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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 8, 2019

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

Vampire Weekend

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: VAMPIRE WEEKENDSUNFLOWER feat STEVE LACY: Vampire Weekend come over extremely trippy for their latest new offering, Sunflower, featuring The Internet’s guitarist Steve Lacy. Opening amid a flurry of 70s inspired guitar riffs, the song then drops some trip-hop beats and a delicious vocal from Ezra Koenig that talks about sunflowers banishing the evil away. In the background, meanwhile, that 70s classic rock sound becomes more and more pronounced, complete with some trippy backkground harmonies. And then, as the song reaches its climax, the song enters even more psychedelic territory, for a truly gonzo climax. And in spite of its experimental, retro tendencies, there’s something immensely fun about it. There’s a celebratory feel, inherent in those harmonies, and the bouncy nature of the percussion and guitar stabs. It’s designed to put a smile on your face and it succeeds, while remaining lyrically engaging. It’s another excellent taster from their new album, Harmony Hall, which looks set to become one of the year’s highlights.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Chemical Brothers

VIDEO/SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – WE’VE GOT TO TRY: The Chemical Brothers may just have dropped the best track to date from their new album, No Geography (out April 12). Tapping into some of the early style of their Exit Planet Dust days, this combines some dark techno undertones with rapid-fire, sometimes woozy synths and a gutsy female vocal to offer some sweetness. It’s a livewire dance track that boasts edge to match its energy, and it’s totally exhilarating. Put together with the video, though, it’s even better. Directed by Ninian Doff, who last collaborated with the brothers on 2015’s Sometimes I Feel So Deserted, it features an abandoned dog, who works her way through the ranks of motorsport on a journey of self-discovery, before being thrust into space on a mission that looks set to have a very dark ending. There is a feel-good finale, though, which is every bit as surreal as what’s come before (Wes Anderson would be proud). It’s amusing, mysterious, and more than a little disturbing. But it works, perfectly complimenting the track itself.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Crystal Fighters, Wild Ones

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: CRYSTAL FIGHTERSWILD ONES: To mark the release of their new album Gaia & Friends, Crystal Fighters have shared a surreal new video for one of its highlights, Wild Ones. Always eager to share dazzling surrealist visuals, the band once again share a singular vision. Hence, as a searing sun sets, a mysterious figure rises beyond the earth’s atmosphere to embark upon a playful voyage of discovery that encompasses alien encounters, unknown landscapes and joyous dance moves. The figure evolves from man to woman to baby, before the sun rises on a brand new day. It’s eye-catching, visually stylistic, hypnotic and mesmerising. The song itself encapsulates everything that’s great and life-affirming about listening to the current album. There’s an infectious calypso style percussion and a euphoric chorus with lines such as “tell me how long, can this go on, like we’re floating in the arms of God, with the wild ones, with the wild ones, and we rage on, ‘til we’re blazing in the sun”. The ‘la la’ harmonies add an extra layer of sunshine hospitality. But knowingly so. It’s a song designed to make you feel giddy and good about yourself. And it does so with aplomb.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Wallows, Sidelines

WALLOWSSIDELINES: Wallows offer another taste of their highly-anticipated debut album, Nothing Happens, with new track, Sidelines, a bittersweet tale of love and loneliness post-break up. And yet in spite of the sense of loss, there’s an indie slacker vibe attached that’s highly evocative of bands like Weezer. The hazy, laidback vocals add to that, as to the guitars. But there’s also a sharp sense of melody, which serves as a nice contrast to the more despairing elements contained within the lyrics. Hence, while a lament on loss, it’s still lively and hip enough to give it a sunshine kind of alt-rock feel. We like it a lot. Shot at Los Angeles’ Castle Park, the accompanying self-directed video features band members Braeden Lemasters, Cole Preston, and Dylan Minnette as they make their way through a mini-golf course, reflecting on the heartbreak and uncertainty that accompany the ending of a relationship. Sidelines follows lead single Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo) and follow-up single Scrawny, which are all available instantly upon pre-ordering Nothing Happens.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Vampire Weekend

VAMPIRE WEEKENDBIG BLUE: Just as they did with the release of the first two tracks from Harmony Hall, Vampire Weekend have dropped another two tasters: one short, the other long. The shorter version clocks in at just under two minutes and is a low key tribute to the big blue of the title… or rather, a questioning of the big things in life and maybe beyond. Instrumentally, it’s disarmingly simple, opening amid some arpeggios and intermittent drum machine clicks, before eventually blossoming into a lusher song with surf rock style guitars. Ezra Koenig, meanwhile, finds himself questioning some of the big things, albeit with an edge of uncertainty. Hence, while initially insisting “big blue, for once in my life, I felt close to you”, he then questions “So am I learning my lesson? Or am I back on my own?” It’s a typically irresistible, albeit brief, yet highly intelligent offering from Vampire Weekend.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Morabezo Tobacco, Ally McBeal

MORABEZA TOBACCOALLY MCBEAL: Swedish duo Morabeza Tobacco have always been ones to re-purpose cult TV shows into their music. With their previous single, Defenders Of The Glam taken from the 80s cartoon series Defenders Of The Earth, the pair now return with their latest release, Ally McBeal, although it is not actually inspired by the hit TV show. “We’re not sure actually [where the name came from]”, the band say. “We were talking about what to name the song, then Ally McBeal popped up and both of us thought ‘yeah, that’s the one’. One theory we have is that we associated it with one of the lines in the song (‘it’s no big deal’ =Ally McBeal)”. Stepping away from the more groove-filled singles of late, Ally McBeal taps into be the band’s more ethereal and psychedelic side. It boasts notable comparisons to the likes of Animal Collective and Toro Y Moi, and is filled with dreamlike synths and subtle yet commanding basslines that give this new release a very grand and cinematic-like experience. But there’s also a trippiness that’s very defined, meaning that the song has an experimental edge that makes it a very acquired taste. Even fans who have enjoyed the grooviness of past offerings may struggle to embrace some of the more trippy leanings on this song. It’s interesting more than compelling, placing you into a blissed out state of mind-space without necessarily making you want to come back for further repeat listens. An oddity, then, but a fascinating one, nonetheless.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Angie McMahon

ANGIE MCMAHONPASTA: Australian solo artist Angie McMahon has unveiled a new single in the form of Pasta ahead of her appearance at this weekend’s SXSW. Written after she had consumed a whole lasagne, the song itself is about feeling tired and more than a little lose, and seeking solace in pasta! It starts off in pretty disconsolate, downbeat fashion, with a gruff vocal and a bluesy guitar. There’s a sense of despair (“I’ve been lost, I’ve been lost”) and grim resolve, with McMahon eventually admitting that she spends so much time eating pasta. But just as you think you have the measure of the song (and its food), it bursts into life and rocks out. McMahon admits she wanted to evoke a Springsteen vibe with this element of the song, and while that may be a little beyond her reach, the more aggressive nature of the second half of the song is invigorating and fun (a move away from the carb-induced malaise). A quirky official video for the single is also now streaming online alongside a video for Angie’s recent single Keeping Time. Both tracks will feature on Angie’s to-be-announced debut album, Salt, which is expected later this year. Speaking about the Pasta video, Angie shares: “I wanted this video to show how it feels to do nothing, just letting your brain stew, because I struggle with time management and I can be really mean to myself about it. When I needed to make merch for my first tour, I spent so long freaking out about it, worrying that it wouldn’t look cool and I wouldn’t be able to design something that felt genuine. The day before it was due, I quickly scribbled this picture of some dogs lining up to go to a concert (dream come true). I got to the tipping point where I let go of the pressure and just did whatever felt good. This music video is a kind of adaption on that. The gold star reminds me of being a kid and having encouragement, getting a tick of approval or whatever, but the adult version that I’m learning is that you just have to encourage yourself and not wait for other people to do it. And if you can’t make yourself feel awesome, dogs might make you feel awesome. It’s a reminder to go outside.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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REN

RENBLUE HOUNDS: Ren, aka Conor Owen, has released his spellbinding new single Blue Hounds as a follow-up to debut EP A Calling From The Shore, which received over 650K streams on Spotify. Written and recorded in Newcastle, the track takes careful aim at the dogs let slip by a savage Tory agenda from Theresa May’s 2017 Tory manifesto to current EU negotiations. Says REN: “With this song, I wanted to make people more aware of and engaged in current affairs. It’s a call for people to take a stand against policies that infringe on our rights.” Listening to it, though, you’d be forgiven for missing the sharper political edge. The lyrics are certainly intelligent and philosophical (“keep your blue hounds from my door”), but they’re delivered in a laidback, acoustic way that puts the emphasis on enjoyment. There’s a Jose Gonzalez vibe at times, with those lush acoustics beautifully constructed and hypnotic in their own way. The instrumental interludes are also beautifully delivered, adding extra edge to a song that is layered with meaning, yet high on overall enjoyability.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Andreya Triana, Broke

ANDREYA TRIANABROKE: Andreya Triana has shared the video for her latest single, Broke. The powerful video features shots of Andreya performing the soulful track mixed with scenes of a mother and daughter doing everyday things at home, reflecting the song’s heartfelt lyrics about Andreya growing up with her mother. It’s a song that is very personal to Triana and is delivered with suitable convicton, a blues-soul vocal taking centre stage over instrumentals that invoke a Northern Soul vibe. There’s gospel-tinged backing too, to add extra layering. It’s another impressive offering from Triana. Broke is the second single to be taken from the album, and follows first single Woman, while preceding the new album, Life in Colour, which is released on May 24, 2019 through Hi-Tea Records/The Orchard. Commenting on the new track, Triana said: “My new single Broke is for anyone that’s had to live off baked beans and make a tenner last a lifetime. It was inspired by a particular time in my life, but I’m forever thankful to my friends and Mum for always being there to help me out. After all, if we have love then we have the ultimate riches. On that note… must pay Mum back that tenner!”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Deportees

DEPORTEESBRIGHT EYES: While almost unknown outside of Sweden, Umeå-based trio Deportees have long been both a critical and commercial success back home. Their most recent album, 2015’s The Big Sleep, was awarded the Swedish Grammy for Best Rock Album, an award the band had also picked up for their previous long-player Islands & Shores. And now, not before time, Deportees release their first single internationally, Bright Eyes. And no, it’s not a cover and has nothing to do with rabbits. Rather, the song is an empathic plea to a friend to stop crying and start healing. It’s call for new dreams free from dejection and nostalgia, and a mission-statement for the band’s upcoming EP Re-dreaming, which follows on May 17. Lead singer Peder Stenberg explains: “Encouraging a friend to stop their crying might sound harsh, but it’s not because I lack sympathy. It’s because I need this person to function.” The track is emotionally honest and empowering in its own way. But it’s also shot through with ear-catching melodies – the synth-pop sound working to create a highly endearing backdrop. The moody vocals offset the lush electronics nicely, bringing a nice contrast and balance: the song has serious themes but it never sounds so. Rather, it soars once the electronics are allowed to guide you towards its climax.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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