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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, October 25, 2019

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

Coldplay

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: COLDPLAYORPHANS: There’s something reasurringly great about hearing Chris Martin’s voice. And it’s back in typically impressive fashion with Orphans, the first of two new Coldplay tracks from the newly announced eighth album, Everyday Life (out on Friday, November 22). The 53-minute double album is divided into two halves, Sunrise and Sunset and Orphans comes from the latter collection. But it’s an epic, inspiring offering that pretty much hooks you from the outset. The child-like chanting that opens things up is bright and global sounding, while the cute guitar hook is instantly catchy. Martin’s vocals provide that reassuring presence, before some “woo hoo” harmonies add to the stadium-sized vibe of the overall record. And that’s before the grand chorus lands, which opens up amid a line like “I wanna know, when I can go back and be drink with my friends… back and be young again?” It’s a sentiment we can all get behind once we reach a certain point in life, but it’s delivered in such positive, breezy manner that you can’t help but feeling it’s all still possible. It’s a song to rejoice in and celebrate… classic Coldplay then without sounding like they’re retreading old territory!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The 1975, Frail State of Mind

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE 1975 – FRAIL STATE OF MIND: Frail State Of Mind is the second track from The 1975’s forthcoming fourth album, Notes On A Conditional Form, which will be released on February 21, 2020, and a complete departure from original offering, which was loud and brash. Frail State of Mind finds Matt Healy exploring a fractured psychology, with plenty of apologising. It’s a melancholy listen, lyrically, with lines such as “Oh boy don’t cry, I’m sorry but I always get this way sometimes, Oh I’ll just leave, I’ll save you time”. Yet in spite of this, the surrounding instrumentals have a more relaxed vibe courtesy of restrained back-beats (which could stem from a distant garage nightclub) and fizzing electronics. If anything, the instrumentals juxtapose the lyrics, offering something that’s decidedly bittersweet but utterly addictive. And with Healy already promising a late night feel attached to the new LP, this fits that bill almost perfectly… a sort of comedown record for a big night out (good or bad) that somehow brings you into a nice state of mind. It’s a track that gets better with each listen, as you really come to appreciate the complexity at play.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mumford & Sons, Blind Leading the Blind

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: MUMFORD & SONSBLIND LEADING THE BLIND: Mumford & Sons deliver their first new material since last year’s Delta with the blistering folk-rocker Blind Leading The Blind. Shot through with urgency, this combines finger-plucked banjo and guitar with brisk beats and gritty vocals aimed at getting the song’s point across. Explains Marcus Mumford: “Blind Leading The Blind has been a song we’ve had up our sleeves for some time, which ended up being a catalytic song for much of our work on Delta, its themes and feelings, but that we never got round to finishing in time to put it on the original release. We’re proud that we’ve finally finished it, as it feels like one of the most challenging songs, thematically, that we’ve put out there, both for ourselves and our audience. It feels it’s becoming harder and harder to coerce yourself into a listening, present and unafraid disposition, but that’s the gauntlet we’re throwing down for ourselves.” Thematically, Mumford & Sons could be speaking about the current political landscape, where leaders appear to be taking their people in circles without really accomplishing anything, while equally encouraging the masses to allow their own voices to be heard. But whatever, this is a vastly empowering record that’s one of the band’s most instantly anthemic offerings to date – a song that encompasses the classic sound of Little Lion Man with the quieter elements of Delta (during a mid-song breakdown). It’s classic Mumford & Sons… a track of which they can be rightly proud.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The DMA's, Silver

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: DMA’S – SILVER: Silver finds Australia’s DMA’s hone their gift for crafting unifying, arena-ready anthems. The song adds a surfeit of personality and American radio rock influences to their love of the British indie scene, making for a global-facing track rooted in their love of The Stone Roses and The La’s. Frontman Tommy O’Dell’s vocals possess a new found maturity and emotional resonance, delivering an unabashed love song that will surely connect far beyond their devoted fanbase. Hence, while slow-building in nature, courtesy of the uncertain/vulnerable lyrics, the song really comes to life around the minute mark, when The Stone Roses influence really shines through. There’s a shimmering indie rock guitar sound that really sends a shiver down the spine, along with a sweeping, anthemic chorus and an empowering sense of emerging from the shadows into the light. Silver was produced by Scott Horscroft (Empire Of The Sun, Silverchair) at The Grove Studios, mixed by multiple Grammy winner Stuart Price (The Killers, Everything Everything) at Westlake Studios in West Hollywood, where DMA’S and Price continue to work on the rest of the forthcoming new album (due next year). The video was directed by New Zealand director Charlotte Evans (Aldous Harding, Marlon Williams). It’s a sleek mix of production values that combine to create DMA’s most effective, and affecting, single to date. Expect 2020 to be their biggest year yet.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Beck, Uneventful Days

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: BECKUNEVENTFUL DAYS: The latest advance transmission from seven-time Grammy-winner Beck’s forthcoming album Hyperspace, Uneventful Days has now been visually realised by director/musician Dev Hynes. The pocket universe created for Uneventful Days also features Hyperspace opener Hyperlife, as well as starring turns from Evan Rachel Wood, Tessa Thompson and Alia Shawkat (observant long-time Beck fans will spot the principals’ wardrobe nods to classic entries in the Beck video canon). And needless to say, it’s a genuinely eye-catching treat that finds something beautiful in the mundane (while also planting those Beck Easter eggs)! The song itself finds Beck 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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Coldplay

COLDPLAYARABESQUE: The second new Coldplay release of the week comes in the form of Arabesque, which really finds them experimenting with their sound. Adopting a self-consciously world music vibe, with a particular emphasis on African influences, this also boasts support vocals from Stromae and horns by Femi Kuti and his band. But there’s also some French language tossed in for good measure, while the overall vibe has something of a pop meets reggae meets soul feel to it. And while notable for offering something different, it doesn’t have that instant appeal of Coldplay’s bigger anthems (from Yellow to Sky Full of Gold, or even latest offering Orphans. The trumpet solo also feels a tad experimental, interrupting the smooth flow of the single as a whole. It’s great that a band of the size of Coldplay feels comfortable in mixing up their sound and embracing different musical cultures. But while this will undoubtedly also extend their global reach, it’s more of an acquired taste. Interesting more than great.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Rhys Lewis

RHYS LEWIS – BE YOUR MAN: Tackling the heartache that comes with unrequited love, Be Your Man showcases Rhys Lewis’ raw and powerful vocals, brimming with emotion and sung with conviction. His incredible ability to tell stories through his lyrics shines through in this heart-wrenching track, exploring the all too familiar feeling of being in a relationship with someone who is still hung up on an ex. He explains: “Be Your Man is of those songs that I’m still very much connected to emotionally, whenever I sing it live I get taken right back to the way I felt in the relationship at that time. It’s horrible to feel like you’re not enough for someone, that you’re being compared to the person they were with before. I think if she’d wanted something new then we might have had something, but deep down she was looking for what she’d had with someone else. It’s been great revisiting this song in the studio, the original acoustic version is quite tender and soft, so it’s been really interesting discovering a darker tone within the song.” The darkness is great in providing an element of grit to a song that would otherwise come across as a ballad, lending a bluesy vibe without really tapping into a classic sense of the blues. Rather, the piano is the instrument of choice here, while Lewis’ own vocals provide a gutsy, heartfelt focal point that also bring an element of soul (augmented by female backing vocals). It’s an anguished, tormented offering that nevertheless still has the capacity to be a rousing power ballad. Currently on tour in the US supporting Julia Michaels, Rhys will embark on his biggest ever UK headline tour this autumn, including a date a London’s EartH on November 25.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Selena Gomez

SELENA GOMEZLOSE YOU TO LOVE ME: Selena Gomez wears her heart on her sleeve on new single Lose You To Love Me, a heartfelt look at heartbreak at its rawest form. The track doesn’t merely look at the failed expectations that came with the relationship (“you promised the world and I fell for it”) but also the lasting impact of having been letdown and then replaced after just two months. Needless to say, speculation is rife online that the track is about former love interest Justin Bieber. But whoever it’s aimed at, there’s no denying the palpable sense of loss and hurt that informs the track, even when – belatedly – the harmonies become sharper and more lively. For the most part, though, this is a stark offering, with Gomez’s aching vocals backed by echoed piano and suble electronic chimes. It’s about the emotion rather than anything pop. As such, it’s a mature ballad that finds Gomez coming of age in many ways. The accompanying black and white video only heightens the overall mood of melancholy without dragging you down with it.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Selena Gomez, Look At Her Now

SELENA GOMEZLOOK AT HER NOW: If Lose You To Love Me found Selena Gomez at her most disarmingly vulnerable, accompanying new release Look At Her Now sees her at her most resolute and feisty. The song continues to be about loss and overcoming heartbreak but where the former track felt pained, this feels more hopeful. Hence, there’s a more defiantly upbeat vibe, a future pop sound and some challenging lyrics that confront the reality of overcoming her lost love (“Of course she was sad, but now she’s glad she dodged a bullet”). It then declares, over the propulsive chorus, “look at her now, watch her go”. As such, it’s a record about female empowerment that should provide encouragement for anyone attempting to overcome heartbreak themselves. The accompanying video is also a complete contrast to the former single, deliberately embracing a 90s dance video easthetic with eye-catching colours, outfits and moves. Put together, both singles compliment each other nicely, while looking certain to broaden Gomez’s overall appeal.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Margot, Taken By Age

MARGOTTAKEN BY AGE: Margot is a five-piece from South London who make a nuanced blend of dream-pop laced with neo-psychedelic touches, jangling guitars, and softly brushed drums. New single Taken By Age is an excellent introduction to them. Opening with Johnny Marr-esque jangle-pop guitar, the song then gives way to a melody laced with 80’s tinged melancholia. The result is like a blissed-out surf rock song, slowed down and viewed though a filtered lens. Lyrically, meanwhile, there’s a lot going on given the way it explores an issue relevant to all of us right now: mental health. Taken By Age was inspired by a documentary on Dementia, with lead vocalist AleHannaway moved by the unconditional love of the effected family members and what he describes as their ‘perseverance and hope’ despite their anger at the disease. Hence, there’s a sense of loss and regret, tinged with determination and hope. It’s heartbreakingly bittersweet and highly emotional. If you’re a fan of bands like The War on Drugs, The Cure or The Smiths, then Margot could quite easily become one of your new favourite bands on this kind of form.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lizzo & Ariana Grande

LIZZO & ARIANA GRANDEGOOD AS HELL: Lizzo has released an all new remix of her platinum selling hit song Good As Hell, featuring Ariana Grande. It’s destined to be an even bigger smash. The remixed version adds even more sass and energy to a song that was never really short of it in the first place. Hence, we have the vocal trade off between Lizzo’s gutsy soulful ones and Grande’s smooth-groove style, as well as robust hip-hop infused beats, sunshine piano arrangements and vibrant stabs of brass. It has a soul-pop, summer-time vibe that comes complete with empowering sentiments (of the female variety), now transferred to the winter to ensure the song remains with us throughout the forthcoming party season. And why shouldn’t it? It’s shamelessly good fun, designed to make you feel good about yourself.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Lucia & The Best Boys, Good Girls Do Bad Things

LUCIA & THE BEST BOYSGOOD GIRLS DO BAD THINGS: Lucia & The Best Boys (formerly LUucia) release their new single Good Girls Do Bad Things in unapologetically brash fashion. Recorded in LA with producer Carlos De La Garza (Paramore, Wolf Alice, Best Coast) this finds the kick-ass Glaswegian indie-rock four-piece adopting an 80’s synth-infused banger sound with something edgy and contemporary (embracing female empowerment). Sonically, this is the kind of offering that classic Blondie or Kate Bush may have put out in the ’80s (with traces of Kim Wilde), complete with belting drums and synths. But lyrically, there’s a lot more going on… the track offers a combative missive to anyone that’s f**ked someone over. Relaying empowering messages like this is something that’s become particularly important to Lucia, as she states: “Good Girls Do Bad Things is a song written for any women who feels like they have ever been undermined, or made to feel worthless and weak by a man. I find myself in these situations far too often, now more than ever, and it is important to highlight that they are the weak ones in the situation. ‘Sad boys looking at me always get what they don’t see’ was a lyric written from experiencing and witnessing men thinking that we aren’t capable or smart enough to react and defend ourselves.” Lucia is doing her damndest to prove them wrong.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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