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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 7, 2019

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

Bon Iver, Hey, Ma

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BON IVERHEY, MA: Bon Iver – aka singer-songwriter Justin Vernon – releases new single Hey, Ma and hypnotises in beautiful fashion. Embodying many of the classic Bon Iver elements, Hey, Ma reflects on childhood memories and his own mother, inviting listeners to do the same. The result is an intimate, heart-warming offering that carries a sense of melancholy… the bittersweet feeling that comes with getting old and realising your childhood is behind you. Vernon is typically expressive, and earnest, along with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. Yet his vocals have a warmth, too, as well as a sweep that’s reminiscent of both classic Peter Gabriel and Andy Burrows (when he hits those falsetto notes). Instrumentally, there are warm synth, the odd sax, subtle beat arrangements and a sense of the cinematic. If the mid-track breakdown almost threatens to upset the otherwise highly satisfying rhythmn of the song (entering experimental territory), it’s only a brief interlude that doesn’t ultimately harm the emotional impact or overall beauty of the song.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Beoga, Let You Go

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BEOGA feat ANDERSON EASYLET YOU GO: Irish ‘new wave trad’ quintet Beoga have shared their new song Let You Go, featuring Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Anderson East. In speaking about their latest offering, Beoga says: “Let You Go is about trying to cut ties with someone and being able to move on. We’re thrilled to have been able to collaborate with the great Anderson East on this. His southern drawl married really well with our sound, we are so glad he agreed to be part of this chapter of the new record.” Anderson added: “It’s such an honour to be on a record with such incredible, talented musicians who blend tradition and modernity. Beoga on a record is spectacular and to see them in person is to witness something truly special.” embracing their Irish roots, Beoga imbue this particular song with a defined sense of revelry that’s evident in the brash, lively chorus and the rousing fiddles that drift in and out. You can imagine this being played in a local pub, post-closing, where the party never ends. And yet, there’s an intimacy to the lyrics, too, which lends the song an emotional heft that’s also highly welcome, complete with yearning lyrics such as “I can’t find the way to the one I thought I knew”. It’s a powerhouse offering from this endearing band. Let You Go comes on the heels of Beoga’s cover of Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus’ Nothing Breaks Like a Heart and their original song Matthew’s Daughter featuring Devin Dawson. They shot to prominence after collaborating on two songs on Ed Sheeran’s global hit album ÷: Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Keane, The Way I Feel

VIDEO/SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: KEANETHE WAY I FEEL: It’s been a while but Keane, one of Britain’s most beloved bands, have announced their return with a new album (out September 20 on Island Records) and featuring the powerful first single The Way I Feel. Written by Keane and produced by David Kosten and the band themselves, the album boasts 11 songs and – on the evidence of this first single – makes them sound like they’ve never been away. The Way I Feel is classic Keane, with lively electronic arrangements working so well in tandem with Tom Chaplin’s powerhouse, yet distinct vocals. Admittedly, there’s a touch of bands like The Killers and James – but that’s no bad thing, enabling their sound to continue to appeal to the mainstream. The chorus is particularly affecting – empowering in all the right ways, while so damn catchy and life-affirming. The electronics, meanwhile, have a zip that’s required to help get the song noticed. It’s utterly infectious and a great way to announce a comeback. The video for The Way I Feel was directed by Kevin Godley, who previously directed the video for the band’s hit single Is It Any Wonder and Tom’s solo release Still Waiting.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Madonna, Dark Ballet

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: MADONNADARK BALLET: Ever the provocateur, Madonna releases yet another single from her Madame X LP and delivers a suitably sensational video. Opening with a quote from Joan of Arc, the video quickly fills the ears with the sound of burning and an image of a torse quite possibly tied to a stake. Thereafter, it juxtaposes images of clergy with a tortured soul, all mixed with suggestive lyrics that confront the hypocrisy of the modern world as much as anything. These include a chorus that declares: “Cause your world is such a shame, Cause your world’s obsessed with fame, Cause your world’s in so much pain, Cause your world is… Cause your world is up in flames”. The video then closes with a spoken-word segment from artist and video star Mykki Blanco, in which she states: “I have walked this earth, Black, Queer and HIV positive, but no transgression against me has been as powerful as the hope I hold within.” Throughout, Blanco assumes the mantle of Joan of Arc, dancing in the face of the religious figures who oppose her, and thereby dancing in the face of persecution. It’s powerful, haunting stuff. The song, meanwhile, adopts another lower key beat, allowing the vocals and lyrics to really register. There’s also a striking piano arrangement, that adds a cinematic quality [again befitting the visuals]. But there are also detours, including a moment where some of the Lord’s prayer is recited, and several musical flights of fantasy. It’s bold, it’s odd, it’s powerful, it’s unquestionably Madonna. The visuals were directed by Emmanuel Adeji.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lxandra

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: LXANDRASWIMMING POOLS: Following last week’s release of her new single Swimming Pools, Finnish rising star Lxandra – who recently performed a stand-out set at this year’s The Great Escape – shares the beautiful accompanying video. The track is taken from her upcoming EP, Another Lesson Learned, due later this year. The emotive new track is set to be released in two versions, with the poignant piano version out now. A produced version replete with swelling strings and skittering beats will follow along with the official music video. In the meantime, this piano version offers up a striking version that’s well worth paying attention to. The pianos are swirling and cinematic, while Lxandra’s powerful vocals deliver some telling lines about the hierarchical nature of society and the ‘have’s and have not’s’. There’s also a sense of reflection, which lends the song added poignancy. Explains Lxandra: “Swimming Pools is about being happy with what you have and showing a middle finger to the expectations of society, and a world that runs on money. It’s about remembering who you are and where you come from and always holding onto that. Be grateful for what you have, you have everything you need.” It’s a timely song with a potent message that deserves to find a wide fanbase.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Liam Gallagher, Shockwave

LIAM GALLAGHERSHOCKWAVE: Could a song sound more signature than Liam Gallagher’s Shockwave? We don’t think so. Erupting into life with a beast of a riff, which deliberately channels The Who and T. Rex, the song then drops a blast of harmonica before Liam bursts in on the incessant hook with typical venom and punch. Vocally, there’s just no getting away from the sound of Liam. The hard rock ‘n’ roll swagger is also pure Gallagher, boasting the same kind of no-nonsense hallmark and hard living that has become his hallmark. The glam influences also hint at classic T-Rex. But this is a lived-in sound, harking back to a classic style of delivery as only Liam knows how. Whether that’s really a stretch for him, though, is another point entirely. Liam is operating well within his comfort zone here (unlike brother Noel’s High Flying Birds). So, while familiar in a good, head-nodding kind of way, the song gets marked down a little for refusing to take many risks. The lyrics go like this: “You sold me right down the river, you had to hold me back… you could’ve looked for the sunshine, but you had to paint the whole thing black. It’s coming round like a shockwave!” Liam wrote Shockwave with two of the key collaborators behind the critically-acclaimed As You Were album: Andrew Wyatt, who won the Academy Award for Best Original Song as co-writer of Shallow from the film A Star Is Born, and the multiple Grammy-winner Greg Kurstin who also produced the track. It was recorded in Los Angeles. The track also marks the first taste of his forthcoming second album Why Me? Why Not.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Bon Iver, U (Man Like)

BON IVER – U (MAN LIKE): Bon Iver – aka singer-songwriter Justin Vernon – has dropped a second new single to accompany Hey, Ma, in the form of the disarmingly simple U (Man Like). We say disarming because there’s actually a lot going into this piano-led ballad. The track features Moses Sumney adding to the barrage of vocal call and response, as well as a certain Bruce Hornsby playing that piano. Bryce Dessner, meanwhile, provides a choral arrangement, while Hornsby is also listed as one of the song’s three ‘writers’. The piano, once you know who is playing it, is classic Hornsby and beautifully delivered, while the vocals are absorbing and well realised. The short stabs of harmonica that drift in and out are a nice touch, while the reflective lyrics are as thought-provoking and intelligent as usual. Some critics have described the sound as approaching the operatic – and there’s definitely a sense of grandeur too. Again, the simplicity belies the complexity at play. This is a song that grows and grows on you.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Christof van der Ven

CHRISTOF VAN DER VEN – A DARKER LIGHT: Holland born Christof van der Ven has released new track A Darker Light as the second cut to be lifted from his much-anticipated second full length album You Were The Place, due for release September 6, 2019, via his own imprint, Planet Zog Records. Where first single Bravais Arc rose amidst expansive synths and driving instrumentals, A Darker Light keeps the pace with the electronic instrumentation, but brings things back to a more melancholy place. Reverb-laden acoustic guitars are paired with a drum machines in a glitchy slow-burning rhythm section that accompany Christof reminiscing about a conversation with his mum when he was at a cross-roads, moments after his brief romance had come to an end. Hence, it wears its heart on its sleeve to disarming fashion, appearing as a sometimes painful insight into the torment he felt. The shuffling nature of the accompanying guitars and beats works really well, emerging as both gentle and soothing, yet also hinting at a sense of melancholy. Van der Ven’s vocals occasionally reminded me of Jose Gonzalez in the way that they quietly reassure, yet occasionally reach out to become more expressive. They’re a beautiful focal point to a song that really does resonate and impress. Commenting on the song himself, the singer said: “This is a song about a conversation that I had late at night with my mum after some wine. I was looking for an answer, a way out the emotional mess I was in. She offered her wisdom and helped me get over that mental hurdle.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sheryl Crow, Prove You Wrong

SHERYL CROW feat STEVIE NICKS & MAREN MORRISPROVE YOU WRONG: The spirit of Nashville reverberates around Prove You Wrong, another potent collaboration between Sheryl Crow and two of the artists she’s long admired: Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Maren Morris. A dancefloor filler (we’re talking barns here people), this combines feisty all-girl vocals, blues-rock guitars and a rollicking country-rock sound. The lyrics offer up lines like “it wouldn’t take much to prove you wrong” as a riposte to the man in their lives… a warning, of sorts, that they could walk out at any time. And it’s done in celebratory, girl power fashion, sweeping the listener along in effortlessly feel-good fashion. It’s a song that has a welcome sense of Nashville familiarity about it, and comes complete with guitar solos. But it’s a romp. The new single will be featured on Sheryl’s upcoming duets album, Threads, which is set to be released this summer. The 17-song offering includes collaborations with Johnny Cash, Keith Richards, Joe Walsh, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and more.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Alba

ALBAHEARTBEAT: Alba’s music has been best described as a blend between old-school rock-blues and her passion for today’s soul/R&B and pop music. With inspiration ranging from Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder to Alicia Keys, Joss Stone and John Mayer, her new single Heartbeat tips its hat to all of those. Her vocals are soulful, while the accompanying guitars are rooted in rock-blues territory. But while there’s plenty of both, they don’t always collide. The guitars are reserved for the moments when Alba doesn’t sing, with pianos and drum beats occupying the background when she does, thereby heightening that soul-pop vibe. It’s catchy, summery stuff. Commenting on the track, Alba said: “Heartbeat was inspired by the feeling of synchronicity of a crowd with the beat of the music during live concerts, when everyone’s heart seems to beat to the rhythm of the kick drum, and also takes inspiration from the sense of synchronicity between the pounding hearts of two lovers. I wanted to be the one setting an energetic and positive beat to which an audience may synch to. The kick drum at the start of Heartbeat is actually mixed together with a human heartbeat sample.” The London-based singer-songwriter is also a passionate environmental campaigner and talks passionately about how music can be green and environmentally friendly. She’s well worth listening to.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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