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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 5, 2017

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

Biffy Clyro

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BIFFY CLYROFRIENDS AND ENEMIES: Firmly established as one of Britain’s most vital festival bands, Biffy Clyro are set for another high profile summer which includes headline sets at Download and Glasgow’s inaugural TRNSMT Festival, plus a Sunday evening set at Glastonbury. They build towards those dates with the release of their new single Friends and Enemies – and it’s another barnstormer. Capturing perfectly the band’s inimitable clash of power and melody, with an immediately enticing hook that contrasts frontman Simon Neil’s vitriolic lyrics, this is a powerhouse offering that empowers and invigorates in equal measure. A crunching riff opens proceedings in rousing fashion, suggesting a really heavy track. But it then blossoms into a really chart-friendly, anthemic offering with a big, expansive chorus that eventually becomes augmented by a choir-like backing vocal. Neill’s vocals, meanwhile, are packed with power as he laments a poisoned friendship. It’s another great offering from a great band, whose new LP Ellipsis, is only broadening their appeal still wider. The track is produced by Rich Costey in a manner that is designed to make its driving rhythms recall Tears For Tears’ Songs From The Big Chair album.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HAIM, Want You Back

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: HAIMWANT YOU BACK: HAIM have released Want You Back as the first official single from their forthcoming album, Something To Tell You, out on July 7 on Polydor Records. Produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, this is a song that’s rich in longing sentiment (“I’ll give you all the love I never gave before you left”), yet equally high on feel-good melodies. The combined vocals create a rousing chorus that’s enhanced by finger-click beats, tight melodies and an insistent guitar hook. And yet, throughout the rest of the song, there’s a sense of melancholy (“I had a fear of forgiveness, I was too proud to say I was wrong”), that is also enhanced by the stripping down of the instrumentals to allow the emotions within the vocals to ring through. It serves as a nice juxtaposition with that lively chorus, thereby instilling a keen sense of hope. The new material has already drawn favourable responses from other music press, with NME declaring that HAIM look set to “storm the summer”. On the evidence of the tracks so far, they could well do that.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paramore, Hard times

PARAMORETOLD YOU SO: Following hot off the back of former taster track Hard Times comes yet another new song from Paramore, in the form of Told You So, from their forthcoming comeback LP After Laughter (out May 12). Exhibiting a few more of their more alternative sound than the previous track, Told You So nevertheless retains a keen sense of melody that looks set to lend it yet more crossover potential into pop territory. The central, tumbling guitar riff is genuinely catchy, while the keen sense of melody in the instrumentals belie some of the more angst-ridden, angry elements of the lyrics, which find Paramore berating a former friend/lover for not listening. The “I told you so” seems to come from a place of hurt (“I try to keep my cool when I’m thrown into a fire”). And yet in spite of this, Paramore continue to sound like they’re having immense fun with their new material – and that’s infectious.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ten Tonnes

TEN TONNESBORN TO LOSE: As the June 9 release of his new Born To Lose EP approaches, Ten Tonnes – aka Ethan Barnett – is generating significant upwards momentum. After launching the first track Silver Heat as well as its accompanying video, Ten Tonnes is currently on tour as guest to Will Joseph Cook. He now drops the title track from the EP and the result is an impressively heady, roughhewn take on his pop-informed hybrid of garage-rock and modernised rock ‘n’ roll. Barnett’s cultured skill for an elegant turn-of-phrase is also prevalent: “How do you expect me to trust the snake round my neck confessing her love?” The track is delivered with an indie-rock swagger reminiscent of acts like Pete Doherty and Jake Bugg, with the guitar-work – though less pronounced – similar in style too. It’s another tremendously likeable song from a rapidly endearing new act. The accompanying video is the second in a series of three videos which find Ten Tonnes performing in unlikely locations. This time around, he can be found in the narrow aisles of a pet shop that’s stocked with an array of reptiles and exotic fish. As with Silver Heat, Born To Lose was directed by Mark Kelly.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Niall Horan, Slow Hands

NIALL HORANSLOW HANDS: Slow Hands, the new single from former One Direction member Niall Horan, who co-wrote the song, is further evidence of why this singer-songwriter looks set to be massive in his own right. Niall’s assured vocal combined with an infectious guitar lick, and the syncopated bassline, underscore the simmering desire the song celebrates. Says Niall of the track, which he recorded at Los Angeles’ legendary East/West Studios: “I’m so happy to be releasing Slow Hands. I’ve been listening to a lot of early ’80s stuff lately and been inspired by that heavy bass and the funky guitar sound. It’s another flavor to my album that I’m excited to share.” Indeed, that funky guitar sound is evident in the infrequent blasts of guitar that pepper the song, while the slow beats augment the husky style of Horan’s delivery. There’s a hint of classic Bryan Adams, at times, as well as the ’80s influences that Horan cites. But without feeling too retro, or cheesy, it also boasts a strong contemporary edge that adds to the track’s vitality and immediacy. Slow Hands follows Horan’s hit single This Town, which is now certified Platinum in the US and has sold more than three million track equivalent units globally. Combined streams now surpass 350 million worldwide.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Dears

THE DEARS – OF FISTICUFFS: The Dears have announced the release of their seventh studio album, Times Infinity Volume Two, due July 14, 2017 through Dangerbird Records. The album is the second instalment of a two-album project from the Montréal band. Following a six-year absence, The Dears made their return to the UK earlier in 2017, with the much-applauded release of Times Infinity Volume One and a run of sold-out UK & Euro live shows (the band’s first since 2011), including London Village Underground. Volume Two sees the completion of a body of work which founding members Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak recorded over a two year period between Toronto’s Revolution Recording and Montréal’s Thee Mighty Hotel2Tango. New track Of Fisticuffs would appear to maintain the quality. Built around some rollicking guitar riffs, slick beat arrangements and a hazy set of boy-girl vocals that give rise to a highly melodic chorus, this is a musical maelstrom that delivers its fair share of highs. The guitar work, in particular, gets stronger the longer the record lasts, culminating in one solo that blows you away. But the harmony-strewn “do doo do doo” finale also sets things up for a rousing climax.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HAUS

HAUSSAY WHAT YOU SAY: After performing across the UK on their maiden tour, HAUS have revealed the new single Say What You Say – complete with a new video. Described as a love letter to London, the track opens with a monologue/poem from spoken word artist Ceclilia Knapp (“They don’t want us to know we are greatness… we are a jigsaw of faces, whole cities behind our smiles and rebellion in our smiles”), before hitting you with some melodic guitar riffs and a set of probing lyrics (“tell me who won? Tell me who lost? Tell me who’s to blame?”). It’s an ambitious, intelligently composed track that nevertheless contains a catchy chorus and a generally upbeat vibe. As ever with HAUS material, it combines musical enjoyability with something to think about. Commenting on the accompanying video, the band said: “We wanted to capture London, and how eclectic it is as a place. All the different people, they’re all just as important as the person next to them. There’s just so many stories contained in just one street, one market, one pub, one corner. So many varied backgrounds, millions of childhoods, adulthoods, all united in their communities, our community. We wanted to highlight the importance of hearing and sharing our stories and how powerful that can be, how it can breed empathy and unify us, and how that’s a rebellion in itself, in a world so concerned with dividing us.” As the track proclaims midway through its chorus: “Now get your head straight!” It’s empowering, inspiring stuff.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sleep Party People

SLEEP PARTY PEOPLEFAINTING SPELL: Fainting Spell is the latest track to emerge from forthcoming Sleep Party People album Lingering (out June 2), which features collaborations with The Antlers’ Peter Silberman and Air vocalist Beth Hirsch. Speaking about the track, multi-instrumentalist Brian Batz (aka Sleep Party People) said: “My old battered piano in the studio needed to be tuned and fixed. After the tuning session a lot of the strings broke and left the piano in a terrible condition. But I’ve always had a weakness for broken instruments. They can give you something unexpected and eventually something useful. The sample you hear in the beginning and throughout the song was recorded using the higher octave on the piano although it was out of tune and strings were missing. The lyrics are about being the quiet boy in class and how dreadful it was for me to even speak out loud during class. I almost fainted every time I had to walk up to the blackboard and speak in front of everyone, because I was so terrified to fail or not deliver what was expected of me.” It’s a song born from anxiety that feels strangely empowering. Yet it doesn’t lose sense of the emotions involved, with the vocal delivery taking on a haunted effect. The piano sound, though, does give it an unusual sound, which makes for a striking backdrop, while the beats are lively enough (if mixed up) to further enhance that sense of listening to something different. If you’re a fan of acts like Gorillaz or the Ninja Tune label, then this is definitely worth a listen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Simian Ghost, When You're Ready

SIMIAN GHOSTWHEN YOU’RE READY: Simian Ghost received considerable attention for the pop smarts of Stop Moving last month but have decided to up their ‘pop’ game even further with the hook filled When You’re Ready. Hence, while Sweden might not be the first place you associate with summer, Simian Ghost are working hard to change your mind. Built around an almost falsetto set of boy-girl vocals, some cute hooks and some bright and breezy electronics, this has a bouncy vibe to it that’s entirely infectious. And while elements of ’80s pop do underpin proceedings and lend it a certain cheesy value, there’s enough zip to keep it the right side of annoying. The chorus, in particular, seems designed to put a smile on your face (complete with cascading “la la la la” harmonies). When You’re Ready is the third track to be released from their upcoming self-titled LP, and Sebastian says this of it: “A couple of years ago we got this idea that we should write a song for Zara Larsson. She wasn’t super famous back then, and we were really digging her latest single. So, me and Mathias sat down with a couple of guitars and wrote When You’re Ready. Then we realised that Zara Larsson wouldn’t want a song from us – so we just did it ourselves instead. It turned out pretty good.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Luke Sital-Singh, Innocence

LUKE SITAL-SINGHINNOCENCE: Luke Sital-Singh is sharing Innocence, the latest track taken from his forthcoming second album Time Is A Riddle, due for release via Raygun Records/Red Essential on May 12. Stripped back, with Sital-Singh relying on his vocals and an acoustic strum for maximum effect, this is awash with heartfelt sentiments about the nature of love and its power to sustain through darkness (or “those long stormy nights”). The only thing about the song that gives pause for criticism in some way is that it is a very troubadour-style offering, with its ballad-style delivery more likely to appeal to a folk crowd only (no matter how much conviction Sital-Singh injects into his vocals late on). It is, therefore, an acquired taste and one that has to be heard in the right mood – rather than anything infectious or catchy. Sital-Singh says of the track: “Innocence was a gift of a song. It came to me fully formed out of thin air. I even think I was watching TV and noodling on my guitar when it fell out of me, music, lyrics, everything, as if I was just playing a song that was already written. Such a very strange and beautiful way to write, I’ll never understand how that works. One of my very favourite songs on the album.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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