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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 17, 2019

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

Feeder

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: FEEDERYOUTH: Feeder have released a new single and video for track Youth – and it’s an explosion of energy and passion as only Feeder know how. Youth bursts with energy, boasting powerful guitars that drive the track, dynamic drums and a huge chorus with their ever-relatable lyrics. Of those lyrics, “we’re just lovers on the run, California here we come” are most likely to strike a chord with any young rebels who have their eyes on Hollywood-style adventure. And speaking of California, who wouldn’t want to drive down the Pacific Highway with this tune blaring out of a convertible. It has that kind of raw power, sun-drenched melodicism and head-rush excitement attached. There are even ‘woo-hoo’ harmonies. And while the track may not mark too much of a departure or mixing up of the Feeder sound, this is pure adrenaline indie-rock, which captures the true essence of classic Feeder. It’s a joy, especially once the guitars are ferociously unleashed for the climax. Speaking about the track himself, Grant Nicholas said: “It’s a classic Feeder record. I just write the songs which feel natural to me, and I have a vision of each of them in my mind like a short film. I wanted to make a lot of the songs really adaptable. I didn’t want them to have be massively produced, I wanted them to also work in a stripped-back way.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Charli XCX, Blame It On Your Love

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: CHARLI XCX feat LIZZOBLAME IT ON YOUR LOVE: This latest offering from the consistently excellent Charli XCX probably shouldn’t work as well as it does – but therein lies the beauty of Charli XCX. This has a generic pop feel to it at the best of times, and has something of a troubled history given its leaked past. But by employing some guest support from rapper Lizzo and mixing the trop-house element with more pop vibes, this emerges as a genuine crowd-pleaser. And it has that mix of pop effervesence with something darker and more edgy. The chorus, for instance, finds Charli singing: “I blame it on your love, every time I fuck it up”, signalling something of more bittersweet than those breezy beats and electronics otherwise suggest. Lizzo drops a sassy rap towards the end, to add something grittier too, and to mix up the otherwise generic sound. Hence, while this may not be the biggest creative stretch for Charli XCX, it does demonstrate why she’s one of the biggest mainstream artists on the planet at this moment in time. It’s catchy, it’s bittersweet, it’s edgy and it’s fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Biffy Clyro, Balance, Not Symmetry

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: BIFFY CLYROBALANCE, NOT SYMMETRY: After delivering their intimate acoustic LP last year, Biffy Clyro now turn up the volume considerably to share a new track and video in the shape of Balance, Not Symmetry. It’s the title track from the film of the same name, which frontman Simon Neil collaborated on with director Jamie Adams. To accompany the film, Biffy Clyro wrote a full album of original material which is also out now. This lead track is an empowering rock track that declares “I can be brave, I can be everything you need” and “I can be glorious”, while delivering pounding drums, fiery guitars and a heavy, heavy rock sound akin to Foo Fighters at their grandest. In true Biffy Clyro fashion, however, they also deliver how to mix the heavy with a melody necessary to ensure this stays radio friendly. Hence, for all the grit, edge and fire in the central riffs and threatening drums, the chorus unleashes a radio friendly element that offsets the more head-banging elements. And it enables the song to reach out to a wider listener base. Regarding the collaboration, Simon Neil explained: “On meeting Jamie, we realised early on that we’d both had to deal with grief at a relatively young age and so it was interesting to talk about how we’d both dealt with it and the effect it had on us – and this is the main crux of the film, delving into the lonely world of grief and loss and coming out the other side.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Shakespear's Sister

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: SHAKESPEAR’S SISTERALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES: Shakespear’s Sister have shared the video for their new single All The Queen’s Horses. The track is the first new material from the pair in 26 years and the first to be signed to the reformed London Records. The video was shot in Joshua Tree by Sophie Muller, who has made videos for Beyonce, Rihanna, Bjork and The Strokes and also shot Shakespears Sister’s iconic videos for Stay, You’re History and I Don’t Care. The video features a cameo from Morgan McMichaels, from Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 2 and All-Stars Season 3. Marcy met Morgan for the first time when he was performing as Marcy herself at a drag night in LA and they have since become friends. Nick Launay, who produced this new track and has also worked with Nick Cave and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, also appears in the video. Sophie’s video deftly plays with Shakespears Sister’s past and present in a number of ways: not just exploring the ways in which the song can be seen as a cipher for their relationship, but also revisiting, re-invigorating and at times wryly echoing their visual iconography. Shot in black and white, it’s cinematic and genuinely eye-catching. The single, too, finds Shakespear’s Sister in peak form. There’s a cinematic sweep to the delivery, complete with strings, harmonica, Western-style whistling (the type of which would befit an Ennio Morricone soundtrack), as well as some gutsy guitar twangs and swoonsome vocals. It’s a heady mix, delivered with the utmost style, making this a comeback to savour for the Sisters.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, I Don't Care

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: ED SHEERAN & JUSTIN BIEBER – I DON’T CARE: Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber follow=up the release of last week’s single with a video to accompany it. And it’s as cheesy as it is fun. The video shows the two green screened into various scenes (pool-side, sitting on a sofa, in bear and panda costumes). There’s nothing too spectacular about it. But there is a sense of humour that makes it kind of loopy fun. Since being released last week, I Don’t Care has become Ed’s biggest-ever single launch, storming charts across the globe. To date, the track has garnered over 150 million streams and has hit No.1 in the UK. But then, as super-collaborations go, this has to rate as one of the biggest of recent times. And the track certainly did delight followers of both. Admittedly, the style of the song – which was produced by Max Martin, Shellback and FRED – leans more to Sheeran than Bieber. But unlike more traditional Sheeran, this is guitar-free, relying instead on a lively, bouncy back-beat and the vocals of both singers. It’s also a tale of empowerment that offers up a rallying call for anyone struggling to overcome difficulty. It’s also an ode to love, as only Sheeran knows how to deliver. The chorus proclaims “I don’t care when I’m with my baby yeah, All the bad things disappear, And you making me feel that maybe I am somebody”. It’s a worthy sentiment and one that works for anyone in love or just needing a little reassurance of their own. What’s more, it’s catchy as hell! Last week I wrote, ‘if this doesn’t become one of the year’s biggest singles, then I’ll eat my hat!’ Well, that looks safe for the time being!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Halsey, Nightmare

HALSEYNIGHTMARE: Halsey follows up her recent single Without Me with the heavy-hitting Nightmare. A co-production between Halsey, Benny Blanco, Happy Perez and Cashmere Cat, this finds Halsey in feisty, provocative mood and almost channelling early noughties acts like TATU. If that sounds an odd choice, then consider the way she slow-builds the verses, only to shout things out over the brash chorus. It’s clear from the lyrics that Halsey is feeling angered and wronged, singing lyrics such as “I’ve got no one to smile for, I’ve waited a while for a moment to say ‘I don’t owe you a goddamn thing’, I keep a record of the wreckage of my life, I gotta recognise the weapon in my mind’. It’s deliberately provocative, self-consciously confrontational and somehow inspiring for the way in which it displays such empowering self-resolve. The mix of punk attitude, big brash beats and electronic rock also works well in helping the track to land in such a big way, ensuring that Halsey will continue to be noticed and, quite possibly, win even more fans. Hence, the Nightmare of the title translates as something of a dream for her fans.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mark Ronson, Jax Jones remix

MARK RONSON & LYKKE LI – LATE NIGHT FEELINGS (JAX JONES MIDNIGHT SNACK REMIX): No.1 British dance export artist Jax Jones looks to have delivered one of the summer’s biggest dance anthems with his Midnight Snack Remix of Mark Ronson’s Late Night Feelings featuring Lykke Li. The remix amplifies the strongest elements of the original (Li’s striking, ethereal vocals and Ronson’s slick production values) but super-sizes them for the club. Hence, the beats are harder, there’s a very definite super-club vibe and more time is given over to the instrumentals than the vocals. Fans of the original may be disappointed to hear that the things that helped the track to stand out (the Caribbean-style chimes, the focus on vocals) have been sent to the background. But while there is certainly an element of missing something now that the song has assumed a more generic dance vibe, there’s also denying that this will still get you onto the dancefloor whenever it hits the decks late at night. In that sense, it’s mission accomplished for Jax Jones. Jax appeared on Ronson’s radar after he received a folder with house music from mutual friend Diplo. Ronson explains: “I’ve been a big fan of Jax Jones’ music for a while, even before I knew a lot of these records I was playing were produced by him. He really is one of my favourite house producers out right now. I was so excited to get this remix in and I love what he did, turning our sleazy, lustful jam into modern disco-house euphoria.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Foals, In Degrees

FOALS – IN DEGREES: Foals have delivered their fans a double-shot of activity. The band are sharing new single In Degrees to coincide with the news that they’re confirmed to play Radio 1’s Big Weekend on May 25. And in keeping with the current album’s unrestrained creativity, In Degrees is an experimental exploration that maintains the band’s identity. With frenetic, clattering percussion and propulsive bass underpinning the band’s urgent energy, Foals channel LCD Soundsystem and New Order to create a fresh angle to their unique sound. If anything, it’s that rare kind of offering that’s as comfortable on the alternative circuit as it would be hitting the dance scene. The beats and synths are particularly invigorating, lending the song an energy that’s undeniable. In contrast to the song’s euphoric vibe, frontman Yannis Philippakis’s lyrics imagine a dark, near future ‘where your ability to talk to each other has been reduced to nothing’. It’s a message that could be interpreted as both the personal fear of a failing relationship, or a widescreen Black Mirror-styled vision of a dystopian destiny. The striking accompanying video is directed by Aaron Brown, who’s previous work includes R U Mine by Arctic Monkeys and Easy Easy by King Krule. Commenting on the video, Brown said: “What excited me about the track was the dance feel that Foals were doing in contrast to the lyrics. They’ve always had some of that danceability in their music but this track is a no holds barred, make no mistake about it, post-punk, four on the floor, dance track. In contrast to the music though, is a solemn verse and brooding chorus.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Madonna, Future

MADONNA & QUAVOFUTURE: Another week, another new Madonna offering… but this one could represent the first disappointment. It boasts another collaboration, this time with Atlanta native: Migos’ Quavo. But it adopts a Jamaican dancehall flavour that somehow doesn’t work as well as it should. It’s got a lazy Caribbean vibe and some sassy stabs of brass, while Madonna and Quavo share vocal duties. But it’s more repetitive and less adventuruous than some of the previous tracks, actually outstaying its welcome. There are provocative lyrics, especially when referencing the crucifixion and a second kind of coming. But even then, Madonna’s power to shock appears blunted. It’s a track that just exists… there’s a sense of indifference surrounding it. And while Madonna still deserves some praise for her willingness to embrace different musical styles and cultures, this is one of those occasions where she doesn’t get the mix right.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Ben McKelvey

BEN MCKELVEYWILD CHILD: UK-born and based one-man band Ben McKelvey has shared his latest folk-rock music video, Wild Child, via Lower Your Shoulder. The track eschews much of what you’d expect from a folk-based song. It’s more rock. The guitars are as wild as the name suggests, exploding to life from the very first seconds, before being backed by McKelvey’s boisterous vocals. The result is a song that has echoes of the Americana influences of Springsteen and The Killers, mixed with the brash Englishness of more punk-inflicted bands such as The Clash. But while that may sound like an odd mix, it’s actually a riot of positive energy that delivers an exhilarating headrush, worthy of being sung along to as McKelvey “holds onto teenage dreams”. The track is lifted from his 2018 album of the same name. McKelvey, meanwhile, has been part of many tours, performing across USA, UK and Europe in venues such as The Royal Albert Hall, The O2 Arena and the London Palladium, providing main support for Wet Wet Wet in 17 arenas, 20 dates for The Overtones, 50 shows as support for the Genesis supergroup, Mike & The Mechanics, touring with Marti Pellow and Scouting For Girls. During 2019, he will be the official support act for Bruce Springsteen Band’s Jake Clemons. With songs like this, his reputation and popularity are only set to grow.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Juiceboxxx

JUICEBOXXXCOINSTAR SONG: Milwaukee-bred artist Juiceboxxx has dropped a kind of catchy new track in the form of Coinstar Song, via Dangerbird Records. Produced by Juiceboxxx and Joel Hamilton (who has worked with everyone from Black Keys to Cam’Ron to Iggy Pop), the track is taken from his forthcoming new album and is about using a machine that converts your desperate, random left-over coin collection into cold hard cash, all in the name of ‘trying to get by’. It’s designed to become something of a precarity anthem for a generation of young people living one day at a time. And while carrying a relevant and relatable message, it’s delivered in a catchy, toe-tapping style. There are some short, sharp guitar riffs, a pop-style rap and a rousing chorus that invites you to get behind it, anthem style (“I’m still a kid, don’t know where we go, standing in the middle of a punk rock show’). It’s arguably Juiceboxxx’s most accessible offering to date.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Modern Strangers, Magic Hour

THE MODERN STRANGERSMAGIC HOUR: The Modern Strangers return with the release of a bewitching, disco infused new single Magic Hour, which should effortlessly appeal to fans of acts like Scissor Sisters and, to a lesser degree, The BeeGees. Produced by Gordon Mills Jr, the song has a neon vibe that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Nicolas Winding Refn soundtrack, while also sounding perfect for the disco scene. Initially, it opens in soulful fashion, with the focus on the vocals (which quickly adopt a falsetto tone). But approaching the minute mark, the disco element lands and the song elevates itself into something really well delivered. It’s a slick mix of retro elements and past influences, as well as something immediately identifiable with The Modern Strangers. It could well crop up on a soundtrack soon. The new song comes hot on the heels of touring the UK in support of Flor for the second time and supporting All Twins. Speaking about the new single, The Modern Strangers explain: “We wrote the song whilst on a trip to LA. It was the day England played Columbia in the World Cup and after that tense penalty shoot out we took the adrenaline into a home studio in Silver Lake and recorded Magic Hour. It was also our lead singer (Max’s) birthday. The combination of so much excitement resulted in one of our favourite songs to date! We feel it really captures our trip and the emotions we had during that time. We wrote the entire song that day, and finished it off in the UK.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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