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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, October 27, 2017

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

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDSFORT KNOX: On the evidence so far, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds mean some serious business with the material on new album, Who Built The Moon?. Hot off the heels of recent single Holy Mountain comes opening track Fort Knox – and it’s a monster. An instrumental for long periods, this lands with all of the authority of something like Kanye West’s The Power [an inspiration] coupled with the cinematic and world music elements of David Holmes [who produces the album]. It’s got foreboding chants, powerful string and electronic arrangements, pumped up beats and stirring guitar elements. A belated vocal that declares “you’ve got to get yourself together” adds to the overall sense of empowerment the track brings, while also dropping in some of the more indie-rock elements that Gallagher is more synonymous with. But in the main, this is about the power of the instrumentals – and it, quite literally, blows you away. It’s a fantastic album opener that you can only imagine going down a storm in live form. Roll on the rest of the new material!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Amanda Mair

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: AMANDA MAIREMPTY BLOCKINGS: Amanda Mair is a Stockholm native who gained attention as a teenager with her debut single, House, in 2011. The Washington Post praised her grown up Kate Bush sounds, while Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet described her album as one of the best Swedish debut albums of all time. Amanda has evolved since her debut – both as an artist and as a songwriter, but also as a person. Her comeback now promises to draw as many favourable reviews as her debut. New single Empty Blockings is a stunning new offering, evocative of both Kate Bush [vocally] and Bat For Lashes. It’s described as an apprehensive approach to love. The rolling beat echoes a pumping heart, afraid to open up to a damaged lover’s ‘demons getting louder’. There’s a promise of protection and security, but will it be strong enough to stabilize the relationship? Mair’s vocals are sublime, while the slick beat arrangements and sharp synth provide a propulsive, sometimes ethereal but continually beautiful and hip backdrop. The track is taken from her To The Moon EP< which is out now.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: JOHN JOSEPH BRILLALL EYES: As John Joseph Brill prepares to embark on his UK and European tour this November (including London’s Lexington on the 20th), he now drops the new single All Eyes. Produced by Andrew Davie, of Bear’s Den, this unfolds amid a heady drum arrangement before settling into something more synth-based and dark. Brill’s deep vocals enhance this sense of darkness, providing it with a sense of foreboding that’s noteworthy. If you mix elements of Lloyd Cole with Crash Test Dummies, and add a dark pop sheen, then you might get somewhere close to what to expect, both in terms of sound and quality. The guitar work on this one is also great. Speaking about the track, Brill explains: “I’ve wanted to release a song like All Eyes for ages. It was intended as a song for a frenzied, Friday night dancing in sweaty indie clubs but one that retains all the darkness of the songs that have come before it. A brooding, moody, sexy, hip-shaker of a song. A song you wouldn’t take home to meet your parents.” Hence, lyrics like “she’s the goodnight kiss at the end of the world.” We like… a lot.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Leiff Vollebekk

LEIF VOLLEBEKKTALLAHASSEE: Tallahassee is a powerful new piano ballad, from Leif Vollebekk, which is taken from the Twin Solitude recording sessions. Slow burning and reflective, this is marked by Vollebekk’s typically emotive vocals and some really thoughtfully composed piano chords. It has an autumnal feel, befitting the time of year it has now been released, and something that’s also evocative of acts like Billy Joel and Nick Drake in their prime. Vollebekk says of the song himself: “This is one of those songs that got away from me. All of the other songs on the album happened so fast. But not this one. I was sure Tallahassee was going to hold the whole album together. But it wanted nothing to do with it. This one went elsewhere. It wanted to be under its own constellation. In fact, this song wandered so far away I didn’t even know where it went, explains Leif on his creative process behind the final tracklisting of the record and this beautiful outtake.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Rag N Bone Man

RAG’N‘BONE MANGRACE (WE ALL TRY): Still hot off the back of an incredible 12 months that shows no sign of slowing his momentum, RagnBone Man – aka Rory Graham – has confirmed the release of a new single Grace (We All Try). Never one to do things by half measures, this isn’t just the latest track to be taken from his debut album, Human, but an alternative mix to add something fresh. An album favourite, this takes the form of an emotional piano ballad that’s given an extra shot of energy and soul with rich layers of drums, bass from The Invisible Band and gospel backing from Yebba. The combination of exta elements helps to elevate Graham’s vocals to ever more emotive heights, even if the song itself is a little more subdued in delivery than his biggest hits to date. That being said, it’s a nice change of pace for Graham, underlining the diversity of his particular sound. And, as ever, it assumes a cinematic quality, enabling it to boast genuine crossover appeal. The single itself impacts on December 1. The acclaimed singer will soon be playing three sold out nights at London’s Brixton Academy in November, and has already seen a new show at London’s Alexandra Palace sell out in March 2018. Like we said, there’s just no stopping him right now – and deservedly so.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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ANDY BROWN feat CRISSIE RODESLANDSLIDE: Following huge success as the front man of Lawson, singer-songwriter Andy Brown has now signed a major recording deal with Decca Records for his first solo material. His debut single Landslide is out now and sees him team up with Crissie Rhodes from The Shires. The track showcases Andy’s knack for writing evocative and heartfelt lyrics, and draws the listener in with a huge sing-along chorus. The Nashville inspired strings work nicely with Andy’s smooth vocals, while the lyrics explore meaningful concepts of timeless love and companionship. The country vibe is further enhanced by the presence of Rodes, whose distinct country tones blend well with Brown’s, especially over the latter choruses. It’s a polished offering, tailor-made for the mainstream, with pop melodies mixing with those country-folk elements seamlessly. As such, it feels more generic than it perhaps ought to. But Brown knows how to write a song capable of appealing to the masses, and while the risk element of a solo venture is largely absent, this will satisfy those it is seeking to impress. Andy commented: “Signing with Decca Records for my first solo album really is a dream come true. I feel so lucky for all the success we had as Lawson, but with this new album I can truly be myself and I have the chance to make the music I am passionate about. I hope my fans will continue to follow me on this journey, and that they love the new music as much as I do!”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Adria

ADRIAGOLD WATER: Australian R’n‘B singer Adria continues to impress with her ethereal new single Adria. Drawing comparisons with the likes of Lykke Li and Lana Del Ray, this is high on atmosphere and an almost eerie beauty. Adria’s vocals are particularly striking, her dark tones by turns passionate and sultry. Yet the surrounding electronics and beats combine to provide a strikingly cinematic backdrop. And yet, for all of its atmosphere, there’s a catchy element to the chorus, which finds Adria singing of “falling down and falling down and falling down”. Speaking about the track, Adria said: “After Shell was released, I felt I needed to take a break from music, to draw on new experiences before writing and spending time in the studio again. This track is about romanticising situations and creating an idealistic vision of a person, or circumstance, which ultimately sets you up for failure. This usually happens during the early stages of a friendship, or any sort of relationship, where everything appears glittery and gold on the surface. Gold Water is about the moments before the water gets dark and murky.” Adria was named after the Adriatic Sea and grew up on the West Coast of Australia, so it is no surprise that she feels a deep connection to the water. Inspired by its conflicting, interchangeable qualities, from the glassy and calm, to the dramatic and turbulent. All are expertly referenced, in her approach to writing sophisticated brooding pop.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paloma Faith, Guilty

PALOMA FAITHGUILTY: After a three year break from recording and giving birth to a daughter, Paloma Faith’s comeback has been gaining momentum ahead of the release of her fourth studio album, The Architect, out on November 17. Second single Guilty is the latest offering and it’s another sparkling pop gem. Packed with strings and emotive vocals, this has a cinematic quality that’s evocative of classic Adele on James Bond theme form. Indeed, you could well imagine Faith being nabbed to record the title track to the next 007 adventure on this form. The lyrics speak of regret and atoning for past sins, while the delivery is full of conviction – an impassioned plea to be forgiven, whilst warning listeners to stay away! It’s stirring stuff. According to Faith herself, Guilty was written from the perspective of a person who chose to ‘leave’ in the infamous Brexit vote. It boasts lyrics like: “I’ve been a criminal, I made a mistake, believed in the fictional ,then let everything slip away.” Hence, while it’s easy to view the track as a personal lament surrounding a relationship, it also boasts a fiercely political edge that’s designed to bring it even more attention.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Franz Ferdinand, Always Ascending

FRANZ FERDINANDALWAYS ASCENDING: Franz Ferdinand have already stated that their new material marks the start of “a whole new era” for them. And on the evidence of new track, Always Ascending, that would appear to be true. Eschewing the angular guitar sound that was formerly their signature, this new track is more synth heavy affair that fits more into an electro-pop genre, albeit with the indie edge that the vocals supply. Always Ascending certainly shows Franz Ferdinand broadening their palate, entering even more euphoric territory than usual, while creating a sound that singer Alex Kapranos refers to as “simultaneously futuristic and naturalistic”. It’s actually quite a refreshing change of direction for them, and one that could well bring along an all-new fanbase. The synth workout towards the end of the track, for instance, is pure electro-pop exuberance that applies a much hipper sheen to the band than we’re used to. It helps bring the track to a spectacularly feel-good close. Always Ascending was recorded at RAK Studios, London and Motorbass in Paris, with the help of French producer extraordinaire Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix, The Beastie Boys), the mutual affection between band and producer seeping into every dazzling groove.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Jordan MacKampa

JORDAN MACKAMPAGIVE IN TO THE DARK (LIVE FROM THE GRAND CRU): Give Into The Dark is the first track to emerge from Jordan MacKampa’s new EP Live From The Grand Cru, which is set for release in Spring 2018. It’s described by the singer himself as “a dark confession of sorts, but with less religious attachment”. Instrumentally, it boasts a folk rock vibe that’s shot through with a breezy melodicism. Vocally, it’s nicely delivered with MacKampa ensuring the confessional elements of the lyrics make the most impact. The singer also has this to say about the track: “I’m saying that the ‘real world’ feels less like a dream come true and more of a nightmare. So, by giving into the dark, I escape to a place where I’m at peace, giving me the chance to run away from the war I’m fighting, even if it’s only for a moment or two.” If we add to this review that the track feels like something that could well appeal to fans of acts like Turin Brakes, then it should come as no surprise to find that the song was actually co-written with Olly and Gayle from that band, in Olly’s kitchen last year. Incredibly, it was written during a heatwave, which puts the lie to the breezy element the song drops. It’s another classy piece of work from MacKampa.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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