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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, November 3, 2017

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

Saint Clair, Human Touch

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: SAINT CLAIRHUMAN TOUCH: Human Touch is the latest alice of brilliance to arrive from Londoner Saint Clair’s forthcoming EP, D2, due in early 2018, and follows lead single Amnesiac, produced by Terrible Records signing Rahm. A slice of trip-hop that’s shot through with sensual vocals (reminiscent of Skye-era Morcheeba), this practically purrs along on Saint Clair’s dreamy vocals and the accompanying electronics and beats. But as soothing and satisfying as the combination sounds, it’s actually a song born out of tragedy, as the singer explains: “Human Touch is a straight-up break-up anthem. I was in emotional limbo when an ex suddenly appeared at the back of a venue I was playing at, and it completely caught me off guard. The song is an exploration of that push and pull between revisiting the past and moving on for good.” The resulting track is a really class act. Saint Clair – so called after her mother’s Scottish ancestry – is the recording alias of French-speaking North Londoner, Emily Topolski. Having grown up by painters, actors and journalists, Saint Clair became the first in her family to turn to music, pursuing a career trajectory that’s so far taken her on the road as a backing vocalist for long-time friend Laura Marling and seen her play keyboards and sing BVs for Ghostpoet. She has also supported Bastille on their most recent area tour.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Young Fathers, Lord

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: YOUNG FATHERSLORD: Having contributed a couple of songs to the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack earlier this year, Scotland’s Young Fathers now release more new material from their forthcoming LP, in the form of the rapturous Lord. Built around a swirling central piano arrangement, the track then combines gospel elements with sung vocals that combine to create a heady but completely unique whole. Further mixing elements of R&B and gospel, as well as more of those tender pianos, the song then drops a set of passionate lyrics that explore the nature of love and struggle. “Her love is kind, her love is mine… Lord don’t pay me no mind, This is my cross to bear.” It’s thought-provoking stuff, dark in nature, that nevertheless resonates in emphatic fashion. All in all, it’s a very welcome return from this Scottish outfit. In a statement that coincided with the release of the new track, Young Fathers state: “We’ve just finished a new album, and it’s about fucking time!” Here, here!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Barr Brothers

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: THE BARR BROTHERS – IT CAME TO ME: The The Barr Brothers have released the first official music video from their celebrated new album, Queens of the Breakers, which is out now on Secret City Records. The video pairs the rollicking, burning blues of It Came To Me with visuals to match: a careening, down-and-dirty lawn mower race straight from the far reaches of Canada. The video was captured at a hundred-year-old agricultural fair in Shigawake, Quebec (pop. 300). Though it’s 12 hours outside of Montreal, thousands of people flock to the fair every year. Many come for a newer addition, a music festival that’s been organized for the past nine years by Meghan Clinton, the wife of drummer Andrew Barr, who is from the remote town herself. The Barr Brothers have performed at the music festival and this year decided to bring a videographer along, who captured some of the footage with a Super 8. The lawn mower mud-racing event shown in the video is a perfect complement to the down-and-dirty sound of It Came to Me; mud-splattered, unapologetic, ecstatic. Watching it, you can’t help but feel caked in mud, with the smell of booze and wood smoke hanging in the damp air. Says Andrew Barr: “For us and everyone up there, [the music festival] has become the party of the summer… This year when I heard that the video’s director Vincent was coming to the fair to do some filming, I called him and requested he bring a couple good cameras and a rain poncho… Vincent dug in deep, making friends with the fairgoers, capturing some of the absurd moments and the seamless clashing of worlds that seems like it could only happen in Shigawake.” The song itself begins with a squall of guitar and a rush of drums, quickly formed into a mean, bluesy riff textured with classical acoustic harp. Brad Barr’s voice distorts to a rasp, telling the tale of a Zen-like quest for answers to the questions of the universe. It’s got echoes of classic Tom Petty mixed with the moodiness of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It’s heavyweight rock of the highest calibre.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Blitzen Trapper

BLITZEN TRAPPERWILD & RECKLESS: To mark the release of their latest album, Wild & Reckless (out now), Blitzen Trapper have dropped the official video for the title track. The distinct video features a lone traveller in a gas mask wandering a barren landscape in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s as striking as it sounds. The track itself adheres to the overall vibe of the album, which adopts a half rock-opera, half musical feel. Hence, the verses have a Meatloaf kind of quality to them, albeit with vocals that sound like pure classic Bob Dylan. But the chorus beefs up the guitars and tip-toes the line between classic rock and operatic, while some belated harmonica blasts only add to the song’s overall appeal. It’s a striking statement of intent that announces the arrival of the latest LP in emphatic fashion. But it might be something more of an acquired taste that some of Blitzen Trapper’s material. The themes of the album deal with heroin abuse, desperation, true love and western power structures. The story evoked a bygone era of Portland with this sci-fi love story, featuring a rock and roll score that paired unreleased songs with favourite’s from the band’s catalogue. It’s striking, ambitious stuff.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Karine Polwart

KARINE POLWARTLARK IN THE CLEAR AIR: Lark In The Clear Air is the latest track to emerge from A Pocket Of Wind Resistance, the new album from Karine Polwart, which is due out on November 17. The album is the musical accompaniment to Karine’s acclaimed, self-written, directed and performed theatre production, Wind Resistance, which debuted at last year’s Edinburgh Festival to 4-star reviews, and multiple award nominations. Opening with the sound of birds tweeting, the track then drops some beautifully sweet vocal harmonies and melodies, which continue the feel-good vibe opened up by those birds. A folk-pop vibe then takes the song through to its conclusion, with Polwart’s vocals providing a soothing backdrop to the poetry infused lyrics. It’s intelligent, sweet and utterly harmonious, if you like the folksy kind of thing. Speaking about the track (whose lyrics are drawn from the work of Irish poet Sir Samuel Ferguson), Karine explained: In the spring and summer, Fala Moor is alive with skylarks, floating up and up on invisible shafts of air – and yet, they’re a red-listed, endangered species in the British Isles. The RSPB has responded by encouraging farmers to incorporate skylark ‘plots’ into their fields in order to protect their vulnerable nest grounds. In Gaelic, the word for skylark is fosg. It means, literally, open space, including the space above us. When I go to Fala Moor, I fell filled up with space.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Kygo, Stranger Things

KYGO feat ONEREPUBLICSTRANGER THINGS: Super-producer Kygo does an Avicii with OneRepublic on new song Stranger Things – and the results are every bit as effective. The fusion of dance and pop (with a touch of soft-rock) combines seamlessly to create the type of song that boasts the crossover potential of tracks like Hey Brother or even Coldplay’s recent collaboration with The Chainsmokers. The vocals are typically evocative of OneRepublic’s school of song-writing, contributing to a genuinely chant-worthy chorus that talks about the stranger things of who we are. But the synths underpinning them are pure dance, meaning that the song belongs firmly on the dancefloor. But they have a high likeability. Thanks to the likes of Avicii, it’s a formula that now feels somewhat generic and over familiar, but when done properly – as here – it’s still mightily catchy and highly effectively for raising the profiles of all artists concerned.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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NERD feat Rihanna, Lemon

N.E.R.D feat RIHANNALEMON: N.E.R.D return with the, erm, bouncing new hip-hop/R’n‘B mash-up that is Lemon, featuring Rihanna. It’s the type of track that drops attitude like H-bombs, amid tight beat structures and little else. Indeed, it’s more about the lyrics, which find both Pharrell Williams and company getting back to old-skool hip-hop style delivery, and Rihanna bringing her own inimitably sassy vocals to the party. At first listen, it’s sometimes a little too direct and fierce, relying more on that attitude than anything really appealing. But that’s deceptive. For there’s something undeniably fresh and hip about it – an urban slice of hip-hop that reinvigorates the genre, while blending in other elements. Rihanna’s presence is sure to bring it even greater prominence and broader appeal, but again underlines her willingness to experiment. The result is a real grower of a track that has an urgency that’s ultimately difficult to resist once you’ve heard it a couple of times.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Jake Shears, Creep City

JAKE SHEARSCREEP CITY: Scissor Sisters frontman goes solo with the release of new single Creep City and it’s something of a departure in sound. Featuring a reverb heavy central beat and swampy pianos, as well as a cool bass guitar riff, it’s a foot-stomper of a record instrumentally, that continues to layer in the sounds the longer it lasts. Indeed, by the halfway stage, the instrumentals have assumed a carnival-style atmosphere akin to being in a New Orleans Mardi Gras environment. Vocally, of course, there’s a sense of familiarity, thanks in no small part to the distinct nature of Shears vocals. But it’s the heady instrumentals, complete with a sax and string solo midway through, that really help the song to stand apart from Scissor Sisters ventures. And as a statement of intent for what to expect from Shears’ solo material, it’s an emphatic new direction. Creep City may hint at the sinister in its title and some of its lyrics, but the song itself is a whole lot of fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Slow Readers Club, Lunatic

THE SLOW READERS CLUBLUNATIC: With reference points in the harrowing story of Robert Stroud, ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’, and nods to cult prison thriller Midnight Express, the Lunatic video that accompanies The Slow Reader’s Club’s latest single is a tense and claustrophobic affair that offers fitting visual accompaniment to this compelling new release. The song itself unfolds amid a throbbing synth pulse, some sharp guitar hooks and a haunted set of vocals that properly tap into the tormented psychology at play within the lyrics. It’s a stirring, moody, dark piece of work that deserves notice. Commenting on the video, the band’s long-time visual collaborator Chris Croft said: “For years I’ve been haunted by the feeling I had when visiting the isolation cell of Robert Stroud, the infamous ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’. Stroud was kept in a small stone room at the prison for 6 years, imagine spending that amount of time cut-off from everyone? I’ve never felt anything like it, and as a film-maker I’ve looked for ways to channel that feeling, its claustrophobia and intensity into my work.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Tarantina, Fables

TARANTINAFABLES: Self-taught singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and videographer Tarantina releases her striking new single, Fables, and impresses. A dark offering that’s built around dusky, Sia like vocals, atmospheric beats and electronics and a sombre central piano chord, this nevertheless captures your attention and refuses to let it shift. The lyrics are shot through with the pain of a failed relationship and a warning to avoid the same kind of trap, with the sense of anguish, regret and determination to learn growing as the song reaches its near operatic conclusion. Tarantina says of the track: “Fables is about the lies we tell ourselves; the blinkers we wear to protect us from what we’d rather ignore. I wrote Fables mid-flight at high speed after jumping headfirst into a relationship that I knew wasn’t going to end well. From the video, you can probably tell how that one turned out. The video combines stop motion animation and film that was shot in my bedroom.” Fables is the second track to be released from Tarantina’s forthcoming EP Teething, which will be released later this year.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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