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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 6, 2020

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

Biffy Clyro

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BIFFY CLYROEND OF: After announcing their comeback in emphatic fashion with the explosive Instant History, Biffy Clyro have now confirmed that their eagerly anticipated new album, A Celebration of Endings, will be released on May 15, 2020. To celebrate, they have also dropped another new track in the form of the even more incendiary End Of. The aggression is old school Biffy, but the out-of-nowhere piano break and a final rally of rampaging riffs matches their current unpredictable flair. Hence, while a great deal of the track is all about the guitars and drums, coupled with their view of the current f**ked up world situation, that piano breakdown shows how they’re prepared to mix things up and throw in the odd bit of subversion. The climax, though, offers another sustained guitar assault that includes some of the track’s most aggressive, sky-scraping hooks and crashing symbals, ensuring that the song should become one of the most electric offerings of any future live engagements. Speaking about the album as a whole, frontman Simon Neil said: “This is a very forward-looking album from a personal perspective and a societal perspective. The title is about seeing the joy in things changing, rather than the sadness. Change means progression and evolution. You can retain everything you loved before, but let’s lose the bad shit. It’s about trying to take back control.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Haim

SINGLE/VIDEO OF THE WEEK: HAIMTHE STEPS: After revealing that their highly anticipated third studio album, Women In Music Pt. III, will be released on April 24, 2020 (Polydor Records), Haim have shared their new single, The Steps. The track pushes guitar to the forefront in a way the band has not done before, evoking a classic rock vibe that’s instantly addictive and cleverly familiar. Clean, chorused electric guitar, overdriven lead lines and strummed acoustic 12-strings lock in together to generate what feels like an endless chug, resulting in one of Haim’s fastest and heaviest songs to date. But that’s a good thing, in keeping with the sassy nature of the lyrics that reflect the confused nature of the singer’s mind. Lyrics include “every time I think that I’ve been taking the steps, you end up mad at me for making a mess”, which has a bittersweet sadness to it that neatly subverts the rock elements (fragility to juxtapose the sass). It’s another brilliant creation from the ever-impressive Haim, complete with a sudden stop that leaves you thirsting for more. The Steps was written by the band along with long-time collaborators Ariel Rechsthaid and Rostam Batmanglij.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bush, Flowers on a Grave

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BUSHFLOWERS ON THE GRAVE: Bush – aka the English band that became massive in America without ever really cracking it here – return with another slice of brilliance, which serves as a potent reminder of their ability to tap into a US stadium-pleasing kind of sound. A fiery rock offering that is steeped in classic grunge-rock qualities, this finds Gavin Rossdale’s vocals in typically towering form, with some skyscraping guitar riffs to back them up. It’s evocative of classic Bush tracks of old, while still feeling fresh and vital. It’s the kind of melancholy rock offering (“she covered me in loneliness, like flowers on a grave”) that was the hallmark of countless classic grunge acts, and which wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to films like The Crow, but which somehow still manages to sound exhilarating. The guitar hooks, in particular, are invigorating, while Rossdale’s vocals sound as expressive and powerful as ever. The track is the first to emerge from the band’s new album, Kingdom, which is due for release in May 2020. Commenting on the new LP, Rossdale said: “We are really proud of The Kingdom. It’s as if all roads traveled over the last few years have gotten us to this point. We look forward to this cycle – old fans, new fans, like minded people who are searching for their kingdom.” Welcome back, boys. Here’s hoping you crack all continents this time!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Grouplove, Youth

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: GROUPLOVEYOUTH: “The night’s so young, let’s set it on fire”… so sing Grouplove over the infectious chorus to new single Youth. The follow-up to comeback offering Deleter, the track is built around swirling, future-synth style electronics, trippy beats and that usual intoxicating set of vocals from Christian Zucconi. But while shining an apparently celebratory light on the youth of the title, there’s something darker inside as it taps into a disaffected culture that flirts with danger. The band have often stated that you can never trust a happy song and that mix of the sublimely upbeat and darker lyrics is addictively evident here. What’s more, it taps into that Welcome To Your Life ability to be anthemic. It’s another strong offering to be taken from the band’s eagerly-anticipated new album, Healer. The eye-catching accompanying video features Grace Zabriskie, of Twin Peaks and Seinfeld fame.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kodaline, Sometimes

KODALINESOMETIMES: Kodaline follow-up Wherever You Are with their new single Sometimes. The track starts as a sun-kissed acoustic folk groove before launching into the kind of anthemic, larger-than-life pop hook that the band have now become renowned for. It also captures Kodaline’s rare gift for exploring a challenging topic within a song that feels both joyous and life-affirming. As the song admits, “we all get lost sometimes.” But it’s this resonant central motif that helps the song to strike such a chord, meaning that it’s ok not to feel ok sometimes. And yet, while conceding that point and reflecting on your own moments of being lost, there’s that anthemic, feel-good quality to the instrumentals, which come complete with stadium-sized sing-along harmonies and a really sun-kissed acoustic vibe. Frontman Steve Garrigan’s vocals are suitably restrained, though, tapping into that vulnerability that’s inherent in the lyrics. Speaking about the track himself, Garrigan said: “Sometimes is a song I wrote while on tour in Asia last year. I had a really bad day dealing with my own anxiety issues and I let it get the better of me. I started writing the song in my hotel room to help me calm down… music has always helped me in that way. For me, it’s a song about accepting the bad days and trying to stay positive.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bee, Nothing Alike

BEENOTHING ALIKE: Dutch singer songwriter BÉE, (pronounced Bae) shares her buoyant new single Nothing Alike, produced by Jake Gosling via Goldun Egg Records. Packed with colour and verve and a catchy, playful central hook, the track evolves with a breezy energy as sparse strings are carried forward with a percussive, hand-clap style backbeat and air-tight melodies. The message is lyrically simple while BÉE’S captivating vocal immerses the listener into the excitement and melodrama surrounding early courtship. It’s a song that explores those early, giddy, heady days of falling in love that displays the infectious quality befitting that kind of mutual attraction. Speaking candidly about the single, BÉE said: “Nothing Alike is a tune about having a crush on someone while you’re not sure if they feel the same way. You obviously hope they do, but they keep on sending you mixed signals. You’re in the first phase of a potential romance and you’re trying to figure out what it could lead to. Although you two think you’re nothing alike, maybe it’s still worth a try…” It’s a song about being positive that oozes a sunshine positivity of its own.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Ama Lou

AMA LOUFAR OUT: Twenty-one-year-old London native Ama Lou shares a new video from her latest EP Ama, who?, out now via Polydor Records. Stripped down and intimate, Far Out films the singer posing in front of the camera, capturing all the in-between moments of a shoot while her soulful melodies play in the background. It’s a low-key, simple affair that’s designed to highlight the intimate emotions at play within the song itself. And the track is a dusky, piano-driven ballad that makes the best use of Lou’s deeply soulful vocals. There’s a sense of sorrow and vulnerability, too, which makes for a disarming listen. It’s a heart-on-sleeve offering that highlights Ama Lou’s knack for brooding, powerful songs that shoot straight from the heart. “I thought given how stripped back Far Out is, the visual had to represent that also,” Ama says of the video. “No big sets, no pre-production and no characters. It’s just me in front of you. Just like the song.” It works a treat.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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James Vickery, Spanish Rose

JAMES VICKERYSPANISH ROSE: South London’s James Vickery has announced that his new EP, Overture, will be released on March 25, 2020, through Th3rd Brain Records. As a preview, he drops his new single, Spanish Rose, produced by Maths Time Joy and Louis Mattrs, along with the official music video. Befitting its title, the song opens with a sumptuous Spanish guitar, before settling into a more R’n‘B infused groove. A song about infatuation, it then takes the listener on a desperate tale of lust and longing, interspersed with that seductive guitar, but mostly focused on a smoky, dusky R’n‘B feel that owes plenty of its inspiration to the likes of Craig David and Justin Timberlake. Vickery has a decent set of vocals that add plenty of emotion into the feelings at play in the track as a whole. Commenting himself, Vickery explained: “Spanish Rose is a song about complete infatuation. I was completely and utterly obsessed with every individual essence of this person at one point, this song is a testament to everything about them and all that I was feeling at the time of writing this.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Kyoti, Citadel

KYOTICITADEL: Acclaimed art pop trio KYOTI release Citadel on March 4, 2020, the sixth single from their expansive Project Twelve, which sees the band release one track every month for a year. The track draws on the full KYOTI aesthetic… captivating storytelling over jazz harmony and rhythms that build steadily into euphoric soaring synths. Vocally, there’s a sense of Death Cab For Cutie in Ed’s delivery (especially over the chorus), while the early beats have a laidback, Bonobo-style vibe before the track then takes off into more synth-pop territory befitting the band’s art-pop aesthetic. Lyrically, Citadel considers personal issues and broader political ideas, both continuing themes throughout KYOTI’S work to date. Ed explains: “In the turbulent times we are currently living through it can be so easy to shut ourselves off. Rather than engage with what is going on across the planet and in society, whether that’s climate change, homelessness, or mental health issues – instead people tend to seek comfort and shelter from those closest to us. The phrase ‘I need a citadel’ sits at the heart of this song. I was thinking about how bombarded we all are in the modern world – by the news, social media, and constant expectations of success and progress – but that sometimes you just want to hang out with mates and loved ones, safe in the knowledge that there’s no judgement. For me, that feels like a citadel and I think a lot of people are probably in need of that too.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lil Skies, Havin My Way

LIL SKIES feat LIL DURKHAVIN MY WAY: Controversial rapper Lil Skies has unveiled his fiery new single, Havin My Way (Ft. Lil Durk), available now via Atlantic Records. An expletive-laden statement of intent, this takes the form of a hard-hitting confessional of sorts, featuring lyrics such as “I brought a Glock to the party, I shouldn’t have” and “I’m gonna flex on a bitch”. But while designed to invoke a sense of regret, there’s also something quite objectional about it. The lyrics are dire. And while the supporting instrumentals have a downbeat hip-hop vibe, both in terms of the beats and electronics, there’s something that feels more bragging about it, rather than genuinely sorrowful. It’s the type of offering that has helped to make the current hip-hop genre so X-rated and which tends to celebrate the darker aspects of humanity. It’s sure to further Lil Skies reputation (such that it is) but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Katy Perry, Never Worn White

KATY PERRYNEVER WORN WHITE: Talk about personal… Katy Perry has both announced her pregnancy and a desire to get married in new ballad, Never Worn White. A love letter to current beau, Never Worn White declares “I’ve never worn white, but I wanna get it right, and I really wanna say I do” over piano arrangements and cinematic strings. It’s a song designed to make her fans go ‘aaaah’, while simultaneously paying tribute to Orlando Bloom (while perhaps giving him a little nudge). The song is inspiring in the sense that it finds Perry in her own happy space, extolling the virtues of her good fortune. But it’s also a little too intimate… the kind of song that she should perhaps be singing in the bathtub or to a loved one at bedtime. Perry wrote the ballad with Jacob Kasher, John Ryan and Johan Carlsson, which is also kind of sad – given that it should arguably all have come from her, given the personal nature of its message. But that’s showbiz for you! The track comes complete with a similarly schmaltzy video, which finds Perry wearing white (wedding day white) and eventually revealing the news of her pregnancy. It’s all very theatrical and, perhaps for that reason, not as sincere as it ought to be. It’s evocative of a life lived far too publicly.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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