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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, July 14, 2017

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

Jack Johnson, My Mind Is For Sale

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: JACK JOHNSON – MY MIND IS FOR SALE: Don’t be fooled by the gentle beats, and easygoing acoustics, this is Jack Johnson in angry form. New single My Mind Is For Sale is actually an anti-Donald Trump rant that finds Johnson lamenting the thoughts and opinions of the controversial American President. As he states in the chorus: “I don’t care for your paranoid us against them fearful kind of walls, I don’t care for your ‘me first, gimme gimme’ appetite.” It’s an effective put-down, made all the more appealing for the way in which it still manages to maintain Johnson’s laidback vibe. Indeed, the gentle beats and warm acoustics remain intact and are as endearing as ever, giving this a campfire sing-along kind of vibe that will make its clever lyrics resonate even more loudly. The song, which marks a very welcome return for this artist, is taken from Johnson’s forthcoming seventh LP, All the Light Above It Too, which marks his first since 2013’s From Here to Now to You. Johnson recorded the album at his own Mango Tree Studio, playing most of the instruments himself. He says of the record: “This album shares what has been on my mind during the past year or so. A year in which I sailed through the North Atlantic Gyre for a documentary about plastic pollution in the ocean. A year in which Trump was elected as the President of the United States. A year in which I camped, surfed, got stitches, explored, dreamed, shared time and endless conversations with my family and friends … all of which inspired these songs. I usually make sketches of the songs first then set up a time to actually record the album. This time around the original sketches became the final versions. I didn’t want to lose any of the spirit that a song has in its rawest form.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Benjamin Gibbard

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BENJAMIN GIBBARDTHE CONCEPT: Benjamin Gibbard, the frontman for Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service, has announced the release of Bandwagonesque, a full-length cover version of Teenage Fanclub’s classic 1991 album. The first offering from that is The Concept, which is delivered in a slower, more mellow version than the original – almost ethereal in places. Gibbard has slowed the pace but retained the tight melodicism, lending even more warmth to the chorus (as well as a bittersweet undertow). He then opens things out a little bit for a big instrumental, which is augmented by some lush vocal harmonies. It’s a lovely re-imagining of an already great track – one that’s respectful of the original, while different enough to be worth checking out. Commenting on his inspiration for covering the LP, Gibbard explained: “Turntable Kitchen approached me last summer about being part of their Sounds Delicious Vinyl series and I was excited about the idea of covering an album in its entirety. Bandwagonesque is my favourite record by my favourite band of all time. It came along at a pivotal time in my musical life and I’ve loved it for over 25 years. It’s been such a blast taking these songs apart to see how they work and then putting them back together again.” Adds Norman Blake, founding member of Teenage Fanclub: “I was thrilled and extremely flattered when I heard that Ben Gibbard had decided to cover Bandwagonesque in its entirety. Needless to say that the reimagining of the album by this very talented fella is both inventive and deftly executed. Thanks Ben.” The result, as you’d expect from an artist of Gibbard’s quality, is beautiful.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Alt-J, Deadcrush

ALT-J – DEADCRUSH: Alt-J’s latest offering from their Relaxer LP is the moody Deadcrush. Featuring a moody, hip-hop infused back-beat, some slick bass and a throbbing synth, the track also boasts an edgy set of vocals that eventually ascend to some falsetto highs akin to listening to a Scissor Sisters chorus. These elements combined serve to enhance the ethereal vibe of the track as a whole, given its themes of the undead and crushes. But then the inspiration behind the track is as bold as it is startling: “As we were finishing writing our second album, This Is All Yours, we came up with a quick jam which we luckily captured on one of our phones. This turned into Deadcrush, which is a word we made up to describe someone who is no longer alive that you fancy. Thus the first verse is about Lee Miller, Joe’s deadcrush, the second about Anne Boleyn, Gus’s…”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Coldplay

COLDPLAY & BIG SEANMIRACLES (SOMEONE SPECIAL): Coldplay team up with Big Sean for Miracles, the latest offering from their Kaleidoscope EP, which is out now. Again, it’s a departure from the sound of old, employing soulful electronic loops, finger-click style beats and just the odd guitar jangle. Chris Martin’s vocals are as evocative as ever, building to another of those trademark towering choruses, before stripping things back down. Big Sean eventually drops a trademark rap and this is incorporated well into the overall flow of the song, without losing any of its ryhthm or identity. It’s a nice touch to weave a guitar loop around it. Miracles isn’t, perhaps, as big and anthemic as its name suggests – but it does serve up a consistently empowering vibe that’s sure to go down well in live form. And it’s further evidence of just how impressive Coldplay’s evolution continues to be.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Arcade Fire, Electric Blue

ARCADE FIREELECTRIC BLUE: Electric Blue, the latest offering from Arcade Fire’s forthcoming Everything Now album, boasts yet another change of direction. Featuring Régine Chassagne singing in falsetto over funky drums and huge doses of synthesized bass, this is another of the album’s more frivolous offerings – more in line with the Abba-esque Everything Now than the darker dance tones of Signs of Life. Indeed, the highs of the falsettos boast something in common with the likes of MGMT at times, while tipping another obvious hat to the energy and creativity of experimental artists such as David Bowie. The disco elements, meanwhile, owe more than a passing nod to Arcade Fire’s own Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), which in itself referenced Blondie. It’s more pop than some of their material, and therefore more instantly commercially appealing. But while this may deliver one of the band’s biggest hits to date, complete with genuine crossover potential, the lack of much darkness or grit does place a marker against it. It’s fun but more forgettable than Arcade Fire’s very best work.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Nine Inch Nails, Less Than

NINE INCH NAILSLESS THAN: Nine Inch Nails’ new EP, Add Violence, will be released on July 21. The five-song collection is the second in a series of three related EPs. The first, Not The Actual Events, was released in December of 2016. Add Violence finds the band (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) becoming more accessible and impenetrable at the same time. The sonic palette expands significantly from Not The Actual Events, incorporating elements of beauty into the dark dissonance. The narrative arc linking the three records begins to emerge through the disassociated lyrics and the provocative and clue-filled cover artwork and accompanying physical component. Less Than, the first single, is almost quintessential NIN. There’s serrated synth work, a power chorus in which Reznor’s vocals properly get unleashed in potent form, and some driving, New Order-like basslines. The changes of pace also work to the song’s advantage, breaking things back down whenever they threaten to run away into complete walls of noise. The result is a track that boasts an exhilarating energy at times, coupled with the menace and edginess inherent in NIN’s best work. The fans will be rejoicing.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Wilsen

WILSENFINAL: Brooklyn trio Wilsen have unveiled the stunning music video for Final – a track taken from their recently-released debut album I Go Missing In My Sleep. Released to coincide with the announcement of their first ever North American headline tour this autumn, the video finds the heartbreaking track (written about a friend’s loss) set to a pas de deux choreographed by dancer Yury Yanowsky, who is featured in the video along with Rachele Buriassi. Both have featured in the Boston Ballet. Yury Yanowsky was a principal dancer in the Boston Ballet for over two decades, is on faculty at Harvard, and comes from a long line of dancers (he is the son of Anatol Yanowsky and Carmen Robles from Lyon Opera Ballet, and brother of Royal Ballet Principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky and Dutch National Ballet Soloist Nadia Yanowksy). The song itself is a stripped down, intimate track that finds a fragile set of vocals accompanied by a delicate piece of guitar (and later on, a whistle), as if to bring out the most from the sad lyrics (which reflect that tragic loss). It’s simple but highly effective – and a song made all the more rich for the presence of such a beautifully realised video.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Feist

FEISTCENTURY: Feist has shared the new video for her single Century, featuring a spoken word outro from the intimitable Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp fame). The stormy, brooding track is available on Feist’s new album, Pleasure. Perhaps fittingly, the song has a keen sense of edge to it, with an uncertainty born out of the emotions informing the songwriting. Instrumentally, though, the song has a raw, ragged vibe courtesy of gutsy blasts of guitar that carry a classic PJ Harvey vibe. The closing vocals from Cocker, meanwhile, have a haunted, thoughtful vibe that brings the song to a distinct close. It’s a potent cocktail that whips you into an emotional whirlwind. The Scott Cudmore directed video sees Leslie Feist come up against her doppelgänger for a dance battle which soon descends into choreographed chaos. The clip also features a cameo from Cocker. It’s well worth checking out. Feist’s first album in six years reflects on secrets and shame, loneliness and tenderness, care and fatigue and is at its core a study on self-awareness.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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George Glew

GEORGE GLEWBURY ME: Bristol newcomer George Glew releases his debut single, Bury Me, and immediately showcases a strong set of vocals. Born and raised in South Wales, his childhood love of folk, blues and soul was nurtured by his parents before finding his later love for rock and indie music. Hence, the new offering owes much to rock and blues as it does soul… the guitars have a bluesy undertow, while his striking vocals have a soulful quality that augment the song’s themes of losing one’s way. As the track progresses, the guitar becomes more pronounced, while Glew really lets rip with his vocals, hitting some emotive highs as he recalls the desperation of his situation. It’s an eye-catching offering from an artist who would appear to have a bright future ahead of him. The new single will be followed by the release of one new track every month for the next year and will be supported by George undertaking a monthly residency at The Gallimaufry in Bristol.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lana Del Rey, Summer Bummer

LANA DEL REY feat A$AP ROCKYSUMMER BUMMER: Lana Del Rey has dropped two tracks this week, both featuring A$AP Rocky – the first of which is Summer Bummer, and it’s a deceptive offering. Initially, it sounds as though it’s going to offer up something haunted and stripped back, with just Del Rey’s reflective vocals accompanying some atmospheric piano. But then a more lively back-beat drops and A$AP Rocky unleashes his lyrical flow. It immediately lends the track more urgency and makes it more interesting. Thereafter, the beat remains intact, while the lyrical duties are shared between singer and rapper, providing a nice juxtaposition of styles: one haunted, melancholic; the other more urban and immediate. It’s a decent offering from Del Rey, albeit one that probably won’t win too many more new fans. But there’s a sense of the singer stamping a signature style over proceedings, while still being broad-minded enough to allow some room for play by the presence of A$AP.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Lana Del Rey, Summer Bummer

LANA DEL REY feat A$AP ROCKYGROUPIE LOVE: The second Lana Del Rey/A$AP Rocky offering of the week comes in the form of Groupie Love, another glimpse from the forthcoming Lust For Life LP. Again, the song assumes a laidback, almost trippy quality that balances romance with something more melancholy. The chorus, in which Del Rey drops her “groupie love” refrain, is both soaring and soothing, and almost hypnotic. But it’s a more conventional song than Summer Bummer, with the duet-form of that track dropped in favour of reducing Rocky’s contribution to a third verse guest rap. It nevertheless remains an effective use of Rocky’s vocal prowess and, once again, lends the track some much needed edge as it threatens to run out of steam. It’s perhaps the lesser of the two songs, given that it follows a more recognisable formula as well as retaining Del Rey’s signature sound. But it’s still worth a listen.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Chris Reardon, Spiders

CHRIS REARDONSPIDERS: Chris Reardon released his new single Spiders last month, via his own Strange Comfort Records. Written and produced by Chris, Spiders was recorded in Brixton, and was mastered by Robin Schmidt (Ben Howard, Michael Kiwanuka, The Vaccines). The track is taken form the forthcoming From The Outside In EP – due for release in August. The track represents the sound of Reardon at his most enigmatic, adopting an incredibly vulnerable tone, both lyrically and vocally. In both the writing and recording of the song, Chris pushed himself – channelling an array of influences, and letting the song go where it needed to go without forcing the direction. The guitar has a bluesy quality that’s highly appealing, while the vocals are suitably husky to accompany the tone. It’s stripped back, slow-burning but – if heard while in the right mood – highly effective and affecting. A short film to accompany Spiders is streaming now. The film was made two years ago – Chris explains: “I was waiting till the right song came along before using the film. Spiders is that song. The video echoes some of the songs key themes – a personal journey, a sense of resolution.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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