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

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

Lana Del Rey

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LANA DEL REY feat THE WEEKNDLUST FOR LIFE: “Take off, take off, take off all your clothes,” sings Lana Del Rey over the chorus of her latest single Lust For Life. It’s an erotic kind of sentiment, which is almost immediately followed by the bittersweet sentiment “they say only the good die young”. But it’s also further evidence of that haunted, yet beautiful (and beguiling) sound that Del Rey has honed. A tragic love story steeped in cinematic values. What’s more, there’s supporting vocals from The Weeknd, which bring a nice amount of layering. It’s epic, it’s swooning, it’s beautifully melancholic and it’s utterly gripping. As the title track to Lana Del Rey’s forthcoming LP, it suggests that she’s set to deliver another classic collection of songs.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Saint Clair, Train

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: SAINT CLAIRTRAIN: Saint Clair emerged with singles Sailing and Heavy On My Heart, both produced by Ninja Tune’s Raffertie and Ben Jones, with over 300,000 streams online. She’s set to tie these together with Train on her debut EP release, D1 (out May 5, through Saint Clair’s own Dearly Beloved imprint). The track is built around the sampled sounds of trains journeying out of London Bridge station – captured from the nearby roof of Ben Jones’ Bermondsey studios. It’s yet another emphatic, emotionally-involving statement set to continue turning heads in Saint Clair’s direction. But it’s not just about the train sounds. There’s a hypnotic, yet highly melodic electronic melody underpinning the track which is very compelling, coupled with some equally hypnotic, even seductive vocals. The chorus, in particular, is beautifully developed – sending the track to soaring new heights and making it difficult to resist. The beats then also lend the track more energy and a vibrancy that’s empowering. Saint Clair – so-called after her mother’s Scottish ancestry – is the recording alias of French-speaking North Londoner, Emma Topolski. Having grown up surrounded by painters, actors, and journalists, Saint Clair became the first in her family to turn to music, pursuing a career trajectory that’s so far taken her on the road as a backing vocalist for long-time friend Laura Marling (in whose Reversal Of The Muse project she also participated, alongside HAIM, Dolly Parton and Marika Hackman), and seen her play keyboards and sing BVs for Ghostpoet. She has also supported Bastille on their most recent arena tour, as singer and bassist in emerging, Radio 1-supported rockers Childcare.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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OUTLYA, Higher (acoustic)

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: OUTLYAHIGHER (ACOUSTIC): Having recently released their second single Higher, OUTLYA have now released an acoustic version of the track – and it’s really rather great! Speaking about the new single, Will Bloomfield explains: “Higher is a song about that place we all go to when things get grim. It’s a song with a simple message: sometimes it’s ok to retreat into our own imaginations. We wanted the track to sound bold and have this huge vocal sound like Pastor T L Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir. We also wanted to create a strong tropical feel to help conjure up an image of our own desert island, the island of OUTLYA.” If Will’s comments reflect the big, thunderous nature of the original recording, then the acoustic version strips things down to a more reflective kind of offering – but one that’s much more agreeable and breakout worthy. There’s Feeder-esque ‘woohoo’ harmonising and Filter/Take A Picture style melodies, as well as something of a Mumford & Sons vibe to the vocals. It’s catchy during the chorus, honest and heart-on-sleeve during the build-up. But once that chorus does land, it’s reassuring in spite of the uncertainty inherent in the lyrics. You get the feeling that OUTLYA should do more of this acoustic thing.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paramore, Hard times

PARAMOREHARD TIMES: Paramore have announced the eagerly awaited release of their fifth studio album, After Laughter, which will arrive everywhere on Friday, May 12. The Grammy Award-winning band’s first new album in more than four years, After Laughter is available for pre-order now and accompanied by an instant grat download of the just unveiled new single, Hard Times. That single is an unexpectedly upbeat track for a song that suggests struggle. Indeed, some of the melodies owe much to the 80s synth-pop scene, as well as their own rythmic structure of Aint It Fun. Hence, there are some spiky hooks to augment the bouncy beats and generally infectious tone (just check out the almost loopy instrumental breakdown midway through). Lyrically, however, the song sounds a note of caution in the way that it suggests that depression can be lingering, waiting to consume, even when things look bright from the outside. It’s got that edge to offset the happiness. And it’s a great way to make a comeback. You should be almost immediately hooked.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Franklys

THE FRANKLYSWEASEL: The Franklys are a no-nonsense, all-girl set of rockers who nevertheless manage to combine punk and garage elements with something accessible to the mainstream. They call it pop-rock, with garage, punk, indie, hard rock and funk thrown in. New single Weasel, taken from their forthcoming debut album Are You Listening? (released on June 23), illustrates this nicely. There’s spiky guitar riffs that flirt with punk and garage, coupled with some tight melodies and a brash chorus that can certainly get toes tapping. If you think L7 mixed with Hole and then add some Souxsie and The Banshees for good measure, you may well be in the right ball park. And speaking of ball parks, the girls have delivered a vibrant, quirky and colourful video, featuring them limbering up for and participating in various sports scenes. It’s a fun watch to accompany a fun, if raucous listen. The Franklys are comprised of Swedish Jennifer Ahlkvist and Fanny Broberg, East Anglian bassist Zoë Biggs and drummer Lexi Clark.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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GHOSTPOETIMMIGRANT BOOGIE: Immigrant Boogie marks the first new material from Ghostpoet since the release of his third and much lauded, Mercury-nominated Shedding Skin album in 2015. Swathed in post-punk virtuosity, the song is a narrative only too pertinent in 2017, as Ghostpoet – aka Obaro Ejimiwe – explains: “It’s a first person account of a difficult journey across borders, partly intended to ask those who have questioned the arrival of refugees in recent times what they would do in the same situation. The song is written in two halves – the first hopeful for a brighter future, while the second sees hope snatched away by forces beyond the control of the storyteller. There is an important story to be told there, but I wrote the song in a way that aims to capture a broader human truth: that while we are all working for a better life for ourselves, we have to accept that we are not in control of the outcome.” Even though Ghostpoet credits the first half of the record to be hopeful, there’s an element of danger in the jagged hooks that accompany it, even though lyrically there’s that sense of hope that comes with “searching for a better life”. But once the sound of the sea can be heard, the song becomes much more frantic, the guitar hooks much more pronounced and dangerous, building to a climax that ends all of a sudden. It’s a typically forthright, intelligent and take-notice offering from Ghostpoet, whose new material also heralds the imminent arrival of a new set of UK tour dates.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Pom Poko, Jazz Baby

POM POKOJAZZ BABY: Mix sing-song vocals with intense grooves, bouncy guitars and absurd riffs and there you have the pure Norwegian punky sweetness of Pom Poko and their new single Jazz Baby. Intensely bouncy, more than a little bit catchy and with some punk-pop intensity thrown in for good measure, this is a slick, cool offering that should go down well with the hipster listening crowd. And with lyrics that suggest “so you think I’m crazy”, there’s a nice line in juxtaposition that adds some bittersweetness to the mix. Put simply, the new track is an eclectic concoction of crowd pleasing vocal hooks, 70’s disco riffs and raucous rhythmic changes all of which combine to make this band a feat to behold live. Despite only forming 8 months ago, Pom Poko are on a rapid ascent. The Norwegian quartet released their first official single, It’s A Trap, back in January of this year and went on to be voted No.5 on the Norwegian music industry’s list of promising artists for 2017.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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ZAYN feat PARTYNEXTDOORSTILL GOT TIME: Former One Direction star Zayn drops his latest single in the form of the zippy Still Got Time. But while it does mark a departure from the boy band sound he used to be associated with, the track seems to owe more in style to the likes of Craig David. It also features a guest rap from OVO Sound luminary Partynextdoor, which – again – feels like an over-used device for the moment. In spite of these reservations, Zayn clearly knows how to create something that appeals to the mainstream sensibility and this boasts all the components required to make it a huge hit for him. The beats are slick and rapid (and get better and more pronounced the longer the track lasts), the electronics have a smooth groove kind of vibe and the central vocals also evoke that same smooth groove sensibility. It knows what it’s doing. Still Got Time is the first single from his highly anticipated second studio album, due out this summer, and it now comes complete with a video, which was filmed at Zayn’s home in London and directed by Calmatic (Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak). Of filming the video, Calmatic said: “I was asleep in LA when I got a call from Luti Media and Zayn’s management at 7am. They told me to hop on the next flight to London. It was my first time in London so I didn’t know what to expect. When I got there we met at his crib and he said he wanted to throw the wildest house party imaginable. So we invited everyone we knew and let the cameras roll. The rest is history.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Playing House

PLAYING HOUSEJELLY LEGS: London-based trio Playing House make a triumphant return with their video for Jelly Legs (below), the lead single from their second EP Jocelyn (out now on Soft Belly Records). Mixing sturdy songwriting with the off-kilter art direction of long-term collaborator Ewen Farr (best known for providing creative visuals for Danny Brown, deadmau5 and Quelle Chris), the band dive further into quirkier, more exploratory ground to offer their own smart spin on classic and contemporary pop. If anything, there’s some guitar-pop nods to bands like The Kooks in some of the hooks, and Friday I’m In Love-era Cure at others, albeit mixed with a female set of vocals and some electronic elements that owe more to the 80s pop scene. The resulting record has elements of cool, elements of kitsch and is as art-pop as they come. It’s catchy but in small doses. Written after a period of intense grief and a loss of identity, the Jocelyn EP finds Playing House skillfully fuse red-raw, soul-bearing emotion with their signature art-pop tendencies. It’s astonishingly electric, refreshingly bold and a hell of a lot of fun – the sound of a band investigating the possibilities of the pop landscape.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Taffy

TAFFYMURKIII: Critically acclaimed Japanese indie-pop four piece Taffy returned this year with their fourth studio album, Nyctophilia (out now), and release Murkiii as their new single. Built around some insistent guitar hooks and a pounding set of drums, this is a relentlessly energetic offering that gets by on the strength of its guitar riffs alone. Vocally, though, it struggles to register as strongly, with the female vocals always in danger of being either drowned out or a little too wishy-washy. You struggle to hear the words. And the mix of sung and spoken sometimes feel lazy within the context of the instrumentals. The chorus has a little more zip, vocally, but the same problem exists with the ability to hear (or not hear) the actual lyrics. With sensibilities reminiscent of Elastica, Taffy have always been inspired by the works of British artists and in Nyctophilia they were given the chance to play homage to one of their favorites with a cover of Come Home Baby by The Charlatans. Tim Burgess has been something of a longtime fan speaking publicly of his fondness for the band, taking them on tour. Of the cover, he said “it’s an honour” but the band insist the honour was all theirs.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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