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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, September 21, 2018

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

Mumford & Sons, Guiding Light

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: MUMFORD & SONSGUIDING LIGHT: Three years after their third album Wilder Minds topped the UK charts, Mumford & Sons return with new offering Guiding Light, the first taster of their forthcoming LP Delta. And true to form, this is a slow-building slice of folk-rock that conforms to the tried and tested formula that the band have honed over the years. The album itself is said to keep the epic scale of 2015’s Wilder Minds while also bringing in an “intimacy and jubilance”, which is certainly evident here. Early on, for instance, there’s the intimacy, as the stripped back nature of the song allows the heartfelt lyrics to shine. But as the song builds, the electronics, drums, guitars and banjos serve to create a heady, atmospheric and inspired backdrop that enables the track to reach the epic heights the band is clearly striving to achieve. And it’s then that you can well imagine the song taking flight in live form, where the climax will reach and inspire the furthest corner of the stadiums they will undoubtedly be sung in. The central lyric of “even when I had it all on the line” is sure to be one that fans can get behind as they chant in tandem with it. Welcome back, boys.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Peter, Bjorn and John

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: PETER, BJORN AND JOHNGUT FEELING: The second of Peter, Bjorn and John’s three new singles (see below), Gut Feeling – from forthcoming new studio album, Darker Days, is a riff-driven, drum-oriented slice of effervescent pop music that, according to the trio, “we haven’t really done since PBJ favorites like Second Chance and Young Folks.” And it’s absolutely true! The beats, particularly, recall the same effortless energy and breeze of Young Folks, with indie guitars shooting in and out, and vocal layering delivering happy harmony after happy harmony. The mix of deep and falsetto vocals also works well, creating a lively, continually shape-shifting track that really is a bundle of fun. Explains Bjorn: “The story of Gut Feeling begins at the first gig in the US after our last album, Breakin’ Point. Backstage in the club in Nashville I was waiting for soundcheck and started writing what was to become Gut Feeling. The words came subconsciously: “I think we need to talk about it, if we don’t wanna live without it.” We actually did talk on that tour, and conflicts were resolved. It all became fun again.” That sense of fun translates so well to this particular song and how you will feel upon listening to it.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Imagine Dragons, Zero

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: IMAGINE DRAOGNSZERO: Imagine Dragons have the knack of being included on soundtracks, it seems. Having contributed a track to sci-fi romance Passengers last year, they’ve now got a cut on the soundtrack to Wreck-It Ralph sequel Ralph Breaks The Internet – and it’s fun. It marks something of a departure, again, from their trademark sound (if they now have one), being built around rapid-fire beats, finger-clicking and a really bouncy energy. Indeed, it’s a perfect fit for the type of thing you could expect to find on a Wreck-It Ralph soundtrack, complete with lyrics that reflect the sense of worthlessness its principal characters sometimes feel (“let me tell you what it feels like to be a zero”). And yet in spite of some of this downbeat lyricism, the energy of the song is so lively that you’ll be dancing around the living room, or dancefloor, like some crazy animated figure or a loony dancer. It’s a whole bunch of fun – and further evidence of why we’re continuing to love the continued evolution of Imagine Dragons.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Chainsmokers, This Feeling

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: THE CHAINSMOKERS feat KELSEA BALLERINITHIS FEELING: If ever there was a song that wraps up a band’s signature sound, then The Chainsmoker’s latest This Feeling exemplifies it! That means short, sharp stabs of synth, slick beats, boy-girl vocals and a sense of regret and reflection in the lyrics (“no one listens to me, so I wrote this song”). But listen you will. Teaming up with Kelsea Ballerini, this is a bright and breezy anthem in waiting that manages to be both bittersweet and euphoric at the same time. Ballerini opens proceedings with a sassy, sexy vocal, which is then augmented by The Chainsmokers’ instantly recognisable ones. But they work well off each other… and far bettr, in our opinion, than previous collaboration, Side Effects, with Emily Warren. In terms of familiarity, the song owes a lot in style to Paris, another of their anthems. But that’s no bad thing, as this is a classic cut too. Hence, while it probably won’t bring The Chainsmokers too many more converts (which they hardly need anyway), it’ll be a blast for those that already love them.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Justice, Love S.O.S

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: JUSTICELOVE SOS (WWW): Justice have shared an otherworldly and brutal video for Love S.O.S. from their recently released album, Woman Worldwide, on which the duo recorded revitalized versions of their songs based on the metamorphoses they underwent over the past several years of touring. Directed by Edouard Salier (who previously directed Justice’s Civilization, plus Atlas Air and Splitting The Atom for Massive Attack and I’m Aquarius for Metronomy), the cinematic video is the story of a bodybuilder pole-dancing in a cage in a bizarre, futuristic nightclub when everything abruptly goes off the rails. Speaking about the video, Salier commented: “Xavier and Gaspard wanted Love S.O.S to be sexy, strange and brutal. The song is sweaty and weeping; the visuals needed to illustrate this and to be as beautiful as they are disturbing. I wanted the spectator of the video to find themselves in the same voyeuristic position as the audience attending the show: first, to find ourselves fascinated by the performance of the pole dance, then surprised and hypnotized by its outcome.” The video is, indeed, striking by virtue of the way it lulls you into a false sense of security, before dropping its brutal, violent finale. As such, it reminded me of a Gaspar Noe style of filmmaking. The song, too, is just as striking, wallowing in the synth-pop elements we’ve come to love from Justice, compelte with sweeping falsetto vocals that manage to combine retro ’80s elements with something futuristic and empowering. It’s the complete package.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Guy Sigsworth

GUY SIGSWORTHNIRAI KANAI: Over the past 20 years, Guy Sigsworth has helped shape some of the most iconic music of our generation (from Madonna to Imogen Heap via Robyn and Alanis Morissette). For the first time, the man behind the music steps into the limelight with the announcement of his first solo studio album, stet, out on Mercury KX on March 8, 2019. The first taster is this new single, Nirai Kanai, which is as mellow, beautiful and cinematic as you can get. As an album as a whole, stet sees Sigsworth drawing on his roots as a harpsichordist and composer, resulting in a collection of lush, sinuously arranged electronic compositions that suggest the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, the ground-breaking work of Björk, and the otherworldly soundscapes of Vangelis. Nirai Kanai feels more like a Sakamoto composition, with a hint of Japanese influence to it. The harpsichord is bittersweet, yet compelling. And while the pace is sedate, and the beats barely there until late on, the song still has a trance-like quality to it that makes it highly cinematic. It’s as polished and stylish a solo piece of work as we’ve come to expect from Sigsworth – and it makes us very excited for what remains on the new LP.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Peter, Bjorn and John

PETER, BJORN AND JOHNONE FOR THE TEAM: Peter, Bjorn and John have released the first three singles – One For The Team, Every Other Night and Gut Feeling – from forthcoming new studio album, Darker Days, due October 19. The new album really is The Story Of 3, as each band member took the reins both in writing and production for their songs, while staying connected by the central theme and musician. The breezy One For The Team is a catchy, breezy slice of soul-pop that truly reflects Peter’s love for old-school soul. It’s designed to reflect some of Peter’s influences, from Al Green to The Jackson 5, and has that effortlessly danceable vibe to it. It’s a genuinely positive listen. Says Peter: “It’s a pep-talk sort of song. A positive call to arms really. It’s been a ‘bumpy ride’ as the song says. But the good thing you’ve found together is really worth fighting for, especially after all this time. We really ARE stronger together. We all GAIN from helping each other out. We CAN’T make it ourselves. At least not as good or as vigorous. All very corny but also all very true, most of the time. And the title is kind of corny, too, but I love calling a song One For The Team.” It will, like this message suggests, put a smile on your face no matter how bad your day has been!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Peter, Bjorn and John

PETER, BJORN AND JOHNEVERY OTHER NIGHT: The third of Peter, Bjorn and John’s three new singles, Every Other Night – from forthcoming new studio album, Darker Days, is the darkest of the trio. An echoed, atmospheric guitar riff underpins things here, albeit offset with another set of brisk beats and a set of vocals that err towards the falsetto. However, there’s a sense of regret in lyrics that find the trio singing about “kicking myself” in both the morning and the night, as if reflecting on those missed opportunities. It’s more thought-provoking, in that regard, but still retains an infectious energy that is very Peter, Bjorn and John. Explains John: “This song is about what’s keeping you awake between the midnight hour and the hour of the wolf. It’s like a warning sign in neon letters. Sonically, it’s a homage to my indie-pop/rock-heroes and the opposite of the snappy arrangements on our previous album (Breakin’ Point). What you hear is just the three of us, Peter on guitar, Bjorn on bass and me on drums and vocals.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Crystal Fighters, Another Level

CRYSTAL FIGHTERSANOTHER LEVEL: Crystal Fighters latest offering is the highly contagious Another Level, taken from the soundtrack to FIFA 19. As such, it’s hardly surprising to find a samba-style ryhthmn throughout, as well as the sort of tic a tac style that conjures memories of Spanish football at its best. What’s more, it’s celebratory, feel-good and utterly anthemic. There’s “oh my my” harmonies, chant-worthy choruses, rousing back-beats and chiming electronic sounds reverberating throughout. It’s designed to inspire and energise and it does just that. And with deliriously feel-good lyrics such as “got me going like a hot volcano”, it’s aiming to trigger a sense of fun that’s difficult to resist. Hence, while FIFA players may well rise to the occasion in scoring goals and playing the beautiful game as it was intended whenever the track drops, this transcends that medium to offer a genuine blast of summer sunshine music to dispel the grey clouds of autumn as they approach.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kandace Springs

KANDACE SPRINGSBREAKDOWN: Singer and pianist Kandace Springs has released her second album Indigo (Blue Note), a 13-track LP of originals and choice covers that showcases the full breadth of Kandace’s artistry from smoldering R&B (People Make the World Go ‘Round) to gorgeous jazz ballads (Unsophisticated featuring Roy Hargrove) to the pop songcraft of Breakdown and Don’t Need The Real Thing. If anything, new single Breakdown is a ballad. It’s a tender listen, expertly delivered, to showcase the true emotional depth of Springs’ soulful vocals. There’s subtle back-beats, tender piano arrangements and a stark, almost sombre vocal that pleads with the listener: “Don’t you breakdown on me”, before adding: “I’m going to need you now.” As if to showcase the breadth of Springs’ songwriting ambition, there’s even a gospel element added towards the middle section of the track, which only serves to make the sentiments on show more stirring. It’s a classy, highly cinematic offering that only endears this singer to us even more.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ivory Wave, Frankie

IVORY WAVEFRANKIE: Birmingham’s party provocateurs Ivory Wave have dropped a retro-tinged blast of indie pop in the form of Frankie. Formed of George, Connor, Luke, Rob and Seb, the band have become known for their hooks and good vibes to boot – and Frankie certainly drops more of those. There’s a swagger in the vocal delivery that’s reminiscent of indie stalwarts such as Liam Gallagher and Shaun Ryder, with an overall vibe that feels like Happy Mondays combined with Flowered Up (circa Weekender), with a little Hard-Fi thrown in. As such, fans of the ’90s indie scene should definitely rush to check this one out, for an old-school fix. But there’s plenty to recommend it to more contemporary listeners, too, with vibrant beats, slick hooks and an exuberantly brash chorus that’s tailor-made for singing along to. It could put them on a lot of people’s radar. Ivory Wave are clearly a band on the rise. They’re dropping Frankie fresh from sets at festivals such as Tramlines and Truck Festival, as well as Birmingham’s SHIIINE ON Weekender. What’s more, they have just supported The DMA’s by personal invitation.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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