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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, July 21, 2017

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

Linkin Park

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LINKIN PARKTALKING TO MYSELF: As massive Linkin Park fans it comes with some sadness that we write this review in the same week that lead singer Chester Bennington took his own life. The video was ironically released on the same day that the news broke. One of the highlights from the band’s current LP, One More Light, this combines the power synonymous with the band with their ability to tap into the mainstream. And while much less nu-metal and totally in keeping with the more pop feel of their new LP, this remains a lively, energetic, crowd-pleasing foot-stomper of a single. And yet, lyrically, the words resonate and even haunt, speaking of “all the walls that you keep building” and “all the ways that I keep losing you”, while building to a chorus that admits “I’m just talking to myself”. Bennington has always used the power of song to channel his complex emotions and this song is no escape – turning something that was born from inner turmoil into something anthemic. It’s another reason why Bennington’s death leaves such a massive whole in the music landscape. RIP Chester – but your memory will endure with songs such as this.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ghosted, Get Some

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: GHOSTED feat KAMILLEGET SOME: They have three heads, six legs, 5 No.1 singles, 11 top 10 singles and over a billion streams to their name, but it’s unlikely you’ll know it. The fine-tuned skills of this mysterious yet omnipresent production and songwriting beast has led to them working with some of the biggest names in music, stealthily fusing their myriad influences into productions that manipulate pop music into bold new shapes. Everyone from Years & Years, Maroon 5 and Jess Glynne to Craig David, Emeli Sande and Sigma has called upon their deadly studio magic, while G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha’s Me, Myself & I landed them in the US Billboard Top 10 last year. Now, they’re here in a new incarnation – a reincarnation, if you like – Ghosted. “The name is a nod to ghostwriting and being behind the scenes,” they explain, and it’s an outlet for this pop juggernaut’s more experimental songs. Futuristic R&B sex jam Get Some is the delicious first taste, featuring a sultry vocal from Kamille – aka regular Little Mix songwriter Camille Purcell. The track is a feisty ode to swift satisfaction (sample line: “Let’s do it on the kitchen floor”) over rolling Major Lazer-esque beats and effervescent synths – a surefire late-night summer anthem in the making. The finger-click beats immediately lend it a toe-tapping quality early on, while Kamille’s vocals are deceptively sweet (until you realise what she’s craving). Once the synth drops, however, it assumes a more dancefloor quality (befitting Chainsmokers’ material). And then it strips things back down and does it all over again. It’s highly addictive and totally cool.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The War on Drugs

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE WAR ON DRUGSSTRANGEST THING: With six weeks to go until the release of The War On Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding, their fourth album and first on Atlantic Records (out August 25), the band now presents another song, Strangest Thing – and it’s great (again). Combining the best elements of artists such as Tom Petty and Philadelphia-era Springsteen (not to mention a little Dire Straits, circa Brothers In Arms), this drops gorgeously husky vocals against country-inspired guitars and beautiful synths. As with previous songs from the new album, this is intricately, and often beautifully layered, with thought-provoking lyrics that declare: “I’m just moving in between the space between the beauty and the pain… it’s the strangest thing.” At almost seven minutes in length, it’s another epic offering. But crucially, it never feels indulgent or overlong… captivating with its classic songwriting values and taking you on a glorious journey. And even when you think there may be a lull, late on, a screeching guitar solo lands to elevate the song still higher in your estimation. It almost goes without saying that The War on Drugs look set to release one of the albums of the year, given the quality of the material thus far. This one slow builds and then soars. Strangest Thing follows Holding On and the 11-minute Record Store Day release Thinking of a Place.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Barr Brothers

THE BARR BROTHERSYOU WOULD HAVE TO LOSE YOUR MIND: The opening song on The Barr Brothers’ new album Queens of the Breakers (released on October 13 via Secret City Records) starts with a drum pattern that mimics the sound of two heartbeats out of sync. It was written by Andrew Barr while holding the hand of a loved one in the hospital, where he heard two EKG machines beating slowly in and out of time with each other, occasionally aligning, but destined to dither. The album that follows represents a similar kind of human dynamic. As a taster, new single You Would Have To Lose Your Mind displays a similar capacity to hypnotise. Built around a striking guitar riff, this hooks you from the opening strum and then proceeds to offer up an ethereal journey into the sublime (with traces of Lord Huron and Rogue Wave thrown in). The vocals are softly delivered, the lyrics thought-provoking and suitably intimate, while the subsequent accompanying beats nicely delivered to add an extra element of atmosphere. It’s a beautifully beguiling concoction. The remainder of the album explores the raw, elemental power of reflection, forgiveness, loss, and growing up while also exploring the outer limits of folk, blues, rock and Americana. It promises to be something to brighten the autumn months.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lykke Li

LYKKE LI – UNCHAINED MELODY: Lykke Li is well known for covering The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody in live form, so now she makes it more widely available as a single – with typically beguiling results. Setting her ethereal, but oh-so distinct vocal style against a sombre piano arrangement, this strips away a lot of the romanticisim of the original but sharpens the bittersweet elements. It’s a striking take on a classic single that remains recognisable yet personal. Li has always brought something very cinematic and atmospheric to her own music, so it’s little wonder that this cover has already been picked up for use alongside an iPhone commercial. As a result, it extends the cover’s reach to a much wider audience. Unchained Melody, in Li’s hands, has been updated for a new generation and benefits from the contemporary spin put on it. The song grows on you the more you hear it – and deservedly so. It is achingly effective and affecting.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Wandering Hearts, Devil

THE WANDERING HEARTSDEVIL: They’re being described as 2017’s answer to Fleetwood Mac in some circles and in new single Devil it’s easy to see why. Following the release of their successful debut Wish I Could, Devil further showcases this folk-Americana band’s knack for telling stories and writing undeniably catchy lyrics. With a melody that is sure to have listeners humming along for days, Devil is a driving song that’s one of the band’s favourites to play live. A beautiful balance of harmonies, Devil seamlessly blends the band’s powerful male and female vocals, channelling the likes of Fleetwood Mac, First Aid Kit and Chris Stapleton. There’s a foot-stomping back-beat to accompany it, as well as some robust folk-rock guitar licks, as well as a rousing chorus that invites fans to sing along. It’s then that the vocals come together to lend the track extra power, before taking it in turns for the next build-up. It’s a really appealing record that should further elevate this band’s burgeoning reputation. The Wandering Hearts say of the song themselves: “This is a story about throwing your hands up in the air, admitting your flaws and past mistakes, and owning them. Living life how you want to live it and knowing that if it all goes wrong, at least it was your choice. Ultimately, life is about doing what you’re passionate about and having hope for whatever may lie ahead.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tom Figgins, Run

TOM FIGGINSRUN: London born singer songwriter Tom Figgins releases his new single in the form of Run. The title track from his forthcoming EP, due this autumn, the song has a sparseness to it that’s immediately ear-catching. This comes courtesy of some striking piano arrangements and an emotive set of vocals that are shot through with a yearning to escape. There is some percussion but the beats are kept to a minimum in order to augment the overall effectiveness of that piano. But they do build as the track does late on, allowing Figgins himself to extend his vocal range into some falsetto highs. Indeed, the climax does eventually include some electric guitar riffs that heighten the overall sense of atmosphere. It’s a highly effective listen, reminiscent of the way acts like Snow Patrol and Coldplay build their songs. And it bodes extremely well for the remainder of the content on the forthcoming EP. Speaking about the track, Tom said: “Run is a song about finding strength and freedom through moving on to something new. It describes a sudden awareness that you might explode, if you don’t get out of there and change things. The chorus represents the flow of relief that inevitably follows that change and an air of hope as you step into the unknown.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Grizzly Bear

GRIZZLY BEARNEIGHBOURS: Grizzly Bear drop another new offering from their forthcoming Painted Ruins LP in the form of the surreal Neighbours. Based around another distinct set of vocals from Ed Droste, which have a kind of haunted quality (akin to listening to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke at times), there’s also some trademark guitar loops and more of the expected layering. Hence, lyrics weave in and out of each other, sometimes intertwining to moody effect, while the instrumentals gradually take on a deeper complexity. It creates something of a heady brew – a little more mixed up and edgy than some of their more mellow material. But it remains an ear-catching example of this band’s songwriting prowess and has more than enough signature elements to keep the fans happy. In terms of how they craft songs, and their ability to marry beauty with lyrical complexity, you could almost liken them to bands like Elbow.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Joy Crookes

JOY CROOKESMOTHER MAY I SLEEP WITH DANGER: Joy Crookes has now released her anticipated debut EP Influence, which also features the new track, Mother May I Sleep With Danger. Notion says of her music that it boasts “the kind of sound that blew up a post-Fugees Lauryn Hill” and, vocally, the comparison is highly effective. Mother May I Sleep With Danger combines a sweet melodic hook and some dreamy, Hill-style vocals with an edgy set of lyrics that flirt with a dangerous love affair (“now I don’t understand how you can hold me back”… “I’ll get what I want you see”, etc). But it’s overall composition marries both a classic songwriting style that recalls Billie Holiday with something fresh and almost breezy, putting the lie to some of the more provocative lyrical elements. It’s really easy to see why there’s so much buzz surrounding her. Further EP highlights come in the form of the swoonsome, strings-laden New Manhattan and the ultra hip/ultra funky Bad Feeling, which drops a genuinely feel-good beat, while maintaining that smooth vocal style.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Listen to New Manhattan

David Ramirez

DAVID RAMIREZTWINS: Austin-based singer-songwriter David Ramirez is sharing the video for his new single Twins – the second track to be taken from his upcoming fourth album We’re Not Going Anywhere (out September 8). The video is comprised of grainy clips of soldiers being subjected to LSD tests, marching protestors and flexing fists – a particularly psychedelic take on the Zapruder film. The video offers, in Ramirez’s words, “images from a time in our country that had been deemed innocent, but [it frames] them in a way that exposes our crude nature”. Recorded with Sam Kassirer (previously Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive, Bhi Bhiman) in isolation at his studio in Maine, New England, Ramirez – who is an American of Mexican descent – wrote We’re Not Going Anywhere partly as a response of protest and defiance towards the American political landscape. The single is full of questions (“where were you when we lost the twins?”), challenging what he feels is an almost unrecognisable political landscape to the one he grew up with. It boasts haunting, Springsteen-like vocals with some stirring guitar-work, thereby creating a thought-provoking and yet toe-tapping commentary on how Ramirez views America now. Speaking about the new single, Ramirez says: “9/11 happened a little over a week after my 18th birthday and it was one of the first times I remember feeling unsafe and without control in a country that had previously made me feel otherwise.” says Ramirez. “I never wrote about that moment but in the light of last year’s election, a lot of those feelings came flooding back into focus. It was time to acknowledge where I was when I first recognised that our country isn’t invincible.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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