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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, November 10, 2017

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

Tommy Ashby

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: TOMMY ASHBYGUILTY: With Tommy Ashby having cut his teeth behind the scenes as a session musician for the likes of Jamie Lawson and Nina Nesbitt, as well as recording collaborations with Chris Bond (Ben Howard), his new stand-alone single Guilty is the mark of an artist who’s ready to step to the fore with his own original material. The new record is therefore the captivating result of Ashby’s authentic and considered songwriting, as he embraces the blues and folk music influences of his roots. Recorded in Ashby’s own bedroom (“I like getting up early in the morning and recording before my voice realises that it is awake”), and produced at Abbey Road Studios by Grammy Award winning producer and engineer Sam Okell, Guilty is brooding and dramatic… a slice of desert rock blues that boasts a powerful heartbeat-like rhythm, which builds carefully as the song spirals, hypnotically hooking its listener. The guitar riff is particularly striking, as are Ashby’s raw vocals. As a confessional, it’s compelling stuff and a strong indicator that Ashby is an artist to watch. Speaking of the lyrical concept, Ashby explained: “Guilty is obviously about infidelity and is told from the guilty party’s point of view. I wanted to look at how people approach telling someone they love what they have done and the latent love left behind after the confession. I find it interesting how some people can recover and still be contented; I always wonder whether the confession forever hangs over their relationship.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bastille, World Gone Mad

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BASTILLEWORLD GONE MAD: Bastille’s strings-laden ballad World Gone Mad may be taken from the soundtrack of the Will Smith-Joel Edgerton Netflix movie Bright but it could well serve as a timely reflection on the current state of our world. It’s shot through with emotive lyricism, which reflects the current state of confusion surrounding how to survive in these desperate times, while attempting to offer some kind of conciliatory hope. Perhaps the most striking bit comes as Bastille sings “if half the world’s gone mad, the other half just don’t care, you see” before declaring, in falsetto, “you don’t want to fuck with us!” It’s this lyrical juxtaposition that really stops and makes you think about what it is that Bastille is saying. Instrumentally, it has a keen sense of the cinematic, courtesy of its lavish string arrangements (which are nicely composed), while the folk-pop elements lend it an instantly appealing, highly melodic vibe that is sure to bring it a big fanbase. As mid-tempo ballads go, this is stirring, beautifully realised stuff.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran, Perfect

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: ED SHEERANPERFECT: “I found a love that was just right for me… I found a girl just beautiful and sweet”. So sings Ed Sheeran over the opening moments of latest single offering Perfect – and he can’t help but melt your heart. As with so many of Sheeran’s songs, this is disarmingly simple, yet achingly effective. The vocals, early on, are centre-stage, allowing Sheeran to weave his lyrical magic (and make the girls swoon). While the instrumentals are largely constructed of acoustic strums and finger-click beats. Late on, there’s an almost strings-like surge that adds a cinematic quality to this ballad (evocative of something out of a Richard Curtis movie), as well as a nice acoustic solo. But far from feeling manipulative or sappy, this is heart-warming, heart-melting and deservedly romantic for all the right reasons. It’s another classic slice of Sheeran songwriting that’s sure to be as popular as it is timeless. The accompanying video, shot in Hintertux, Austria last month, was written by Ed himself alongside past collaborator, Jason Koeing (Shape of You), whom also directed the video. Following the song’s narrative of Ed falling in love with a girl he grew up with, Ed takes the leading role alongside American actress, Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures), and the result is a visual and track that is certain to become a staple in the run-up to Christmas.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jesca Hoop

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: JESCA HOOPPEGASI: 2017 has proven an incredible year for Jesca Hoop. She released the critically-acclaimed Memories Are Now, her Sub Pop debut and best-reviewed album to date. Hoop released videos for the beautifully stark The Lost Sky and the album’s ebullient title track. She’s embarked on wildly successful US and European tours and appeared on the Prairie Home Companion and Charlie Rose. To close out the year, Jesca has shared her new video for Pegasi, which was directed by Rachel Blumberg. Love is written in the stars and sky, in this delicately crafted multi-plane video which is comprised of cut paper and illustrated stop motion footage. The song itself is a beautifully simple acoustic ballad about love that is swoon-some in its disarming simplicity. Hoop’s vocals are achingly gorgeous, while the finely strummed acoustic melodies are simple but oh-so effective. There’s a warmth to the song that’s utterly charming.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lucy Rose

LUCY ROSEEND UP HERE: Lucy Rose has unveiled the video for her current single End Up Here. The new track is a bonus release recorded during studio sessions for Lucy’s Something’s Changing LP, which is out now on Communion Records / Caroline International. The track is another beautifully controlled, evocative and simmering acoustic folk song that shows the intelligence and emotion that Rose injects into her songwriting. It’s low-key, dusky, reflective and beautifully composed, shot through with warm melodies and yet a subtle sense of underlying melancholy. The belated vocal harmonies are a nice touch, too, in bringing the song to its endearing close. The accompanying video finds Lucy in the middle of a late night reverie. It’s been a fulfilling and ultimately successful twelve months for Lucy, built around the release of her acclaimed third album, Something’s Changing, through Communion Records. The record launched in the Spring alongside a mini-documentary detailing the making of the album, capturing all of Lucy’s travelling to new places and meeting with new friends. The film has acted as the support act for her recent Worldwide Cinema Tour.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sia, Snowman

SIASNOWMAN: Sia swaps smart pop for Christmas schmaltz with her new album, Everyday is Christmas, with OK results. Her latest single, Snowman, is a ballad that is the second taste of music from her first-ever holiday album (out on November 17). It was once again co-written by herself and Greg Kurstin. But while certainly festive and reminiscent of classic Christmas ballads from the likes of Bing Crosby and company, it’s the very seasonal nature of the song that could impede its overall enjoyment given that it’s time restricted. That said, Sia’s vocals are as striking and distinct as ever, and set against some classic piano arrangements, while there’s a bittersweet nature to the lyrics. It’s typical of Sia’s desire to freshen up genres that she still manages to bring something fresh here and there, while simultaneously retaining those retro elements. But whereas her brand of pop has an innovative, timeless, year-round quality, these songs will only really get heard once a year.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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TQX

TQX feat SIATHE DAY THAT YOU MOVED ON: TQX have teamed up with Sia for epic new collaboration, The Day That You Moved On, the first taster of which is this moody title track. Another ballad, to add to Sia’s own Christmas offering Snowman, this is infinitely darker and more mind-bending, almost cinematically so. It’s dramatic, it’s born of heartbreak, and it comes accompanied with a trippy video that only heightens the mystery surrounding this particular outfit. Sia, as ever, drops a delicious set of vocals (this time sounding crestfallen), while the surrounding instrumentals have a highly dramatic feel that’s more evocative of soundtrack material than anything remotely pop. It’s striking, stirring stuff, albeit delivered in low-key, subtle style. TQX recently told NME: “Sia has brought the challenging nature of art into the pop world and we are honoured and excited to have her involved. This song speaks of the pain of breakup but also… the realization that technology can rob us of relationships, real life and the present moment. The unfolding reality of advancing technology is something that needs to be commented on and so we are using our songs to speak our piece.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Sarah Blasko, Phantom

SARAH BLASKOPHANTOM: Sarah Blasko has announced details of her forthcoming album, Depth of Field, and unveiled its first single, Phantom. Much of Depth of Field was written and recorded during a two-week period as artist-in-residence at the Campbelltown Arts Centre in her home town of Sydney. The purpose of those Western Sydney sessions was to ‘manufacture a vibe’ which mimicked live performance; to explore the influence of space in the song-writing process. Hence, new single Phantom explores new sonic territories for Blasko. Ominous synth and piano are paired with the unbeatable groove of rhythm section Donny Benet and Laurence Pike before Blasko’s voice and the intensity of frequent collaborator Nick Wales’ orchestrations send the music soaring. The result is a track that boasts a distinct and exciting electronic pulse, slick beat arrangements and a seductive, sensual set of vocals from Blasko that sound like an artist who isn’t afraid to experiment and push her own songwriting boundaries. It’s a striking statement of intent that only makes the prospect of more new material an interesting one. Hell, the electronics even assume a strings-like quality late on, which work really well in tandem with those beats and vocals.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly

GET CAPE. WEAR CAPE. FLYADULTS: Breaking a four-year hiatus with the immediate release of two new singles, Adults and Always, plus the promise of his first new album and live appearance to come, Sam Duckworth’s cape-crusading moniker, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, swings back into the limelight in emphatic fashion. Adults is a thoughtful acoustic ballad, delivered in classic troubadour style, that embraces its folk-rock roots. It’s unshowy instrumentally, yet makes strong use of Duckworth’s songwriting prowess, which should strike a chord with any parent. As Duckworth reveals: “Adults came from a friend of mine who has young children. I think one of the things you discover growing up is that there are far few “adults” than you think. As a child asks where are all the adults, us young adults often feel the same but are expected to find stability in a world where the rug is being swept from under our feet. It’s a song about reading analysis of social change but feeling that there is a disconnect between the analysis and the outcome of the analysis. Are we all backseat drivers? Who will take the wheel? Surely that’s a job for the adults.” Always, on the other hand, has a slightly more pop pulse, courtesy of a more prominent back-beat, which works well in tandem with the electronics and acoustics. As ever, there’s a keen sense of intelligence in the lyrics, which looks in bittersweet fashion at key moments in any one person’s lives. Explains Duckworth: “Always was written at the start of the year, as part of a series of sessions for Shy FX album. It was a magical session, with a revolving door policy. It was very creative and all artists had room to bring their unique styles to a common environment. The song is about the increasing isolation and anxiety felt when a significant moment in your life changes your whole perspective. Be it in childhood or adulthood, we have all had sea change moments where things don’t look or feel the same. This manifests in all of us differently, but sometimes the spiral of neglect is difficult to break. It’s a song in solidarity with those who have had their world shaken by negative incidents that will forever be used as psychological barometers for instinctual feelings.” Put together, this is a highly appealing, typically striking comeback from Duckworth.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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