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Music - Singles of the week - Monday, December 15, 2014

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

Coldplay, Miracles

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: COLDPLAYMIRACLES: Coldplay drop a suitably empowering single as their contribution to the soundtrack for Angelina Jolie’s new film, Unbroken. Built around catchy finger click beats, jangly guitars and vocals that drift between the serene and the falsetto, this is one of those types of anthems-in-waiting that have become something of a speciality for Chris Martin and company. That is to say, there’s a slow-build towards a heady emotional sweep, complete with a massive chorus that just gets bigger and bigger the longer the track lasts. Added to that, the guitars eventually become grittier and more electric, the “woo-hoo”s are cranked up a notch (complete with ‘yeah, yeah, yeahs’) and the pianos weave their way in and out with an effortless brightness. It’s one of Coldplay’s better recent tracks and pitch-perfect for the kind of inspirational tale that lies behind Jolie’s movie (the life story of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini).
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Dalton

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: DALTONONLY NAMES: Dalton is Nate Harar, a scuffed-up American dreamer on the very cusp of releasing his first record in the UK. Only Names is that debut single and it’s a subtle, slow-burning introduction to what he has to offer. Like much of the rest of his imminent debut album – due on Fierce Panda next February – Only Names captures the anti-rock ethos of the Dalton sound: it’s brooding yet melodic and somehow entrancing. Opening amid some hefty drum and glockenspiel beats, the track then drops a set of vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sigur Ros or recent Arcade Fire record. There’s a big, broad, cinematic kind of sound to it, too, that while certainly empowering, could also be labelled ethereal. You can almost anticipate its use on a soundtrack moment soon. You can hear that Nate Harar has heard ‘The Big Music’ but has decided to deflate it with a lo-fi sensibility and some simple melodies and thoughtful instrumental layering too.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mark Ronson feat Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk

MARK RONSON feat BRUNO MARSUPTOWN FUNK: With a name like Uptown Funk you’d expect the new track from Mark Ronson to deliver on the cool factor. And the producer doesn’t disappoint. Featuring lead vocals from Bruno Mars, this feels like a mix between James Brown and early Michael Jackson, with a little of signature Mars thrown in. Followers of Ronson’s previous material will know that he can deliver a kick-ass funk tune that sounds both retro and contemporary and he repeats the trick here, delivering the kind of track that is designed to get you dancing and gyrating. It’s perhaps not as killer a tune as some of Ronson’s very best work but it does what it says on the tin in suitably enjoyable fashion.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Justin Townes Earle, Call Ya Momma

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLECALL YA MOMMA: Fresh off the success of his recently released album, Single Mothers, Justin Townes Earle announced the companion album, Absent Fathers to be released January 12, 2015. Also comprised of 10 tracks, Absent Fathers was recorded alongside Single Mothers as a double album, but as Justin began to sequence it, he felt each half needed to make its own statement and they took on their own identities. The first single to emerge from this latest work is Call Ya Momma, a thoughtful observation on a difficult family dynamic, delivered amid some strong rock-country guitars and dusky vocals (“shame, shame, I wanted to cry shame; goodbye is all we’ve left to say”). There’s a desperation and desolation to the lyrics that smacks of a man no longer being able to cope and having to find solace with a mother. And yet, for all of its harder hitting elements and lyrical honesty, there’s a toe-tapping quality about the instrumentation that prevents the song from completely bringing you down with it. The albums were recorded live with his four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players – just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Johnny Marr

JOHNNY MARRDYNAMO: Johnny Marr releases Dynamo as the second single from his latest album, Playland. Produced by Johnny Marr and his regular collaborator Doviak, Dynamo was the second song that was written for inclusion on the album and will be available on digital and vinyl formats. “It’s one of my favourite riffs that I’ve ever written,” says the singer. “The verses are similar to that early ‘80s angular sound but then it turns into something like a post-punk Beach Boys.” Inspired by the sight of an architecturally stunning building that Marr saw while on tour in Harlem as well as by London’s Gherkin which overlooked the studio for some of the album’s recording, Dynamo is a love song for a building which features phrases informed by Le Corbusier and acts as a metaphor for a more personal relationship. The aforementioned guitar riff is a real firecracker, enlivening the track whenever it’s unleashed, while the choruses are big and shot through with indie-rock melodies. It boasts a big, brash sound that is as dynamic as its name suggests – and one that looks set to make the track a firm fan favourite.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sia, You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

SIA – YOU’RE NEVER FULLY DRESSED WITHOUT A SMILE: Sia drops You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile from the soundtrack to Will Gluck’s remake of Annie. And true to her current form, it manages to combine a big pop sound (ie, mainstream friendly) with some of the more indie elements that first brought her to attention. It’s suitably empowering and happy-go-lucky, designed as it is to put that smile on your face and make you dance while doing so. The chorus is big, bright and breezy, the beats lively and the synth arrangements suitably bright and livewire. The chorus, meanwhile, is tailor-made for singing along with. Having once been known for her work with Zero 7, Sia has emerged as one of the biggest artists of the moment and this is evidence of why she has been able to enjoy such a meteoric rise. She’s able to appeal to the masses without totally compromising the things that helped get her recognised in the first place – and those vocals remain a dynamic focal point.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ben Howard

BEN HOWARDCONRAD: Ben Howard has re-released Conrad from his critically-acclaimed new album, I Forget Where We Are (the follow-up to Kingdom) and reminds people of why his latest collection of work has been rated as something special by so many critics. Spearheaded by the type of entrancing central guitar riff that is the mainstay of many Coldplay anthems, yet employing the same subtlety that has become synonymous with Howard’s own back catalogue, the song proceeds to slow-build into another beautifully beguiling effort. As ever, Howard’s fragile vocals provide a highly emotional presence, adding extra meaning to the lyrics. But it’s that guitar riff that elevates the track and which really demands repeating listening. It’s destined to find its way onto some soundtrack given its cinematic elements..
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Andrew Combs, Foolin'

ANDREW COMBS – FOOLIN’: As Andrew Combs prepares to release his debut album, All These Dreams, on January 26, he will doubtless be pleased to hear that his sound has already garnered comparisons with Roy Orbison (Rolling Stone Country). New single Foolin’, which talks of desperate crimes in desperate times, is early evidence of this – solid country-rock guitar riffs and piano chords wrapped around a song about identity in the modern age. It’s lively, melodic and encouraging that Combs might be a really solid new talent. The singer-songwriter says of the track himself and its observations of social media: “Specifically, the social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that allow us to create a public profile of the “coolest” version of ourselves, when what is portrayed might not be at all who we are.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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