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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 8, 2020

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

Weezer, Hero

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: WEEZERHERO: It’s taken a while but Weezer finally unveil another taster from their Van Weezer LP, albeit with some bad news attached. The new single, Hero, is another barnstormer and a real shot in the arm for fans amid the coronavirus lockdown. But that same virus has also brought about a delay… the release of Van Weezer has had to be pushed back due to the pandemic. A statement from the band reads: “As you know, Corona has put a crimp in many well-laid plans. Van Weezer has been no exception. And because we don’t want to give another release date until we’re absolutely sure of it, we’ll just say “stay tuned for more info.” Staying with the positive, Hero is a lively rock opera that examines the notion of heroism, as seen through the eyes of a child and then an adult. It’s got ridiculously over-sized, ’80s leaning glam-rock guitar moments, a skyscraping chorus and the type of vibe that Bill & Ted would be proud of. But it’s also lyrically honest, subverting expectations of what it means to be a hero in the classic sense. The chorus, for instance, declares: “Everybody needs a hero but I’m not everybody else, I walk alone”. The honesty comes from lines like this: “They build you up and then they’re gonna tear you down, they love you then they hate you if you wear a crown, it’s not that I don’t love to solve a mystery, but life is hard enough with one identity.” It’s another cracker of a record – intelligent and fun; Weezer at their rousing best. And there was an addition to the Weezer statement, which adds a further element of joy. So, here it is: “In the meantime, we’re working hard on getting you all the new Weezer you can handle, including music and more surprises getting announced later this week!” The track itself has also been dedicated to “the stay at home dreamers, the zoom graduators, the sourdough bakers, and the essential workers”.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Cold War Kids, 1 x 1

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: COLD WAR KIDS feat WESLEY SCHULTZ – 1 X 1: Cold War Kids, together with Wesley Schultz (of The Lumineers), have delivered a powerful and moving new song in the form of 1 × 1 – a track with real social relevance and meaning. “This song was inspired by the stories of child migrants separated from their families at the border,” explains singer Nathan Willett. “Now that we are all quarantined, it has taken on an extra meaning… One by one each of us are staying apart to help the whole of us.” The track is delivered in a stripped back, acoustic form, which allows Willett’s heartfelt and impassioned vocals to genuinely resonate and get his message across. And while the song was written with a very particular meaning in mind, it’s relevance has grown immeasurably given the current global situation. The vocal layering supplied by the presence of Schultz also contributes to a genuinely rousing back-end to the track, which is further enhanced by some subtle string arrangements. It’s a brilliant, timely track from an always excellent band. Cold War Kids have also shared some of the lyrics on Twitter to convey more of their message (click on the Twitter link below).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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St Lundi, Ruin

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: ST LUNDIRUIN: There’s something very Coldplay-like about St Lundi’s new single, Ruin, his follow up to debut single You’ve Got The Wrong Guy, which has gone on to amass more than 250k streams since the end of March. Just as he did with that single, St Lundi – aka 22-year-old troubadour Archie Langley – invests his new single with an emotional depth that’s both inspiring and heart-breaking. Inspired by things like miscommunication and working to save a relationship, this is honest, thoughtful and – ultimately – hopeful, while simultaneously reflecting on the failings that almost cost the relationship in the first place. The vocals are powerful and moving, with more than a passing resemblance to Chris Martin during the chorus, while the hushed back-beats, folk guitars and atmospheric electronics provide a rousing backdrop, which builds as the song reaches its soaring conclusion. Archie explains: “Miscommunication can often lead to confusion. This song is a take on how two people in love are on the brink of breaking down as a result of not doing something that seems so simple to most, talking. This story represents the moment of realisation when one pleads with the other to speak about the troubles they both face or risk letting what they have built go to ruin.” It’s beautifully hopeful and genuinely moving. And the Coldplay comparisons are a good thing.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Declan J Donovan

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: DECLAN J DONOVANTANGERINE SKIES: Declan J Donovan has shared the fun official video for his upbeat new single Tangerine Skies, out now Polydor Records. With plans for the rising Essex singer-songwriter’s original video shoot scuppered due to the worldwide lockdown, Donovan took matters into his own hands, armed with little more than a green screen and a camera. The resulting clip is an escapist, tongue-in-cheek trip around the world from the comfort of his living room. And while highly amusing, it’s also a fantastic reminder of some of the world’s beauty, from surf spots to the Pyramids, via the African plains to Pisa. It’s the perfect remedy to being locked down. The song, too, has a sunshine positivity about it, shot through with catchy hooks, sing-along choruses and a feel-good vibe that’s utterly infectious. The acoustic guitar hooks power the song really well, as do the toe-tapping beats, while Donovan’s vocals are warmly delivered to bring out the positivity inherent in those tangerine sky-filled lyrics. “Tangerine Skies is a song about reconnecting with people you were once really close to, and realising that you’re growing up and wanting one last summer of being carefree with your friends,” explained Donovan. The new track comes after rousing recent single Fighting With Myself and the Homesick EP, a confessional collection of seven tracks including tender singles Vienna and Pieces, new numbers Anymore (which hit No.1 on the Shazam Discovery chart) and I’ll Be There Love along with the stirring title track, an ode to Declan’s hometown.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Dust In The Sunlught, Strangest Places

DUST IN THE SUNLIGHTSTRANGEST PLACES: Following on from the release of their impressive eponymous debut single earlier this Spring, Dust In The Sunlight return with their follow-up Strangest Places – and continue to make a good impression. Continuing their bold yet intimate aesthetic, this new offering sees the pair couple with a wistfully played piano alongside euphoric drums and brooding basslines, resulting in a warm and uplifting new release. And yet there’s something wistful and cinematic about it, too, courtesy of lines such as “we find ourselves in the strangest places”. There’s something late night and surreal about the vibe, which adds a certain mystery and intensity… you want to find out more about the strangeness the duo are singing about. Commenting on the track, the pair said: “The idea behind Strangest Places came from quotes that we both used as mantras… Billy’s was ‘No matter where you go, here you are’, which was scrawled on a wall in his flat in Southend after a party. Annie’s was ‘You are your own home’, from a diary entry written years before. We realised these ideas worked in tandem with each other and they became the song’s chorus. It’s about following your sense of adventure, even if you feel lost. Learning to let go and find peace within yourself, without being tied to any particular place or time.” It’s food for thought, intelligent and strangely reassuring once you get to grips with its overall meaning. Dust In The Sunlight look set to become a genuinely fascinating new act.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Liimo, Raincheck

LIIMORAINCHECK: Edinburgh natives Liimo (meaning a little bit more) release their new single Raincheck and succeed in bringing some alt-pop cheer to the week’s new offerings. Opening with bright plucky guitar and lead singer Kieran O’Brien’s evocative and subtle vocals, the track cascades into a chorus filled with a huge synth riff and an undeniable hook. It’s a little indie, it’s a little electro and it’s definitely alternative, capable of appealing to fans of acts like The Chainsmokers and Kodaline, as well as something a little edgier. The chorus, in particular, has a big, sing-along and even cheeky quality to it, courtesy of that livewire synth hook and lyrics that suggest “call off the plans, say we can’t make it, let’s stay inside, yeah, let’s get naked”. And hey, who knows, there are people now who may find this the best thing to do while under lockdown! Speaking about the track, Liimo said: “Raincheck is about making more time for the person you really should be making time for. The daily traffic of life throws up so many obstacles that you end up losing out on moments for just the two of you. Raincheck says, ‘F**k it, let’s stay in and get a takeaway. We actually wrote this before the Covid-19 outbreak and although it wasn’t exactly planned, it might just turn into an anthem for staying indoors – something we’re all very used to by now!” Amen to that!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ellen Krauss, No Talk

ELLEN KRAUSS – NO TALK: Rising Swedish pop artist Ellen Krauss shares her new single No Talk, which finds her opening up sonically since the more stripped back and acoustic aesthetic of her recent offering Silver Spoon. This new track finds her returning to her bold and vibrant alt-pop ways. With a smooth and sweeping production, coupled with her own soaring vocals, No Talk brings out the more uplifting side to her personality with its bright and euphoric atmosphere, coming complete with a searching set of vocals that ask: “Tell me all the ways to love you.” There’s also a sense of yearning in the vocals, especially when they hit the sweeping chorus. But this is nicely offset by something a little more brooding in the build-ups. The inclusion of a subtle violin arrangement also works well, while the beats are similarly low-key and atmospheric. It’s a stylish offering. Speaking about the song, Ellen said: “No Talk is about ignoring the fear of getting it wrong for a minute, and just letting yourself be swept away. It’s okay to seize the moment even though you have no clue what you’re doing. You can make up your own rules. I think it’s like that for a lot of people and especially in the LGBTQ-community. There’s no handbook on how to do things, you have to navigate on your own.” At just 19-years-old, Krauss has already received praise from some of the world’s biggest musical icons, such as super producer Max Martin and pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, and been awarded the Rookie Artist of the Year at the Denniz Pop Awards in Sweden, as voted for by a panel including pop sensations Tove Lo and Laleh. Her debut EP, First Take, which was released in November, has already amassed over 12 million streams.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tatum, Bloodsport

TATUMBLOODSPORT: Bloodsport, the emotive new single from Tatum, paints a vivid picture of the pitfalls of love and how, when a relationship comes to an explosive and painful end, it can ultimately destroy both people. That love in turn becomes a ‘Bloodsport’, because it cannot exist without a huge amount of pain, and so it becomes a sort of disastrous art. The provocative take on such a relationship is delivered in a suitably edgy, brooding style, with Tatum on husky vocal form (as if to accentuate the pained emotions at play). But there’s also a moody set of instrumentals underpinning it, providing a cinematic backdrop. There are times, elsewhere, though, when the instrumentals are momentarily stripped right back to allow for some vocal harmonising and layering, which only makes the ideas at play more striking. Overall, the track cleverly feeds into a Lana Del Rey-like melancholia of seeing the beauty in heartbreak. “Bloodsport compares love to an epic battle where both parties walk away injured and bloody. All love comes at a cost and there is always a devastating end to love whether it’s through a break-up or death, love always ends painfully,” Tatum explains when questioned about the song’s core narrative.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Charli XCX, I Finally Understand

CHARLI XCX – I FINALLY UNDERSTAND: Charli XCX drops another offering from isolation in the form of the garage-influenced I Finally Understand. And it’s a hopeful record, chronicling her relationship with her boyfriend and how being isolated together has brought them closer to together… despite being on the brink. Hence, while there’s a lot of self-reflection contained within the lyrics, there’s also a feeling of relief and redemption. The time spent together has proved healing. It’s a meaning that Charli confirmed to Zane Lowe, when talking about the new track on his Apple Beats 1 programme. She explained: “The song is basically about [how] me and my boyfriend are quarantined together during this time. I’m conscious that I’ve spoken about this a lot and I don’t want people to be like, ‘Shut up about your boyfriend.’ [But] I’m writing about what I know, and we’re quarantined together, and our relationship wasn’t in a brilliant place prior to quarantine. I’m not going to say ‘at the end of the road’, but close to it — we were living on separate sides of the country, and even though we were physically far apart, we were emotionally quite distant as well. I’m extremely lucky that [quarantine] has brought us physically close together — because now we’re living in the same house — but also emotionally, and I finally understand that this person is somebody who I can trust with my life and I will have my security and protection at the front point of their heart no matter what. So, that’s what it’s about, very emo.” The garage influence is a surprise, lending it a harder pop vibe than normal. But it somehow works in making the track instrumentally addictive, as well as lyrically revealing. Charli’s quarantine LP, How I’m Feeling Now, is released this Friday (May 15, 2020).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paul Weller, Village

PAUL WELLERVILLAGE: Village is the second new track to be debuted from Paul Weller’s hotly anticipated new album On Sunset, which will be released on June 19, 2020. The track is a dreamy meditation sung from the decidedly un-rock’n’roll perspective of a man who is entirely happy with his state in life. “It’s a response to being told that we’ve all got to explore the Amazon and climb Everest to make our lives complete,” says Weller. “And there’s a guy who says, f*ck all that, I’ve got heaven around me.” In that sense, it’s a song about contentment and being happy with where you are in life, as opposed to chasing everyone else’s idea of happiness. In the main, it’s delivered with upbeat melodies, a laidback vocal (“I don’t need all the things you got”) and some trademark guitar solos. But there’s also something vaguely psychedelic undercutting certain points, adding some interesting layering to keep the listener on their toes. But as a song about feeling content with home, it’s also highly timely, speaking to a locked down nation that the world around them can be just as comforting and inspiring as the world they’re no longer able to reach.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bright Lights Bright Lights, Sensation

BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT AND JAKE SHEARSSENSATION: Bright Light Bright Light has joined forces with Scissor Sisters-founder and global LGBTQ+ music trailblazer Jake Shears on high-octane new song Sensation. Written initially about the euphoria of meeting someone (friend, lover, etc) you instantly connect with while in a fractured and divided world, the song’s meaning feels amplified when viewed through the lens of the current health crisis. But while designed to deliver an empowering message, it’s also clear that it’s intention is to make you dance. There’s a disco-pop vibe, with added glam elements, that combines classic Bright Light Bright Light traits with elements of both Scissor Sisters and Pet Shop Boys. And while that also makes it a little kitsch in place, and 80s leaning in others (especially over the chorus), those that get their musical kicks from any of those acts will be duly pleased. Sensation is a cut off his forthcoming album Fun City (out September 18, 2020, on his own label YSKWN!, in partnership with Megaforce Records and The Orchard), which will serve as not only a stellar collection of expertly crafted ’80s-inspired dance-pop, but also as a musical love letter to the LGBTQ+ community.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jason Mraz

JASON MRAZWISE WOMAN: Jason Mraz accentuates the reggae vibe for new single Wise Woman, an ode to Mother Earth and the love and nourishment that comes from women. Mraz explained further in a statement. “Wise Woman focuses on a herb garden, a small example of Mother Earth’s ability to provide sustenance and healing. A ‘Wise Woman’ is also a title given to an elder who has spent years working with plants and teaches others her wise ways, opening our eyes to the gifts of the natural world for a brighter and healthier future.” As a result, the track exudes a feeling of positivity, courtesy of that head-nodding Caribbean vibe and Mraz’s trademark laidback vocal style. The lyrics, meanwhile, aim to highlight the importance of both Mother Earth and women in general, with pearls such as “She’s a real wise woman, with so much love to give, she gives so much ‘cause she stays in touch with what her truest nature is, she’s a green garden goddess / She is the universe”. It’s the type of track that Bob Marley would be proud of. The track is the first taster of Look For The Good, the new LP from Mraz, which is heading for release later this year, and which features guest spots from actor Tiffany Haddish and Jamaican reggae icon Sister Carol.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Alex the Astronaut

ALEX THE ASTRONAUTLOST: A song about feeling lost is exactly the type of track that resonates at the moment, as the world remains in lockdown. But Alex the Astronaut, aka Alex Lynn, has decided to do this by adding a bright pop sheen to proceedings, with snappy beats, headrush choruses and a firecracker guitar riff. Hence, while the lyrics explore uncertainty and insecurity, there is also a sense of hope in embracing the knowledge that you can’t always be in control – and that message is particularly relevant to a world currently grappling with those feelings, while having to realise that a pandemic has taken so much away from their control. Hence, Lost is infectious, breezy and more than a little thought-provoking. Commenting on the track herself, Alex said: “Lost is about trying to find your way and fix everything, and the moment where you’ve exhausted all options and have to accept the fact that there is so much that is completely out of your control: sometimes you will just feel lost. The song is pivoted around a moment of change when someone is walking new ground and they really don’t know what’s to come. For me it’s one of those “one goes out, one comes in” times when you lose what you hoped things would be like but you get to move through a different world that maybe will show you something you didn’t know you would see.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Hayley Williams

HAYLEY WILLIAMSDEAD HORSE: Grammy Award-winning artist Hayley Williams has finally released her critically-acclaimed 15-track debut solo album, Petals For Armor, through Atlantic Records, and to celebrate, she’s also dropped the official video for one of its singles, Dead Horse. And while you may have been anticipating something set at home and fairly basic, this is much wider in spectrum, featuring Hayley donning various outfits and hairstyles, as well as moods. She’s also staring into mirrors a lot. It’s eye-catching and colourful and a bit of a pick-me-up, in keeping with the general vibe of the track itself. Dead Horse has arguably the most in common with her day job with Paramore, given its harder pop sensibility and vibe that’s not dissimilar to classic No Doubt. A mid-track breakdown into “ya ya ya” melodies is a classic case in point, combining sunshine positivity with a sunshine reggae vibe and a celebratory feel. Hayley is clearly having fun singing this one and the track has an infectious, sing-along quality. Commenting on the album herself, Hayley said: “Petals For Armor is very special to me and it encapsulates a moment in time that I am always going to hold dear. I learned a lot of lessons writing this album… some of them I am still learning. I wrestled with my rage, defeated apathy, and felt the full spectrum of my femininity. My stubborn heart softened up to let out rotted feelings and other feelings grew. I even fell (not dove) deeply in love, in spite of the fear that love could be hopeless. Don’t be fooled though, I am still a fantastical mess!”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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