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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, November 29, 2019

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

Sean Christopher

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: SEAN CHRISTOPHEROHEJA: Dutch-born, Bristol-based singer-songwriter and composer Sean Christopher has dropped his haunting new single Oheja, taken from his second album, which he is currently finishing up and will release in 2020. Explaining its inspiration, Christopher said: “Oheja is an ode to the one you love. It is about that feeling you experience when you connect on deeper levels. An ode to someone who is closer to you than any other person.” In keeping with that thought, the song has an almost melancholy beauty attached to it, the ethereal elements of the vocals drifting over you in a somewhat soothing fashion, while prompting you to think about that special person [or people] in your own life. The melody underpinning it is also irresistible, yet quietly so, while the lyrics are thought-provoking and enticing. It’s a song to be admired for anyone who also gets their musical kicks from the likes of Jose Gonzalez, Lord Huron or even Jeff Buckley. An alumni of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and Codarts in Rotterdam, where he studied music production, Sean began creating music for films and commercials immediately after graduating. His song Everything (2014), composed and produced for an international car commercial, reached over a million streams on Spotify. That sense of the cinematic is also evident on Oheja.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Weeknd

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE WEEKNDBLINDING LIGHTS: The Weeknd is back with two new songs, Heartless and Blinding Lights. The latter was recently teased in an advertisement for Mercedes-Benz’s new EQC model, which may lend it an air of familiarity. But there’s also a sense, in its headrush synths, of classic ’80s A-ha at times. The electronic element and the vocal delivery are very reminiscent of Take on Me era Morten Harkett and company. But that doesn’t detract from the appeal of the track whatsoever. If anything, it enhances it. The track has an undeniable energy attached, fizzing along in such breezy, upbeat fashion that it’s almost guaranteed to drag you onto the nearest dancefloor (where you may well become blinded by some lights!). The vocals are crisp, too, enhancing the overall accessibility of the song. But it’s the synths that lend the track its potency and immediacy, hooking you in from the moment you hear them, and delivering a fire-cracker of a chorus that’s sure to be an anthemic track for the singer. Lyrically, the song is all about addiction (“Maybe you can show me how to love, maybe, I’m going through withdrawals), but in spite of the insecurity inherent in them, there’s something strangely empowering too…
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Weeknd

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE WEEKNDHEARTLESS: The second of The Weeknd’s two new songs, Heartless, is perhaps a more signature offering – but every bit as good as Blinding Lights. A seamless blend of hip hop and R’n‘B, this is a dark look into a lost soul who is as ‘heartless’ as the title suggests. A confessional of sorts, this finds the singer dropping lines like “all this money and this pain got me heartless” and “no life or love cos I’m heartless”. Later on, there’s mention of a bag full of drugs and booze, while selling “dreams to these girls with their guards down, seven years I’ve been swimming with the sharks now”. It’s hard-hitting, at times, reflective of an era in which men with power and money often manipulate and degrade women for their own kicks. But at what cost? Whereas some hip hop songs would revel in this, however, and adopt a hard-hitting rap approach, complete with banging beats, The Weeknd opts for a more smooth groove approach, his almost falsetto vocals tapping into a sense of regret that’s palpable (if not forgivable in this character’s case) and employing a set of beats that embrace both hip hop and R’n‘B elements, as well as something distinctly pop. It’s a track that stays with you: as catchy as it is telling and relevant.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bombay Bicycle Club, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUBEVERYTHING ELSE HAS GONE WRONG: Taken from the title-track of Bombay Bicycle Club’s first full-length LP in five years, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong is a comeback track that kind of explains why the band have taken such a long break since 2014’s So Long, See You Tomorrow. They had to work through a few things. But while everything else has gone wrong since (the state of the nation, perhaps, as well as the sense of stagnation that had set into the band itself?), there’s a feeling that relief has been found in music. For while Jack sings ‘everything else has gone wrong’ repetitively over much of the track, there’s a sense of optimism in hearing him qualify it with: “I guess I found my peace again, I guess I found my second wind.” And this optimism is also to be found in the upbeat nature of the accompanying instrumentals, with mid-00 indie-style guitar riffs combining with ear-catching percussion elements and drums to create a lively, almost breezy backdrop. It’s these hooks and sharp melodies that enable Bombay Bicycle Club to appeal so effortlessly to your musical sub-conscience. On the evidence of the two new songs so far – Everything Else Has Gone Wrong and Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You) – the new album could well be a strong comeback.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Zac Pajak

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: ZAK PAJAKNOT AROUND: London-based Zac Pajak has dropped a new single and video in the form of the catchy Not Around. The track – a follow-up to his excellent debut Again – is awash with an urban-pop finesse, building from its stripped-down introduction into a deep baseline and pulsing electronic atmosphere. Zac’s soulful vocals, meanwhile, find a strength and clarity in moving on from a relationship. His vocals combine a sense of loss with a determination to move on and recover. It’s a slick offering but one that impresses by virtue of the way it changes pace midway through to subvert expectations, while retaining a strong emotional pull. The accompanying video was directed by Loona Kasemets (The Graft) and shot in Peckham, South London. Speaking about it, Zac said: “Let’s face it – it’s a sad song about accepting the absence of a loved one. With the video we simply wanted to project this feeling of loss and absence. It starts with the cosy bedroom setting of a relationship which is then stripped away piece by piece and left empty by the end. We used a body cam to give a chaotic and unstable perspective. We filmed it on the streets of Peckham and I had this huge body-rig harnessed to my chest when it started raining – I guess it adds to the mood, we had no choice but to embrace it.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Madness, The Bullingdon Boys

MADNESSTHE BULLINGDON BOYS: Madness have unveiled snap release The Bullingdon Boys, which marks the seminal British pop band’s first new music since 2016. But while containing that trademark Madness swagger, complete with bouncing melodies and strong blasts of sax, The Bullingdon Boys is a self explanatory, barbed swipe at the charlatans, rotters and chancers at the top of the tree who have done their best to take the shine off 2019. It packs a lyrical punch, courtesy of verses such as “The Eton Boys are undefiled, The Bullingdon Boys, running wild, And England slides into the mist, No hope they’ll cease nor desist”. The strong cynical edge is underlined by the video, which drops clips from equally notable films such as A Clockwork Orange, Master & Commander and A Fistful of Dollars. The clips are well placed to focus on violence, lust, greed and more. Madness fans will lap up the return, while the message the band wants to convey is well worth taking note of as a General Election looms large.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Seafret, Love Won't Let Me Go

SEAFRETLOVE WON’T LET ME LEAVE: Seafret have dropped the rousing, anthemic new track Love Won’t Let Me Leave as the latest taster from the east-Yorkshire duo’s highly anticipated second album Most Of Us Are Strangers, which will be released in spring 2020. An impassioned ode to the lasting power of love, this finds the singer contemplating a difficult relationship (“stuck in the same place, I can’t even see straight” and “you’ve made a mess of me, but without you I feel so incomplete”), yet determining to hang on in there. It’s sung with real conviction and meaning, clearly aimed at the special one in his life, yet equally capable of resonating with anyone who has experienced a challenging relationship that’s been worth fighting for. It’s typical of Seafret’s songwriting of late that this feels epic, mature and thought-provoking, tapping into the same kind of serious power ballad vibe as the likes of Elbow, Coldplay and Snow Patrol. Speaking about the track, the band said: “We wrote Love Won’t Let Me Leave before we started the main writing and recording for the album. Some songs have been left behind but this one stuck with us and we feel it fits perfectly into the album. We’re now proud to share it with you all! Hope you enjoy, Jack & Harry.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Crystal Fighters, By Your Side

CRYSTAL FIGHTERS feat DAGNY – BY YOUR SIDE: Consistently expanding their musical and cultural horizons, the free-spirited Crystal Fighters have shared the new video for By Your Side. The track features Dagny, the Norwegian pop artist who commands two million monthly listeners at Spotify for tracks such as Backbeat and Love You Like That. And the song itself is a typically catchy offering… an exuberant electronic-folk song that mixes live instrumentation with dynamic alt-pop beats. It’s a song that celebrates love as a beacon of positivity in testing times, with Bast Pringle and Dagny’s voices naturally complimenting each other on the spacious verses before they harmonise on its killer hook. It’s anthemic, breezy, empowering and fun. “We wrote this in the leafy hills of Eagle Rock in California,” says Bast. “We were looking over the tranquil valley and reminiscing about the friendships you can always count on, no matter how hard of dark life can get. We wanted to celebrate these relationships, because in tough times reaching out to that one person who really understands felt like the only thing that could keep us going. Dagny is such an incredible singer and artist, whose music we love so much. We knew her voice would be so fitting for this duet and she totally delivered, really communicating such great emotion in her vocal.” The accompanying video was directed by Max Sobel. He commented: “Inspired by the song’s title and its message of love and friendship, this video is a playful celebration of one of the most monumental friendships in history. Our best friends as a species… the dog. We wanted to create something fun, energetic and full of surprises, a film that rejoices in the beauty of hounds but also brings some of Crystal Fighters mischievous, often surreal, personality to the party.” It’s as playful as that suggests.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Andrew Thompson

ANDREW THOMPSONTHERE MUST BE SOME KIND OF MISUNDERSTANDING: New Yorker Andrew Thompson is already a firm favourite of DJ Yoda and Metro, and his kooky new single There Must Be Some Kind of Misunderstanding illustrates why he’s so appealing. An enticing mix of surreal comedy, old school crooning and soul-pop, the track is ‘inspired’ by a misunderstanding involving a fly being stuck in the singer’s soup… and the incredulous response to his complaint from the waiter. Far from being angry, Thompson displays a breezy irreverence, putting his frustrations into song and turning the experience into something borderline hilarious. The lyrics will continually put a smile on your face, while the hook-laden instrumentals are tailor-made for making your head nod along in comic appreciation. There’s even some background whistling over the chorus, enhancing the overall breeziness and catchiness and making it a kooky, alt-pop delight.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Night Flight

NIGHT FLIGHTDAVID: London-based band Night Flight will release their new EP, White Noise, on February 28, 2020 via CRC Records. The follow-up to their widely praised self-titled debut released in 2018, the songs on White Noise individually explore the nuances in specific pockets of life; disillusionment, isolation and self-reflection in the midst of personal recovery. New single David is a fine example of that, with singer and guitarist Sam Holmes ruminating on a past relationship: “You’re doing better than I thought without me.” There’s an inherent sadness to that realisation, echoed in Holmes’ melancholy vocals and the low-key acoustic guitar strumming. But while certainly brooding and filled with sorrow and pain, the song doesn’t drag you down in the self-pity that comes with some of the lyrics. There’s a growing sense of recovery, which can especially be found in the belated electric guitar solo that draws the track to a surprisingly rousing climax. It’s thoughtful song-writing, nicely delivered for maximum emotional effect. And if you’re a fan of bands like Turin Brakes, Snow Patrol and Radiohead, then there’s traces here of all of those influences.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Liimo, Old School

LIIMOOLD SCHOOL: Edinburgh natives Liimo release their new single Old School through B-Unique Records and continue to endear. An R’n‘B infused pop jam set to a nostalgic backdrop, this has a nostalgic ’90s pop sensibility to it, albeit with a lyrical honesty that is very contemporary. If anything, it subverts classic pop tropes to deliver a clever mix of old school romanticism married to gritty social realism (nods to being stuck in crappy retail jobs hit home to anyone who has endured them). And the cheeky sonic leanings to classic boy bands also works well, bringing an easy-going pop accessibility. But in spite of such cheesy elements, there’s a catchy likeability to it that’s quite disarming. Speaking about the new single Liimo’s frontman Kieran explained: “It’s about that classic, 90’s romcom kind of love. You know, how it used to be; not that love at first swipe kind of thing. And it’s getting colder, we wanted to bring out a track that made people get a little closer.” Old School picks up from the London based Scottish trio’s previous singles If You Love Me, Pink In Heaven, Get Weird featuring LA artist Lizzy Land and their debut single Pineapple Radio.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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