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Music - Singles of the week - Monday, October 28, 2013

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

Robbie Boyd, Under My Skin

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: ROBBIE BOYDUNDER MY SKIN: Robbie Boyd, minus his band, drops quite possibly his best single to date with Under My Skin, and shows off a fuller, more stadium-leaning sound. The guitars are vibrant, the chorus celebratory and some of the melodic structure akin to a great Coldplay chorus. Boyd’s own troubadour tendencies are evident during the verses, which showcase his usual charm and general pleasantness, but the chorus really explodes to life with tight harmonies, sing-along qualities and a euphoric sweep that leaves a smile on your face. It’s a real crowd-pleaser and deserves to be a massive hit. Elsewhere, there are acoustic versions of Front Page News (average), Dreamland (slightly melancholy but still sweet) and Under My Skin (good).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Travis, Mother

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: TRAVISMOTHER: From their Top 3 album Where You Stand, Travis bring in the Autumn with a brand new offering; Mother, on their own relaunched label Red Telephone Box via Kobalt Label Services. Written by the band and produced by Michael Ilbert (The Hives/The Cardigans/The Wannadies), this new track is a beautifully textured example of the band’s fine melodic songcraft, uplifting and heartfelt. The track initially unfolds amid a subtle electronic pulse and some intricate guitar licks before blossoming into beautiful life not long after the minute mark. It’s then, with pianos, drums and a more vibrant acoustic sound, that you remember why you fell in love with Travis in the first place, as well as a lush chorus that finds Fran Healey channelling Bono complete with harmonious backing vocals. It’s just a really great, inspiring listen. The accompanying video, directed by the band, was shot all in one day in New York on the new IPhone 5s. As always Travis bring humour to proceedings with each member of the band being called by Travis “fixer” (renowned German film director Wolfgang Becker (Good Bye Lenin!) reprising his role from the Another Guy video) to play a sold out show that night.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Robert Glasper Experiment

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT feat JILL SCOTTCALLS: Given that the Robert Glasper Experiment release their new album, Black Radio 2 today, we thought it appropriate to check in with what must surely rate as one of its highlights. Calls, featuring Jill Scott, is a supremely slick slice of soul and R’n’B that is made for the late night crowd. Scott positively purrs over the vocals, while the lush background of smooth beats and electronics makes for a chilled out, soulful backdrop that washes over you in effortlessly satisfying fashion. The song is also backed by a striking video. Indeed, there’s nothing about the song that isn’t classy. Further collaborators on the LP include Common, Anthony Hamilton, Snoop Dogg and Lupe Fiasco and Emeli Sande.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Rhodes, Raise Your Love EP

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: RHODESRUN: Rhodes releases his debut EP Raise Your Love via Hometown Records. Recorded with Charlie Fink (Noah and the Whale) and James Kenosha, the EP’s four tracks showcase Rhodes’ trademark haunting vocals draped around a plaintive electric guitar backdrop. The lead track is Run, a brooding slow-builder of a track that really lays down a serious marker of quality. Begining in fairly stripped back (and yes, haunted) fashion, this slowly builds into something that resonates emotionally, combining both a beautiful sweep and a powerful grip on your attention. The Sunday Times recently wrote of Rhodes that his material is “built on the most fragile of foundations, Rhodes’s music is little more than a keening voice and electric guitar; the results are so heartfelt and laid-bare, listening to them can feel like an intrusion”. We’re fans!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sand

SANDCLAY: North Atlantic Oscillation’s Sam Healy releases his first album as Sand on KScope on November 4th. The first single, Clay is released as a free download today (Monday, October 28). The album itself is marked by melodic passages and conventional pop structures that are are framed by striking changes in dynamics, to create a dramatic sonic palette which ranges from the barely audible to wildly loud and back again, often within the same track. Clay provides ample evidence of that… beginning in fairly conventional style with thumping beats, falsetto tinged vocals and brazen guitars (for something likeably euphoric) before suddenly changing pace and coming over a little trippy and orchestral towards the end. It is, nevertheless, a great track and a tantalising taster of what to expect from the rest of the album.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Gaz Coombes, Buffalo

GAZ COOMBESBUFFALO: in preparation for his forthcoming November church tour dates (including London’s Union Chapel), Gaz Coombes has been back in the studio working on his upcoming second solo album. With the new material quickly emerging, the first track to be taken from the sessions is Buffalo, which is for sale on digital and limited edition 7” vinyl formats now (before impacting on December 2). Built around some sombre piano arrangements and a slow-build, layered approach, this finds Coombes in moody, ultra serious mood. It’s cinematic in scope, especially as the song gains momentum. But sadly, for my money, it’s at its most effective when keeping things a little more restrained and intimate. Hence, the first half strikes a bigger emotional clout than the second, which reminded me more of artists like Martin Grech.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Silver Seas

THE SILVER SEASROXY: The Silver Seas release a new single, Roxy on The Lights label via EMI and continue to endear. Co-written with Josh Rouse, the track is taken from their fourth album, Alaska, which was released earlier this year to rave reviews. The track was recorded at Middletree Studios, East Nashville and produced by Joe Pisapia (K.D. Lang, Ben Folds Five). It boasts tight melodies, the odd epic guitar lick, winsome vocals and a classic sensibility that sweeps you along in its folk-country-rock vibe. The chorus is particularly tight and easy to enjoy. A love song set in London’s Camden Town Roxy is “about love realized too late”. “It’s a ‘one that got away’ kind of song I wrote with Josh Rouse over Skype,” says singer Daniel Tashien. “Two different continents, two guitars, one moment, one song. I imagined I was Suzanne Vega when I sang the outro.” Josh Rouse adds: “Daniel is my favourite co-writer and this is a great pop tune written over Skype!”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Foxes, Youth

FOXESYOUTH: “Don’t tell me our youth is running out… it’s only just begin” – so sings Foxes over re-issued track Youth. The ensuing track combines throbbing synth lines and big beats, as well as bittersweet vocals, that are geared firmly towards both the dancefloor and the radio. Foxes, aka Louisa Rose Allen, has taken her time getting the track out (and there have been a number of false starts), but her profile is high thanks to vocal work for Rudimental and Zedd. She now seems perfectly poised to make her own assault on the charts and Youth is an emphatic statement of intent.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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One Direction, Story of my Life

ONE DIRECTIONSTORY OF MY LIFE: The One Direction success story looks set to roll on with the release of new single Story Of My Life, one of those power ballad moments designed to make their fanbase swoon. In verse form, it’s stripped back and full of yearning lyrics such as “I’ve been waiting for this time to come around, but baby running after you is like chasing the clouds”. The chorus, meanwhile, aims for the euphoric and is certain to deliver the goods to their fans. As ever with One Direction, though, it does have that overly produced vibe that accompanies many an X-Factor or Simon Cowell or Gary Barlow backed record. Hence, while catchy, it’s also fairly standard for this kind of thing. The song is taken from the album Midnight Memories.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Balconies

THE BALCONIESTHE SLO: Canadian rockers The Balconies return to the UK following their critically acclaimed closing night show at Brighton’s Great Escape this summer with new single The Slo’. The track simmers with heavy rock energy and yearning lyrics, combining a snarling rock vibe with moments of poise. There’s traces of punk and alt-rock (Paramore) in the sound, with the yearning female vocals providing a gutsy focal point and the punchy guitars delivering some blistering solos. It’s a powerful effort that should continue to get them noticed on these shores. Evolving from a pop punk three-piece into a fully-grown rock band has made a sweeping difference to The Balconies’ sound. Gritted teeth, batting eyelashes, sweaty headbands and a pinch of 80s hair metal flair make this band a four-headed leather-clad Rock’n‘Roll monster. With Jacquie at the helm, backed by the rippling rhythms of Liam, Stephen, and new drummer Theo, The Balconies continue to steamroll unsuspecting crowds throughout Europe and continental North America – doing it heavier and dirtier each night.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Skaters, Deadbolt

SKATERSDEADBOLT: After the release of their debut single I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How) and sets at this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals, New York City’s Skaters now release Deadbolt as its gutsy follow-up. Imploring the listener to “give me one more try” (as much as the object of their affection), this careers along in no-nonsense fashion, combining punk-rock and garage elements to slick effect and drawing some comparisons to the likes of Billy Idol and Arctic Monkeys. The verses ooze menace, while the choruses drop in some telling melodies to suggest they have what it takes to combine underground edge with mainstream appeal. The band’s debut album will be released on February 24, 2014 on Warner Bros. Records. You can expect them to feature on a fair few ‘ones to watch’ lists as the new year approaches.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Wanted, Show Me Love (America)

THE WANTEDSHOW ME LOVE (AMERICA): It’s the battle of the boy bands this week. Going head to head with One Direction may not seem like the best of ideas for any band but The Wanted seem to have confidence in their own abilities to deliver a power-pop ballad capable of being a trans-Atlantic smash. This is an earnest offering, tight on harmonies, big on orchestral sweep, high on yearning (“all you had to do was show me love”) and the odd falsetto high. It’s slickly produced (as all good boy band tracks tend to be) and aims for the euphoric. But rather like One Direction’s offering, it’s sometimes a little too slick and finely packaged for its own good. And this one, especially, seems to wear its soundtrack filling (or sports montage) aspirations on its sleeve.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Forest, Caramel Arms EP

FORESTCARAMEL ARMS EP: Forest release their latest EP, titled Caramel Arms, as a limited edition colour 10”. A thought-filled collection of four fuzzed-out indie tracks, the session was completed in their home town of Cambridge, and contains a lively sense of energy that sweeps the listener along. Coaster combines shoegaze elements with an almost punk element at times, dropping catchy hooks and a snappy chorus. But perhaps a little better is the trippy 99, which has a blissfully breezy quality about it, some quirky electronic loops and plenty of ‘sunshine’ references that make it a leftfield summer anthem in waiting. Warm Tyres slows down the pace a little, and delves into proper shoegaze territory, and is delivered by guitarist Peter Liddard (who also penned the song). The journey is then completed with a melting pot of lo-fi fuzz showing the growing disillusion and frustration on Oh. Overall, it’s an enjoyable listen if you’re into both indie and shoegaze anthems, although a cleaner, crisper sound going forward may well broaden their appeal still further.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Neon Windbreaker

NEON WINDBREAKERNEW SKY EP: The best thing you can say about some songs is that they’re mercifully short. Toronto five-piece Neon Windbreaker claim to tread a spidery line between noise-rock abandon and melodic structure. Well, the abandon is definitely there, as is the noise. We’re not to sure on the melodic structure. This is an abrasive, uninhibited collection of rock and punk inflicted songs that crash their way in and out of your subconscious in under seven and a half minutes, yet fail to deliver anything noteworthy. We could name the songs, but seeing as none really standout, it’s hardly worth it. If you like your sound confrontational, your songs shouted, then this ticks those boxes. Or, to be more specific, Neon Windbreaker’s sound falls somewhere between the smart punk of METZ, the progressive noise of The Jesus Lizard and the chaos of Blood Brothers. They have toured the US and Canada with the likes of Pissed Jeans, Male Bonding and This Will Destroy You. I felt destroyed, personally, after being assaulted by it.
Rating: 1 out of 5

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