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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 15, 2018

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

Imagine Dragons, Born To Be Yours

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: KYGO & IMAGINE DRAGONSBORN TO BE YOURS: An all-star collaboration, Imagine Dragons now team up with electro-pop producer Kygo for the chart-friendly Born To Be Yours. And, as with previous material (such as Thunder), the Imagine Dragons sound continues to evolve away from the arena pop-rock vibe that brought them to everyone’s attention into something more pop and club ready. This has bouncing beats, electronic flourishes (courtesy of Kygo’s production values) and vocals that drift between heart-rending and falsetto. It’s got a catchy chorus and a toe-tapping vibe that belies the sense of uncertainty in the lyrics. For the song, as a whole, is about trying to save a relationship that the singer knows is in danger of failing (and which is echoed in the anguish injected into the singing). That said, it’s the type of anthemic offering that’s still designed to fill those stadiums, albeit with less and less rock tendencies. The new Imagine Dragons sound is every bit as good and satisfying as the old one.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Cigarettes After Sex

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: CIGARETTES AFTER SEXCRUSH: Cigarettes After Sex have shared a new stand-alone single entitled Crush to celebrate the one year anniversary of their self titled debut LP. Crush was written and recorded alongside the tracks on the debut album but has been kept under wraps until now. The track is typically hypnotic, combining a melancholy guitar riff and sombre beat structures with a wistful, sorrow-laden vocal. And yet in spite of the sadness inherent in the sound, there’s something also disarmingly beautiful about listening to it, too, with lyrics such as “I can’t wait to feel your love inside me now” offering something in the way of hope. The melodies, too, are warm enough to enable the song to impress without making you feel too sad… and that includes the terrific guitar solo midway through. This Autumn, Cigarettes After Sex will play a limited run of live dates with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, including Barclays Center in Brooklyn and The Forum in LA. They will also perform alongside The National, Jason Isbell and more at Forrest Hills Stadium in late September. These dates follow the band’s recent sold out headline show at Brixton Academy in London and a busy summer of European festivals.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Death Cab For Cutie, Gold Rush

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIEGOLD RUSH: Death Cab For Cutie return in emphatic fashion with Gold Rush, the first track from their new album, Thank You for Today (out August 17 via Atlantic). A rambling alt-rock track with some robust beats, this finds singer Ben Gibbard confronting a sense of loss and alienation derived from watching his hometown change. It’s a track that harks back to the past, and which contains a keen sense of nostalgia, as well as sorrow for how things don’t always change for the better. Lyrics include lines such as “and now that our haunts have taken flight, and been replaced with construction sites, Oh how I feel like a stranger here, Searching for something that’s disappeared”. It’s a feeling we can all relate to, as we return to childhood haunts, or favourite coming-of-age places, yet thanks to the urgency of the song’s pace, it doesn’t become too depressing as a song – rather, reflective. And your toes will still be tapping along. It’s a great record. Alex Southam directed the accompanying video, which finds Gibbard singing the song while walking down a busy city street that delivers various blasts from the past, whether in the form of construction or nods to fashion. It’s as clever visually as the song is intelligent lyrically.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Novo Amor

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: NOVO AMORBIRTHPLACE: Novo Amor, aka Ali Lacey, has unveiled a remarkable and poignant video for the title track from his anticipated debut album Birthplace, set for release on October 19, 2018 via AllPoints. The video highlights the monolithic problem of plastic in our oceans and was shot in Komodo and Bali, Indonesia, with production duo Sil and Jorik who previously worked with Novo Amor and his collaborator Ed Tullett on the emotional and cinematic video for their track Terraform. Sil and Jorik shared their thoughts on the concept behind the film: “We want to make films about stories that matter, especially when those in disadvantage can’t speak for themselves. The pollution of our oceans is one of the most important stories of our time. They are under attack by a rapidly growing tumour of plastic waste for which we are responsible. We’ve been exploring ways to make a video that touches on this topic for a while, and when we heard Ali’s music the specific idea came to us almost in a flash.” World-renowned freediver Michael Board stars as the character of humanity in the video. He performed over 250 freedives during the shoot which involved the crew spending 35 hours underwater. Board appears alongside a 13-metre bamboo humpbacked whale sculpture, covered in plastic that was collected by local children in return for schoolbooks as part of an environmental initiative started by a local primary school. Sil and Jorik continue: “On the last day of filming the whale, we disassembled it and took it out of the water. We removed all the plastic and nets and transported the segments back to the mountain village where it was created. Here, the builders will add extra, woven bamboo to replace the plastic. Soon, it will find its final resting place on a waterfall near the village where it will become a permanent tourist attraction with a water fountain shooting from its mouth.” The song itself is just as beautiful and poignant, built around ethereal, even fragile vocals, some subtle guitar licks and a nice combo of pianos and electronics. It has that other-worldly vibe that translates well to the undersea video, making this a beautifully realised song and video experience that hypnotises, entrances, captivates and beguiles. It’s a song that’s as beautiful as it is important in what it has to say.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Fickle Friends

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: FICKLE FRIENDSSAY NO MORE: Fickle Friends have premiered the video for Say No More, a fan favourite which originally appeared on their debut full-length, You Are Someone Else (Polydor Records). The self-shot and self-directed video features footage from their first three American shows, which sold-out in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and glimpses their US television debut on CBS This Morning’s Saturday Sessions. Speaking about the video, the band said: “Jack got a new hobby. He bought a camera and documented our time over in the States a few weeks ago. We loved all his footage (there was A LOT of it) so much he made it into a video. It just seemed to fit Say No More so perfectly because it’s about escapism and getting perspective by living somewhere new.” The track itself comes from their forthcoming release, You Are Someone Else (Versions), an EP featuring special versions of select tracks from the album. As Fickle Friends records go, it’s right up there among their best. There’s an infectious, celebratory energy that underlines the feeling of empowerment that the lyrics are driving at, with sunshine synths, vibrant vocals and a genuinely feel-good vibe. It’s little wonder the track has become such a firm fan favourite.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Klara, Broken

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: KLARABROKEN: Swedish singer/songwriter Klara has belatedly released a video for her stunning single Broken, which has already been an IndieLondon record of the week. Self directed by KLARA, the video for was shot in Northern Sweden, showcasing the vast swathes of beautiful forests, frozen lakes and stillness of winter in Dalarna. With drone cameras capturing the magnificent scenery and epic snow-covered landscapes, KLARA floats by on a kick sledge, contemplating the emotional fragility in the story of the song. KLARA commented: “I lived in Dalarna when I was 10 and it really gave me a love for nature. When I finsihed recording Broken, I knew it was the perfect setting to shoot the video. The endless white, contrasting with the vibrant colour of the forests prefectly reflect the spirit of the song.” Since meeting Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, at Glastonbury in 2015 and being invited to spend time with him and his musical cohorts at his Eaux Claires Festival, Swedish singer/songwriter Klara returned from Eaux Claires Deux in 2016 with a clear vision for her own music. Broken first started percolating in Klara’s mind as she travelled through the beautiful green expanse of the Wisconsin countryside on her way to Justin’s hometown festival and further evolved as she then made her way down the well-travelled Pacific Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, breathing in the nature and epic views that surrounded her. With lyrics and melody in place, Klara finished writing the track in London in Paul Epworth’s Church Studios, before recording the track at Peter Gabriel’s wonderfully tranquil Real World Studios in the Bath countryside. The result is quietly stunning. Ethereal yet beautifully involving (in spite of the sorrow inherent in the subject matter), this is like listening to a female version of Jose Gonzalez (an IndieLondon favourite). It’s soothing, thought-provoking, beautifully poignant and cinematic to boot.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jason Mraz

JASON MRAZUNLONELY: “I’ve been chasing summer around…” So sings Jason Mraz over the opening moments of his new single, Unlonely, an upbeat romp that seeks to offer a comforting arm around the shoulder (or musical hug) for anyone feeling lonely. As ever with Mraz, the vibe is sunshine heavy, with cute guitar hooks, slick beats and a vibrant lead vocal combining to create something that is tailor-made for the description ‘feel-good’. And with lyrics that reference Chachi and Joanie, as well as “never second-guessing the friendship connection”, it’s a resolutely positive offering that strives to overcome any feelings of solitude or uncertainty. It’s a summer anthem, for sure, but one that transcends time or place, to offer something upbeat and enjoyable for anyone who happens to catch it. Mraz has delivered another slice of musical magic. Mraz has also announced the release of his new studio album, Know. The singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album is being released on all music retailers and streaming services on Friday, August 10, on Atlantic Records. Coming off the back of comeback single Have It All and now Unlonely, it could well be worth getting your hands on.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Watch Sonny perform Supernova live

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDSGOD HELP US ALL (DEMO): Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds have released the demo God Help Us All along with an animated lyric video directed by Ste McGregor. The track is a B-side for the recent single It’s A Beautiful World. An acoustic offering, the song questions life and the existence of the Almighty, and is shot full of deep themes. But it’s nicely delivered in a style befitting classic Gallagher songwriting, whether that be for his latest incarnation or during his Oasis heyday, when B-sides were as much an event as that band’s A-sides. The acoustic strumming is breezy and light, while the melodies are tight, often making a mockery of the questioning lyrics. But even then, Gallagher can’t belatedly resist dropping in some “sha la la” harmonies to add to the sing-along vibe. It’s very much a shimmering piece of work that should become a favourite for both High Flying Birds and Oasis fans.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Rudimental and Major Lazer

RUDIMENTAL & MAJOR LAZER feat ANNE-MARIE AND MR EAZILET ME LIVE: Rudimental, the BRIT-award winning collective and global dancehall masterminds Major Lazer, have just unveiled a collaborative new single, Let Me Live, featuring Anne-Marie and Mr Eazi. A combination of new-school pop sensation Anne-Marie (dropping some dusky vocals) and afro-beat star Mr Eazi’s flawless tones, this has a celebratory, even Caribbean infused vibe that’s all about cherishing life and the opportunities it affords. It’s a song about empowering the individual, celebrating diversity and creating a feel-good vibe befitting the diverse spectrum of singers and musicians performing it. As if to underline this, the song features vocals from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an incomparable five-time Grammy-winning South African male choral group. If, ultimately, it’s not doing anything amazing, dazzling or particularly innovative for this kind of thing (it bears all the Rudimental hallmarks, as well as plenty of traces of Major Lazer), it’s an enjoyable enough listen with a strong message behind it.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Emika, Close

EMIKACLOSE: Now here’s something a little different. Close, the new single from Emika, is a sensual electro mix with finely tuned pop sensibilities, that leans towards the leftfield too. It’s built around subtle, understated and even ethereal vocals, yet builds steadily from its atmospheric, stripped back start, into something almost alternative club ready. The electronic arrangements, from around the midway point, are very catchy and propulsive, with slick beats also driving the track forward. And it’s then that the vocals subside for long periods, or appear whispered. It’s a slyly intoxicating mix that, while certainly not for all tastes, signals the arrival of another strong new album for Emika. It is taken from her forthcoming album Falling In Love With Sadness LP, which will be released on October 10, on World Mental Health Day, with a percent of the sales being donated to charity. FILWS also marks Emika’s return to electronic music following her 50-piece orchestral symphony LP Melanfonie, which was over funded by fans though Kickstarter.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Off Bloom, Not Sorry

OFF BLOOMNOT SORRY: Fresh off the back of a UK and European tour with day-glo Finnish sensation ALMA, Anglo-Danish trio Off Bloom release new single Not Sorry. And it’s an unapologetic ode to being true to yourself that is as defiant, lyrically, as it is emphatic musically. There’s an alt-pop sensibility that would make singers like P!nk proud, with the vocals being belted out in resolutely proud fashion. It’s a wake up rallying call, wrapped up in piano arrangements and slick beats, that really makes a strong impression, while making your toes tap along. Commenting on the inspirations behind it, Off Bloom said: “Not Sorry is about honesty between friends and being true to yourself and your beliefs,” the band reveal. “It’s important to be honest to those close to you and call them out on their bullshit, and not be sorry about it! We wrote this song after a night in LA when we met up with one our friends, got drunk and got in a fight! The day after we felt so hungover and fragile that we didn’t want to produce anything. So we decided to just strip everything down and write to a simple piano part we wrote on the spot. After a few hours the song was done and had really captured the rawness of what we felt. In that way this song also feels very personal and close to our hearts.” The track is accompanied by a sunny, retro-hued video by Portuguese director João de Botelho, who the band met last year on a shoot for Noisey. The video was shot on 8mm film in the outskirts of Rome and captures the raw energy, emotion and spirit found in the song.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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