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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, November 1, 2019

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

HAIM, Now I'm InIt

SINGLE/VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: HAIMNOW I’M IN IT: Haim continue to go from strength to strength with each new release. Now I’m In It follows Summer Girl by changing styles and maintaining the quality. Produced by Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid – and already one of BBC Radio 1;s Hottest Records – Now I’m In It brilliantly plays with both mood and tone, giving way to a many-layered emotional experience with syncopated beats, muted guitar tones and delicate piano work that builds to uncover the fragility at the heart of the song. Danielle Haim recently explained the track’s message, saying: “People think Now I’m In It is a break-up song because I sing: ‘We can’t be friends’ but I’m talking about me and my mind.” It’s this juxtaposition of high energy instrumentals and mixed up lyrics that make the song so compelling, crafting a tale of doubt married to empowerment that somehow feels optimistic and yet bittersweet. It’s a song to enjoy and make you think… one that sends out a positive message in spite of the uncertainty surrounding the internal struggle within it. The excellent official video for Now I’m In It finds HAIM continuing to collaborate with renowned film director Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s as cinematic as that collaboration suggests.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lupe Fiasco, Hey Lupe

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: LUPE FIASCOHEY LUPE: Lupe Fiasco’s latest single, Hey Lupe, was actually ready a decade ago. So, why the delay, you may ask? It’s hard to say. A previously unreleased track recorded before the release of Lupe Fiasco’s 2006 debut album Food & Liquor, it’s a monster of a song that combines classic hip hop and funk elements, with hard-hitting lyrics about ‘strolling through the underworld’ and ‘grinding’ while trying to earn a living. It’s got a retro vibe that’s welcome (think classic Jurassic 5) as well as a contemporary urgency that makes it a tailor-made sound for today’s generation of hip-hop fans. But it’s never offensive, rather dropping a vibe that’s edgy without being overly provocative, and raw without running the risk of alienating the mainstream. If anything, there’s traces of Bruno Mars too. The four-minute video intersperses clips of old-school hip-hop scenes and breakdancing with a more contemporary look at hip-hop culture today, adding to that sense of nostalgia as well as the state of things today. It’s a class act.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Agnes Obel

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: AGNES OBELISLAND OF DOOM: Always one to impress, Agnes Obel returns with the release of her enchanting single Island Of Doom, ahead of the release of her highly anticipated new album Myopia. Employing both the cinematic sensibilities and ethereal tendencies that have become something of a trademark, this is a song that both enchants and beguiles, combining atmospheric electronics and melancholy piano arrangements with soothing yet haunting vocals that draw out the imagery inherent in the lyrics. Although Obel’s music can often curate a monologue of modern-day dystopian-esque news stories that we are all now subject to, the contents of Island Of Doom are much more personal, as she explains: “The song is made up of pitched-down piano and cello pizzicato and vocals, all choirs are pitched down and up… In my experience, when someone close to you dies, it is simply impossible to comprehend that you can’t ever talk to them or reach them somehow ever again. They are in many ways still alive because in your consciousness nothing has changed, they’re still there with everyone else you know.” With that in mind, the song assumes a bittersweet, poignant beauty that lingers long after it has finished.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Charlie Cunningham

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: CHARLIE CUNNINGHAMHEADLIGHTS: Charlie Cunningham has unveiled an official video for Headlights, a stand-out track from his recently released album Permanent Way. The video arrives as Charlie and his full live band prepare for an extensive UK headline tour kicking off in Bristol this weekend. Speaking about the track, Charlie shares: “I’m quite a private person outside of performing. There is some autobiographical stuff in the lyrics, but it flits in and out quite a lot; it’s much more about people generally and their interactions.” The song is an acoustic based offering, reminiscent of artists like Jose Gonzalez, which drops a genuinely relaxed, reflective vibe that serves to really bring out the intimacy in the lyrics. Yet while certainly introspective at times, the song can resonate to any listener that has experienced some of the emotions on display (which relate to the difficulty of navigating everyday life). The upbeat nature of the guitar strums and accompanying beats ensure the song never drags you down. It’s a beautiful piece of work. The slick video, by Sam Hamper, features Charlie himself in a constantly moving and evolving world of juxtaposing confusion and resolution. The release of the Headlights video is designed to offer a refreshing look at Permanent Way. Released in June to widespread acclaim, the songs on this second studio album of Charlie’s offer boosted colours and dynamics but still retain his achingly personal appeal.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Beach Bunny, Dream Boy

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: BEACH BUNNYDREAM BOY: Chicago-based Beach Bunny drop the highly infectious new single Dream Boy, taken from their forthcoming debut album Honeymoon (due February 2020). The four-piece fronted by Lili Trifilio wanted to evoke something of a feel-good vibe around the track, which was inspired by summer love and that rush of blood feeling you used to get from watching a John Hughes movie. There are grunge-inflicted indie-rock guitars, sweet girl vocals and a swooning chorus that fizzes you along in supremely confident, melodic fashion. If you can imagine an all-girl cross between The Fountains of Wayne and Blink-182, with a touch of Weezer and The Beach Boys thrown in, then this should tick all the right boxes for you. The guitar work is particularly great, as is the chorus. Trifilio says of the new song: “Dream Boy was inspired by summer love – it is a song about being jaded to the idea of falling for someone again after being heartbroken in the past. It’s about giving into the butterflies in your stomach even when love seems so scary at times. In the context of Honeymoon, Dream Boy is an anthem of change in perspective, instead of viewing love as difficult the listener begins to open up to the possibility that just because the past was painful, doesn’t mean the future has to be. It reminds me of the color baby blue, poolside romance, and the optimism of summer’s beginning.” The video, directed by Matt Gehl from Everybody’s Baby, evokes the spirit of a John Hughes’ film crossed with Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mike Shinoda, Fine

MIKE SHINODAFINE: Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda drops an intense, brooding new single in Fine. Taken from the soundtrack to forthcoming Russian sci-fi thriller The Blackout, this manages to sound cinematic while also embracing many of the classic Shinoda elements. Kick-started by a heady drum stomp, the track then proceeds to deliver a slick mix of beats and synth and piano elements, while chopping up the sound at times to create extra edge and intensity. Shinoda’s vocals mix fear with reassurance, bouncing from verses such as “they’re hungry for my skin, teeth wide smiling that they found me” with a chorus that proclaims “everyhting is going to be fine”. And while that chorus does sound hopeful, the song gradually builds in intensity with the synths becoming ever more strained and pronounced. It’s a heady brew that arguably channels the inner darkness being experienced by Shinoda at times in his life. But it also feels tailored perfectly to the soundtrack it has been created for.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ellen Krauss, Let Me Have It

ELLEN KRAUSSLET ME HAVE IT: Rising Swedish pop artist Ellen Krauss drops the new single Let Me Have it and continues to mark herself out as a name to watch. An empowering track about standing up to your oppressors and your inner demons, it feels feisty and resolute, with Krauss’ vocals displaying a steel over the edgy but melodic chorus. The accompanying beats are slick, while the background guitar adds an element of vibrancy that also lends the track its distinct drive and sound. Speaking about the track, Ellen explains: “This track came to life when I was playing around on my new electric guitar. I remember I fell in love with the sharp sound of it and at the time I was in that Let Me Have It-state of mind, where you’re just like, okay give it to me… Whether it’s about jealousy, talking shit or false accusations. Things that are just unfair.” If you’re a fan of artists like Lykke Li and Robyn, then Krauss could easily become another Swedish favourite. Let Me Have It is taken from her debut EP First Take, which will be released on November 22. It follows on from the recent release of Criminal To Love, a song about the destructiveness of certain relationships, personified. With her self-taught talent and captivating way of delivering norm-challenging messages, the outspoken 19-year-old Krauss offers up a fresh example of the young DIY generation.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lennon Stella, Kissing Other People

LENNON STELLAKISSING OTHER PEOPLE: Fresh from announcing European tour dates for 2020, including two shows at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in March, Lennon Stella drops the new single Kissing Other People, which will be featured on her forthcoming debut album. The track marks her first single since collaborating with The Chainsmokers and ILLENIUM on their summer anthem Takeaway and it’s a similarly vibrant offering, embracing a type of girl power to do and act how you feel without being made to feel guilty about it. As Lennon explains: “This song came to life last summer in Cabo at a writing camp with all of my favourite writers and producers. Caroline Ailin and I were in an Uber driving home from a club and she asked me about boys. I said to her something about finally feeling like I was at a place where I could kiss someone else and not feel sorry about it or feel like I was doing something wrong. The next day in her session she started ‘Kissing Other People’ and then it turned into what it is.” The ensuing track combines giddy pop beats and synths with sultry vocals and that playful sense of adventure that’s inherent in the lyrics. Vocally, Lennon sometimes reaches the harmonic highs of Imogen Heap, while at other times embracing her pop sensibilities. It’s a fun, frothy concoction – a guilty pleasure.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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JJ Wilde, The Rush

JJ WILDETHE RUSH: JJ Wilde releases the official video for The Rush, a gutsy rock-pop offering that offers a rousing three minutes. The emerging alt-rock vocalist channels rockstar aesthetics and makes them her own in the video, where we see the long-haired rising rock badass sprawled on a bed surrounded by models, rocking out in the middle of an adoring crowd, smoking a joint, and riding a motorcycle into the night. It’s a video that fits in neatly with the confident, ball-busting song itself, which finds Wilde belting out her raw, bluesy vocals over the top of some crunching guitar riffs and kick-ass drums. She’s got swagger to burn. The Rush is taken from her debut EP, Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands, a four-song composition that offers a cathartic, rousing and well-varied amalgamation of pure, fiercely unapologetic rock n roll. It strikes the perfect balance between raucousness and sincerity, mixing together sweltering odes to independence (such as The Rush) with warmer self-reflective moments (like State of Mind, which finds JJ confronting her imperfections, knowing she’ll eventually learn from her mistakes).
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Sigala, We Got Love

SIGALA feat ELLA HENDERSON – WE GOT LOVE: BRIT-nominated British DJ, producer and artist Sigala releases his new single We Got Love with Ella Henderson on guest vocals. The follow-up to his smash hit summer offering Wish You Well, this embraces Sigala’s trademark hypnotic beats and production values with Henderson’s soaring vocals. But while certainly bright and positive, in that it celebrates love and empowers it to triumph over life’s day-to-day struggles, there’s an overly familiar pop sheen to proceedings that inhibits the enjoyment for anyone looking for something a little less mainstream. It’s a club banger that plays to the Ibiza/Miami scene and, for that, it becomes more forgettable than some other producer-singer collaborations of late. Still, Sigala is pleased with the outcome, stating: “It really came together nicely, it was one of my most fun sessions of the year. The track is about letting go of the pressures of life and being present in the moment, appreciating all the forms of love around us.” Henderson, meanwhile, adds: “It’s nice to sing something happy and positive, which for me, that’s what Sigala’s music is about. I’m really excited to be a part of this record.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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