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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 23, 2018

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

Snow Patrol, Don't Give In

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: SNOW PATROLDON’T GIVE IN: It’s been a while but Snow Patrol are back and as good as ever. Don’t Give In, the lead single from Wildness, their first record in seven years, is an immediately catchy anthem in waiting that is quietly empowering. Indicative of the uncertainty surrounding modern life (and the world, politically), this implores people not to give in and to keep fighting. But while it certainly resonates on that wider level, it’s also an intensely personal song, born out of the personal demons that lead singer Gary Lightbody had to fight in realising the new material. As he explains: “Don’t Give In was originally about a friend going through a tough time but the more I wrote into it, I realised it was about me and the struggle of making the album – which took five years and was not easy – coupled with the struggle with depression I’ve had since I was a kid. So, it has become the talisman of the album. The song that became a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Lightbody’s vocals are as engaging as ever, filled with both a sense of fragility and optimism, while the instrumentals are melodic and mostly restrained, only belatedly coming to full life with an electric guitar burst. But it’s an effective, affecting slow-builder – the type of which Snow Patrol have made a career out of perfecting. It’s a very big welcome back, then.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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NONONO

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2/VIDEO OF THE WEEK: NONONOFRIENDS: Swedish alt-pop powerhouse NONONO return with their infectious new single Friends. It marks the start of the new year for the trio from Stockholm – Stina Wäppling and producers Tobias Jimson (Astma) and Michel Flygare (Rocwell) – with further singles to come, leading up to their second album this Autumn. The song is an empowering electro-pop anthem with ethereal elements. It has an undeniable energy, born from a central hook that’s really catchy. But the finger-flick beats work well, too, as do the ethereal vocals that come alive during the chorus that proclaims “I need a little bit of help from my friends… I’ll be just fine”. The spoken word interludes, meanwhile, hint at a vulnerability and fragility that gives the listener plenty of pause for thought. It has a poetic quality. The resulting song is shot through with energy, empowerment and radio friendliness. “The song is about gaining strength by accepting your weaknesses. It was shaped by the great contrasts of the music; the melodic melancholic calm feeling that meets the fast, energetic, vibrant, and the way they interact. To me, that completely shaped the outcome of the text and melody. I began to calmly and melodically sing about pain, but when the pulsating part of the music came in, it all got filled up with an energy and I felt a joy over the fact that the sad and painful weaknesses was allowed exist. To me, it has been a weakness to not be able to make it all by myself or to be dependent on another person. Therefor it felt good to sing about it, that I don’t have to do it by myself, I can do anything with a little bit of help from my friends,” explains NONONO’s Stina Wäppling. Directors Joakim Envik and Erwin Semler have created the video for Friends. Aside from being filmmakers they are also professional dancers, which they incorporate in their productions. In their work, they focus on how feelings, situations, and emotions can be illustrated through choreographed staging where the context of the room, the body, and the direction can be just as powerful ways of communication as a facial expression or the performed act itself. It’s rousing stuff.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Alex Lleo

ALEX LLEO – NO WAY BACK: Alex Lleo has shared the second track and video to be taken from his forthcoming debut EP, Park Studios, JQ. No Way Back was recorded live alongside Alex’s six-piece band over the course of one afternoon in Park Studios, Birmingham. The accompanying video was shot during the track’s live take. It’s a moody slice of folk-rock that employs Lleo’s gruff vocals to engaging effect. Instrumentally, it has a rawness and immediacy that gets back to a more basic form of songwriting and delivery. But that only makes it more effective, in line with what Lleo had in mind. He explains: “I was aware from the start that with this approach we weren’t going to get the glossy finish you might hear on a standard production, but that was the whole point. I wanted to showcase something different, something that gets back in touch with the human element of why we make music. Both band and engineer had to ride the wave, and It was a really cool experience. The pressure of everyone nailing a take was exciting, and I’m glad I could call on some talented mates who collectively pulled it all together.” No Way Back is another solid, engaging piece of songwriting that’s steeped in classic sensibilities.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Kodaline, Follow Your Fire

KODALINEFOLLOW YOUR FIRE: For their comeback single of sorts, Kodaline have employed the services of two powerhouse talents: hitmakers Steve Mac and long-time collaborator Johnny McDaid, who both worked on the worldwide smashes Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran and Pink’s What About Us. A powerhouse slice of pop, this is shot through with radio friendly melodies, a sing-along chorus and a slow-build towards euphoria that’s evocative of the most memorable pop songs. Follow Your Fire bounces along before reaching an arms-in-the-air style crescendo, and then scaling it back for something of an intimate conclusion. But you’ll be singing along to lines like “we have the songs that we sing along to, we have the moves to make me dance with you” in no time at all, while dancing in tandem with them. It’s a feel-good single that brings a little sunshine energy – something the British weather is sorely lacking in at the moment. So, go with it and it’s a blast. Follow Your Fire is taken from Kodaline’s forthcoming new album and looks set to propel them onto an even bigger stage than past glories. It’s a new sound that germinated during their sessions with Kygo, two years ago, on the global hit Raging.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Panic! At The Disco

PANIC! AT THE DISCOSAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT): After a week of cryptic clues to their fans that set the internet a buzz, Grammy-nominated Panic! At The Disco finally announced that their highly anticipated sixth studio album, Pray For The Wicked, will be released on June 22, 2018, via Fueled By Ramen/DCD2 Records. The album – produced by Jake Sinclair – is available for pre-order now with a new single, Say Amen (Saturday Night) and (Fuck A) Silver Lining. The former record is an edgy slice of alt-pop/rock with chopped up synths, lively drums and stabbing guitars. And yet while it has that alternative sensibility to the verse structures, the song does succeed in delivering a rousing chorus, which proclaims “oh, it’s Saturday night!” Hence, there is also a sing-along, celebratory quality attached too. It’s exactly the type of commanding return that fans of the band will have been hoping for. And the video is a hoot too! Commenting on the new album, Brendon Urie said: “After being away in New York for months doing Kinky Boots, I just wanted to hang out at home when I got back to LA. I was so revved up that I asked some friends to come over to my home studio to help me write about all the incredible things I’ve experienced the last couple of years. Pray for the Wicked is my ‘thank you’ to our fans and the most fun I’ve ever had making album.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Panic! At The Disco

PANIC! AT THE DISCO! – (FUCK A) SILVER LINING: The opening track and second offering from Panic! At The Disco’s forthcoming Pray For The Wicked LP is a manic slice of alt-rock/pop. Shot through with off-kilter energy, this has a manic element that could be off-putting to some, especially since the bad language, shouted vocal style and stop-start shuffle of the instrumentals (complete with a strings-style sweep late on) can create quite a heady brew. Sure, the chorus – that declares “it’s just cherries, just cherries, cherries on top” – has a catchy element, with some neat hooks attached. But it’s the lesser of the two new releases (alongside Say Amen) and is arguably one that’s more for the Panic! At The Disco purists. As the opening track on the LP, however, it raises the possibility that this could be a collection of songs that are chock full of bombast and swagger.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Redfaces, Messed Up Feeling

REDFACESMESSED UP FEELING: Sheffield’s RedFaces kick off 2018 with the release of catchy new single Messed Up Feeling. Recorded at Miloco’s The Pool in London and produced by Carey Willetts (Athlete), the song is a driving, monster of a song, with nods to their RnB influences – the groove landing somewhere between Kasabian and Michael Jackson, bass guitar and drums pushed right to the front of the mix. Hence, the verse structures have an indie rock swagger befitting bands like Kasabian, while the slightly more melodic chorus has a catchiness is tailor made for singing along with and drops in those slight RnB influences. Late on, the guitars really help to drive the song to some soaring highs, before things get stripped back down for another belting chorus. It’s a riotous offering that exemplifies why NME chose the band as one of their essential picks for 2018. RedFaces are Harry Lyon, Isaac White, Charlie Yapp and Ryan Laycock. Four lads from Sheffield treading what was once a well-worn path, these days the road less travelled. The journey started at 2Fly studios in Sheffield, recording demos with Alan Smyth. Taking their influences from the 50s and 60s right through to today, by way of The Beatles, Hendrix, The Smiths and The Strokes.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Daniel Avery

DANIEL AVERYPROJECTOR: Daniel Avery has shared another new track, Projector, alongside a video created by with London design studio Flat-e. The track is taken from the UK producer’s highly anticipated new album, Song For Alpha, which is released on April 6, 2018 on Phantasy worldwide. The song has a late-night ambience to it in the way that it’s driven by swirling synth arrangements, some of which take on an organ-like sound. The accompanying beats fizz too, creating a smooth slice of electronic ambience that’s tailor-made for listening to late at night. It’s an instrumental that has a cinematic feel to it, too, and which underlines Avery’s strengths as a producer capable of appealing to both the mainstream and alternative music scenes. The video marks the second time Avery has teamed up with Flat-e – previously behind videos and live visuals for the likes of Jon Hopkins, Nathan Fake, Jamie Lidell and Clark – following their first collaboration on the glacial animated video for Slow Fade. At the time, Avery commented: “The thing I admire about Flat-e is that they recognise the beauty in mystery. They create worlds into which you can fall with your eyes closed.” Speaking about the most recent visual, Flat-e said: “We created the video for Projector by layering animations of crystalline structures, then manipulating them digitally until they appear almost fluid.” Colourful shards of refracted light reflect the track perfectly, bringing its shimmering synth stabs and icy percussion to life.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bazzi

BAZZIHONEST: Bazzi has quickly become known as an inventive pop craftsman, wedding hypnotic hooks, expansive production and lush instrumentation into his own indefinable sound and vision. Born to a Lebanese immigrant father and American mother in Dearborn, MI and currently based in Los Angeles, the talented tunesmith first made waves with hugely popular independent online releases including Beautiful and Alone. New single Honest continues to build on his momentum, combining R’n‘B inspired elements with soulful vocals and pop – think Justin Timberlake mixed with Craig David and a little Maroon 5. The song itself is born from the hurt of knowing a relationship has failed and someone has moved on (“does he make you feel ashamed?”). But it’s slickly delivered to ensure that while certainly melancholy in sentiment, the overall vibe is more bittersweet. That is to say, it’s catchy… combining some slick, soulful instrumentals (synths, beats, acoustic guitar) with those soulful vocals (and a chorus that even goes choral). Bazzi is clearly someone capable of living up the hype surrounding him at the moment.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Esther Joy

ESTHER JOYDAY 4 (LANDING): You can always expect something different – but oddly catchy – from London-based artist Esther Joy. Previously a part of Charli XCX’s live band, the emerging London-based singer, songwriter and producer is releasing her new EP on April 27. New single Day 4 (Landing) continues the story Esther has created for this EP, following a young alien called Silipur in an alternate universe. From this point, it’s best to let Esther explain: “This song is the second in the Acid Caves story, following a young alien ‘Silipur’ in a world where all intelligent lifeforms are able to see in a new dimension called ‘The Chaos’. The Chaos gives the ability to see, understand and manipulate emotional energy which is fuelling the universe. Humans are the only beings that lack this ability as a fixation on ego stunted their natural evolution. ‘Day 4 (Landing) is based on Silipur’s first day on Earth. She is overwhelmed by the psychological state of the planet and the emotional toxicity of it’s atmosphere. Humans cannot understand ‘The Chaos’ and have therefore left their planet to emotional ruin. I wanted this song to feel violent and intrusive, as if you are experiencing the extremity and destruction of earth for the very first time.” The resulting offering is as chaotic, instrumentally, as that description suggests. It’s led by computer-like blips and bleeps, warped synths and edgy vocals, of the post-punk variety (think Pink! if she were to go completely leftfield). The result is certainly ear-catching, inventive but an acquired taste given the way in which it throws in so many instrumental curve-balls and vocal asides.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Beth Rowley

BETH ROWLEYFOREST FIRE: Ten years ago singer-songwriter Beth Rowley’s debut Little Dreamer went top 10, garnered a Brit nomination and sales in excess of 100,000. A bystander would deem this a huge achievement but for Rowley the success felt flawed – she’d made compromises with the way the album sounded and how she’d been packaged as a mainstream contender. What proved a bittersweet experience played a significant part in why it’s taken a decade for this talented musician to deliver her second long player. “I had some awesome experiences being on a major label,” says Rowley. “The opportunities you get given are incredible. I loved touring and singing live the most but eventually it all stopped being fun. I don’t want to say it was all bad, but it wasn’t the right home for me, so it was best to part ways.” Having taken 10 years to recover and pen her follow-up, the resultant sound is being described as a rawer, heavier, gutsier and more truthful mirror of her sublime talent, unshackled by her debut’s jazz-pop leanings and polished production. The first taste from the new album is Forest Fire, co-written with Ron Sexsmith – one of a trio of co-writers on the album – and splices country-folk roots with the vibe and energy of the Bristol scene that gave birth to her distinctive voice. Reflecting on past experiences she sings – “‘Cos I’ve been hurt before, And now I long to be sure, Before the flames grow any higher, Before we go starting a forest fire”. It’s an intensely personal, raw song that is driven by some stark guitar and a melancholy voice – a far cry from the Rowley of old. If the pace is sometimes a little too lazy for its own good, it serves to heighten the emotional content of the lyrics, which Rowley delivers with passion. It’s an intriguing change of direction that leaves you wanting to hear more.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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