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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 1, 2018

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

Lykke Li, Two Nights

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LYKKE LI feat AMINETWO NIGHTS: A week before Lykke Li drops her new album, So Sad, So Sexy, Swedish superstar Lykke Li has dropped two more taster tracks. The first is the melancholy Two Nights, featuring a well laid down rap from Amine. Built around a low-key electronic bed and a sad, ethereal vocal, this is minimalist yet highly effective offering that chronicles a tired, yet sleepless, and increasingly paranoid protagonist. The central line, “two nights in a row and I know that it’s broken”, smacks of the sorrow and regret that informs the track as a whole. Amine’s rap, which enters well beyond the two minute mark, backs up the regretful nature of the tracks and is confessional of sorts. Li comes back to complete the song, allowing it to end on a haunting, lingering not that underlines the depth of emotional despair on show. And yet, far from being a depressing listen, it is entirely inspired.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lykke Li

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: LYKKE LI – SEX MONEY FEELINGS DIE: Lykke Li dominates the top of our recommended singles this week with the second new offering from her So Sad, So Sexy LP. Sex Money Feelings Die is another paen to a dead end relationship, that wears its hurt and regret on its sleeve (lyrically). But the tone, this time, is much more edgy, tapping into a gritty R’n‘B vibe that lends it a lot more street cred than some of her more ethereal work. You could even describe it as one of her most outwardly mainstream offerings yet… albeit one that refuses to compromise on her identity. Lyrically, it doesn’t hold back in delivering the strength of her feelings, with lines like “drink up, drink up, I’m so fucked up, all I want is you”. It succeeds in both in capturing your attention and leaving you in no doubt as to how this particularly ragged relationship leaves one of its halves feeling. The album is out on June 8 and on the evidence of the tracks released so far, including Utopia and Deep End, this could be among the year’s best LPs.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The 1975, Give Yourself A Try

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE 1975 – GIVE YOURSELF A TRY: It may be a long time off, but The 1975’s new album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, will be out in October. Fear not, though, for this first taster suggests it could be well worth the wait. Built around a twisted but exhilarating guitar riff, this finds the band issuing a statement of empowerment for these troubled, uncertain times. Matt Healy’s vocals are suitably soothing, even when tossing out thought-provoking lyrics bombs about growing up, navigating your place in the world, avoiding booze and drugs and seeking comfort in overpaid counsellors! The song urges you to give yourself a try rather than succumbing to outside temptations, or being told what to do by peers or others. And thanks to that insistent guitar loops, and some slick, crisp beats, the song succeeds in giving you an adrenaline shot to the subconscious that should fire you/inspire you to do as the song suggests. Have faith in yourself and arm yourself with this new track as an anthem.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mahalia

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: MAHALIA – I WISHED I MISSED MY EX: British rising star Mahalia has unveiled her new single I Wish I Missed My Ex alongside a cleverly crafted surrealistic video. In addition, the British songstress has announced that she will be touring the US for the first time this summer as well as undertaking a 10-date UK tour for 2018 which includes a date at London’s prestigious Brixton Electric – her biggest tour to date. Produced by Maths Times Joy – who produced Mahalia’s stand-out debut single Sober – and emerging producer Swindle, I Wish I Missed My Ex is a slick example of her trademark, open-hearted lyricism fusing old-school soul and atmospheric synths with R&B/pop leanings. It has a nicely retro feeling at times, reminiscent of artists like De La Soul in its beat arrangements, while also remaining careful to feel contemporary. The emphasis is on feelgood, though, with the overall vibe one of breeziness and playful enjoyment. The accompanying video was shot in LA by Director Andrew Litten over a 22-hour stint. Commenting on the video, Litten said: “The first time I heard IWIMME, I knew the track needed a big idea. I’ve always loved Spike Jonze’s video for Drop by The Pharcyde and decided to pay homage by creating a backwards music video with a contemporary spin. I hired a linguist from UCLA to teach Mahalia the song backwards which she surprisingly learned in a day. The DP, Dustin Lane, and I have always wanted to make something in our neighborhood, Highland Park. We chose family owned locations and hired a few extras while scouting the neighbourhood. Mahalia’s reversed performance oozes spontaneity and confidence. I can’t thank her enough for joining us on the journey, and signing on to recreate this insane concept.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Gorillaz, Humility

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: GORILLAZ feat GEORGE BENSONHUMILITY: It’s been a while since Gorillaz have delivered something as breezy, feel-good and uplifting as Humility. A collaboration with legendary jazz guitarist George Benson, this takes flight early on and refuses to come down. The beats are slick and lively, the synths smooth and jolly and that rhythm guitar suitably vibrant. The result? Sunshine in a bottle. Admittedly, the lyrics flirt with some of the more melancholy aspects of Damon Albarn’s songwriting (“I don’t want this isolation”). But even then, you feel there’s a genuine effort to lift the gloom and political awareness of a lot of their recent work by turning out a song that can genuinely be described as a summer anthem. It succeeds in making you feel uplifted. And the accompanying video, featuring a rogue member of the animated Gorillaz team skating along a US coastal resort (and delivering some mayhem), maintains that easy-going vibe and comes complete with Jack Black playing some [air] guitar (with a real instrument). It’s highly entertaining.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Johnny Marr

JOHNNY MARRWALK INTO THE SEA: Smiths guitarist and acclaimed solo artist Johnny Marr further previews his forthcoming third solo album Call The Comet (out June 15) by sharing the new track Walk Into The Sea, together with its official video. Representing the deeply textured, atmospheric side of the album, Walk Into The Sea has already been picked by Mojo as a highlight. Its “haunting piano notes, an eerie film soundtrack guitar feature, sudden bursts of rolling emotion” result in a moment which “salutes his Hans Zimmer-pedigreed cinematic nous”, according to the Mojo review. And certainly, there’s a cinematic element to those opening moments, which offset the early piano with some nice, mellow guitar. Inevitably, the track grows in stature and layers in the big screen elements, with the guitars becoming more and more prominent. If anything, there’s a touch of James in there too. A kind of spoken-sung element midway through raises the edginess at times, and jars occasionally. But when keeping things epic and mellow (vocally), Marr ensures that this track lives long in the memory. It’s deservedly epic and quite frequently great.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Beth Orton & The Chemical Brothers

BETH ORTON & THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – I NEVER ASKED TO BE YOUR MOUNTAIN: Beth Orton and The Chemical Brothers are no strangers to working with each other and, when they do, it’s usually a work of quality (Where Do I Begin and The State We’re In, for example). And so it is with this cover version of Tim Buckley’s I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain. Apparently recorded nearly two decades ago, but only dusted off now, this is as slickly delivered and ear-catching as you might have hoped. The track starts out with Orton singing Buckley’s melancholy lyrics over some brisk acoustic guitar licks. But the big beats and electronic loops that are a Chemical Brothers trademark eventually take over and turn the song into something more befitting a remix of the original sound. And a mighty fine remix it is too… the rousing drum arrangements proving particularly effective in lending the track dancefloor crossover appeal (something not usually associated with a Buckley recording). And while it may leave you hankering to hear something new from this particular partnership, it satisfies on its own terms and maintains the high quality of their previous collaborations.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Naked Elephant, Sun Kissed

NAKED ELEPHANTSUN KISSED: With a name like Sun Kissded, you’d expect a song to be infectious, upbeat and breezy. And true to form, Naked Elephant’s comeback is just that. The magnetic second single (following Raspberry Kiss) exudes ultimate summer vibes – infusing pop and dance music with Naked Elephant’s rock’n‘roll DNA, that’s led by frontman Josh Royse’s powerhouse vocal. Indeed, in true Royse style, the vocal here manages to combine the laidback with the epic rock. But the emphasis is on dance, and feelgood energy, with a Caribbean element detected from time to time in the way those vocals are mainly delivered. It’s a song designed to make you feel good that’s as infectious as that sounds. Commenting on the track, Josh said: “I sat down and really wanted to write a dance song for Naked Elephant. It ended up becoming what is Sun Kissed, a little bit of the Naked Elephant rock ‘n’ roll DNA with the guitars, with the use of strymon pedals, to soundscape, which was blended with house music. There was a moment where we were finally OK with not having to write these deep esoteric masterpieces in order to feel amazing about our music… we can write something that people simply want to dance to in the sunshine.” The accompanying video, set in Thailand, carries on the epic story – following the Raspberry Kiss video – of retrieving previous rubies that symbolises their mission of bringing back wealth to the rest of the world from the rich and powerful. In doing so, helping and bringing awareness of endangered elephants has become more significant to the band given that they travelled to Elephant Home and Nature in Kanchanaburi, a village renowned for the elephant sanctuary. While there, the band learnt the importance of saving the elephants’ ecosystem and were fortunate to work and film with these majestic creatures in a respected and compassionate way.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Charli XCX

CHARLI XCX – 5 IN THE MORNING: One of the most respected and connected songwriters in pop’s rainbow spectrum, Charli XCX has delivered another bleeding-edge pop moment in 5 in the Morning. Written by XCX alongside Nat Dunn (Marshmello & Anne-Marie, Friends) and Cleo Tighe (Jess Glynne), the track’s trap-infused production comes from Invisible Men (ZAYN, Iggy Azalea). This time around, the pop princess opts for a more R’n‘B meets hip hop vibe, with a muscular trap beat providing the focal point. The smooth groove synths add a late night vibe (befitting the lyrics), while the sassy vocals add an edgy, sexy element that feels far more sultry than usual. It’s slyly provocative in places, too, with lines like “I’m in my element everyday/Birthday cake, you want a piece ’cause it’s tasty” suggesting much, much more. Coming off the back of last year’s well received Pop 2 mixtape (and its seminal moment, Boys), this shows that Charli XCX has lost none of her ability to reinvent and impress as she continues to become one of the most exciting young artists on the mainstream pop scene. At the apex of her field and experimenting from the margins to the mainstream, Charli XCX has been working solidly in the studio over the past months, the fruit of which will be rolled out over the summer with a series of releases. Currently supporting Taylor Swift on her world ‘Reputation’ tour alongside Camilla Cabello, Charli will play London’s Wembley Stadium on June 22 and 23.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Esther Vallee

ESTHER VALLEEOIL AND FEATHERS: Swedish pop sensation Esther Vallee has now dropped her new EP in the form of Things We Never Talked About. The lead single, Oil and Feathers, is also released. The track is a breezy slice of pop that thrives on its jaunty electronic pulse and cute harmonies. But while there’s a fresh breeziness about it, sonically, the lyrics suggest something a little darker and sexually more edgy. Hence, speaking about Oil & Feathers, Esther commented: “I go all in on you when I know its right. No matter how much we fight or how far we run away from each other, I never get your smell off from my body. It’s now or never.” It’s this mix of innocence and sass that makes the track even more appealing and intriguing. And it continues to confirm Vallee’s burgeoning reputation as a pop artist to watch. The six-track EP features the lead single as well as previous offerings Numbers and Hardcore, as well as recent instant grat track Higher and two more new tracks, You Know Who You Are and Get It Done.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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