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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 18, 2018

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

Lykke Li, Utopia

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LYKKE LI – UTOPIA: “We could be… utopia”. So sings Lykke Li over the chorus of her beautiful new sngle, called Utopia. An ode to motherhood that comes complete with a heart-melting video, this is a gentle pop song that displays Li’s brilliance in combining an ethereal sound with something completely accessible and disarming. The lyrics, meanwhile, will resonate with any mother or father who has experienced the feelings of parenthood, with gems like “If there’s a bomb in your heart, I’ll disarm it, if you want it then I want it” and “I see the dream in your eyes and I want it”. Li says of the track herself: “Utopia is all my mother ever wanted for me and all I ever want for him [her son].” It’s that rare song that manages to evoke tears and happiness… tears of pride and relatability; happiness as you apply the same sensiblities to the children you love. Following in the wake of brilliant previous singles Hard Rain and Deep End, Li’s new album – her fouth – looks to be something special. It’s called So Sad, So Sexy and it’s out now.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Kooks, All The Time

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE KOOKSALL THE TIME: The Kooks have long been a go-to band for us in terms of quality. And new single All The Time is no exception. Taken from their forthcoming new record Let’s Go Sunshine, the song is another vibrant example of their ability to deliver catchy, punchy indie gems. Built around “ooh hoo hoo” harmonies, crisp guitar licks and a sense of longing in the lyrics (as passionately delivered by Luke Pritchard), this builds to a rousing chorus that declares: “I want you, you, all the time.” It’s a song about longing (possibly even obsession) that nevertheless retains a breezy indie quality, capable of sliding into your sub-conscious and getting your toes tapping almost effortlessly. The chorus, meanwhile, has that anthemic, sing-along quality guaranteed to make it an instant live favourite. The track is one of the first to be taken from Let’s Go Sunshine, the band’s forthcoming album, which lands in August.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Snow Patrol, Empress

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: SNOW PATROLEMPRESS: Snow Patrol premiere the video for Empress, their second single from Wildness, the band’s first album in seven years. It’s a typically cinematic offering, shot in Cuba. And it’s an easy pick for video of the week. The track itself (as penned last week) is a much-needed pick-me-up following the intimacy of the recent stripped back ballad, What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?. Empress, which doesn’t come with a video, is a med-tempo slice of rock that is driven by lively guitars and a more upbeat vocal delivery from Gary Lightbody. The guitars have a siren-like, surging quality to them that serves the track well, while Lightbody’s vocals have a greater sense of urgency and (as a result) vibrancy. As ever, the lyrics have an intelligence to them that belies the easier listening elements of the song as a whole. It has a message and it has plenty of heart. But in comparison to the quiet introspection of last week’s offering, this feels fresher and much more radio friendly. It’s the type of track that could emerge as one of the new album’s crowd-pleasing anthems.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Plan B, Guess Again

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: PLAN B – GUESS AGAIN: Following the release of his critically-acclaimed fourth studio album, Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose, Plan B has unveiled a hyper-futuristic, cinematic new video for standout LP track, Guess Again. The video zeroes in on Plan B’s bleak, dystopian view of the future, as groups of people follow mysterious, drone-like projections across a greying city-sphere to a dark and ominous end. Directed by Andrew Donoho, who has recently worked on official videos for Janelle Monáe, Vic Mensa and 6Lack, the video concludes with a stark reminder of the over-arching, inescapable reach of those in power. The song itself is yet another showcase of Plan B’s endless musical versatility. The politically charged anthem pairs Drew’s signature vocals with a pounding dance-hall beat. Drew lends his own writing and production talent to the track along with the help of FRED (Charli xcx/Stefflon Don) and Show N Prove. But it’s full of urgency, from the hot button lyrics (which implore leaders to guess again when trying to divide us) to the emphatic beats (which have a dancehall urgency combined with urban edge). It’s a song that’s quite removed from anything Plan B has done before, which may force you to do a double take. But it’s potency is undeniable, making the song a confident, even essential return from one of the UK’s most intriguing and talented urban artists.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Arctic Monkeys

ARCTIC MONKEYSFOUR OUT OF FIVE: Arctic Monkeys probably faced something of a quandry when they urged people to treat their new album, Tranquility Base, as a complete work, rather than stand-alone songs. In this iTunes dominated world, where people buy just the tracks they like, singles take on a new importance. Hence, the decision to release anything from the new LP would have been tricky. That they’ve opted for a song that, by all accounts, represents one of the album’s boldest departures from the trademark Arctic Monkeys sound [if there is one], shows bravery. Four Out Of Five is unlike any other Arctic Monkeys track. It’s almost like a rock oddyssey wrapped around an oddity. Think artistic Bowie meets new wave Billy Joel, with perhaps a little Talking Heads thrown in. It’s laidback, yet sometimes urgent (thanks to a foreboding, stabbing synth that drops in and out). The guitars are barely there, and warped when they are, while the vocals appear more strained, even though they’re appealing for the listener to escape from the world’s woes and spend time with them. It’s therefore an upbeat offering… imbued with a sense of relief that’s inherent in the soulful backing vocals. There’s a lot going on. And it’s why it gets better the more you hear it, even if first impressions might not land as instantly positive as the band may hope. It’s an endlessly fascinating piece of songwriting. And, yes, we like.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Kooks, All The Time

THE KOOKS – NO PRESSURE: The second new release from The Kooks this week comes in the form of the similarly upbeat No Pressure – a summer anthem in waiting if ever there was one. The song once again perfectly showcases the band’s idyllic form of indie pop at its breezy best. Boasting lines like “we’re just having a good time, honey”, this is a call to arms to escape the stresses and strains of modern life and just indulge in some summer fun. Sure, there’s a little dark shading in the build up to the chorus, which reflects on the mixture of emotions Luke Pritchard was going through when putting the songs together. But in the main, this is vibrant, positive, energising stuff that even belatedly drops the kind of harmonies the Beach Boys would be proud to call their own. Play it loud on the beach, at barbecues or from your car stereo in the sun. It’s got that infectious quality about it, right down to the anthemic finale (which showcases just how well the song will work in live form). Like All The Time, the track is one of the first to be taken from Let’s Go Sunshine, the band’s forthcoming album, which lands in August.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Clean Bandit, Solo

CLEAN BANDIT feat DEMI LOVATOSOLO: British hit-making trio Clean Bandit are delighted to unveil their new single Solo, featuring Demi Lovato. The track marks an assured return for Clean Bandit and is the follow-up to their platinum-certified, tear-jerking October 2017 smash I Miss You. Beat-driven and Latino-inspired, Solo finds the band united with the award-winning and No.1 recording artist, Demi Lovato, for vocal duties, which enhances its summer hit making potential. And that Latino element certainly gives it a summery, party-starting vibe. The beats are upbeat and lively; the synths both cinematic and Latin American, while the vocals are as sultry and brash as we’ve come to expected from Lovato. Some of the harmonies and ‘uh ho’ cut-ups lend it a cheesy element. But in the main, this is a fun, throwaway track that has pop hit written all over it. The track was written by the band’s very own Jack Patterson and Grace Chatto alongside Fred Gibson (Charli XCX, MØ) and Camille Purcell (Stormzy, Dua Lipa). It follows an empowering narrative of self-love and appreciation.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Against The Current, Strangers Again

AGAINST THE CURRENTSTRANGERS AGAIN: “I can’t stand it when you touch me like that…” So sing Against The Current on provocative new single Strangers Again (one of two they’ve dropped this week). It’s a song mired in doubt, anxiety and regret (“I don’t want to go through the motions”) that’s delivered in part-ballad, part alt-rock form. But then what else could you have expected from a band who are signed to Fueled By Ramen? There’s no denying the strength of emotion in the lyrics, which capably reflect the feelings on display. While the accompanying video, directed by Emmy Award winner Kyle Cogan, is stylish. But some of the more rock elements of the song negate the strength of passion in the way that the sound opts for a more pop feel. It’s catchy but nowhere near as powerful as those lyrics suggest. US fans of the band, of which there are plenty, will doubtless lap it up.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Passenger

PASSENGERHELL OR HIGH WATER: Ivor Novello Award-winning singer-songwriter Passenger, aka Brighton’s Mike Rosenberg, has released new single Hell Or High Water plus the song’s accompanying video. The song itself is another deep, heartfelt ballad, which takes the form of a personal inquisition based around the question of how a relationship failed. Rosenberg’s distinct vocals are as impressive and emotive as ever, while the widescreen instrumentals combine some great banjo, some electrifying guitar and some sweeping strings, to create something that is emotionally stirring and truly memorable. The accompanying video was directed by long-time Passenger collaborator Jarrad Seng, and is the result of a three-week road trip across the USA. The massive landscapes the pair traversed provide the perfect backdrop for the widescreen, Americana-influenced sound of Hell Or High Water. Speaking about the track himself, Rosenberg explained: “I came out of a relationship a few years ago, and I was just baffled by it. Was it something I’d done? Something she’d done? The video was shot over a few days in various national parks – Monument Valley, Valley Of Fire, Death Valley and Joshua Tree. These epic and vast landscapes really help to portray a feeling of being lost in a hopeless quest for answers.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Nine Inch Nails

NINE INCH NAILSGOD BREAK DOWN THE DOOR: Nine Inch Nails have dropped a new single in the form of the jarring God Break Down The Door, which arrives as the biggest musical disappointment of the week. Featuring scattershot beats, warped horn-type sounds, foreboding vocals and a deep sense of questioning (“God break down the door, you won’t find the answers here”), this doesn’t really conform to any coherent sound. It’s all over the place. And it never makes you feel comfortable for any second of listening to it, even though there’s typical intelligence to be found within those Trent Reznor lyrics. Zane Lowe spoke to the songwriting earlier this week about the new single and forthcoming album, and this is what he had to say about the structure of the track and his own vocal: “We find if we don’t watch ourselves, we tend to try to get some more comfortable with because it feels better. And from the sound of the drums to the kind of frantic drumbeat, to looking around the studio and seeing the untouched baritone tenor and alto sax that are sitting there… they’re there because they remind me that I can’t play them as well as I used to be able to. For 20 years, I’ve been saying I’m going of really get my technique back because it would be fun to do. And there they sit taunting me in the corner. We pulled them out and we just started fucking around really, led with Atticus arranging. I was just kind of going, an hour performance kind of turned into this thing that felt like we hadn’t been there before and that started to reveal a whole different character. The space changed and then we felt motivated. When it came time to sing I was really just trying things out, just to see. I never had the courage to sing like that, I didn’t know I could sing.”
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Hilary Woods

HILARY WOODSPRODIGAL DOG: In anticipation of the release of debut album Colt on June 8, via Sacred Bones Record, Dublin-based artist Hilary Woods has shared a new track and video from the record, in the form of Prodigal Dog – and it’s typically stylish. Woods’ artistry is one of rare emotive reach. Her minimalist and compositional finesse combine with densely layered atmospheric instrumentation and dreamlike vocals to create music rich with both delicacy and intensity. Hence, Prodigal Dog boasts a stark, minimal sound that’s built around ambient electronic sounds and those dream-like, ethereal vocals. The piano underscoring the track has a serenity to it that’s as beguiling as it is, occasionally cinematic, while the echoed vocals recall classic Sinead O’Connor mixed with Lykke Li at her most melancholy. It’s a rewarding listen. Speaking about the visuals for the new single, Woods said: “For Prodigal Dog, I set out to make a video that was slightly claustrophobic, cyclical, predominantly black in colour, one that traced the internal feeling from where the song was written.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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