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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 10, 2017

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

Alt-J, 3WW

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: ALT-J – 3WW: Alt-J have returned in style with the release of new single 3WW. Based around a subtle, repetitive beat and some sparse acoustic guitar, this has a prog-rock vibe at times but also embraces many of Alt-J’s hallmarks. It’s low-key but beautifully delivered over five minutes, during which time the layering gets better and better. Midway through, for example, a simple but oh-so effective piano arrangement drops, to add an extra element, while the arrival of female vocals precipitates a change in vibe. Without ever resorting to anything grand-standing, this track continues to surprise, suddenly bursting to life, before almost withdrawing to a whisper and imploring the listener: “I just want to love you in my own language.” The song ends with a duet betwen Roswell and Newman, before the looping beat cuts out and leaves only a harmonica. Again, simple but oh-so effective. Alt-J’s new album, Relaxer, is due out in June – and it’s so far, so very good.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kyko, Wildlife EP

EP OF THE WEEK: KYKOWILDLIFE EP: Having released his infectious new single Dive In on March 3, through LAB Records, Kyko now releases his Wildlife EP. The EP comprises of previously released EP tracks Nature and Horizon, which again demonstrate just how much of an ear this artist has for a sharp pop melody. Nature, in particular, rises from some bittersweet lyrics (“you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, gone, gone”) to deliver a genuinely catchy and upbeat chorus that’s perfect for singing along with. Dive In, meanwhile, once more rises from the uncertainty inherent in the lyrics to offer something uplifting and inspiring. It’s got another big, melody-filled chorus that’s all about taking ownderhip of one’s life and going for it. The previously unheard Drive features sprawling pop textures and addictive, body-shaking rhythms to create another winning entry. Of the four tracks, all are highly engaging, head-noddingly good listens. Born from a desire to move away from the confines of standard ‘singer-songwriter’ conventions and connotations, Scott Verrill – aka Kyko, the 20-year-old talent behind the project – looks to forge his own path in the world. Kyko will be heading out on his debut headline UK tour at the end of March, including a date at London’s Omeara on March 30, 2017.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Stepbrother, Ivy's House

STEPBROTHERIVY’S HOUSE: Inspired by everyone from Green Day to Haim via Foals, Ladbroke Grove’s Stepbrother play post-core alternative nu-rock – and they do it well. New single Ivy’s House has a very alternative vibe, akin to the American sound you may hear regularly played on a radio station like K-ROQ. There’s some striking guitar work, a lot of atmosphere, some moody female vocals and a genuine sense of the cinematic at times. The finale, meanwhile, really transforms the song into the realms of UK rock, unleashing the guitars, ditching the atmosphere and slipping through the gears (complete with pounding drums) to deliver a headrush. It’s a grower of a track, particularly if you’re a fan of the alternative nu-rock scene. The name Stepbrother came about as Casper (bassist/musical genius) is Nina and Stella’s ‘Stepbrother’ at heart.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Nelly Furtado, Phoenix

NELLY FURTADOPHOENIX: The Nelly Furtado rennaissance continues apace with the release of new single Phoenix. The message behind the lyrics could easily be a metaphor for her own career, as much as it is a rallying call for anyone who has triumphed over any kind of hardship or adversity. Instrumentally, the song takes the form of a sparse piano ballad, with the chords barely there at times. It’s beautifully composed. Furtado’s vocals, meanwhile, come armed with an emotional sincerity that’s highly endearing. If anything, you could compare it to the kind of timeless ballad style of a track like Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours. It’s that simple, disarming and emotionally effective. When Furtado sings “you’re going to be alright again”, you tend to believe her.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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British Sea Power

BRITISH SEA POWERKEEP ON TRYING (SECHS FREUNDE): British Sea Power precede the release of their sixth studio album – Let The Dancers Inherit The Party – with a new single and video entitled Keep On Trying (Sechs Freunde). Described as a paean to perseverance, the song takes the form of a rocket-powered love letter to enduring friendship. And it’s accompanied by a surrealist exercise video where a silver clad sextet jog alongside assorted representatives of the animal kingdom and a crew of military men who pull dancefloor moves against a solid gold backdrop. An average night out in Sea Power world, then! Keep On Trying’s Europhile chorus rings with a collective Deutscher cry of ‘Sechs Freunde’ – the German equivalent of the six degrees of separation concept; six friends being the constituency of British Sea Power. It’s a highly catchy slice of indie-pop that drops sharp guitar riffs, ever sharper melodies and some endearing vocals to create a giddy blast of energy that’s genuinely feel-good.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Goldfrapp, Ocean

GOLDFRAPPOCEAN: Goldrapp have made a take-notice return with the pounding new single Ocean. Arriving like waves crashing against the rocks, this is awash with striking synthesizers, throbbing electronic undercurrents, slick beat arrangements and a foreboding set of vocals from Alison Goldfrapp herself. The song is supposedly indicative of the tougher sound that Goldfrapp have promised ahead of the release of their forthcoming new LP, Silver Eye. And coming off the back of former release Anymore, which also signalled a return to a more harder, synth-based sound, the omens appear very good for something a bit special across the whole of the LP. Speaking about how the song was created, Alison recently told Billboard: “I remember coming into the studio one morning and I think we just had a few drums going and it was really basic. Will [Gregory] said, ‘Do you fancy doing some vocals this morning?’ I was really pissed off, in a really bad mood. I was having a bit of a weird time. So I was like, ‘Alright then’ and slightly reluctantly I went into the vocal booth and the words just came out. We tried to re-record the vocals four or five times but never quite had the same sort of atmosphere as that original vocal, so in the end we decided to keep it.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Fickle Friends, Hello Hello

FICKLE FRIENDSHELLO HELLO: Hello Hello is the bright new single from Fickle Friends, which is available to hear now. It follows their last single, Brooklyn, which was released at the end of 2016, and which became their first single to be added to the Radio 1 playlist whilst also being heavily championed by the likes of Mistajam, Huw Stephens, and Alice Levine. On writing the track, Natti Shiner says: “Hello Hello was one of the first songs we wrote this time last year during our first trip to LA. The track came about in the home studio we’d put together in an Airbnb and it was one of those sessions where a song comes together super quickly, it just flowed. It’s about sticking with someone who’s lost sight of who they are and what they’re worth.” The ensuing song is alive with fizzing synthesizers, cheesy pop beats and vaguely ’80s styled vocals. And yet, in spite of some of those cheesy elements, the song succeeds in making you head-nod along. It’s a sugary confection that leaves you feeling bright and breezy, without sticking around in your head for too long afterwards.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Dark Dark Horse, Frontiers

DARK DARK HORSEFRONTIERS: Dark Dark Horse are a Leicester duo comprising of Jamie Ward (Producer/multi-instrumentalist) and James Stafford (singer) who collectively create a strand of cool self-assured indie married with electronic-pop. New single Frontiers is an interesting introduction to them [for us]. Stafford’s vocal flows over Ward’s piano melodies, while shimmering synthesizers compete with dance-hall tinged beats. Transcribed from music Ward heard in a dream and then deliriously mumbled into his iPhone, it’s billed as the sound of otherworldly electronica with real depth and warmth, a sound that the duo describe as “electronica with a human heart”. And while there is a late night sound that could well be born from a dream, there’s also a warmth to some of the melodies, which could well appeal to fans of anyone from Pet Shop Boys to Moby. The Western-inspired video is worth checking out too, complimenting the glacier indie-pop sound. Dark Dark Horse released their debut album Centuries via Function Records (UK) and Rallye (Japan), it was described by Sputnik as “one of this year’s true stand outs”.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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True Moon

TRUE MOONSUGAR: Swedish dark-pop/post-punk outfit True Moon deliver a far from sweet confection in the for of Sugar, a raw, ragged, edgy offering that encapsulates their sound. By their own admission, True Moon’s sound is designed to offer a reflection of vocalist and bass player Karolina Engdahl’s frustrations with the similarities present in the current Scandinavian music scene. Hence, it’s designed to offer something volatile, non-conformist and different, combining elements of dark pop (akin to early Kate Bush or Blondie) with a post-punk sound befitting early Cure. It’s striking in the way it screams out to be noticed, taking a sweet title and sprinkling it with that aforementioned frustration and some cutting post-punk guitar riffs. But it does tend to make it the kind of track that will struggle to offer broad appeal. Aside from Engdahl, True Moon are backed by Tommy Tift (guitar), colleagues in Swedish melodic punk collective, Vånna Inget. At home, they were nominated for ‘best rock album’ at the Manifestgalan Awards in Sweden (which is like the alt-grammy awards).
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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