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Music - Singles of the week - Monday, May 18, 2015

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

Sia, Big Girls Cry

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: SIABIG GIRLS CRY: Having massively impressed with former single Elastic Heart, Sia now releases Big Girls Cry as her latest offering. And it’s a typicalling enchanting affair, showcasing another set of terrific vocals and more impeccable production details. A slower, more mid-tempo record than Elastic Heart (and its striking beats), this employs more minimalist back-beats and piano chords as Sia spins a tale of heartbreak and fragility. The track does build momentum the longer it lasts, hitting some soaring highs late on as Sia’s vocals help it to soar. It’s a beautiful mid-tempo ballad that finds Sia in scintillating form. And there’s another equally striking video to accompany it.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Malka, I Never Needed Love

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: MALKA – I NEVER NEEDED LOVE: “I’ve crossed the line on many occasions,” sings Malka in chirpy/dreamy fashion during one verse of new single I Never Needed Love. It’s indicative of the upbeat manner in which she resolutely declares that she has done with romance. And yet, there’s a bittersweet undertow that suggests she could be swayed otherwise. Nevertheless, thanks to its sweet melodies, toe-tapping handclap beats, easygoing harmonies and robust backing drums, this is a joyful record that almost effortlessly leaves you with a smile on your face – combining the alt-pop with the slightly ethereal. It’s a neat combination and nicely pulled off. We like Malka a lot. And don’t bet against hearing the track on a soundtrack to something like Grey’s Anatomy soon – it has that kind of vibe to it too.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Southern, Lone Driver

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: SOUTHERNLONE DRIVER: Belfast’s Thom and Lucy Southern follow the buzz of their early singles with Lone Driver, the first single proper from their forthcoming (and as-yet untitled) debut record (out this summer). It’s a bass-driven, thumping four minutes of soaring harmonized indie rock that boasts more than a passing resemblance (instrumentally) with classic Beck. Written and fronted by Thom, Lone Driver draws on a tale of exclusion and separation. It’s a song with plenty of heart and soul, delivered with a passion that Southern are quickly becoming renowned for. What’s more, it’s tailor-made for playing loud on a long summer drive (possibly by the coast). The guitar work is exemplary, while the boy-girl vocals offer a nice contrast. The epic chorus, meanwhile, builds towards the type of anthemic sound that has come to typify acts like U2. The track is produced by Mark Rankin (Queens Of The Stone Age, Bombay Bicycle Club) who is also working on the album with the band.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Laura Marling

LAURA MARLING – GURDJIEFF’S DAUGHTER: Laura Marling has long been considered one of the most talented singer-songwriters in the UK folk scene. Her latest single, Gurdjieff’s Daughter, is further evidence of how she is able to marry intelligent lyricism with strong instrumentation. Indeed, the folk here is almost rock-like in its delivery, with Marling delivering some rousing guitar work. If anything, it’s the vocals that let it down somewhat – her sometimes dreamy, sometimes more straight-forward storytelling style of delivery not quite keeping up with the speed of that guitar work. Hence, for all of its toe-tapping qualities, the song sometimes feels forced and emerges as one of Marling’s least compelling offerings for some time. Somehow, her obvious talent still remains intact though.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Paul Weller, Saturns Pattern

PAUL WELLERSATURNS PATTERN: Admittedly, this single – and title track – from Paul Weller’s latest LP was released last week as a two-track download. But it’s worth checking out (as we overlooked it) as this shows Weller is bang on form as he prepares to drop his latest long-player. Mixing elements of upbeat pop with some trippy, psychedelic tendencies, this also drops in a livewire chorus that invites you to “get up”. The psychedelic elements are a nice touch but they don’t get in the way of the melodies, while the guitars are as bright and lively as ever. The track was written by Weller with the music co-written by regular sound-desk collaborator Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert. Contributing to this bright and breezy mod-sermon that slips off into a mighty reprise are Paul’s touring band compadres, Ben Gordelier and Andy Crofts (also from The Moons) on drums and keyboards respectively, with Weller band drummer Steve Pilgrim popping up on ear-catching backing vocals.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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October Drift, You Are, You Are

OCTOBER DRIFTYOU ARE, YOU ARE: Rising quartet October Drift deliver their second single in the form of You Are, You Are, a rousing rock anthem that is driven by distortion heavy guitars and atmospheric vocals. It’s a track that bears reasonable comparison with artists like Doves and Editors instrumentally, with a little more Echo & The Bunnymen in the vocals. It’s the guitars, however, that look set to get this particular track noticed – you can well imagine them hitting some deafening walls of sound when played live. The video that accompanies the track was delivered in one continuous shot. It sees the track’s message immortalised through one character who finds himself completely lost in time and thought, self-destructing against a barren and chilling landscape as the band’s synth lines soar.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Mika, Talk About You

MIKATALK ABOUT YOU: Talk About You, the lead single from Mika’s forthcoming new album No Place In Heaven, is another of those impossibly upbeat slices of pop that the artist seems to specialise in. Written by Mika himself with Grammy nominated producer Gregg Wells (Katy Perry, Pharrell), this is rife with bright piano chords, slick beats and a keen mix of vocal styles, with the chorus hitting some falsetto highs as he declares “you’re the only one I want to talk about”. It’s an ode to being in love and fixated in a world of indifference towards others and boasts one of those vibrant choruses that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Scissor Sisters record (and yes, there’s that glam rock element attached too). Expect Mika’s return to the mainstream to be every bit as big as his previous work.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Andrea Balency, Simone

ANDREA BALENCYSIMONE: If dream-like vocals married to subtle beats are your thing, then get a load of Andrea Balency’s new single, Simone. Boasting a truly heart-melting vocal style (think Lamb), the track also unfolds over looped drum samples and synthesizer flourishes that lend it something of an ethereal feel. It’s delicately poised, always threatening to burst more into life, yet keeping itself restrained and all the more satisfying. Balency, meanwhile, allows her vocals to reach some impossibly angelic highs… her breathless harmonising late on guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine. Trust us, Simone is well worth checking out – making it easy to see why Balency is currently so in-demand in industry circles.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Panic Island, Cabin Fever

PANIC ISLANDCABIN FEVER EP: Mixing angst with anger and frustration London-based duo Panic Island have created a debut EP produced by Paul Tipler (Idlewild, The Horrors, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster) that channels some of their guitar-based influences, whether it’s The Cult or 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster. Opener We Start Fires is particularly Cult-ish, with a driving chorus and some gritty, egy guitar riffs that lean towards the anthemic. Temples opens with the type of siren-like guitar riff that Editors would admire, before then piling on a more 80s alt-rock sound that’s equally powerful (even if the verse structure slightly underwhelms ahead of the big chorus). And City Screams is another big, pile-driving anthem with the type of guitar sound that ZZ Top fans might like to check out. It’s just a shame, then, that the track can’t quite build on that early momentum all the way through. Indeed, while Panic Island do deliver big choruses and smart guitar sounds, they perhaps need a little more work on the verses to their songs, as these sometimes drag them back to the average.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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We-Are-Z, Walkaway

WE ARE Z – WALKAWAY: We-Are-Z drop their second single in the form of Walkaway, an off-kilter punk funk fuelled with tribal drums, quirky electronic beats and surreal lyrics, all coming together to create this original wonk pop sound. Walkaway is about taking a journey into the recesses of consciousness, exploring perceptions and angles that don’t add up. “What’s up with my senses? / Am I ‘hot’ in these dresses? You tell me I’m worthless / What’s up with your jesus? / I’m cheap and I’m faithless / I’m lost, but I’m graced… yes!” like wearing a blindfold and having no clue where you stand, or where to turn to next. About invisibility, vulnerability, paranoia and a reluctant, yet transformation. It’s another of this week’s records that shares something in common with the style of Daft Punk, not to mention Erasure or even Bronski Beat. And while certainly off-kilter, there’s something oddly catchy and compelling about it too. A guilty pleasure that really comes alive during its guitar solo.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Heard a great single, but yet to buy it? Well, we may have reviewed it. Previous reviews: