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Music - Singles of the week - Monday, February 9, 2015

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

Imagine Dragons, I Bet My Life

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: IMAGINE DRAGONS – I BET MY LIFE: Imagine Dragons return in emphatic form with the empowering I Bet My Life. Taken from the album, Smoke + Mirrors, this is a slow-built to sweeping epic track that recalls some of the folk-rock tendencies of classic Mumford & Sons with a pop sweep capable of drawing fans from most music genres. Written and produced by Imagine Dragons (with additional production by Alex Da Kid), the album itself is said to use the frenetic energy of life on the road to infuse the band’s music with both raw tension and intense vulnerability. And this is evident in I Bet My Life, which kicks off amid soothing vocal harmonies, uncertain lyrics such as “I know I took the path that you would never want for me, I know I let you down tonight” and handclap beats and acoustic guitar licks, before hitting its stride with a massive chorus and an emotional sweep that’s truly inspiration. Welcome back boys, this is terrific – as is the Dane DeHaan featuring video.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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The Subways, Taking All The Blame

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE SUBWAYSTAKING THE BLAME: The Subways release their eponympous fourth album on the same day as this new single, Taking The Blame, and, in doing so, unveil one of its highlights. A barnstormer, the track drops an insanely addictive drum beat and some crazy-good melodies. It’s a riot of energy and likeability, especially when the boy-girl vocals drop all over the chorus, which rates among the album’s very best (and that’s saying something). The Subways marks a new phase for the band, for having previously worked with legendary producers on their first three albums (Stephen Street, Butch Vig and Ian Broudie), lead singer Billy Lunn has taken on full engineering, production and mixing responsibility. The result is intended not to be over-thought or over produced – just direct and utterly thrilling (like this single).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Conrad Vingoe

CONRAD VINGOEFAIL: Award-winning songwriter Conrad Vingoe lends his characteristic touch to a new folk-tinged collection of songs on forthcoming new album Tomorrow, Then. Working with legendary producer/engineer Phill Brown (Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, John Martyn, Bombay Bicycle Club) and recorded live to tape in two days, this album bursts with vitality, stripping back the clutter to reveal simple honesty and musicianship with a no-gimmick approach. The first taster is new single Fail, a rousing folk-rocker that combines ear-pleasing melodicism with bittersweet lyrics about the risk of failure and its potential effects. Inspite of the doubt and vulnerability inherent, throughout, there’s also a sense of optimism that makes the track quietly empowering and totally endearing. This already feels like a classic song and bodes extremely well for the remainder of the album. Says Vingoe himself of the track: “[It] just sort of fell out… I like the sense of urgency we captured on the recording. It’s possibly the most literal and autobiographical song on the album.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Nash Albert, When I'm Not Around

NASH ALBERTWHEN I’M NOT AROUND/CITY IS BURNING: Introducing Nash Albert – a singer-songwriter and musician from Tbilisi, Georgia, a country with a rich musical tradition, and birthplace of several other successful acts including Katie Melua. Currently living in Moscow, Nash started playing music behind the iron curtain in the underground scene, influenced by smuggled-in rock & roll records. At his first opportunity he left the (then still) USSR and moved to America where he honed his musical skills playing in various bands whilst working menial jobs. He has since formed his own band, Blast Unit Moscow, and has now struck out on his own. The first fruits of that labour is the double-A sided When I’m Not Around/City Is Burning EP, in which you can clearly hear the influence of indie and rock ‘n’ roll. Built around some tight guitar hooks and a sound reminiscent of classic rock acts like Tom Petty, the Stones and even Lou Reed (sometimes vocally), this is a rollicking taster of the forthcoming LP, Rude Beggar, which is due for release on March 9, 2015. When I’m Not Around boasts a great ragged rock feel, some nice background organs and a chorus that’s both catchy and full of harmony. It’s arguably the pick of the two. But City Is Burning is more moody, robust and edgy, chronicling the idea of revolution and its effects on its people. The chorus, though, opens up into something more resolutely radio friendly and toe-tappingly catchy (albeit with a melancholy undertow that claims “our hearts are all broken”). Albert has edge as both singer and songwriter and the forthcoming album should be well worth a listen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Charli XCX, Doing It

CHARLI XCX feat RITA ORADOING IT: Having impressed with recent singles, we have to confess that Charli XCX’s latest offering, Doing It, is a ltitle underwhelming. Produced by Charli’s long-time friend Ariel Rechtshaid (of Beyoncé, HAIM fame) and Mr. Rogers, the track has been described as a Madonna-tinged, feel-good anthem that finds the Charli/Rita collaboration bringing girl power into full force. However, it’s this ‘80s influence/early Madonna feel that perhaps leaves it wanting. We’d been expecting something a little grittier and perhaps urban influenced (given Ora’s presence). Instead, it’s full of sugary-sweet melodies and hooks, cheesy elements and a Capital FM endorsed vibe that feels both generic and dated. It’s OK for a few listens but unlike some of Charli XCX’s recent material (most notably Boom Clap), this is disappointing.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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The Districts, Peaches

THE DISTRICTSPEACHES: The Districts will release their new single, Peaches, on the same day (February 9) as their new album A Flourish And A Spoil. Produced/engineered/mixed with John Congleton (St Vincent, Angel Olsen, Swans) A Flourish And A Spoil is designed to capture the energy of the band’s boisterous live performances. Hence, the single Peaches packs a punch with its raucous rhythm and lead singer/guitarist Rob Grote’s rasping vocals firmly front and centre. It has a post-punk, almost Strokesian vibe in places, with Grote’s lived-in, gruff vocal style providing a compelling centre-point, especially when picking up the pace over the blistering chorus. The guitars, meanwhile, rattle along and lend the track a tremendous energy. It’s rousing stuff and well worth checking out.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Alex Burey

ALEX BUREYINSIDE WORLD: Written and self-produced at his home studio, Alex Burey’s Inside World EP is billed as a kaleidoscopic introduction to ‘a brave new musical force’. Lifting effortlessly from diverse musical worlds – 70’s psychedelic soul, sun-kissed folk-rock and jazz fusion to name just a few – Alex’s songwriting sits gently in its warm cloak of production as he confides stories from the fringes of London life. The title track Inside World manages to be both psychedelic and jazz-influenced, striking up a lazy beat and some trippy/barely there vocals that both absorb and frustrate. Hence, while there’s something that’s certainly distinct about the sound, the track itself never really takes flight and ends up being more frustrating than inspiring. The Intimidator is the same… opening with a ticking clock that is then emulated by the central guitar lick and another breathy vocal that evokes more ‘70s psychedelic soul and European cinematic elements. Again, it’s interesting but far from compelling.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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A Place To Bury Strangers, We've Come So Far

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS – WE’VE COME SO FAR: A Place To Bury Strangers release the second single to be released from their forthcoming LP, Transfixation (out February 23) in the form of the pile-driving We’ve Come So Far. The track is being hailed as a blistering all out explosion of sound that is possibly the closest the band has ever come to capturing the energy of their live performances in a recording. Guitarist/single Oliver Ackermann says of the song: “The lyrics were written by themselves. The meaning is absolute truth. Life is super intense and fucked up so even accomplishing anything is a huge feat. We should all be proud of that. When we have worked extremely hard for something for so long it is just amazing to look back on it all. Sometimes I just want to shake people for feeling useless. There is so much potential and amazing things going on all around. Help make something great for us all to enjoy. We’ve Come So Far has an endless building feeling which mimics life.” In our opinion, only part of this is true [the latter sentiment about life]. Otherwise, this is an unrelenting wall of noise that never allows you to catch breath, struggling to drop a hook worth latching onto, or even a set of lyrics worth singing or raging along to. It batters you and leaves you drained.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Faerground Accidents, She Makes Me Want To Die

FAERGROUND ACCIDENTSSHE MAKES ME WANT TO DIE: A bit of a feel-bad listen (“she tells me lousy/she makes me want to die”), the new single from Faerground Accidents is the story of a relationship breaking up, of explosive arguments at 3am, of being pushed almost to the brink by the pervasive toxicity of the situation. But in place of bleak reflection the track is driven by kinetic, agressive and infectious energy that’s evocative of the early Brit Pop style of Suede and Pulp, underpinned by the influences of Bowie and Soft Cell. The result is certainly different in the sense that it juxtaposes misery with upbeat instrumental tendencies to take-notice effect. But it’s a bit of an acquired taste given the subject matter. Hence, while the instrumentals (and guitars especially) are strong, the song itself still suffers from downbeat lyrics and vocals that aren’t much better. An oddity for sure, and certainly interesting, this probably has to rate as an honourable failure.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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