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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, October 18, 2019

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

Beck, Uneventful Days

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BECKUNEVENTFUL DAYS: Following the musical shot in the arm that was the exhilarating Saw Lightning, Beck now changes pace completely with Uneventful Days – the latest offering from his forthcoming Hyperspace LP (out November 22). Trading on the astrological elements inherent in the LP’s name, this catchy digi-popper blends tropicalia with laidback vocals and spaced out synth arrangements. It’s also pretty wistful, lyrically, as Beck sings: “Uneventful days, uneventful nights… living in the dark, waiting for the light…” It’s almost as if the singer is searching for something elusive in the vast surrounds of the universe. But it’s beautifully engaging, offering a bittersweet vibe that’s completely endearing. As ever with Beck, the change of pace from Saw Lightning only heightens the excitement surrounding the release of more new material. It’s his ability to mix things up and maintain the quality that makes him so continually exciting. An accompanying track, Hyperlife only clocks in at 1 minute and 37 seconds, and feels like a potential album opener. It’s extremely trippy.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kiwanuka

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: MICHAEL KIWANUKAPIANO JOINT: The latest offering from Michael Kiwanuka’s Kiwanuka LP is the piano-based ballad Piano Joint, another splendid offering. A heart on sleeve moment, this finds the singer on the kind of form exhibited with tracks like Love + Hate and Cold Little Heart, especially late on. A dissection of love and all of its complications and implications, this begins really stripped back and soulful, with just Kiwanuka’s distinct vocals and the piano to listen to. But as the song evolves, so too does the instrumentation, with soul-infused female backing vocals, swirling string arrangements, subtle beats and a stronger piano sound. Lyrically, there are lines such as “I know I’ve been bruised, let me in again, I could use a friend, all I know is my oh my, this kind of love, it’s taken me from my enemies, don’t let the pressure get to me.” It’s the depth of feeling and the soul-searching nature of these words that enables the song to resonate so much, complete with those sublime production values. It’s cinematic yet intimate – soulful, beautiful and powerful.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Peter, Bjorn and John, Rusty Nail

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: PETER, BJORN AND JOHNRUSTY NAIL: Peter, Bjorn and John will celebrate their 20-year anniversary in 2020 with the release of their ninth full-length studio album – Endless Dream – due out on March 13 via INGRID. As a taster, the band is dropping the first single Rusty Nail and pretty much hits the, ahem, nail on the head in terms of satisfaction. Shot through with the trio’s trademark melodicism, this nevertheless blends that feel-good vitality with something a little darker. Lyrically, the track deals with regret and struggling to live up to life’s expectations, while still remaining resolute about the way things have turned out. Hence, it drops lines such as “I keep getting that rusty nail again, all the time, I had dreams, I had dreams, of where I want to be, all my life, I never knew how much it meant to me, all the time”. The bittersweet element is evocative of the new material as a whole, given that Peter, Bjorn and John describe the new songs as bright. “It’s about people trying to find colors in this dark world,” they add. With the upbeat vibrancy of Rusty Nail quickly becoming oh-so addictive, we already have high hopes for the rest of the album. In more good news for fans of Peter, Bjorn and John, the trio have confirmed a Spring US headline tour that kicks off on March 23, 2020, at the Teragram Ballroom in LA and ends on the East Coast where they play Webster Hall on April 10, before wrapping the nearly month long run with a show at Brighton Music Hall in Boston on April 11.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Whyte Horses, Hard Times

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: WHYTE HORSES feat JOHN GRANTHARD TIMES: The notoriously elusive Whyte Horses have announced details of their third studio album, appropriately for now entitled Hard Times, and set to be released on January 17, 2020 through burgeoning indie label CRC Records. Described by Whyte Horses’ creator and curator Dom Thomas as a ‘fantasy mixtape’, the project sees this shape-shifting musical dream-pop collective re-imagining songs from an eclectic mix of musical backgrounds. Having already released a foot stomping cover of the seminal 1970’s track Ça Plane Pour Moi (originally performed by the Belgian music polymath Plastic Bertrand), the album’s bombastic title track is released today as their latest single alongside the album news. Hence, Hard Times features guest vocals from John Grant, who, ‘loved working with Whyte Horses on this’. He adds: “Spam and Oreos are right up my alley!” A party anthem in waiting that kind of makes a mockery of the hardships being sung about, the new take on the track takes psychedelic twists and turns that are rooted throughout by a rock steady rhythm section and overlaid with layers of brass, sax and organ. The result feels like a cross between The Heavy in their Northern Soul-infused pomp, with the type of sound that would grace a Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s hip, sexy, vital and fresh, even in spite of the fact it’s a re-imagining. Once heard, you can’t help but want more. It could well become one of the forthcoming party season’s hippest anthems.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Flight Facilities

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 5: FLIGHT FACILITIES feat ALOE BLACCBETTER THAN EVER: Better Than Ever is the first cut of the year from Flight Facilities, following their 2018 singles Need You (certified Gold by ARIA) and All Your Love – and it’s a real pulse-pounding statement of intent. Three years in the making, Better Than Ever is a supremely satisfying, ultra-slick explosion of funk-pop sounds, fusing uplifting lyrics with a dynamic beat and soul-flavored melodies. What’s more, it comes with the unmistakeable vocals of Aloe Blacc, wnose distinctly soulful vocals bring extra energy and edge to the song, elevating it to new heights. As a feel-good anthem, this is second to none, its central sentiment of feeling better than ever helping to invigorate and inspire. It’s a celebratory record, tailor-made for any party occasion, that’s also slick and cool enough to feature on countless soundtracks or sports promos thoughout the year. It has that same kind of infectious energy as classic cuts from The Heavy.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Katy Perry, Harleys in Hawaii

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: KATY PERRYHARLEYS IN HAWAII: Katy Perry seeks to come over all sultry in new single Harleys in Hawaii, the third offering from her forthcomimg fifth LP (after Never Really Over and Small Talk). The result marks a change in direction from the more sugary, melody-strewn pop concoctions Perry is synonymous with… but in a good way. There’s something edgy, here, akin to classic Gwen Stefani, with a self-consciously sexed up side. Perry practically purrs some of the lyrics, delivering lines such as “Want you to take me for a ride, ride, when I hula hula, hula, so good you’ll take me to the jeweler, jeweler, jeweler, there’s pink and purple in the sky”. It’s designed to get people hot under the collar, while also conjuring images of Hawaiian sunsets and beaches, as well as those obligatory motorbikes. The beats are equally primed to heighten the inherent sexiness, as are the synths. It’s a smooth groover of a record that carries a deliciously late night vibe. And the accompanying video is – as we’ve come to expect from Perry – just as sexy, playful and eye-catching.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Zak Pajak

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: ZAC PAJAKAGAIN: Having impressed with his debut single Again, the first track from his debut EP Early Hours, last week, London-based Zac Pajak now releases the accompanying video with similarly impressive results. Directed by Sam Davies (Filmsmiths) and produced by Keenan Foley (Orillo Films), the video fits perfectly with the tone of the record, as Zak explains: “A party aftermath fitted the song concept perfectly. I wanted to take viewers on an almost voyeuristic journey of a night unfolding in a series of flashbacks, from the first time someone catches your eye, to making that rare connection. The encounter flickers in and out of hazy consciousness which illustrates the unshakable feeling that you might be on the brink of something special.” It’s sexy, edgy and genuinely eye-catching. The infectious urban-infused track itself effectively blends laid-back R’n‘B melodies with a self-consciously pop-laden soundscape. It’s a song that’s designed to get Pajak noticed, that succeeds in doing so. The beats are lively enough to set those toes tapping, while the vocals have a positive Ed Sheeran-style quality.Speaking about the track, Zac adds: “Again is about meeting someone for the first time and getting that rare crazy connection. There’s a glimpse of what could be, that wave of excitement and anticipation when you think you might be on the brink of something special.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Modern Strangers, Pass The Lighter

THE MODERN STRANGERSPASS THE LIGHTER: There’s something very MGMT about The Modern Strangers’ new single, Pass The Lighter, courtesy of its headrush synth-pop chorus. Billed as “a sun drenched, future yacht rock classic”, the track boasts a genuinely sweeping chorus that hits some euphoric highs. It’s anthemic. The build-up, too, is nicely delivered, with the synths creating a compelling backdrop (that hints at retro leanings, while being fiercely rousing) and the vocals crisp, vibrant and just a little edgy. Once that chorus lands, though, you’ll be hard pressed not to be nodding along in giddy appreciation, while dreaming of those long-lost summer nights somewhere on the Med. Speaking about the new single, frontman Max Davenport said: “We wanted to change the set up for our tour, so people who may have seen us before get a set they’re not expecting. We’ve had this song Pass The Lighter sitting in the demo pile for a while and decided it would be great to put out just before tour and to play live for the first time at these UK venues!” It’s a good pick, given this will easily become a live favourite. It’s a bona fida crowd-pleaser. The new single follows on from recent heavy Radio 1 support from Annie Mac and comes on the eve of their UK headline tour, which includes a night at Oslo in Hackney on October 26.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ajimal, How Could You Disappear

AJIMALHOW COULD YOU DISAPPEAR?: Ajimal returns with new single How Could You Disappear?, the second release from his upcoming album, As It Grows Dark / Light (produced by Guy Massey). A sparse track, this delivers a driving electronic rhythm with overlaid dreamy piano textures while examining the frailty of memory. Ajimal – aka Fran O’Hanlon – explained further: “How Could You Disappear? is about memory and the idea of looking back on things that you might feel you could never forget, but which also inevitably warp and change with time. Memories are mostly lost, but they can also morph and swell into something completely different from the events that actually occurred. In the same way, some seemingly banal and insignificant things can persist for a lifetime. These can have a powerful impact on our subsequent behaviours, hopes and fears, for the most part in ways that we’re totally unaware of.” Mind-blowing sentiments mix with lush, ethereal synth-scapes for a track that slowly creeps into your subconscious and refuses to budge. It’s a song to set you thinking, but also to enjoy on a sonic level.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Keltoum

KELTOUMSTOP TO PLAY: Taken from her debut eponymous EP Stop To Play is the next single to be released from Keltoum. The fast-emerging artist from France is already being compared to leaders in her field like Sade, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu as her neo-soul and pop influences caress from all sides. An original composer and player, Keltoum also brings to the table a unique French sensibility that sets her apart from the contemporaries just mentioned. Her own blend of jazz and smoky vocals provide the focal point for the seductive Stop To Play, providing a dreamy centre-piece that’s darn near impossible to resist. But the accompanying beats and electronics have an equally seductively soulful vibe that make this tailor-made for the late night chillout crowd. It’s relaxed, head-noddingly satisfying songwriting that showcases a genuinely hot new talent. Not that she’s that new… Keltoum has already picked up fans across the board, including some distinguished influencers like Gilles Peterson among others at Jazz FM and beyond. Her live show is also on another level as the energy of her trio seem to get the best of her tantalizing subtle soul voice bringing emotion to all who see her play, such as those who attended Gilles’ Worldwide festival in Sète last year, where she completely bowled over the crowd.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Alexander 23, See You Later

ALEXANDER 23 – SEE YOU LATER: Indie-pop newcomer Alexander 23 announces the release of his debut EP, I’m Sorry I Love You, (out Friday, October 25 via Polydor Records) with the release of new single See You Later. As with most of the Chicago native’s offerings so far, this one combines his angelic vocals and melancholy lyrics with up-tempo pop beats and subtle electronic-guitar flourishes. See You Later finds him walking away from the person he ‘could call home’, displaying the sorrow that’s inherent in that sentiment. There is an element of hope, though, when Alexander sings “it’s not goodybe but it doesn’t feel like see you later”. As bittersweet and melancholy as those lyrics are, the surrounding instrumentals maintain an upbeat, toe-tapping vibe that enable the track to endear itself to you even more. It’s a great new record. An entirely self-produced effort, I’m Sorry I Love You came to life at Alexander’s home studio in Los Angeles. The EP will feature nine tracks written, performed, and recorded by (guitar, bass, keys, drums) Alexander 23 (Alexander Glantz). As further evidence of Alexander’s brugeoning appeal, previously tracks he has put out, including Another Summer Night Without You (which was featured on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why (Season 3) soundtrack) were included on Spotify’s New Music Friday.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Nasty Cherry

NASTY CHERRYMUSIC WITH YOUR DAD: XCX-ellent four-piece Nasty Cherry have released catchy new single Music With Your Dad on Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom Recordings. The track, written by the band themselves and produced by Justin Raisen (Angel Olson, Sky Ferreira), who have already proven themselves to be a killer combo on the band’s previous singles Win and Live Forever, perfectly encapsulates what Nasty Cherry are all about. Written in the space of a day shortly after the band first met, the song is equal parts hooky, fun, silly and in-your-face sassy. Hence, there’s some spiky guitar riff moments mixed in with pop-savvy beats, hip-shaking synth hooks and angelic vocal harmonies that fly in the face of the edgy vocals about making music with your dad (“he just wants me, he just gets me, he just wants me, oh”). As pop offerings go, this is notable for mixing ear-pleasing, radio-friendly hooks with something a little more edgy and playful. It’s pop for grown-ups… daring but fun and utterly enjoyable.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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