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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 13, 2020

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

Kaleo

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: KALEOALTER EGO: Icelandic rock band Kaleo come over all Rolling Stones meets Jeff Healey with the release of Alter Ego, the latest offering to emerge from their forthcoming album, Surface Sounds (released June 5). Frontman and songwriter JJ Julius Son has made no secret of the fact that Alter Ego represents “probably the most classic rock and roll song” on the album and it’s a monster in all senses. The track drops some genuinely fiery guitar riffs, combining the classic rock of Keith Richards with more bluesy elements of iconic late guitarist Jeff Healey. To accompany these, Son drops a bluesy, raw set of vocals that sound utterly lived in and appropriately rock-soaked. It’s a rollicking, barnstormer of a rock track, complete with rip-roaring guitar solos, shouted harmonies and a keen sense of the retro. Rock hounds should lap it up.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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St Lundi, You've Got The Wrong Guy

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: ST LUNDIYOU’VE GOT THE WRONG GUY: St Lundi is the creative output of 22 year-old Archie Langley and collaborators. Together, they have now released debut single You’ve Got The Wrong Guy through Propeller Recordings (Slotface, Dagny). The result is a captivating piano ballad that offers a beautifully cinematic introduction to this prolific songwriter. Speaking about the song’s inspiration, Archie explained: “Whilst watching a TV show – where the main character was wrongly imprisoned – I started thinking about unrequited love within a relationship and how gut wrenching it can be. The song represents that moment where you realise you need to walk away or remain love’s prisoner, so to speak.” The track truly resonates and oozes quality, from Langley’s emotive, highly expressive vocals, to the meaningful, heartfelt lyrics, right down to the well composed piano arrangement. The accompanying beats add a moody, cinematic element, while some gospel-influenced backing, late on, merely adds to the impressive nature of this sweeping, moody but brilliant ballad. This year, Archie will release his debut EP, alongside writing for other projects, which includes songs on Seeb’s forthcoming LP. St Lundi will also be performing live across the UK and EU.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Freddie Long, White Water

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: FREDDIE LONGWHITE WATER: British singer-songwriter Freddie Long shares the striking White Water official video, which impressively ties in with the personal, soul-searching nature of this moody ballad. In keeping with themes that Long holds personal, the song holds a deep message to inspire people that there is light even in the darkest of places waiting to help you if you reach out to it. The singer drops a deeply soulful set of vocals as he reflects on finding some light (“take me to your river”) and finding some form of redemption and relief from past misdeeds. The accompanying White Water visual encapsulates the self-written track. It allows an intimate connection with the music through Long’s performance, as well as through the dancers that emphasise the intensity of the lyrics. The video epically ends in an ambiguous way, revealing it as ‘part one’ of a gripping developing story that Freddie will uncover more through his upcoming releases. On the video, Freddie explains: “So excited to share the visual for White Water, the first single of my upcoming EP. This project is pretty personal to me and talks about self-reflection, pulling yourself from darker moments and being dragged back down by past experiences. I linked up with the director, Steve Glashier who took my concept and helped it come alive. Big up, Steve, you legend! Worked with some incredible talented people across the video, so thanks to everyone involved. The visuals across the EP are in line with each other and the narrative of White Water carries through into the next single. I really hope you guys love it and can’t wait to show you what’s to come.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Awolnation, Slam

AWOLNATIONSLAM (ANGEL MINERS): Awolnation continues to tease his new album, Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders (out April 24) with subversive new single Slam (Angel Miners). Billed as dealing with the battle between light and dark, this offers musical darkness and light in equal measure, with trippy lyrics “Riptide, worldwide, all seeing paradise, amen out of sight, paranoia, always someone watching”, set against an appropriately chopped up instrumental vibe. The synths are sometimes fuzzy and at other times buzzing, the beats sometimes laidback and sometimes jagged, and the accompanying vocals veering between atmospheric and/or psychedelic as well as angelic, over the deliberately harmonious chorus. It’s designed to capture your attention by virtue of its steadfast refusal to adhere to conventional song structure. But that only makes it somehow more compelling, with the chorus washing over you like some kind of reassuring hug in spite of the paranoia-laced vocals that accompanies it. As ever with Awolnation, it’s a busy, inventive, mostly successful concoction that hooks you in despite any reservations you may initially have. The video for Slam (Angel Miners) is a mixed media animated clip created by director and animator Cole Higgins. It’s just as eye-catching and bonkers.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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James Deacon, Reason

JAMES DEACONREASON: James Deacon releases his new single Reason, his first offering of a new decade that represents, perhaps, his most tender to date, showing a lesser-seen side to the alternative popstar. A thank you to a loved one, this finds Deacon extolling the virtues of an inspirational figure and a romantic interest (“baby you’re the reason that I’m me”), while dropping those R’n‘B meets soul vocals over continually evolving instrumentals. Indeed, the chorus is underpinned by the push-and-pull of the melody as well as some deep sub bass, meaning that the production emerges as one of his slickest. Commenting on the track himself, Deacon said: “Reason is the first song I’ve written that details romantic love. It’s my thank you note to a very important person who was the catalyst for my decision to quit my job and become a full time musician. The chorus is a thank you to her and the verses are about how we met and how she’s helped shape the man I am today.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jessie Reyez, Ankles

JESSIE REYEZANKLES: Continuing to defy expectations, Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez returns with another new song, Ankles, off her highly anticipated debut album Before Love Came To Kill Us (out March 27 via FMLY / Polydor). The track is an emotionally raw and empowering break-up anthem steeped in confidence, braggadocio, and payback. It’s a slick mix of hip-hop and R’n‘B that finds Reyez delivering a raw, stripped down set of vocals that reflect on the pain of the break-up (“lights out, strike out, I doubt you’ll ever find anyone”) while also remaining defiant and empowered. Reyez oozes sass over the chorus, refusing to be brought down by the tumultuous nature of the former relationship and informing her lover about what they are missing. It’s empowering in a raw, confrontational kind of way that impresses. Ankles follows the recent release of Love in the Dark (Dzeko Remix). Canadian producer Dzeko capitalizes on Jessie’s lyricism and raw vocals while incorporating percussive and moving beat production with captivating synth textures, resulting in what’s sure to be a club-ready hit.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Plastic Sun

PLASTIC SUNSOMEBODY ELSE: Plastic Sun drop new single Somebody Else, a track that is awash with deep retro synths and infectious guitar lines. It’s a song that self-consciously echoes the industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails in its opening moments before expanding into a techni-coloured sound bridging the gap between new-wave’s idiosyncratic pop-sense and indie-rock’s high-octane energy (a la Muse or even early Depeche Mode). The vocals have a very Muse-like quality at times, while the ever evolving sound helps to ensure that the song continually holds your attention, to see what will happen next. They’re not quite in the same league as Muse, of course, but there’s bags of potential. Somebody Else follows the trio’s recent single, which condemned toxic masculinity, Talking About You Man (released in January 2020).
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Josh Kumra, Don't Know Why

JOSH KUMRADON’T KNOW WHY: Singer-Songwriter Josh Kumra is gearing up to release a new EP, Pull Me Back In, on April and now unveils the new single Don’t Know Why, another piano-based ballad that once more accentuates his troubadour qualities. Co-written with songwriter Raevennan Husbandes, known for her collaborations with artists including Kathryn Williams, Lisa Hannigan and Michele Stodard, the song’s melancholic piano is contrasted by Raevennan’s fluid finger-picking guitar style, which alongside Josh’s thoughtful lyrics and intimate soulful vocals create another deeply intimate cut to add to the talented artist collection of heart-wrench songs featured in Pull Me Back In. There’s a really dusky vocal quality to the soul-searching lyrics, which reflect on the painful end of a relationship (“I don’t know why she’s gone”), while the mix of piano and guitar is subtle but sometimes beautifully realised. It’s mature, brooding, heartbroken stuff.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Ava Max, Kings & Queens

AVA MAXKINGS & QUEENS: Ava Max aims to revive chivalry with new single Kings & Queens. A self-consciously provocative power-pop offering, this break-up anthem serves as an ode ‘to all of the queens who are fighting alone’, declaring them not to be so alone. The brazen chorus has a P!nk-style bravado to it, lyrically, as well as a melody that could easily slide into a Lady Gaga or Abba offering. But to highlight the provocative, pro-feminist nature of the song as a whole, the track comes with a comic-like visualizer, which captures the royal narrative with a deck of cards featuring Max as the queen sporting half-short, half-long blond locks cascading underneath her crown. She also alternates between carrying a champagne glass and a sword, in keeping with the song’s lyrics. It’s livewire, catchy power-pop that should cement the 26-year-old’s burgeoning reputation as a pop princess to watch.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Sabiyha

SABIYHACHOORILE: Emerging British-Guyanese artist Sabiyha has released her debut single, Choorile, produced by Avi Barath out of Dave Okumu’s (The Invisible) studios in Deptford. A reclamation of a Guyanese term derived from a folkloric tale about a banshee-like creature, the word Choorile has become short-hand for women who are perceived to be too loud, unruly or assertive. In referencing that creature, it subverts the idea, with Sabiyha emerging as a sassy, fiery songstress who puts feminism to the fore, and uses her song to recognise like-minded powerful women (including her mum). As she explains: “She was quite strong willed when she was young, and whilst she didn’t let me act out growing up, she encouraged me to speak up and have my own opinions. She’d ask me ‘Are you a leader or are you a follower? She was quite hard about that – she didn’t want me to just go along with what people were saying, and that’s what has shaped the way I am. You don’t want to get in an argument with my Mum! She’s tiny but there’s plenty of fight in her. She’s the person that I was thinking of, writing Choorile.” The ensuing track leaves an instant impression, blending vocal techniques from India’s Carnatic traditions with broken English and a forward-facing beats-led approach. It’s distinct, vital and entirely catchy.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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