had only been familiar with him because he had every song on the French Spotify chart that moment. I was really excited that he came through and made this crazy idea with me. One year later we finished it, and it’s out for all my Parisians now.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Kut, I Am Vain

THE KUT – I AM VAIN: The Kut have dropped a striking video for their single I Am Vain, a blistering guitar anthem that finds the band in fiery form. Driven by those spiky guitar riffs and a genuine sense of bravado, this epitomises the angry state of American rock at the moment, and is as no-nonsense as the sentiments behind the song suggest. Explains Princess Maha: “I Am Vain wasn’t just about vanity. It was about laughing out loud in the face of criticism. About taking undue negativity with a pinch of salt. It’s like when someone says something about you, to try and put you down, but instead of being affected by it, you are just thinking, hmm, and so what?” The music video sees Princess Maha as pilot of a private jet, rocking out in an aircraft-hanger with Diana Bartmann (drums) and Stella Vie (bass), and spinning out a neat tapping solo to boot. And that’s not forgetting the cracking guitar solo, which should appeal to any airheads out there who need something to get their groove on in this fading scene. The video, the eighth from the new album Valley of Thorns, is well worth checking out.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Robinson, Karma

ROBINSONKARMA: Hotly-tipped New Zealand pop act Robinson reveals her new single Karma, out now via Ministry of Sound Recordings. The track is an empowering response to being mistreated in a relationship and the consequences that come with breaking someone’s heart. She explains: “It’s about opening up your heart to someone who ends up taking that for granted, then when you end things, they try and come back like nothing ever happened. I really wanted Karma to explore the pain of early heartbreak… I also wanted it to have real power to it – you can’t break someone’s heart and then act like you didn’t.” Rather than wallowing in a self-pitying vibe, however, Robinson adopts a more sassy outlook. The back-beats are bouncy, in line with the accompanying electronic loops, and the song as a whole carries a sense of empowerment (especially when Robinson declares that “karma’s a bitch and she’s coming for you”). It’s the type of song that has plenty to say and that should easily help to get her noticed. Karma is Robinson’s first release of the year, following an array of successes for the pop newcomer. In 2018, her debut single Nothing to Regret was certified Platinum in Australia and in her home country of New Zealand, she received two nominations at the New Zealand Vodaphone Music Awards for Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Single of the Year.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tarantina, Hunter

TARANTINAHUNTER: Self-taught singer, multi-intrumentalist, producer and videographer Tarantina returns following the release of her debut EP Teething in 2018 with new single Hunter. The song is being hailed as a powerful and stirring return from the Londoner and was co-produced by Tarantina and Tommy Sheen. “Hunter is about that feeling in the pit of your stomach, a gut instinct you get when you know someone you love is hiding something from you,” she explains. The darkness inherent in that type of inspiration is also to be found in the atmospheric instrumentals, which are driven by a fierce back-beat that succeeds in getting the track noticed. That said, the opening is stripped back and almost acoustic, with subtle electronics and a fragile vocal laying out the vulnerabilities inherent in those lyrics. The beat soon drops, though, along with layered instrumentation, giving the song a boldness that’s equally ear-catching and provocative. The same can be said for the accompanying video too.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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